FINDING ÆTHELFLÆD, Lady of the Mercians

Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians may have been written out of history, but today we can find evidence of her life and achievements in many places.


In 914 Æthelflæd fortified the existing village of Wæringwic located on a sandstone hill above the River Avon and a nearby ford, close to the strategic road of the Fosse Way. 1000 years later Warwick celebrated Æthelflæd as its founder in 2014 with a plaque on the wall of the Court House, Jury St. The image is taken from a stained glass window in Worcester Cathedral.

This is how Æthelflæd describes the founding of Warwick in the novel King Alfred’s Daughter (2023):

“I chose a wonderful site for a burh at Warwick near the Fosse Way, a road which gave me direct access to the Danes of Leicester and Lincoln. A trading settlement had already developed on the sandstone cliff overlooking the crossing point of the River Avon, an ideal site for fortifications. My men were busy building an oval-shaped palisade to encircle the existing homesteads, when some visitors came calling. They were Danes.
Six horsemen bearing no flag to indicate their allegiance sat watching us on the far bank of the Avon by the ford. Their leader sat tall on his horse but wisps of grey hair in his beard told me he was not young. Athelstan had already exchanged greetings with him when I arrived from the far side of town where I had been measuring the ditches we needed.
‘He is the Jarl Thurketel from Northampton. He wants to know our intentions,’ Athelstan reported.
I chuckled and shouted down from the cliff top to him. ‘Have we killed all your kings that I have to speak with jarls, now?’
To my surprise, he bowed his head and smiled. ‘M’lady of the Mercians, I had hoped to meet you. Your renown has spread throughout our land.’
His tone surprised me. ‘Maybe you would like to cross the ford and kneel before me. I would accept your allegiance now that you have no king.’
His grin disappeared. ‘And take my lands and kill my children as soon as I lay down my sword, no doubt.’
‘Once you submit, you will have my word and of King Edward and all our followers that you will live in peace under our protection. You and your warriors will be welcome to stand alongside us against our common enemies.’
His smile returned. ‘I’ve heard you have the reputation of a lady who likes to command men. I will think on what you have said. We will meet again.’ With that he rode away, no doubt to report to his fellow warlords.
For so many years, the Danelaw had seemed a lost land to us, only visited by merchant traders. Now we rode freely across the frontier. I sometimes think that the ease with which we made those early inroads softened my mind to possible disasters ahead.”

(From King Alfred’s Daughter, Chapter 18, David Stokes, 2023)