Coenwulf of Mercia
Coenwulf was the King of Mercia from December 796 until his death in 821. He was a descendant of a sibling of King Penda, who had ruled Mercia in the middle of the 7th century, he succeeded the son of Offa. In the early years of Coenwulf's reign he had to deal with a revolt in Kent, under Offa's control. Eadberht Præn returned from exile in Francia to claim the Kentish throne, Coenwulf was forced to wait for papal support before he could intervene; when Pope Leo III agreed to anathematise Eadberht, Coenwulf retook the kingdom. Coenwulf appears to have lost control of the kingdom of East Anglia during the early part of his reign, as an independent coinage appears under King Eadwald. Coenwulf's coinage reappears in 805. Several campaigns of Coenwulf's against the Welsh are recorded, but only one conflict with Northumbria, in 801, though it is that Coenwulf continued to support the opponents of the Northumbrian king Eardwulf. Coenwulf came into conflict with Archbishop Wulfred of Canterbury over the issue of whether laypeople could control religious houses such as monasteries.
The breakdown in the relationship between the two reached the point where the archbishop was unable to exercise his duties for at least four years. A partial resolution was reached in 822 with Coenwulf's successor, King Ceolwulf, but it was not until about 826 that a final settlement was reached between Wulfred and Coenwulf's daughter, the main beneficiary of Coenwulf's grants of religious property. Coenwulf was succeeded by Ceolwulf. Within two years Ceolwulf had been deposed, the kingship passed permanently out of Coenwulf's family. Coenwulf was the last king of Mercia to exercise substantial dominance over other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Within a decade of his death, the rise of Wessex had begun under King Egbert, Mercia never recovered its former position of power. For most of the 8th century, Mercia was dominant among the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms south of the river Humber. Æthelbald, who came to the throne in 716, had established himself as the overlord of the southern Anglo-Saxons by 731. He was assassinated in 757, was succeeded by Beornred, but within a year Offa ousted Beornred and took the throne for himself.
Offa's daughter Eadburh married Beorhtric of Wessex in 789, Beorhtric became an ally thereafter. In Kent, Offa intervened decisively in the 780s, at some point became the overlord of East Anglia, whose king, Æthelred, was beheaded at Offa's orders in 794. Offa appears to have moved to eliminate dynastic rivals to the succession of Ecgfrith. According to a contemporary letter from Alcuin of York, an English deacon and scholar who spent over a decade as a chief advisor at Charlemagne's court, "the vengeance of the blood shed by the father has reached the son". Offa died in July 796. Ecgfrith reigned for less than five months before Coenwulf came to the throne. A significant corpus of letters dates from the period from Alcuin, who corresponded with kings and ecclesiastics throughout England. Letters between Coenwulf and the papacy survive. Another key source for the period is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a collection of annals in Old English narrating the history of the Anglo-Saxons; the Chronicle was a West Saxon production, is sometimes thought to be biased in favour of Wessex.
Charters dating from Coenwulf's reign have survived. A charter might record the names of both a subject king and his overlord on the witness list appended to the grant; such a witness list can be seen on the Ismere Diploma, for example, where Æthelric, son of king Oshere of the Hwicce, is described as a "subregulus", or subking, of Æthelbald. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Ecgfrith only reigned for 141 days. Offa is known to have died in 796, on either 26 July or 29 July, so Ecgfrith's date of death is either 14 December or 17 December of the same year. Coenwulf succeeded Ecgfrith as king. Coenwulf's father's name was Cuthberht, who may have been the same person as an ealdorman of that name who witnessed charters during the reign of Offa. Coenwulf is recorded as witnessing charters during Offa's reign. According to the genealogy of Mercian kings preserved in the Anglian collection Coenwulf was descended from a brother of Penda named Cenwealh, of whom there is no other record, it is possible that this refers to Cenwealh of Wessex, married to a sister of Penda.
