In midsummer heat some 60 delegates attended a week-end conference in Tamworth to discuss the career, context and significance of Æthelflæd, lady of the Mercians. She died in Tamworth in June 918 and has recently been granted a new statue in the town. It is hard not to see her image as a powerful woman, now written into history, as one which resonates with contemporary tastes and ambitions. Delegates from across the world, from the USA, Canada, Spain, Japan, New Zealand, Wales, and Scotland, as well as Mercia, Wessex
and Northumbria, heard seventeen terrific papers on themes as diverse as female power and authority, the politics of early tenth-century Britain, Wales and Ireland as well as the landscape and architecture of Tamworth and its region. Brothers, Carl and Ben Phelpstead curated a small photographic exhibition, and Carl gave a paper on the literary landscape of Mercia in nineteenth and twentieth century Britain. Their twitter site https://twitter.com/VisionsofMercia gives further information. Historian and novelist, Victoria Thompson Whitworth, who has used Æthelflæd as a character in her novels gave a spirited presentation on the use of her character in modern literature, bewailing the pornification of the middle ages. David Roffe bravely tried to reconstruct the entry for Tamworth in Domesday Book; none appears in the record. But, the phrase which stood out was that the year ‘918 was a year of infinite possibilities’. We know what did happen afterwards, but Æthelflæd’s death in Tamworth in 918 was the window top an unrealised world.
Throughout the conference we were the guests of Tamworth Borough Council and papers were delivered in the witan chamber, much to everyone’s amusement, whilst we had dinner at the Globe Inn and in the Great Hall of Tamworth castle. It is hoped that a book containing the papers will appear in due course.