History Channel’s ‘Vikings’: Who Did King Alfred Marry in Real Life?

King Alfred was introduced to Princess Elsewith in Episode 12.

Episode 12 of History Channel’s Vikings saw the introduction of a potential bride for King Alfred. But who did Alfred really marry, according to the history books?

SPOILER ALERT: This article contains information about Episode 12 (titled “Murder Most Foul”) of History Channel’s Vikings Season 5. Please proceed with caution if you have not yet viewed this episode and wish to avoid spoilers.

While King Alfred (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) was busy in negotiations with the Vikings in Episode 12, his mother, Judith (Jennie Jacques) was busy trying to find a suitable wife for her son. This saw the introduction of her niece, Princess Elsewith (Roisin Murphy), as a contender for King Alfred.

Already, things seem to be off to a rocky start with Alfred unable to spend much time with the princess and Elsewith seeming to be infatuated with the Viking, Bjorn Ironside (Alexander Ludwig).

So, who did Alfred marry according to the history books?

Also known as Alfred the Great, King Alfred did end up marrying a Princess Ealhswith. And, while it seems the couple might be doomed from what is seen in Episode 12 of Vikings Season 5, according to history, the couple were very successful. In fact, the historical Ealhswith produced at least five children with Alfred.

Of these children, there were two sons, with Edward the Elder going on to rule after King Alfred’s death on October 26, 899. However, as BBC’s History Extra points out, even though there was a direct descendant of the king, his position was still challenged after his death.

This claim came from a man called Aethelwold, who was the son of Alfred’s older brother, Aethelred, who ruled — and died — prior to Alfred being set on the throne. However, Edward the Elder held his position and then went on to rule as king.

According to the history books, Ealhswith was the daughter of a Mercian nobleman, Aethelred Mucel. He was the leader of one of the Gaini tribes that were located in Mercia.

Eahlswith also outlived King Alfred. And it was likely after the king’s death that she founded the convent of St Mary’s Abbey in Winchester. However, Eahlswith didn’t outlive her husband by very long and passed away on December 5, 902. While she had founded a new abbey, she was actually buried in Edward’s new Benedictine abbey called the New Minster, which is also in Winchester.

As for whether the History Channel’s King Alfred and Princess Elsewith will follow the history books closely or not, that still remains to be seen and viewers will have to tune into further episodes of Vikings Season 5 to find out more.

Vikings returns on Wednesday, December 12, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. History Channel provides the following synopsis for Episode 13 (titled “A New God”).

“Heahmund must try to convince King Alfred that his actions are in defense of the Crown. Ubbe and Torvi strengthen the position of the Vikings but not all in the Viking camp support their strategy. Another settler disappears in Iceland”

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