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Eadred succeeded his brother Edmund I in 946. Both were sons of Edward the Elder.

He reigned for 9 years, dying in 955 CE, aged 30. He is descrobed as suffering from the "heriditary illness of the House of Wessex", similar to his grandfather Alfred the Great which is now believed to be Crohn's Disease. His reign was remarkable for the rebellion in York by Archbishop Wulfstan who invited the pagan Norwegian prince, Eric Bloodaxe to become king of a breakaway kingdom. After some internal squabbles Bloodaxe (so called due to his having killed his two brothers) was turned out only to return once more. Eadred led a punitive expedition, but did not meet Eric Bloodaxe who had been ambushed and himself killed at a place called Stanmoor. He ruthlesslessly harried the area, burning down the great priory at Ripon. Archbishop Wulfstan was taken prisoner and demoted to a smaller Bishopric in the south where he could be watched.

He had poor health and is reported to have been unable to swallow solid food, having to chew it, drink the juices and spit out the residue. In the face of these difficulties he was a remarkably tough and able leader. St. Dunstan had come to notice under Edmund, but reached a position of dominanance under Eadred, becoming inseparable as Eadred neared death. Unmarried, he left no son, and was succeeded by his nephew, Eadwig All-Fair, whose marriage to Aelgifu, his distant cousin was annulled by Archbishop Odo the Severe.