In the series Vikings, there are a number of characters that do awful things, and Judith (Jennie Jacques) can be counted among them. She’s the formidable wife of Aethelwulf (Moe Dunford), and she becomes a major player in the series in season 3 of Vikings. As she develops, it’s easy to notice a change in her, and it all culminates in something gruesome.
Judith, the mother of a king
Judith is sent to Wessex by her father, King Aelle of Northumbria (Ivan Kaye), as a way to control her and Wessex through her arranged marriage to Aethelwulf. It also cements an alliance between the two kingdoms to aid each other in attacks from Vikings. Her husband becomes the king eventually after the Vikings come and take vengeance on the kings of England. However, Aethelwulf is stung by a bee, leading him to have a serious allergic reaction that kills him.
He leaves behind two sons – Aethelred (Darren Cahill) and Alfred (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). Alfred is really the son of Athelstan (George Blagden), a monk turned Viking after being captured by Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel). Aethelred is older, but Judith somehow gets him to go along with Alfred being made the next king. Alfred was taught by King Ecbert (Linus Roache), Aethelwulf’s father, in all things involving kingship, and he knew Alfred was destined for great things.
Aethelred may have made the choice to give up his inheritance as the older son to their faces, but he’s really plotting with other nobles to overthrow Alfred and put himself on the throne.
Judith does an awful thing to her son
While Alfred is sick in season 5B, Judith speaks to her son, Aethelred, about the plot she’s uncovered to have Alfred overthrown. The first time they speak, Aethelred admits he thought the crown was supposed to be his “by right.” He said he was convinced by other nobles, and when the coup was supposed to happen, Aethelred didn’t release a signal, supposedly refusing to do it, so it didn’t happen. He promises to not “betray” Alfred again, but Judith doesn’t believe him. She realizes Aethelred is favored and that he isn’t going to stop, especially while Alfred is sick in bed.
Judith does an unspeakable act and poisons her son’s wine during dinner together. It leads to his death in a shocking turn of events. But first, they have a conversation.
“You are a wonderful mother to Alfred, and to me,” he tells her after Judith says she’s made some potions to try and “ease” Alfred’s “suffering.”
“At least I know you care about your brother,” she tells him.
“Why wouldn’t I?” he questions.
“It’s just so terrible how the nobles begin to conspire against him as soon as he’s sick,” Judith says. “They’re not real Christians. They have no charity in their souls. They simply want to get rid of him.”
Aethelred admits “it’s true,” but he says, “You must understand their fear. Not only for themselves, but for Wessex and England.”
Aethelred grunts in pain, and grabs his throat as he chokes. “Of course, I understand,” Judith says as she gets up. “But surely, surely they can see that Alfred is their best chance. If they care about Wessex and England, then they must care about Alfred.”
His son asks, “What have you done?”
“I don’t believe that you have ever accepted your brother as king,” Judith tells him. “I don’t think you ever will. You would always be a danger to him.”
“So you’ve poisoned me?” he asks her. “What king of mother are you?” he says after standing up in severe pain. Judith cries and watches her son fall to the ground and die. She does an awful thing by killing him believing she’s protecting Alfred’s right to rule.
Judith later dies of breast cancer, and she is mourned by the court and especially her remaining son, although Alfred knows what she did to his brother.