PASE: Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England


[Image: Excerpt from the Domesday Book]
[Image: Durham Liber Vitae, folio 38r (extract)]


Author: CPL
Editorial Status: unknown

Discussion of the name

Æthelwulf is an OE masculine name formed from the elements æðel (‘noble, famous’) and wulf (‘wolf’). First recorded in the later eighth century, it came into widespread use in the ninth and earlier tenth, being borne (among others) by King Alfred’s father, king of the West Saxons 839–56 (PASE: Æthelwulf 1–49). From the later ninth century it was increasingly replaced by the shortened forms Athulf and Æthulf (PASE: Athulf 1–9, Æthulf 1–4), and indeed Alfred’s father was sometimes called Aþulf . The spellings in DB all derive from the shortened form of the name (von Feilitzen 1937: 78–9 § 62, 191).

A complication in identifying the Æthelwulfs of 1066 is that the Norman name Aiulf was spelled in DB in exactly the same way. The clearest evidence for the existence of the Norman name is the Aiulf Guirel who was a burgess of Trun (Orne) in 1077 (Bates 1998, nos. 46, 49). His name was probably of Scandinavian origin, though unrecognized as such in the standard work on the Scandinavian personal names of Normandy (Adigard des Gautries 1954). However, von Feilitzen (1937: 191) had already noted that DB’s Aiulf could, in formal onomastic terms, represent ON Eyiólfr, and more recent research has established that the place-name Youlthorpe (Yorks. ER) originally incorporated Eyiólfr (DB Aiultorp, Aiulftorp: Yorks. 2B:11; 26E:3), and that the Yorkshire personal name Aiulf recorded in the twelfth century probably stands for the same (Fellows Jensen 1968: 77).

The existence of distinct Old English and Scandinavian Norman names both spelled Aiulf in 1086 has a bearing on the identity and origins of Aiulf the sheriff, Domesday tenant-in-chief, who has sometimes been regarded as having the English name Æthelwulf (e.g. Phill. Berks. note 57). He is here regarded as a Norman, for reasons given below. His Norman origins would be proved if he were, as asserted by Round (1906: 416) and much repeated since (e.g. Morris 1927: 47 note 48; Darlington 1955a: 73; Williams 1968: 46–7; Keats-Rohan 1999: 127), the brother of Humphrey the chamberlain. In the Domesday folios for Dorset (but only there), Aiulf’s byname switches from ‘the sheriff’ (uicecomes) in the index-list of tenants-in-chief to ‘the chamberlain’ (camerarius) at the head of his own fief, and his fief is followed immediately by Humphrey’s. Round’s statement that Aiulf was Humphrey’s brother almost certainly rests on that juxtaposition, but the appearance of the two men’s names next to one another is fortuitous, a function of the arrangement of the names of tenants-in-chief in alphabetical groups. Moreover, it is highly likely that camerarius for Aiulf was simply a mistake: when the scribe came to insert the chapter headings of the Dorset fiefs in red ink his eye skipped between the adjoining lines of the index-list naming Aiulf uicecomes and Humphrey camerarius, and he attached the wrong description to Aiulf’s name. It is worth emphasizing that no such person as ‘Aiulf the chamberlain’ is recorded anywhere other than the chapter heading in Dorset, whereas Aiulf’s later career as a sheriff can be traced in some detail (Green 1990: 37, 73, 85).

If not the brother of a Norman chamberlain, Aiulf’s career pattern is still more likely to make him Norman rather than English. The two clearly English sheriffs who served William I (Thorkil of Warwick and Edward of Salisbury) evidently took up office early in the reign in succession to other Englishmen (Green 1990: 83, 85), but Aiulf was appointed to Dorset in succession to a Frenchman (Green 1990: 37), and in no other shire under William I was a Norman sheriff succeeded by an Englishman. Aiulf the sheriff is therefore not to be regarded as English but as Norman.

The Phillimore and Alecto editions of DB give the name Æthelwulf to the subtenant of William de Percy at Elvington (Yorks. ER) (Yorks. 13E:14) and Stainton (Lincs.) (Lincs. 22:32), but the name in both cases is Alulfus, which is unlikely to represent Æthelwulf or any other OE name. Quite probably Alulf was the ancestor of the Morers family, named from Morières (Calvados, arr. Lisieux), and tenants of the Percys at Elvington and Stainton in the twelfth century (Clay 1963: pp. 284–6).


Adigard des Gautries 1954: Jean Adigard des Gautries, Les noms de personnes scandinaves en Normandie de 911 à 1066, Nomina Germanica 11 (Lund: Carl Bloms, 1954)

Bates 1998: Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum: The Acta of William I (1066–1087), ed. David Bates (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998)

Clay 1963: Early Yorkshire Charters, XI: The Percy Fee, ed. Charles Travis Clay, Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series Extra Series 9 (1963)

Darlington 1955: R. R. Darlington, ‘Introduction to the Wiltshire Domesday’, in The Victoria History of the Counties of England: A History of Wiltshire, II, ed. R. B. Pugh and Elizabeth Crittall (London: Oxford University Press for the Institute of Historical Research, 1955), 42–112

Fellows Jensen 1968: Fellows Jensen 1968: Gillian Fellows Jensen, Scandinavian Personal Names in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire (Copenhagen: I Kommission hos Akademisk Forlag, 1968)

Green 1990: Judith A. Green, English Sheriffs to 1154, Public Record Office Handbooks 24 (London: HMSO, 1990)

Keats-Rohan 1999: K. S. B. Keats-Rohan, Domesday People: A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents 1066–1166, I: Domesday Book (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1999)

Phill. Berks.: Domesday Book, ed. John Morris, 5: Berkshire, ed. Philip Morgan (Chichester: Phillimore, 1979)

Morris 1927: William Alfred Morris, The Medieval English Sheriff to 1300 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1927)

Round 1906: J. Horace Round, ‘Introduction to the Somerset Domesday’, The Victoria History of the Counties of England: The Victoria History of the County of Somerset, I, ed. William Page (Westminster: Archibald Constable, 1906), 383–432

Williams 1968: Ann Williams, ‘Introduction to the Dorset Domesday’, The Victoria History of the Counties of England: A History of the County of Dorset, III, ed. R. B. Pugh (London: Oxford University Press for the Institute of Historical Research, 1968), 1–60

von Feilitzen 1937: Olof von Feilitzen, The Pre-Conquest Personal Names of Domesday Book, Nomina Germanica 3 (Uppsala: Almqvist and Wiksells, 1937)

Forms of the name

Spellings in Domesday Book: Aiulf(us); Aiolf, Eiulf

Spellings in Exon: Aiolfus, Æiulfus

Forms in modern scholarship:

  von Feilitzen head forms: Æðelwulf

  Phillimore edition: Aiulf

  Alecto edition: Æthelwulf

Distribution map of property and lordships associated with this name in DB

List of property and lordships associated with this name in DB

People of this name

Return to PASE Domesday homepage