Silver penny of Edward 'the Elder'

Anglo-Saxon, AD 899-924
Minted in the kingdom of Mercia, central England

Or of Ethelflaed, his sister?

When Alfred the Great died in 899, he ruled part of England, while the rest, generally known as the Danelaw, was in the hands of the Vikings. Alfred had inherited most of southern England, including the kingdom of Wessex, along with Sussex and Kent, and he had also become ruler of part of Mercia. Alfred was succeeded by his son Edward the Elder (reigned 899-924), who soon tried to conquer the Danelaw to the north.

Edward ruled directly everywhere south of the River Thames, but an unusual situation developed in Mercia, north of the Thames. The kingdom had no king, but was ruled by a royal official called an ealdorman. Ealdorman Ethelred was married to Ethelflaed, the sister of Edward the Elder. Ethelflaed became known as the 'Lady of the Mercians', and until her death in 918, led the campaign against the Vikings of the Danelaw.

A series of coins with unusual designs was produced in western Mercia at this time. These were probably issued by Ethelflaed, even though they carry the name of Edward, her brother. The design on this coin includes a tower, copied from a late Roman coin design. Touch the animation button to compare this coin with one issued by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great. The tower looks very like surviviving Anglo-Saxon church towers, but it may symbolize the fortresses which Ethelflaed built during her conquest of the Danelaw.

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More information


H.A. Grueber and C.F. Keary, A catalogue of English coins i (London, 1893)

C.E. Blunt, B.H.I.H. Stewart and C.S.S. Lyon, Coinage in tenth-Century Engla (Oxford University Press, 1989)


Diameter: 23.000 mm
Weight: 1.650 g

Museum number

CM BMC II, p. 238, no. 109



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