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Penitential Discourse in the Diplomas of King Æthelred ‘the Unready’

Levi Roach

This article consists of a detailed study of a series of extraordinary diplomas issued by King Æthelred ‘the Unready’ during the 990s. These diplomas restore lands and rights to churches which had earlier been despoiled by the king and his advisors and their wording indicates that they were intended as a conscious gesture of penitence. As such, the documents were of central  political importance and it is argued that they can be fruitfully mined for evidence of  Æthelred’ s own thoughts and feelings in these years; these diplomas might well be considered to  preserve Æthelred’s own voice.

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