Coenwulf's kin may have been connected to the royal family of the Hwicce, a subkingdom of Mercia around the lower river Severn. It appears that Coenwulf's family were powerful. A letter written by Alcuin to the people of Kent in 797 laments that "scarcely anyone is found now of the old stock of kings". Eardwulf of Northumbria had, like Coenwulf, gained his throne in 796, so Alcuin's meaning is not clear, but it may be that he intended it as a slur on Eardwulf or Coenwulf or on both. Alcuin held negative views of Coenwulf, regarding him as a tyrant and criticising him for putting aside one wife and taking another. Alcuin wrote to a Mercian nobleman to ask him to greet Coenwulf peaceably "if
St Augustine's Abbey
St Augustine's Abbey was a Benedictine monastery in Canterbury, England. The abbey was founded in 598 and functioned as a monastery until its dissolution in 1538 during the English Reformation. After the abbey's dissolution, it underwent dismantlement until 1848. Since 1848, part of the site has been used for educational purposes and the abbey ruins have been preserved for their historical value. In 597, Augustine arrived in Anglo-Saxon England, having been sent by the missionary-minded Pope Gregory I to convert the Anglo-Saxons; the King of Kent at this time was Ethelbert. Although he worshipped in a pagan temple just outside the walls of Canterbury to the east of the city, Ethelbert was married to a Christian, Bertha. According to tradition, the king not only gave his temple and its precincts to St Augustine for a church and monastery, he ordered that the church to be erected be of "becoming splendour, dedicated to the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, endowed it with a variety of gifts." One purpose of the foundation was to provide a residence for his brother monks.
As another, both King Ethelbert and Augustine foresaw the abbey as a burial place for abbots and kings of Kent. William Thorne, the 14th century chronicler of the abbey, records 598 as the year of the foundation; the monastic buildings were most wooden in the manner of Saxon construction, so they could be built. However, building a church of solid masonry, like the churches Augustine had known in Rome, took longer; the church was completed and consecrated in 613. Ca. 624 a short distance to the east, Eadbald and successor of Ethelbert, founded a second church, dedicated to Saint Mary which buried Kentish royalty. The abbey became known as St Augustine's after the founder's death. For two centuries after its founding, St Augustine's was the only important religious house in the kingdom of Kent; the historian G. F. Maclear characterized St Augustine's as being a "missionary school" where "classical knowledge and English learning flourished." Over time, St Augustine's Abbey acquired an extensive library that included both religious and secular holdings.
In addition, it had a scriptorium for producing manuscripts. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury from 959 to 988, influenced a reorganisation of the abbey to conform to Benedictine rule. Buildings were enlarged and the church rebuilt. Dunstan revised the dedication of the abbey, from the original Saints Peter and Paul, by adding Saint Augustine in 978. Since the abbey has been known as St Augustine's; the invading Danes not only spared St Augustine's, but in 1027 King Cnut made over all the possessions of Minster-in-Thanet to St Augustine's. These possessions included the preserved body of Saint Mildred. Belief in the miraculous power of this relic had spread throughout Europe, it brought many pilgrims to St Augustine's, whose gifts enriched the abbey. Following the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, William the Conqueror confiscated landed estates, but he respected Church property. At St Augustine's Abbey, the Anglo-Saxon buildings were reconstructed in the form of a typical Norman Benedictine monastery.
By 1100, all the original buildings had disappeared under a Romanesque edifice. There was further rebuilding as a result of the great fire in 1168; the fire's destruction accounts for the paucity of historical records for the preceding period. From about 1250 onwards was a period of wealth in which "building succeeded building." Boggis' history calls this period a time of "worldly magnificence," marked by "lavish expenditures" on new buildings, royal visits, banquets with thousands of guests. In addition, the papacy imposed many levies on the abbey; the large debt, incurred by these expenditures might have swamped the abbey had it not been for generous benefactors who came to the rescue. The cloister and kitchen were rebuilt. A new abbot's lodging and a great hall were added. In the early 14th century, land was acquired for a cellarer's range, a brewhouse, a bakehouse, a new walled vineyard. A Lady chapel was built to the east of the church; the abbey gatehouse was rebuilt from 1301 to 1309 by Abbot Fyndon.
