The Treaty of Wedmore (also called Peace of Wedmore or Treaty of Chippenham, the place were the Treaty was concluded) is an agreement reached in 878 AD by King Alfred the Great, the Anglo-Saxon ruler of Wessex and most part of England during the century, and Guthrum, a Danish Viking leader established in East Anglia who attempted to settle the West side of the country. Thisagreement was signed in the city of Wedmore after the defeat of the Viking army at Exeter where Guthrum was captured. The Treaty is a collection of agreements on the new boundaries and distribution of the English territory after the fight, the politics and treatment on slave’s matter and a symbolic obligation by which the Viking leader and most of his men would be baptised and converted toChristianity.
The existence of this common consent has been known by means of:
1. The written chronicle made by the Welsh monk Assen in his work The Life of King Alfred in which he explicitly quotes the course of the facts and the place where it was established *.
2. One of the few existing documents which survived from the Alfred’s reign: the Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum * where allagreements are collected.
In order to understand better the point of the events, and the following effects it meant, it is necessary to approach to the figure of Alfred the Great, Guthrum and the external and internal circumstances which generated the agreement between them.
After the death of his brother Æthelred, who had fought against the Danish advance many times, Alfred took the control ofthe Kingdom of Wessex. However the Viking attempts of invasion were perseverant and in 876 the Danes attacked West England again. The latest fought occurred in the 5th May of 878 when Alfred defeated in a surprise attack the Danish forces, ruled by Guthrum, at the Battle of Edington. After this surrender the Peace of Wedmore was claimed by the King of Wessex throughout a Treaty whose main aim wasto stop the Danish attacks establishing some territorial and powerful limitations, in order to make them stronger to the future, and to reinforce the notion of Wessex and England themselves. But at the same time it made the division England-Danelaw deeper.
The agreement itself established the new boundaries of these two powers: Danes agreed to go out from Wessex and Mercia to the North and Eastof the Watling Street (a Roman road from London to Wroxeter). This map shows the distribution of England after the treaty: on blue colour the Danish territory and on pink the English one.
But some evidences also assume that the treaty included the Alfred’s “invitation” to the Viking leader and some of his men to accept the baptism at Aller. So, the King being his godfather, Guthrum convertedto Christianity taking the name of Æthelstan and then withdrew to East Anglia.
The establishment of the basis of the Treaty had as a consequence the strengthening of Alfred’s power and army and the later advance of his dominions and importance until the point to be considered the first King of England.
*"(…)swore in addition that they would leave his kingdom immediately, andGuthrum, their king, promised to accept Christianity and to receive baptism at King Alfred's hand; all of which he and his men fulfilled as they had promised."”(…) the unbinding of the chrisom on the eighth day took place at a royal estate called Wedmore”.
* This is the peace that King Alfred and King Guthrum, and the witan of all the English nation, and all the people that are in East Anglia,have all ordained and with oaths confirmed, for themselves and for their descendants, as well for born as for unborn, who reck of God's mercy or of ours.
1. Concerning our land boundaries: Up on the Thames, and then up on the Lea, and along the Lea unto its source, then straight to Bedford, then up on the Ouse unto Watling Street.
2. Then is this: If a man be slain, we estimate all equally dear,...