Murder in Mercia: What (or who) Killed England’s 10th-Century Kings?

This is a fascinating period of history, and I wish I had the time to write some novels I had considered around this era. I will have to make do with reading more about it!


From 939 to 959, England saw the face of five kings. The shortest reign: only four years. For certain, other English rulers experienced abbreviated reigns—Edmund Ironside and Richard III, to name a few—but the consecutively short tenures of these tenth-century monarchs has sparked an interest in some historians and historical fiction writers, as well. Annie Whitehead—author of To Be a Queen and Alvar the Kingmaker—kindly shares her research and opinion on what might have killed some of these early English kings. Was it natural causes or something more sinister?

Breaking News, October 1st, AD 959: King Edwy dies suddenly, aged 19. His younger brother will henceforth be king of the whole country.

Nobody questions. Nobody accuses. This family has a habit of dying young; it’s well documented. The younger brother goes on to reign so successfully that he gains the nickname “the peaceable.” He gets a good write-up…

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