Thursday, 26 April 2012

English Monarchs - House of Wessex

This House effectively ruled the Kingdom for two centurys from 802 through to 1013.

The Kings were:

802 - 839Egbert
839 - 858Æthelwulf
858 - 860Æthelbald
860 - 865Æthelberht
865 - 871Æthelred
871 - 899Alfred the Great
899 - 924Edward the Elder  
924 - 924Ælfweard
924 - 939Æthelstan
939 - 946Edmund the Magnificent
946 - 955Eadred
955 - 959Eadwig
959 - 975Edgar the Peaceful
975 - 978Edward the Martyr
978 - 1013Æthelred the Unready

England, during Egbert's reign
Egbert: was the first King to have overlordship over much of England after defeating the Mercians in 825 and became Bretwalda * in 829 having defeated Wiglaf of Mercia and received later that same year, the submission of the Northumbrian King at Dore.  Although having lost the dominant position the following year when Wiglaf reclaimed the throne of Mercia, he retained control of Kent, Sussex and Surrey which were given to Egbert's son Æthelwulf to rule as a subking.

Æthelwulf's Tombstone

Æthelwulf: Upon becoming King, he split the kingdom up into two, giving the eastern half (Kent, Essex, Surrey and Sussex) to his son Æthelstan and kept the western half (Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset and Devon) for himself.

Æthelbald: Second of the five sons of Æthelwulf and was Regent of Wessex whilst his father was away visiting Rome.  He was probably involved in a plot preventing his father from returning, having heard about his father's marriage to  the Carolingian King Charles the Bald's thirteen-year-old daughter Judith.  To prevent a civil war, his father allowed Æthelbald to continue ruling Wessex and continued doing so after his father's death with Æthelberht becoming King of Kent.

Æthelberht:  Third son of Æthelwulf and became King of Kent and other eastern parts of the kingdom when his father died.  When his brother Æthelbald died childless in 860, the Kingdom of the West Saxons passed over to him. Whilst King, the south eastern conquests became a new kingdom, as opposed to appointing a family member as under-king. A charter issued in his first year of rule reflected a new kind of assembly by a West Saxon King in that a full complement of West Saxon and Kentish witnesses were included.

 Æthelred: His first year as King saw a great Viking army arrive which in five years had destroyed two of the principal English Kingdoms (Northumbria and East Anglia). HIs brother in law (Burgred, King of Mercia) first suffered at the hands of the Vikings before seeking help from Æthelred, and his brother, the future King, Alfred the Great.  It was during the period of intense battles which followed that Æthelred was killed, in the Battle of Merton in 871. 

Alfred - 13th century
Alfred the Great: was the only English monarch to be given the byname of Great, hence Alfred the Great.  Even though Æthelred had two under-age sons, Alfred succeeded him as King due to an agreement that whoever of the two brothers outlived the other, would inherit the property etc of King Æthelwulf.

During his reign, Alfred was successful in defending the kingdom from the Viking attempt of conquest, and also encouraged education whilst improving the country's legal system and military structure.

He was the first to be called King of the Anglo-Saxons.

Edward the Elder: Having dealt with the challenge from his cousin, Æthelwold, for the throne, Edward began to take back land at Mercia, East Anglia and Essex which the Danes had previously occupied during the reign of his father, Alfred, and went on to annex the cities of London and Oxford, with the surrounding areas of Oxfordshire and MIddlesex.

Relations with the Danes at Northumbria were unsettled and the two armies eventually fought the Battle of Tettenhall where Edward destroyed the opposition and from then on, the Northumbrians never raided south of the River Humber largely due to the fortresses that Edward had built afterwards to keep them at bay.

Ælfweard: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states that Ælfweard died 16 days after his father and that they were buried together at Winchester Cathedral but mentions no reign.

However, there is a list of Anglo-Saxon Kings in the 12th Century Textus Roffensis + which mentions him as his father's successor with a reign of four weeks.

Æthelstan's Tomb - Malmesbury Abbey
Æthelstan: Managed to succeed in obtaining the submission of Constantine II, King of Scots at the treaty of Eamont Bridge in 927 and afterwards forced the welsh princes to accept his authority and therefore claimed to be 'King of the English', and perhaps a more wistful claim, to be 'King of Britain'.

His Crowned Bust coinage of 933-938 was the first Anglo-Saxon coinage to show the king crowned together with the title Rex totius Britanniae, King of the Whole of Britain.

Edmunds Murder - drawn by R Smirke
Edmund the Magnificent: Faced the threat, after being pronounced King, from King Olaf III Guthfrithson who conquered Northumbria and invaded the Midlands, and it was only when Olaf died in 942, did Edmund regain the Midland and two years later, Northumbria.

One of Edmund's last known political movements was his role is restoring Louis IV of France to the throne.

Edmund was murdered by Leofa (an exiled thief) while celebrating St Augustine's Mass Day on 26th May 946.

Mortuary chest purporting to contain Eadred's bones
Eadred: Managed to control Northumbria in 946 and obtained oaths that the Scots would do all that he wanted but faced challenges from two scandinavian princes who had designs on Northumbria up until 952, where Eadred promised the northumbrian supporters of the foreign prince great havoc if they did not desert him.  A threat they took seriously as desert him they did.

Eadwig: Chosen by the nobility to succeed his uncle but his short reign was marked by conflicts with his family, members of the aristocracy and the church.

His marriage to Ælfgifu was annulled and unusual in that it was against both their wills and politically motivated by supporters of the church.

The Kingdom was split along the lines of the Thames to prevent a civil war, with Eadwig keeping Wessex and Kent in the south, and his brother, Edgar, controlling the kingdoms to the north.

Edgar the Peaceful: Crowned at Bath and annointed with his wife Ælfthryth, thus setting a precedent for a coronation of a Queen in England.

The service, performed by Dunstan (recalled from exile) and celebrated with a poem in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, forms the basis of the present day British coronation ceremony.

It was during his reign that the Benedictine Rule peaked in England's undisciplined monastic communities.

Corfe Castle
Edward the Martyr: Although the eldest son of Edgar, he was not considered to be his father's acknowledged heir (that being his younger half-brother Æthelred) but as he was a legitimate son of Edgar, was crowned by his clerical supporters, Dunstan and Oswald of Worcester.

During his short reign, the two great nobles of the time, ealdormen Ælfhere and Æthelwine quarelled and civil war was narrowly averted, although the nobles took advantage of Edward's weak rule to dispossess the Benedictine reformed monastries of land and other properties which Edgar had pledged to them as support.

Edward was murdered near to, or on the mound, where Corfe Castle now stands although who murdered him remains unknown and was buried without any ceremony, however he was later reburied at Shaftsbury Abbey in 980, and then moved to a more prominent place in 1001.

Æthelred the Unread: Was no more than 13 when his half-brother died, and since that death occured most likely at his mother's behest, it was difficult to rally the nation against threat especially as the legend of St Edward the Martyr grew.

From 991 onwards, he paid tribute, or Danegeld (Danish Tax) to the Danish King. However, in 1002  ordered a massacre of Danish settlers (including the Danish King's sister) which prompted the King Sweyn, to invade England and in 1013 Æthelred fled to Normandy.

* Bretwalda is a title given to rulers of the Anglo-Saxon who have achieved overlordship of some or all of the other Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms.
+ Textus de Ecclesia Roffensi per Ernulphum episcopum ("The Book of the Church of Rochester through Bishop Ernulf"),

Joke of the Day

The worst pub I've been to was called 'The Fiddle'..................It really was a vile inn. 

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