Osburga (?–c. 855)

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Osburga (?–c. 855)

Queen of Wessex and the English. Name variations: Osburh; Osburgha; she is often confused with a St. Osburga who founded Coventry Abbey. Date of birth unknown; died around 855; daughter of Oslac the Thane of the Isle of Wight, grand butler of England; became first wife of Æthelwulf also known as Ethelwolf or Ethelwulf (c. 800–858), king of Wessex and the English (r. 839–856, abdicated), about 835 (divorced 853); children: Ethelstan, king of Kent; Ethelbald (c. 834–860), king of Wessex and the English (r. 855–860); Ethelbert (c. 836–865), king of Kent and the English (r. 860–865); Ethelred I (c. 840–871), king of the English (r. 865–871); Alfred the Great (c. 848–c. 900), king of the English (r. 871–899); Ethelswyth (c. 843–889). Ethelwulf's second wife wasJudith Martel .

Osburga was queen to Ethelwulf, son of Egbert, a great king of Wessex who had come out of exile in France around 800 to take back his territory from the king of Mercia. She had at least six children, including Alfred the Great. It is commonly assumed that Osburga, thought to be noble by birth and nature, could also read, a rare accomplishment for a woman of her day. The Welsh monk Asser relates in his Life of King Alfred: "Now it chanced a certain day that his Mother showed to him and to his brothers a book of Saxon poetry, which she held in her hand, and said, 'I will give this book to that one among you who shall the most quickly learn it.'… [Alfred] took the book from her hand and went to his master, and read it: and when he had read it he brought it back to his Mother and repeated it to her."