The City of Gloucester will mark the 1100th anniversary of the death of Aethelflaed, one of the most important women in English history; with theatre, music, poetry and living history. The ruins of St Oswald’s Priory will provide an evocative backdrop for a series of events Saturday 9 to Tuesday 12 June) celebrating the life and achievements of Aethelflaed. Funded by Gloucester Business Improvement District (BID) and delivered by Marketing Gloucester, one of the highlights will be a recreation of an Anglo-Saxon funeral procession. The ‘body’ of Aethelflaed will arrive into Gloucester Docks by boat and will be carried through the city streets she helped lay out in the tenth century, before arriving at St Oswald’s Priory.
The grounds at St Oswald’s will feature a living history encampment complete with a wooden stockade and gateway. This will take place amongst four days of events open to the public where people can find out what life was like in the early tenth century. Children and adults will have the opportunity to take part in geo-physical surveys of the area. Poetry, theatre and music based around the life of Aethelflaed commissioned by the Gloucester Culture Trust will be performed. On Tuesday 12 June, the actual anniversary of her death, Evensong at Gloucester Cathedral will be dedicated to Aethelflaed.
The daughter of King Alfred the Great, Aethelflaed (870 – 918) married Aethelred of Mercia where they jointly ruled the Anglo-Saxon kingdom. Together with her younger brother, King Edward the Elder of Wessex, Aethelflaed fortified many settlements (known as burhs) against Viking raids, including Gloucester which became her base of operations. It is thought that they lived in the Royal Palace in Kingsholm. She was also responsible for founding new burhs across Mercia such as Warwick. In 909, Aethelflaed and her men raided Bardney in Lincolnshire, deep in the Viking-controlled Danelaw, where they reclaimed the relics of St Oswald, the great Northumbrian king, and transferred them to the New Minster which she had built in Gloucester.
After Aethelred died in 911 from injuries sustained in battle, Aetheflaed was held in such high esteem that she was accepted as ruler in her own right – the only case of a female ruler of a kingdom in Anglo-Saxon history. Seven years later, after successfully bringing Derby and Leicester back within the Mercian fold, the citizens of York pledged their loyalty to her but she died on 12 June 918, before she could take advantage of the offer. She was buried alongside her husband in what is now St Oswald’s Priory.
Nick Brookes, Chairman of Gloucester Business Improvement District (Gloucester BID), said: “Gloucester owes a great debt to Lady Aethelflaed. After the Romans, Aethelflaed played a hugely important role in laying the foundations of the Gloucester we see today. We hope that the public will join us in celebrating her life and achievements.”
A new website www.Aethelflaed2018.co.uk has been created detailing the commemorative events in June along with a timeline and history of her life.
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