Edmund II, the son of King Ethelred the Unready, ruled over Wessex for a short period of time. His reign lasted all of seven months, from April 23 to November 30 of the year 1016. During that time, Edmund managed to hold off Canute (or Cnut or Knute) from invading and capturing Wessex. Edmund fought major battles at Penselwood (Pen near Gillingham), Sherston, London, Brentford, and Assingdon (or Ashingdon or Assandun).
Edmund gained a victory at London, driving the enemy to their ships, but at Ashingdon, on the 18th of October 1016, Canute utterly defeated Edmund and his army. The Mercians, led by the Alderman Edric, betrayed their West Saxon neighbors and fought with Canute. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reads:
When the king understood that the army was up, then collected he the fifth time all the English nation, and went behind them, and overtook them in Essex, on the down called Assingdon; where they fiercely came together. Then did Alderman Edric as he often did before — he first began the flight with the Maisevethians, and so betrayed his natural lord and all the people of England. There had Knute the victory, though all England fought against him!
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle does not remember Edric fondly, here or in many other places throughout the text. After this battle, Canute and Edmund met at Olney, south of Deerhurst, where they negotiated a truce. Edmund retained control of Wessex, and Canute took everything north of that.
After this fight went King Knute up with his army into Glocestershire, where he heard say that King Edmund was. Then advised Alderman Edric, and the counsellors that were there assembled, that the kings should make peace with each other, and produce hostages. Then both the kings met together at Olney, south of Deerhurst, and became allies and sworn brothers. There they confirmed their friendship both with pledges and with oaths, and settled the pay of the army. With this covenant they parted: King Edmund took to Wessex, and Knute to Mercia and the northern district.
On November 30, 1016, King Edmund died under strange circumstances. Some claimed he died of disease; others say he was assassinated. He was buried with his grandfather Edgar at Glastonbury.
For the next twenty years, Canute would rule all of England under Danish control. Seven years after Canute, Edward the Confessor (half-brother of Edmund II) would take the throne and reign until the year 1066.
Grossman, Mark. “Edmund II Ironside.” World Military Leaders: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Ancient and Medieval History Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?
ItemID=WE49&iPin=WML0073&SingleRecord=True (accessed September 10, 2009).
*image shows the coat of arms of Edmund II
Hunt, William, “Edmund or Eadmund, called Ironside,” in The Dictionary of National Biography, 22 vols., edited by Sir Leslie Stephen and Sir Sidney Lee, et al. (London: Oxford University Press, 1921–22), VI:403–405.
Hilliam, David, “Edmund II (Ironside),” in Kings, Queens, Bones and Bastards: Who’s Who in the English Monarchy from Egbert to Elizabeth II (Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire, U.K.: Sutton Publishing, 1998), 20–21.
Boswell, E., ed., Edmond Ironside; or, War Hath made All Friends (London: Oxford University Press, 1928).
The History of the Anglo-Saxons from the Earliest Period to the Norman Conquest By Sharon Turner