Æthelred, Ceolbald -
Northumbria, Æthelred I, Second Reign (789-796), Sceat, beaded borders, Ceolbald, +AEDILRED in neat square script around central crossed cross, rev. +CEOLBALD around central boss in beaded circle, 1.15g, 270° (SL 80-110 plate coin; SCBI 69, 887 this coin; North 185; Spink 856).
Images and selected text reproduced by kind permission of Spink and Son Ltd, London, auction 21050, The Tony Abramson Collection of Dark Age Coinage - Part II - Northumbria, March 18th 2021, lot #408. Provenance: A Gillis, May 2011 ~ Found in East Yorkshire, 2008 ~ [EMC 2012.0039 = BNJ Coin Register 2012, no. 84].
Osred II (788-790) the son of Alchred by Osgifu, despite uniting competing factions, was soon exiled to the Isle of Man (?) and forcibly tonsured but returned in 792, when he was captured and murdered, probably by Æthelred.
Æthelred I (restored 790-796) served a troubled second reign marking a descent towards anarchy. Æthelred made an early, unsuccessful, attempt to dispose of his rival Eardwulf, who was left for dead outside the monastery at Ripon (Inhrypum). In 791, two sons of Ælfwald, Ælf and Ælfwine, were murdered. The following year, Æthelred married Offa’s daughter Ælfflæd at Catterick. The year 793 marks the Viking attack on Lindisfarne, for which Alcuin blamed Æthelred’s ungodliness. The impact of the Council of Frankfurt, 794, will not have been neutral in Northumbria. The Council, where Charlemagne assembled all the western bishops, ruled against the persecution of witches while regarding witchcraft as superstition. It came down against both iconoclasm and iconodulism, deciding that images may be useful but should not be venerated. It also set certain weights and measures rather than let the market price mechanism operate. It fixed 25 oaten loaves, 12 two-pound wheaten loaves, four modius of oats, two of barley, one and a third of rye and one of wheat to be worth one new denier (Naismith, 2012, 287). A capitulary of 797 for the Saxon area, set 12 deniers, or one solidus, as the price of a year-old calf. In 806, the price for a sheep or pig was set at four deniers, and two pairs of shoes at seven deniers. ‘Even the poorest might have a coin or two in their purse.’ (Coupland, 2007, I, 212-13).
Despite support from Charlemagne, Æthelred was murdered in 796 by conspirators (including the earldormen Ealdred and Wada) who then elevated the aging, dissolute and murderous, Osbald, who ignored Alcuin’s warnings to reform. In an increasing unstable kingdom, he ruled a mere 27 days before being exiled to Lindisfarne, thence to a refuge in Pictland. He died in 799 with an unmarked burial in York Minster.