- (Egbert 111 King of Kent)
EGBERT (775?-839) was king of Wessex in England from 802 to his death. The king of Mercia drove him into exile in 789 (see ANGLO-SAXONS). Egbert lived in Gaul for three years, where he saw the expansion of Charlemagne's empire. After gaining the West Saxon throne, Egbert destroyed the supremacy of Mercia in England. By conquering Cornwall, Kent, Surrey, and Sussex, he enlarged Wessex and made his kingdom supreme. The Mercians, East Anglians, and Northumbrians recognized his rule. His reign foreshadowed the later growth of a united England.
The Wessex Dynasty from Cerdic to Egbert
Cerdic d 534 519-534
| Creoda d 593 585-593
| Cynric d 560 534-560
| Ceawlin d 591 577-591
Egbert d 832 First King of England
Egbert reigned 802-839, after exile 789 at Charlemagne's court. Egbert succeeded his cousin and made Wessex the leading kingdom in England, laying a basis for her future unification. His are the earliest-surviving Wessex coins (c825). By the Wansdyke he may have built, Egbert defeated King Beornwulf of Mercia (Reigned 840-853, succeeded Wiglaf as king and endured a period of sustained Viking attacks. He was finally routed in 852 when over 350 ships stormed London & Canterbury and he died a year later. He was succeeded by his son Burgred.) at
the Battle of Ellandune (south of Swindon, Wilts.) in 825, ending Mercia's power over Wessex and occupying Mercia in 829. Egbert annexed Essex, Kent, Surrey, and Sussex, and his armies crushed Cornish and Danish forces in the south-west (815, at Galford in person 825, and 838), latterly in person at Hengist Down (near Plymouth). Briefly, he ruled all England south of the River Humber, but never conquered Northumbria. His mainly outstanding descendants (by Redburga) would rule England for more than 150 years.
Egbert was an Anglo-Saxon king who ruled Wessex from AD 802 to 839. We use him to mark the division between the dark ages and medieval times because he is the first Anglo-Saxon king to achieve the semblance of a United England.
The three most powerful kingdoms in England during Anglo-Saxon times were Wessex, Northumbria, and Mercia. At one time, Offa of Mercia forced Egbert to flee to France and take refuge with Charlemagne (the great Frankish general who ruled an empire that looked much like modern France). He later returned to Wessex, where he was recognized as king. He gave battle to the Mercians and defeated them in 825. In 829, the Northumbrians also conceded that he would be their overlord. He was given the title of "Bretwalda," or king of All England.
Northumbria and Mercia maintained their own dynasties for a while, however. That wouldn't end until King Edgar in AD 959, who became the sole ruler of all three realms.
Edgar was the great-grandfather of Edward the Confessor, the Anglo-Saxon king who declared William the Conqueror heir to the throne of England.
England Before Her Monarchs
The Celts migrated to Britain, among other places, at some undetermined time in the BCs. They kept themselves to themselves, and no one outside of Britain knew of its existence until around 200 B.C. The Phoenicians, the world's pre-eminent traders of the time, thanks to their high-tech boats and sailing ability, would go out scouting for new places where no one had gone before. They did this not only for adventure; the hot commodity of 200 B.C. was tin, and supplies dwindled due to the huge demand, forcing traders to look for new sources. When the Phoenicians found two small islands far to the west, they also found two rich sources of tin (and not much else, save sheep and a basically worthless kind of pearl). Naturally, others were curious as to how the Phoenicians came up with all this tin all of a sudden, but the Phoenicians refused to tell, and, true to their standard policy, would destroy their ships and crews if they couldn't shake a pursuer. This time the stakes were much higher than usual, however, and, thanks either to unusually determined pursuit or a Phoenician crew with a fondness for life, the whereabouts of the two islands became generally known.
The larger of the two islands was given the name Brittonum, and the smaller was named first Aire and then Scotland. A number of the inhabitants of Scotland emigrated to the upper half of Brittonum, however, causing that area to be named Scotland and the smaller island renamed Aire, whence Ireland. The new Scots were renowned for their ferocity, but surpassing them even were the natives of the newly named Scotland, the Picts, famous for entering their battles painted blue. The Picts died out mysteriously during the reign of the Scottish king Kenneth Macalpin, in the twelfth century.
Brittonum was eventually divided into various kingdoms, among them Wessex, Northumbria, East Anglia, and Mercia. Each kingdom had its king, and according to tradition, one of those kings was chosen to rule over all the rest as high king, or Bretwalda. This notion was pooh-poohed by scholars for years as a pretty, patriotic fantasy, until the Sutton Hoo excavation in the 1950s of the the burial ship of one of the Bretwalda. How much actual power the Bretwalda had is unknown; scholars now think it was a more or less honorary position, but that may or may not be. In any case, certain kingdoms from time to time gained more than their usual share of power, and in the ninth century, King Egbert of Wessex conquered some of the surrounding kingdoms and (accordng to legend) proudly called the whole, Angle-Land, whence England.
In 800 at the decease of King Brithric, Egbert was called by the voice of
his countrymen to assume the Government of Wessex, and he subsequently
succeeded in reducing all the Kingdoms of the Heptarchy under his sway.
His reign, a long and glorious one, is memorable for the great victories
he achieved over the Danes.
See Europaisch Stammtafeln Bund II tafel 58.
GIVEN_NAMES: Also shown as Egbert
SUFFIX: Also shown as King of Wessex
BIRTH: Also shown as Born 775
DEATH: Also shown as Died 4 Feb 839