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Look, what you have made me become...

– Judith to Ecbert, Portage

Judith of Northumbria is the daughter of King Aelle of Northumbria and the wife of Prince Aethelwulf of Wessex (whose marriage was arranged). She was the lover of Athelstan, whom she loved deeply. She became the lover of King Ecbert, her father-in-law, after Athelstan's death.

Biography

Season 2

Judith Wedding

Judith and Aethelwulf are married.

Judith accompanies her parents, King Aelle and Queen Ealhswith, accepting an invitation to create an alliance with King Ecbert, who seeks help resisting the advances of invading Northmen. 

The kings went to an agreement that each kingdom would send troops to defend the other should the Northmen attack. King Aelle is wary; there's nothing to stop Ecbert from taking over his own, smaller kingdom. King Ecbert then suggests that Aelle's daughter Judith and his son Aethelwulf marry, to form a stronger alliance. King Aelle agrees.

Throughout this, Judith (and Aethelwulf) are merely pawns in their fathers' plans; the two marry shortly thereafter. Neither spouse seem displeased with the marriage, however.

Season 3

About a year has passed since the marriage and Judith has since given birth to a son. Though a dutiful wife, Judith is much more interested in Athelstan, the holy man who accompanies Ragnar on peace negotiations in Wessex, than her own husband, and develops a potentially dangerous crush. She intentionally seeks Athelstan out, asking to kiss his hand saying that she was told that he was crucified and the marks are still there. Flustered, Athelstan does not wish to show her nor have a woman kiss him, even if it's just on the hand. Judith grabs his hand anyway and sees the scars; she kisses them before being interrupted by her husband, who is heading into battle with Ragnar and his men to reclaim Mercia.

Later, Judith finds Athelstan and asks to confess to him as her regular confessor is not there. Athelstan reluctantly agrees; Judith tells him that she has sinned in thought but not in deed. She confesses to dreaming of lying naked beside a man who is not her husband. Judith continues, saying that they also made love to each, and that she enjoyed it. Athelstan asks who the man is in her dream and Judith replies that it was him. She leaves before he can give her her penance.

The next morning, Athelstan is returning to Lagertha's settlement. Judith is upset and Athelstan brings up that she did not receive her penance. She says him leaving is enough. He believes it is a good thing. The King notices Judith's interest and slyly warns her that an interesting person can also be a dangerous one. Judith says the same can be said about his interest in Lagertha.

Several days later, Lagertha and Athelstan once again visit the King, who takes them to the Roman baths for a dip. Joining the them is also Judith. King Ecbert and Lagertha soon begin kissing, which causes the embarresed Judith to abruptly leave, saying "It's not right". Athelstan follows. Judith confesses to Athelstan that she feels dirty because of her growing interest in him even though she knows it is not right. He sends her to bed to rest.

Athelstan realizes that he has an interest in Judith and the two eventually consummate the relationship, breaking his vow of chastity. The King, it seems, has succeeded in quietly pushing the relationship to this point as Judith becomes pregnant.

Aethelwulf returns to find his wife is suffering from sickness related to the pregnancy but Judith does not try to hide her infidelity. Aethelwulf is furious to find that his wife is pregnant by another man but Judith refuses to name the father.

Several months later, the child, a son, is born. Aethelwulf comes to congratulate Judith on her new child before she is violently dragged out of the room and tied up outside in front of a jeering crowd. Her husband and father-in-law watch as she has been found guilty of adultery and is sentenced to having her ears and nose cut off as punishment. She screams for mercy and the king offers her a possible release: name the father. Judith refuses and her punishment commences with the removal of an ear. Unable to bear the pain, Judith tells the King that the father is Athelstan. Aethelwulf does not believe her, but King Ecbert has a sudden change of heart, "Athelstan is a holy man. I can not blame my daughter-in-law for being attracted to such a man". The King has what he wanted, a child by a man of God. Judith is released and the king commands the child to be baptized as "Alfred".

Though she does not understand it, Judith has regained King Ecbert's favor, who now dotes on her son despite his questionable parentage, almost as if the child was born of the Virgin herself. Though Aethelwulf tells his father that, despite his wife's infidelity, his marriage is fine, he calls his wife a whore when she brings the little prince to see King Ecbert. The king promptly throws his son out of the room and consoles Judith before turning his attentions to Alfred.

King Ecbert (who has sent his son on a possible suicide mission to Mercia) visits Judith and shares with her the writings that Athelstan was translating for him. He vows to protect her and her son Alfred and kisses her on the lips, leaving Judith stunned and confused. Unbeknownst to her, the King plans on removing her father, King Aella, and taking Northumbria for himself.

