Ethelred the Unready (in Old English, "unræd" which might better be translated as "lacking in counsel") was the younger son of King Edgar the Peacemaker of England, and came to the throne in 979 when Ethelred's mother had her stepson Edward murdered. Ethelred was not more than 11 at this time and probably had no part in the murder. Ethelred's reign did not go smoothly at all -- there were pirate/Viking raids and persistent illness among the island's cattle. At one point, 94 Norwegian and Danish ships besieged London until Ethelred and his council paid them off, setting a bad precedent for the next few decades.

After that incident, there was a tense peace for a few years until in 1003, Ethelred ordered the murder of all Danes living in England. One of those killed was the sister of the king of Denmark, Sweyn Forkbeard. Sweyn came back to attack England again and by 1013 had conquered all of England and was the acknowledged king. Ethelred hid out in Normandy but was called back to England in 1014 to rule again after Sweyn died. Ethelred died in 1016, though, and was briefly succeeded by his son Edmund II Ironside.

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