World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Ætheling

Article Id: WHEBN0000662596
Reproduction Date:

Title: Ætheling  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Æthelwold ætheling, Edling, Cuthred of Wessex, Odal, Derbfine
Collection: Anglo-Saxon Royalty, Noble Titles
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Publication
Date:
 

Ætheling

Ætheling (also spelt Aetheling, Atheling or Etheling) was an Old English term (æþeling) used in Anglo-Saxon England to designate princes of the royal dynasty who were eligible for the kingship.

The term is an Old English and Old Saxon compound of aethele, æþele or (a)ethel, meaning "noble family", and -ing, which means "belonging to",[1] It derives from the Germanic word Edeling or Edling and is etymologically related to the modern German words Adel, "nobility", and adelig or adlig, "noble".[2] It was usually rendered in Latin as clito.

Ætheling can be found in the Suffolk toponym of Athelington.

Contents

  • Meaning and use in Anglo-Saxon England 1
  • Other uses and variations 2
  • See also 3
  • Footnotes 4
  • Sources 5

Meaning and use in Anglo-Saxon England

The first lines of Beowulf

"Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum,
þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon."

Beowulf, lines 1-3

During the earliest years of the Anglo-Saxon rule in England, the word ætheling was probably used to denote any person of noble birth. Its use was soon restricted to members of a royal family. The prefix æþel- formed part of the name of several Anglo-Saxon kings, for instance Æthelberht of Kent, Æthelwulf of Wessex and Æthelred of Wessex, and was used to indicate their noble birth. According to a document which probably dates from the 10th century, the weregild of an ætheling was fixed at 15,000 thrymsas, or 11,250 shillings, which was equal to that of an archbishop and one-half of that of a king.[2]

The annal for 728 in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle referred to a certain Oswald as an ætheling, due to his great-great-grandfather being king of Wessex. From the 9th century, the term was used in a much narrower context and came to refer exclusively to members of the house of Cerdic of Wessex, the ruling dynasty of Wessex, most particularly the sons or brothers of the reigning king. According to historian Richard Abels "King Alfred transformed the very principle of royal succession. Before Alfred any nobleman who could claim royal descent, no matter how distant, could strive for the throne. After him, throne-worthiness would be limited to the sons and brothers of the reigning king."[3] In the reign of Edward the Confessor, Edgar the Ætheling received the appellation as the grandson of Edmund Ironside, but that was at a time when for the first time for 250 years there was no living ætheling according to the strict definition.

Ætheling was also used in a poetic sense to mean 'a good and noble man'. Old English verse often used ætheling to describe Christ, as well as various prophets and saints. The hero of the 8th century Beowulf is introduced as an ætheling, possibly in the sense of a relative of the King of the Geats, though some translators render ætheling as 'retainer'. Since many early Scandinavian kings were chosen by competition or election, rather than primogeniture, the term may have been reserved for a person qualified to compete for the kingship.

Other uses and variations

The term was occasionally used after the Norman conquest of England and then only to designate members of the royal family. The Latinised Germanic form, Adelin(us) was used in the name of the only legitimate son and heir of Henry I of England, William Adelin, who drowned in the White Ship disaster of 1120.

The historian Dáibhí Ó Cróinín has proposed that the idea of the tánaist ríg in early medieval Ireland was adopted from the Anglo-Saxon, specifically Northumbrian, concept of the ætheling.[4] The earliest use of tanaíste ríg was in reference to an Anglo-Saxon prince in about 628. Many subsequent uses related to non-Irish rulers, before the term was attached to Irish kings-in-waiting.

In Wales, the variant edling was used to signify the son chosen to be the heir apparent.

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Harper, Douglas (November 2001). "Atheling".  
  2. ^ a b  
  3. ^ Abels, Richard (2002). "Royal Succession and the Growth of Political Stability in Ninth-Century Wessex". The Haskins Society Journal: Studies in Medieval History 12: 92.  
  4. ^  

Sources

  • Miller, S. (2003), "Ætheling", in Lapidge, Michael, The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England, Oxford: Blackwell,  
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 



Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.