The Social World of the Anglo-Saxons: The Aethelings and the Aeldermen

Peter Whitaker is the author of the upcoming Sorrow Song Trilogy, set during the fateful years leading up to and immediately after the Norman invasion of England in 1066. Peter has several great articles on Anglo-Saxon life, as well as his progress and thoughts on his writing projects and life in general. I encourage everyone to go visit him and say hi.

Peter C Whitaker

As you would expect with any society that was characterised by a hierarchical class system there would be the top class who were defined by their wealth and by the power that they wielded. In the Anglo-Saxon world the upper class were known as the aethelings, who were principally the royal family. The king was the obviously the head of this very exclusive group and he would be joined by his queen, their children who would hold the ranks of prince and princesses, and any other immediate family members such as brothers and sisters who would hold the same rank but be differentiated by their position in line to inherit the throne.

The position of aetheling granted many privileges but it also bestowed certain responsibilities too. Aethelings were expected to support the king and queen and to lead the army on campaign. Military service was considered important as the cult…

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