Egbert Anglo Saxon King of Wessex, what sort of a king was he?
Egbert was a warrior King of Wessex who managed briefly to dominate the other kingdoms between 802-839 when he died. This achievement should not be seen as a true unification of the kingdoms it was as fleeting in historical terms, as the supremacy of the Mercian Kings, Ethelbald and Offa. He had succeeded his father originally to the Kingdom of Kent (believed to be sAelmund.) He was a great encourager of learning and the liberal arts; which then, under the endeavours of Archbishop Theodore. Examples below show that he endowed the church generously but he was also capable of brutal acts. He was recorded in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle as the 8th King of the Bretwaldas.
Find out more about the context of his life on our Anglo Saxon timeline.
Key dates and events include:
- In early life Egbert made a play for the Kingdom but failed and fled into exile in France, subsequently returning when the time was right to make his kove for Wessex.
- 825 Battle of Ellandune victory gained by Egbert of Wessex over Beornwulf who was King of Mercia. The battle is believed to have taken place at Wroughton in Wiltshire England. Following the battle Wessex took-over Kent, Surrey,Sussex and Essex.
- Northumbria, Egbert defeated King Enred at the battle of the River Dore.
- He had married a lady named Redburga and they had at least two children: Aethelwulf, who succeeded his father as King of the English, and St. Edith of Polesworth. His daughter it is believed was a leper and it was for her that had endowed and help found Polesworth Abbey, see below.
- 829 by this date Egbert had taken over Mercia itself as well and this marked the end of previous Mercian supremacy.
- 830 The Mercian King Wiglaf threw-off Wessex as Overlords.
- 830 Northumbria also threw-off Wessex’s leadership by Egbert.
- He gave the South-West to control of his eldest son, Aethelwulf.
- 836-838 Kingston (Upon-Thames) is 1st mentioned as the meeting-place of the council at which King Egbert and the Archbishop Ceolnoth made their pact.
- 836, the Vikings arrived in West Saxon North Devon and Somerset. Egbert’s army fought them at the Battle of Carhampton, but he was forced to withdraw.
- 838 The Viking threat became even more serious when the Cornish Dumnonians joined forces with the Northmen but this time Egbert was the decisive victor at the Battle of Hingston Down.
- 839 Egbert died andwas buried in the Old Minster at Winchester.
Egbert’s permanent achievement and legacy was the amalgamation and incorporation of South-West England and Kent into the kingdom of Wessex.
It maybe that he had two sons Edric and Widred, who were both set aside, to make way for their uncle who usurped the throne on his brother Egbert’s death.
This was the important starting point which eventually formed the basis for Alfred the Great to achieve the unification of England.
Additional references re Egbert in History
Not just a brutal warrior, Egbert cared for his daughter and appears he was a committed christian, given his endowments to the church which were many. There are also accounts that to ensure his certainty he had his own nephews put to death. Here are a few references and examples;
- There are accounts that state that he had his two nephews murdered in case they should attempt to usurp him of his crown, (Ethelred and Ethelbrit) at the instigation of one Thunor. He appears to have reretted this action and paid compensation to their sister Domneva, providing sufficient quantity of land in the isle of Thanet to found a monastery there. the facts of this are difficult to verify.
- He also gave to Bassa, the palace and lands of Reculver, in Kent, (which had been the palace of the kings of Kent) to build another monastery as further atonement for his crime of murdering his nephews, but again the documented references are sketchy.
- Bedhampton “Early in the ninth century King Egbert granted the manor of Bedhampton to the cathedral church of Winchester. ” from A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3 Pages 142-144. The name of the manor would vary across history Betametone (xi cent.); Bodehampton (xv cent.); Bedhampton (xvi cent.).
- Droxford: “The manor of DROXFORD, like its neighbour Bishop’s Waltham, was one of the manors of the see of Winchester. The first grant of the land was in 826, when King Egbert, ‘in gratitude to God for his coronation as king of all England,’ gave the vill of ‘Drokeireford’ to the prior and monks of St. Swithun, Winchester. “
- Martyr Worthy a gift to the church from Egbert
- Alresford was reconfirmed by Egbert for the Church of Winchester between 825 and 831
- Warehorne “The FIRST MENTION made of Warehorne is in a charter of king Egbert, who with king Ethelwulf his son, in 820, gave to one Godwine, two plough-lands, in a place called by the English, Werehornas, situated among the marshes, and it was bought for one hundred shillings in money, and, as the boundaries are expressed extended on the east part southward over the river Limen, unto the South Saxon limits” from The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8 by Edward Hasted published 1799
- Polesworth Abbey A legendary account of Egbert’s involvement in bringing Benedictine Nunnery which would become Polesworth Abbey in the hope of finding care and cure for a daughter who was a leper. Subsequently Ethelstan’s sister ended her days there around 925. Reference A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 2 William Page (editor) 1908 Pages 62-65.