Eadburh, Evil(?) Queen of Wessex

Time for another cool story idea, this time featuring an infamous queen who was so hated that subsequent queens of Wessex were doomed to be silenced, powerless and completely written out of history for almost 200 years.

Eadburh was born sometime in the 700’s and was daughter to King Offa of Mercia. In 789 she was married to the king of Wessex, Beorhtric, and soon became involved in the politics of her new court. Swaying her husband against those who would give him councel, she supposedly ruled over him – and Wessex – with an iron fist, demanding the execution or exile of those she did not like. Anyone who got close to the king became her instant enemy, and those she could not convince her husband to get rid of she took care of herself through poisoning.

Poison was Eadburh’s supposed weapon of choice

Eadburh supposedly poisoned courtiers and council members left right and center until her husband got especially close with a young man. Beorhtric refused to get rid of this new friend, and when Eadburh attempted to have him poisoned, both Beorhtric and his friend died after having shared the poisoned cup.

Eadburh was now forced to flee (but not until she’d packed up what treasure she could get her hands on), ending up in a nunnery in Francia until she got kicked out for being caught sleeping with an englishman. She ended her days begging the streets of Italy, and for almost 200 years any subsequent queen of Wessex was essentially written out of history, given no real power and the title ‘king’s wife’ or ‘lady’ as opposed to queen.

Of course, we can never be sure how much of her story is true and how much of it is propaganda designed to explain why women in Wessex could have no power for 200 years. Nevertheless it’s interesting to imagine what kind of woman Eadburh was and how she turned out that way.

Did she take after the ruthlessness of her own court? Was she mistreated and took power simply to defend herself? Did she enjoy wielding power, causing pain and killing others? Or was she, in fact, innocent of all this, blamed for things she did not commit? Who, in that case, came up with the idea to drag her name in the dirt in this manner, and why?

Evil queen supreme or misunderstood innocent?

All of these questions put together would make for a truly interesting story I’d certainly love to read. Perhaps one day someone will write it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *