Talks

Elfrida, The First Crowned Queen of England
by Dr Elizabeth Norton

Date: Tuesday 9 November 2021

The life and queenship of Elfrida, the first woman crowned as queen of England and a leading tenth century figure

Elfrida, The First Crowned Queen of England

Contrary to popular belief, Anglo-Saxon England had queens, with the tenth century Elfrida being the most powerful and notorious of them all. She was the first woman to be crowned queen of England, sharing her husband King Edgar's imperial coronation at Bath in 973. The couple made a love match, with claims that they plotted the death of her first husband to ensure that she was free. Edgar divorced his second wife, a former nun, after conducting an adulterous affair with Elfrida, leading to an enmity between the two women that lasted until their deaths. During her marriage, Elfrida claimed to be the king's only legitimate wife, but she failed to secure the succession for her son, Ethelred. Elfrida plotted against her stepson, King Edward the Martyr, before arranging his murder at Corfe Castle, where she lived with her son. She then ruled England on behalf of her young son for six years before he expelled her from court. Elfrida was eventually able to return to court but, since he proved himself unable to counter the Viking attacks, she may have come to regret winning the crown for Ethelred the Unready. Wife, mother, murderer, ruler, crowned queen. The life of Queen Elfrida was filled with drama as she rose to become the most powerful woman in Anglo-Saxon England.

Dr Elizabeth Norton is a British historian, specializing in the Queens of England. She has degrees from Cambridge and Oxford Universities and King’s College London. She has written a number of books, including ‘Elfrida, the First Crowned Queen of England’ and ‘England’s Queens, The Biography’. She makes regular television appearances and has previously taught at King’s College London.

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