It has since been known as the Great Gate. The chamber above the entrance was the state bed-chamber of the Monastery. In 1625, Charles I of England and Queen Henrietta Maria slept in this chamber, following their marriage in Canterbury Cathedral. In 1660, after the Restoration, Charles II and his brothers, the Dukes of York and Gloucester, stayed in the gatehouse on their way to London. Fyndon's gate suffered such damage by German bombs during the Second World War that it had to be rebuilt; the gate faces a small square known since the reign of Charles I as Lady Wootton's Green, after the widow of Edward, Lord Wootton of Marley who lived in the palace until her death in 1658. Statues of Æthelberht of Kent and Queen Bertha stand on the green. Boggis describes the early 16th century leading up to the Dissolution of the Monasteries as "days of decadence". Although the abbey owned estates throughout Kent amounting to 19,862 acres, Boggis holds that "historical evidence proves conclusively that if Henry VIII had never dissolved them, the English monasteries were doomed."
The "extortionate exactions" of the Papacy would lead to bankruptcy. However, the English Reformation accompanied by the Dissolution of the Monasteries happened before bankruptcy; the Reformation replaced the Pope with a Monarch. Actions by the Parliament's House of Commons strengthened the power of the laity versus the power of the clergy; these actions were part of the English Reformation’s "great transfer" of
Æthelwulf, King of Wessex
Æthelwulf was King of Wessex from 839 to 858. In 825, his father, King Egbert, defeated King Beornwulf of Mercia, ending a long Mercian dominance over Anglo-Saxon England south of the Humber. Egbert sent Æthelwulf with an army to Kent, where he expelled the Mercian sub-king and was himself appointed sub-king. After 830, Egbert maintained good relations with Mercia, this was continued by Æthelwulf when he became king in 839, the first son to succeed his father as West Saxon king since 641; the Vikings were not a major threat to Wessex during Æthelwulf's reign. In 843, he was defeated in a battle against the Vikings at Carhampton in Somerset, but he achieved a major victory at the Battle of Aclea in 851. In 853 he joined a successful Mercian expedition to Wales to restore the traditional Mercian hegemony, in the same year his daughter Æthelswith married King Burgred of Mercia. In 855 Æthelwulf went on pilgrimage to Rome. In preparation he gave a "decimation". Æthelwulf spent a year in Rome, on his way back he married Judith, the daughter of the West Frankish King Charles the Bald.
When Æthelwulf returned to England, Æthelbald refused to surrender the West Saxon throne, Æthelwulf agreed to divide the kingdom, taking the east and leaving the west in Æthelbald's hands. On Æthelwulf's death in 858 he left Wessex to Æthelbald and Kent to Æthelberht, but Æthelbald's death only two years led to the reunification of the kingdom. In the 20th century Æthelwulf's reputation among historians was poor: he was seen as excessively pious and impractical, his pilgrimage was viewed as a desertion of his duties. Historians in the 21st century see him differently, as a king who consolidated and extended the power of his dynasty, commanded respect on the continent, dealt more than most of his contemporaries with Viking attacks, he is regarded as one of the most successful West Saxon kings, who laid the foundations for the success of his son, Alfred the Great. At the beginning of the 9th century, England was completely under the control of the Anglo-Saxons, with Mercia and Wessex the most important southern kingdoms.
Mercia was dominant until the 820s, it exercised overlordship over East Anglia and Kent, but Wessex was able to maintain its independence from its more powerful neighbour. Offa, King of Mercia from 757 to 796, was the dominant figure of the second half of the 8th century. King Beorhtric of Wessex, married Offa's daughter in 789. Beorhtric and Offa drove Æthelwulf's father Egbert into exile, he spent several years at the court of Charlemagne in Francia. Egbert was the son of Ealhmund, King of Kent in 784. Following Offa's death, King Coenwulf of Mercia maintained Mercian dominance, but it is uncertain whether Beorhtric accepted political subordination, when he died in 802 Egbert became king with the support of Charlemagne. For two hundred years three kindreds had fought for the West Saxon throne, no son had followed his father as king. Egbert's best claim was that he was the great-great-grandson of Ingild, brother of King Ine, in 802 it would have seemed unlikely that he would establish a lasting dynasty.
