This Saturday, the city of Gloucester will pay homage to Aethelflaed, one of the greatest and most remarkable women in English history with a local woman playing the lead role. Samantha Swinford, 27 from Abbeymead in Gloucester, won a competition to portray Aethelflaed in a historic event for the country. This month marks the 1100thanniversary of her death of the Lady of the Mercians, as she was known, who took the fight to the Vikings during one of England’s darkest hours.
An Anglo-Saxon inspired funeral procession will arrive by boat, ferrying the body of Aethelflaed to the North Quay of Gloucester Docks in what promises to be a haunting and atmospheric occasion. The Lady of the Mercians will then be carried on a palanquin by pall bearers through the ancient city streets of Gloucester which she laid out in the tenth century, before making their way to Aethelflaed’s final resting place at St Oswald’s Priory. The Right Worshipful Mayor of Gloucester, Councilor Joanne Brown, and the Sherriff, Councilor Howard Hyman, along other civic, or ‘ealdormen’, will also be in attendance in full Anglo-Saxon costume.
An Anglo-Saxon living history camp has been organized by Marketing Gloucester and Gloucester BID at St Oswald’s Priory will be hosting whole host of free, family events over the weekend including theatre performances telling her life story, Anglo-Saxon inspired musical performances and archaeological work. People will have a chance to meet Anglo Saxons and Vikings to find out what life was like in the Dark Ages.
Samantha Swinford, 27, who is an amateur actress (www.facebook.com/TheBardsBird/), said: “When I first saw the call for a tall, flaxen-haired woman to play Aethelflaed I immediately knew that this was something I wanted to be involved in. I had previously heard about her anyway as she was such a powerhouse leader at a time during the time of the Vikings invasions. This is such a fantastic event in Gloucester’s history, so I’m really excited about the funeral procession – I just hope I remember all of my lines!”
Nick Brookes, chair of the Gloucester Improvement District who are funding the funeral procession and living history events, said “Gloucester BID has been set up to support all of its business and to drive footfall in the city centre. The Aethelflaed funeral procession on the 9thJune and events over the 4 days will be a great way to showcase our city and its businesses and what a superb place it is to visit. Events like this are helping to improve the profile of the city and bring real benefits to the BID’s business members.”
The funeral boat arrives in Gloucester Docks at 12pm on Saturday 9 June. The route of the procession is Commercial Road, Southgate Street, Westgate Street, College Street, past the Cathedral Green through St Mary’s Gate, then St Mary’s Street and Archdeacon Street till it arrives at the Anglo-Saxon encampment at St Oswald’s Priory.
The programme of events at St Oswald’s Priory can be found in the accompanying document. Other Aethelflaed events can be viewed at www.aethelflaed2018.co.uk.
For more information contact Ben Hau at firstname.lastname@example.org 07775 876865.