Ethelred, the son of King Edgar and Elfryth, was born in 968. He was seven when his father died, and only ten when he succeeded to the throne after the murder of his half-brother Edward the Martyr. His attempts to buy off Viking invaders gave him the name, Ethelred the Unready.

Ethelred married Emma of Normandy in 1002. Eleven years later, Ethelred abandoned his throne and fled to Normandy when England was invaded by Svein Haraldsson of Denmark. He returned in February, 1004, but died in London in 1016. His son, Edmund Ironside, became king for a few months before being replaced by Canute the Great.