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Æthelwulf (d. 858), king of Wessex (839–58). The son of Egbert (802–39) and father of four kings, the youngest of whom was Alfred the Great (871–99), Æthelwulf is a far from negligible figure in Anglo-Saxon history. He was a competent military leader, acting as a subking in the south-east in his father's lifetime (829–39), and conducting substantial campaigns against the Danes at Aclea in Kent in 851 and against the Welsh of Powys (in support of his Mercian allies) in 853. Much of his personal interest seemed, however, to lie in ecclesiastical directions. He made generous provision for the financing of churches (his Decimations), apparently in the form of grants of a tenth of royal lands into the hands of thegns empowered to transfer proceeds to religious foundations. In 855 he yielded his authority to his eldest son Æthelbald, and went on pilgrimage to Rome, possibly accompanied by his young son Alfred, who would have been about 6. Æthelwulf was away from his kingdom for a twelvemonth, and on his return with a Frankish princess as a bride (a young girl, Judith, held to be only 12 years old) he was forced to agree to a division of the kingdom with his own authority confined effectively to the south-east until his death in 858. Æthelbald then succeeded to the whole kingdom, and also, in spite of the fact that she was his stepmother, married Judith.

Henry Loyn