Today witnessed a ‘national service of commemoration’ to mark the 1100th anniversary of the death of Æthelflæd in Tamworth. It is often difficult to upstage a bishop in full costume, much less an archbishop and six bishops in one place, but the presence of Prince Edward, the current earl of Wessex, the Danish ambassador, many mayors and enough uniforms to muster a respectable fyrd came close. And, that’s before we start counting Tamworth’s own Æthelflæd, in costume, and a household of Saxon warriors also in costume. Four cast members from BBC’s Last Kingdom, including Millie Brady, who played Æthelflæd were also in attendance, alongside the region’s great, good and the modern version of the medieval clerical proletariat, a respectable choir of academic historians. Michael Wood and Simon Keynes had bit parts.
So, what were the highlights? Kim Sadler, the singer, gave a terrific version of the rarely-heard nineteenth-century song, Tamworth, heart of Mercia’s kingdom, but the most significant moments were when four eminent female professors, Judith Jesch, Jane Roberts, Barbara Yorke and Dame Jinty Nelson, read from early-English sources to illuminate Æthelflæd‘s life. Jinty Nelson gave a a short but weighty appreciation of her role in peacemaking between Mercians and Danes, as well as her more well-known martial achievements.
A new window was also unveiled in the church to match the new statue recently erected in the town. You can watch a short video taken by the Tamworth Civic Society here: