January 13, 858: Death of King Æthelwulf of Wessex
|Coin of King Æthelwulf, facing right. Legend: + EÐELVVLF REX.
Æthelwulf is known for helping his father consolidate West Saxon control, for cooperating with the Mercians (the Mercian king Burgred married his daughter Æthelswith), and for fighting the Viking attacks which had started in the 790s and would start taking over Saxon kingdoms in the 860s. But he is perhaps best known for leaving his country in charge of two of his sons in 855 and going to Rome. He took Alfred with him, but more relevant to the history of the 850s, on his way back he married Judith, the daughter of the King of the Franks, Charles the Bald.
Since the Franks as well as the English were suffering under Viking attacks, an alliance between the two made good sense -- just as in 1002, King Æthelred would marry Emma of Normandy. But it seems to have occurred to Æthelwulf's son Æthelbald that any children of Æthelwulf and Judith would have royal blood from both parents and so be more throneworthy than he was. For whatever reason, Æthelbald plotted to prevent the return of his father in 856, and though Æthelwulf did return, the country seems to have been split between father and son for the last two years of Æthelwulf's reign. After Æthelwulf's death, Æthelbald solved the troubling problem of Judith's royal bloodline by marrying her himself.