Æthelflæd 's achievements
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- She became ruler of Mercia. - Her role as leader of the Mercians is undisputed. Five different sources name her as ‘Queen’, two as ‘governor’ and one as ‘monarch’. When her husband became ill around 910 she effectively ruled Mercia and on his death was accepted by the people as their ruler. She was held in great respect as their "Lady of the Mercians".
- She had important towns and buildings constructed. - Æthelflæd left her mark on local towns such as Warwick and Winchcombe and most notably Gloucester. Here she had the city reconstructed from the Roman ruins that remained and laid out the core street plan, which still exists today. She founded a church dedicated to St. Paul (now St. Oswald's Priory) in the town in about 890. It was constructed from re-used Roman stones stripped from the ruins of a temple. Very few churches were built during the late 8th century, because of the risk of plunder and burning by Viking raiders was very high. This shows something of her power and confidence. She was buried at the church when she died.The associated buildings and much of those in the town were probably of wood.
- She raided Danish-controlled lands to retrieve the bones of a saint. - In 907, with her brother, King Edward of Wessex, she raided Danish-controlled lands to retrieve the captured bones of St. Oswald. This was a great morale boost for the Anglo-Saxon people. St. Oswald had united the Northumbrian kingdoms and promoted the spread of Christianity in Northumbria. He was killed by the Mercians at the Battle of Maserfield, by the Mercian King Penda. He later came to be regarded as a saint by the Mercians who converted to Christianity. The spot where he died came to be associated with miracles. His bones were residing either at Lindsey, in what became Viking Northumbria, or Bamburgh. But in an exploratory five-week attack on Lindsey in 909, Oswald's remains were captured and taken away for reburial at Gloucester.
- She made tactical alliances that helped to unite peoples and to protect Saxon England. - She was a strategist, who knew the value of force and defence, but also the value of talk and alliance to get others, including her foes, to see the value of her vision. In the same year as the Battle of Tettenhall (910), Æthelflæd also won the support of the Danes against the Norwegians, and entered into an alliance with the Scots and the Welsh against the invaders. In 917, according to an Irish source, she formed an alliance with kings Constantine II of Alba (Scotland) and Constantine Mac Aed of Strathclyde against Norse York, forming a strong alliance that protected both Mercian and other Saxon territories. In 918, she began to engage with disaffected groups within the Norse kingdom, helping her gain Leicester.
- She protected her people and her territories. - She made sure her territories were secure and protected. After the death of her husband, the increasing threat of invasion saw her expand her policy of building burhs to defend Mercia against the Vikings (Scergeat and Bridgenorth in 912, Tamworth and Stafford in 913, Eddisbury and Warwick in 914, Cherbury, Weardbyrig and Runcorn in 915): throwing a defence around the whole of Mercia. The people prospered as they felt safe and secure.
- She knew when to use strength and when to use restraint. - She invaded Wales and took Brecknock in 916, after the murder of Abbot Ecgberht and his companions. She would have seemed a weak ruler if she had not. However, whilst some Welsh kings were letting the Danes in through their territories, she persuaded others to stand with her. She was not a warmonger or vengeful and would negotiate where this was a more valuable option. She maintained her relationship with her brother Edward and seceded London to him, her only loss, after the death of her husband, as this would have split the alliance and weakened the Saxon's control. Instead she continued to push northwards against the Danes, whilst he oversaw the safety of the south.
- She won back lands that had been lost to the Danes including Chester, Derby and Leicester. - She was an intelligent ruler and clever military tactician. She was no armchair general but took an active part in warfare. Æthelflæd, together with her husband, repulsed the Norse settlers from taking the city of Chester in 905 and fortified the city in 907. In 917, she led her armies against the invaders, successfully besieging and capturing the Viking stronghold at Derby. She peacefully overran the Borough of Leicester and at the time of her death was about to take York. The 'Mercian Register', suggests that the Vikings were also prepared to surrender their stronghold at York. Sadly, Æthelflæd died at Tamworth, before knowing the Vikings were willing to accept her as overlord.
- She carried forward her father's vision of a united England under Anglo-Saxon rule. - Although Mercia was important to her, she did not forget the broader picture. She stayed aware of the threat from the Scandinavian settlements in the north west, present day Cumbria and Lancashire, but she knew that the biggest threat was from the powerful Viking warlord in Northumbria, Ragnall. So she formed a military alliance with King Constantine II of Alba (the land of the Picts) and the Britons of Strathclyde, so that they could face this dangerous enemy as one united force. Æthelflæd seems to have been the leader of the alliance and she and her Mercian warriors were an important part of the whole force that met Ragnall’s Vikings at Corbridge in 918.
- She gained respect from Anglo-Saxons, Danes and Celts. - Her own people followed her and the Danes were ready to surrender to her. A measure of the respect in which she was held by the Celtic nations can be gleaned from the Annals of Ulster which noted her death in June 918 by praising her as ‘famosissima Regina Saxonum’ (a most famous queen of the Saxons), while ignoring the passing, not only of her brother Edward, but also of her father Alfred the Great. The fact that she was singled out for such high praise by the Ulster annalists, demonstrates her importance.