Nothing is recorded of the first twenty years of Egbert's reign, apart from campaigns against the Cornish in the 810s. The historian Richard Abels argues that the silence of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was intentional, concealing Egbert's purge of Beorhtric's magnates and suppression of rival royal lines. Relations between Mercian kings and their Kentish subjects were distant. Kentish ealdormen did not attend the court of King Coenwulf, who quarrelled with Archbishop Wulfred of Canterbury over the control of Kentish monasteries, his successors Ceolwulf I and Beornwulf restored relations with Archbishop Wulfred, Beornwulf appointed a sub-king of Kent, Baldred. England had suffered Viking raids in the late 8th century, but no attacks are recorded between 794 and 835, when the Isle of Sheppey in Kent was ravaged. In 836 Egbert was defeated by the Vikings at Carhampton in Somerset, but in 838 he was victorious over an alliance of Cornishmen and Vikings at the Battle of Hingston Down, reducing Cornwall to the status of a client kingdom.
Æthelwulf was the son of Egbert, King of Wessex from 802 to 839. His mother's name is unknown, he had no recorded siblings, he is known to have had two wives in succession, so far as is known, the senior of the two, was the mother of all his children. She was the daughter of Oslac, described by Asser, biographer of their son Alfred the Great, as "King Æthelwulf's famous butler", a man, descended from Jutes who had ruled the Isle of Wight. Æthelwulf had six known children. His eldest son, Æthelstan, was old enough to be appointed King of Kent in 839, so he must have been born by the early 820s, he died in the early 850s; the second son, Æthelbald, is first recorded as a charter witness in 841, if, like Alfred, he began to attest when he was around six, he would have been born around 835. Æthelwulf's third son, Æthelberht, was born around 839 and was king from 860 to 865. The only daughter, Æthelswith, married Burgred, King of Mercia, in 853; the other two sons were much younger: Æthelred was born around 848 and was king from 865 to 871, Alfred was born around 849 and was king from 871 to 899.
In 856 Æthelwulf married Judith, daughter of Charles the Bald, King of Wes
Baldred of Kent
Baldred was king of Kent, from 823 until 826 or 827. Ceolwulf I, king of Mercia, had ruled Kent directly, but in 823 he was deposed by Beornwulf, at about the same time moneyers at Canterbury started issuing coins in the name of Baldred, king of Kent, it is uncertain. In 826 or 827 he was expelled by Æthelwulf, son of King Egbert of Wessex, Kent was ruled directly by Wessex thereafter. Nineteen of his coins are known. "Baldred". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/1158.. The first edition of this text is available at Wikisource: "Baldred". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. Baldred 4 at Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England
Ecgberht II of Kent
Ecgberht II was King of Kent jointly with Heaberht. Ecgberht II is known from his coins and charters, ranging from 765 to 779, two of which were witnessed or confirmed by Heaberht. Ecgberht II acceded by 765, but around this time Offa, King of Mercia, appears to have been attempting to rule Kent directly, as he seems to have issued or confirmed a number of charters relating to Kent. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a battle was fought at Otford in 776, although the outcome was not recorded, the fact that Kent seems to have remained independent for several years afterward suggests that Ecgberht was victorious, it is known that he remained king until the date of his latest charter. List of monarchs of Kent Ecgberht 9 at Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England
Wihtred of Kent
Wihtred was king of Kent from about 690 or 691 until his death. He was a brother of Eadric. Wihtred ascended to the throne after a confused period in the 680s, which included a brief conquest of Kent by Cædwalla of Wessex, subsequent dynastic conflicts, his immediate predecessor was Oswine, descended from Eadbald, though not through the same line as Wihtred. Shortly after the start of his reign, Wihtred issued a code of laws—the Law of Wihtred—that has been preserved in a manuscript known as the Textus Roffensis; the laws pay a great deal of attention to the rights of the Church, including punishment for irregular marriages and for pagan worship. Wihtred's long reign had few incidents recorded in the annals of the day, he was succeeded in 725 by his sons, Æthelberht II, Eadberht I, Alric. The dominant force in late-seventh-century politics south of the River Humber was Wulfhere of Mercia, who reigned from the late 650s to 675; the king of Kent for much of this time was Ecgberht, who died in 673.