King Ecbert later tells Judith that her husband has returned from Mercia and that his protection comes with a price, however: she must become his mistress. King Ecbert promises that, if she agrees, she will inherit his kingdom.

Season 4

Athelwulf sets off the rescue Queen Kwenthrith, who is being held captive with her son in Mercia. He bids a cold farewell to an indifferent Judith. Meanwhile, King Ecbert approaches his daughter-in-law: “I want you to be free”, he tells her. Judith replies that she wants to be a painter and Ecbert says he will find her a teacher. As promised, Ecbert brings Judith a teacher, who is horrified to learn that his new student is a woman. The monk speaks with a local bishop, who informs him that a former prostitute was allowed to wash the limbs of Jesus, thus he can teach this woman.

Judith begins taking lessons from the monk, who knows all about Rollo’s attack on the Viking settlers. Judith inquires about Athelstan, though he doesn’t know anything. Later Judith amuses Ecbert with stories of the Paris attack. Ecbert assures her that Althelstan lives, if only through her son and in Judith herself. She laughs it off, saying that she is just a sinful woman. Ecbert insists they are all sinful, ever since being cast out of paradise. That evening, Ecbert comes to Judith’s chambers. She agrees to become his mistress, on the condition that he respects her. That night he dreams of Athelstan and believes it to be a sign that he is dead. Ecbert and Judith mourn the loss of Athelstan. The timing is perfect, as her tears fall exactly when her husband returns; she pretends they are tears of joy at his return.

When King Aella arrives to discuss the issue of Mercia with Ecbert, he notices a startling thing: Judith’s husband cozies up next to Kwenthrith while his daughter giggles next to Ecbert. “You are a bad wife and a bad mother”, he tells his daughter. She retorts that no one owns her anymore; she is finally free.

Later that night, Judith refuses to even lie in the same bed as Aethelwulf, who calls her a whore for sleeping with his father. She retorts back that he should go sleep with his mistress instead. Judith seeks out Ecbert, who gives her a ring that belonged to his wife who died in childbirth. Though resolved never to marry again, Ecbert wishes for her to wear it. Later, when Aethelwulf prevents Ecbert that Ragnar is returned Judith is present but Ecbert reassure them, saying that Ragnar is just a man. She meets again Ragnar, not considering him anymore her enemy, and presents him Alfred, her son and Athelstan's son. Ragnar thanks her as well as Ecbert. After Ragnar's death, she warns his father that he hasn't no idea of the revenge of Ragnar's sons and the consequences of his actions, but she receives only from the contempt from him and mockery of her sister.

Issue

  1. Aethelred - born within their first year of marriage, not much is known about this child. Judith and Aethelwulf appear to be good parents, though he is mostly forgotten about after the birth of Alfred.
  2. Alfred - the illegitimate child born of Judith and Athelstan. Judith makes no attempt to hide the adultery, much to the hatred of her husband, which only grows when his father, King Ecbert, fawns over Alfred when Athelstan is revealed to be the father.

Quotes

Look, what you have made me become...

– Judith to Ecbert, Portage

Trivia

  • Known historically as Judith of Flanders, she was the eldest daughter of Charles the Bald, the King of West Francia (France) and future Holy Roman Emperor.
  • In the series, Judith is depicted as a Northumbrian princess, instead of the daughter of a Frankish king.
  • Judith's part was recast in Season 3; Sarah Greene being replaced by Jennie Jacques.
  • Women accused of adultery would sometimes be punished by having their ears (known as cropping) and/or nose (known as rhinotomy) cut off. This was practiced by several cultures throughout the world, or forced enclosure in a monastery was also practiced as punishment for adulteresses
  • A common punishment for adulterous women – whipping, head shaving, and parading the adulteress through the streets - resembles the entry procedure before enclosure. The husband could take her back or leave her perpetually enclosed. 

Appearances

Season two appearances
Brother's War Invasion Treachery Eye For an Eye Answers in Blood
Unforgiven Blood Eagle Boneless The Choice The Lord's Prayer
Season three appearances
Mercenary The Wanderer Warrior's Fate Scarred The Usurper
Born Again Paris To the Gates! Breaking Point The Dead
Season four appearances
A Good Treason Kill the Queen Mercy Yol Promised
What Might Have Been The Profit and the Loss Portage Death All 'Round The Last Ship
The Outsider The Vision Two Journeys In the Uncertain Hour Before the Morning All His Angels
Crossings The Great Army Revenge On the Eve The Reckoning