King of the Anglo Saxons c860 AD

Who was King of the Anglo Saxons c860 AD

King Aethelwulf of Wessex 839 – 858, had five sons of whom the youngest was Alfred b.849 AD in Wantage in Berkshire. The right of succession was not automatically from father to son. Succession was determined by strength of character and power amongst uncles, fathers and sons. In this way it ensured that the man who became King was the best of the bunch at that time. A choice between five sons therefore was a complicated issue, especially as one of those sons was Alfred.

King Aethelwulf of Wessex

Aethelwulf was already the king of Kent before his ascension to the throne of Wessex, a title awarded to him by his father in 825. He was a very religious man and he and his wife Osburh had six children, five sons and one daughter. His youngest son, Alfred was sent to Rome on pilgrimage. He was very young six or so years old, where, his father joined him after the death of his mother. In his absence, his son Aethelbald had taken the kingdom of Wessex from him and maybe it is the mark of the man and his Christianity that he ceded the western half of Wessex to his son rather than throw the kingdom into civil war.

King of the Anglo Saxons

The succession of Kings in Wessex

Alfred’s four older brothers, Aethelbald 858 – 860, Aethelbert 860 – 866, Aethelred 866 – 871, became kings of Wessex before him but he lived through a time of great disagreement about who should succeed to be king. Succession was determined by strength of character and power amongst uncles, fathers and sons. In this way Alfred became king, favoured over his brothers sons.

So in 871 Alfred became King of England

King Alfred the Great faced the terror of the Viking raids.

The Viking raiders came from Norway, Sweden and Denmark, their own lands could no longer support them and so they invaded others. They created havoc in the towns and villages and pillaged until there was little left except the land itself which they divided between them. The Danes took over England and led fierce attacks on Wessex and Alfred.

Alfred held strong, forcing the Danes to retreat and negotiate a peace treaty. Such was his skill, that Guthrum, King of the Danes was himself baptised as were many of his followers and he agreed to a settlement that saw the Danes and English as equals.

Alfred extended his kingdom to embrace all the southern kingdoms of Anglo Saxons, including London. The Danes held the North and East.

A new period was dawning and first reference is made to ‘the English race’.

King Alfred, the King of Wessex, was emerging as a common leader and the first references are made to a ‘King of the Anglo Saxons’

The Anglo Saxons David Wilson
The Anglo Saxons (1982) Edited by James Campbell, Eric Johns and Patrick Wormald

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