Ecgberht's sons and Wihtred, were little more than infants, two or three years old, when their father died. Hlothhere, Ecgberht's brother, became king of Kent, but not until about a year in 674, it may be that Wulfhere opposed the accession of Hlothhere and was the effective ruler of Kent during this year-long interregnum. Eadric raised an army against his uncle and Hlothhere died of wounds sustained in battle in February 685 or 686. Eadric died the following year, according to Bede, whose Ecclesiastical History of the English People is one of the primary sources for this period, the kingdom fell apart into disorder. Cædwalla of Wessex established his brother Mul as king there; when Cædwalla departed for Rome in 688, supported by Æthelred of Mercia, took the throne for a time. Oswine lost power in 690, but Swæfheard, a king in Kent for a year or two, remained. There is clear evidence that both Swæfheard and Oswine were kings at the same time, as each witnessed the other's charters, it seems that Oswine was king of east Kent, the position of the dominant king, while Swæfheard was king of west Kent.
Wihtred became king in the early 690s. Bede describes his accession by saying that he was the "rightful" king, that he "freed the nation from foreign invasion by his devotion and diligence". Oswine was of the royal family, arguably had a claim to the throne. Bede's correspondent on Kentish affairs was Albinus, abbot of the monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul in Canterbury, these views can certainly be ascribed to the Church establishment there. Two charters provide evidence of Wihtred's date of accession. One, dated April 697, indicates Wihtred was in the sixth year of his rule, so his accession can be dated to some time between April 691 and April 692. Another, dated 17 July 694, is in his fourth regnal year, giving a possible range of July 690 to July 691; the overlap in date ranges gives April to July 691 as the date of his accession. Another estimate of the date of Wihtred's accession can be made from the duration of his reign, given by Bede as thirty four and a half years, he died on 23 April 725, which would imply an accession date in late 690.
Wihtred ruled alongside Swæfheard. Bede's report of the election of Beorhtwald as Archbishop of Canterbury in July 692 mentions that Swæfheard and Wihtred were the kings of Kent, but Swæfheard is not heard of after this date, it appears that by 694 Wihtred was the sole ruler of Kent, though it may be that his son Æthelberht was a junior king in west Kent during Wihtred's reign. Wihtred is thought to have had three wives, his first was called Cynegyth, but a charter of 696 names Æthelburh as the royal consort and co-donor of an estate: the former spouse must have died or been dismissed after a short time. Near the end of his reign, a new wife, Wærburh, attested with Alric, it was in 694 that Wihtred made peace with the West Saxon king Ine. Ine's predecessor, Cædwalla, had invaded Kent and installed his brother Mul as king, but the Kentishmen had subsequently revolted and burned Mul. Wihtred agreed compensation for the killing. Most manuscripts of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle record "thirty thousand", some specify thirty thousand pounds.
If the pounds are equal to sceattas this amount is the equal of a king's wergild—that is, the legal valuation of a man's life, according to his rank. It seems that Wihtred ceded some border territory to Ine as part of this settlement; the earliest Anglo-Saxon law code to survive, which may date from 602 or 603, is that of Æthelberht of Kent, whose reign ended in 616. In the 670s or 680s, a code was issued in the names of Eadric of Kent; the next kings to issue laws were Ine of Wihtred. The dating of Wihtred's and Ine's laws is somewhat uncertain, but there is reason to believe that Wihtred's laws were issued on 6 September 695, while Ine's laws were written in 694 or shortly before. Ine had agreed peaceful terms with Wihtred over compensation for the death of Mul, there are indications that the two rulers collaborated to some degree in producing their laws. In addition to the coincidence of timing, there is one clause that appears in identical form in both