King Æthelred the Unready and the Church of Rochester
The church of Rochester, founded in the early seventh century and dedicated to St Andrew, lay in the eighth century at the political centre of one of the two kingdoms of early Anglo-Saxon Kent. The political arrangements of that time left a legacy, in the ninth century, in the form of the two ealdormen of Kent; and they left a legacy thereafter in the distinction maintained between the western and eastern parts of the county. My purpose, against this background, is to focus attention on a group of documents in the Textus Roffensis, dating from the late tenth and early eleventh centuries, and to set them in what seems to have been their context during the reigns of King Edgar (959–75), King Edward the Martyr (975–8), and King Æthelred the Unready (978–1016). The story begins with the activities of Ælfstan, bishop of Rochester, during the reign of King Edgar. Its interest lies, however, in seeing how circumstances changed in the aftermath of Edgar’s death, with further complications in the first decade or so of Æthelred’s reign; and in understanding how Ælfstan’s successor, Godwine I, bishop of Rochester (c.995–c.1015), was able to bring matters back under control. At another level, the story constitutes one of the many ‘local’ perspectives which can be recovered, using the evidence of charters, from different parts of the kingdom of the English, and which complement not only each other but also the narrative derived from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and other literary sources.