Here’s How You Can Help Unearth A 1,000-Year-Old Royal Palace And Celebrate The Life Of Aethelflaed Of Mercia

Aethelflaed was almost abducted by Vikings but went on to help protect Gloucester from further attacks

St Oswald's Priory in Gloucester, home of Aethelflaed, Lady of Mercia
John Armagh / Wikimedia Commons

Aethelflaed was almost abducted by Vikings but went on to help protect Gloucester from further attacks

Imagine being able to help archaeologists uncover a royal palace that has remained hidden for 1,000 years. Well, that is exactly what is being asked of locals in Gloucester according to Gloucestershire Live.

To celebrate the life of Aethelflaed, the Lady of Mercia, locals will be able to chip in to “help experts unearth the palace in Kingsholm this Saturday, May 26, when a geological survey is held at St. Oswold’s Priory.”

So, who was Aethelflaed?

She was the daughter of Alfred the Great and Ealhswith. So, for those of you who watch History Channel’s Vikings, you might want to pay attention here because her storyline could, potentially, be involved in the series at some point. Currently, Alfred is present in Season 5 of the historical drama series.

In fact, some already suspect that Aethelflaed’s story has been amalgamated with Judith’s in the TV series after Judith and her family had to hide out in the marches in order to evade the attack. Aethelflaed is also known to have done this when Vikings attacked the royal palace at Chippenham.

Born in 870 AD, Aethelflaed arrived just in time to be involved in the Viking invasions. Her father, Alfred, was struggling to keep the marauding Vikings out of England. In fact, the threat was so abundant that Aethelflaed found herself having to “evade a Viking abduction on her wedding day.” She then used the palace as a base from which she helped protect Gloucester from further attack. In fact, the current layout of Gloucester’s streets surrounding the priory can be attributed to Aethelflaed’s handiwork.

Aethelflaed, Lady of Mercia, called St Oswald's Priory in Gloucester home
  British Library MS Cotton Claudius B VI, folio 14r).jpg|Æðelflæd (British Library MS Cotton Claudius B VI, folio 14r / Wikipedia Commons

It has been 1,100 years since her death and her body — along with that of her husband — were laid to rest underneath St. Oswold’s Priory. Now, to celebrate her history, Gloucester is asking locals to help uncover the remains of the original royal palace that has been hidden for so long.

Andrew Armstrong, city archaeologist at Gloucester City Council revealed that earlier excavations on the site found evidence of Saxon halls and would like to prove, once and for all, that this palace was used during the time of Aethelflaed, Lady of Mercia.

“Excavations in 1972 found fascinating evidence for late Saxon halls which we think formed part of a large palace complex extending throughout the northwest of Kingsholm. We don’t know for sure, but it seems likely that the palace was in use during Aethelflaed’s time. We’re hoping as part of this survey to identify the location of the 1972 excavation and to plot the locations of any further buildings in the surrounding area.”

So, what can you do to help?

Andrew Armstrong would like volunteers to help with the geophysical survey of the area before archaeologists come in. Volunteers will be trained on how geophysical surveying is undertaken prior to the actual survey.

After the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last weekend, this opportunity will likely appeal to those who are fascinated by the history or the current royal family, and, by extension, the history or royalty spanning the length of England’s history.

Gloucester City Councillor Paul James (C, Longlevens), leader of Gloucester City Council sees it as “a wonderful, hands-on opportunity for people of Gloucester to get involved” with local history.”

Along with help with the geophysical survey, “organizers are looking for a ‘tall and flaxen-haired’ woman to play the part of Aethelflaed when a funeral procession is held in the city on Saturday, June 9.” Also on this date, locals will get the opportunity to see what life was like during the Dark Ages when “an encampment hosting specially commissioned music, drama, and spoken word performances inspired by Aethelflaed is held at St Oswald’s Priory” is on display.