FROM DOT TO DOMESDAY Early Medieval The Birth of Nations: England
KENT
section two *
 
King of Kent
640 – 664  Eorcenberht
Son of Eadbald.
Bede says (‘HE’ III, 8) that Eorcenberht governed Kent "most nobly 24 years and some months. He was the first of the English kings that of his supreme authority commanded the idols throughout his whole kingdom to be forsaken and destroyed, and the fast of 40 days to be observed; and that the same might not be lightly neglected, he appointed fitting and condign punishments for the offenders.”
In the Mildrith Legend, Eorcenberht has a brother called Eormenred.* In some of the texts he is said to be the elder brother and in some he has a royal title, indeed, a fragmentary Old English ‘Life of St Mildrith’ (London, British Library MS Cotton Caligula A xiv) states “Eormenred and Eorcenberht were kings”. On the other hand, the ‘Historia Regum’ text says that Eorcenberht, the younger brother, “by his father's arrangement, assumed the sovereignty of the kingdom ... but the elder, Eormenred, continued the changing course of this frail life without the rule of empire.”  Perhaps, then, Eormenred ruled under his father in West Kent, and stayed in that junior post whilst his younger brother succeeded their father in the senior position.* Eormenred would appear to have died before Eorcenberht.
Eorcenberht married Seaxburh, eldest daughter of Anna, king of the East Angles. They had two daughters, only one of whom, (St) Eorcengota, was known to Bede. She became a nun in a Frankish monastery.* According to the Mildrith Legend, however, she had a sister, Eormenhild (St Ermenilda), who married Wulfhere, king of Mercia.
Bede reports that in 664: “there happened an eclipse of the sun, on the third day of May [actually, on the 1st May], about the 10th hour of the day. In the same year, a sudden pestilence depopulated first the southern parts of Britain, and afterwards attacking the province of the Northumbrians, ravaged the country far and near, and destroyed a great multitude of men.” (‘HE’ III, 27).  Later he says: “In the above-mentioned year of the aforesaid eclipse and of the pestilence which followed it immediately ... Deusdedit, the 6th bishop of the church of Canterbury, died on the 2nd of the Ides of July [14th July].* Eorcenberht, also, king of Kent, departed this life the same month and day; leaving his kingdom to his son Egbert, who held it for 9 years.” (‘HE’ IV, 1).
Eorcenberht's widow, Seaxburh (St Sexburga), became a nun, and later succeeded her sister, Æthelthryth (St Etheldreda or St Audrey), as abbess of Ely.* Seaxburh is said to have been succeeded at Ely by her daughter, Eormenhild (St Ermenilda), but Bede makes no mention.
664 – 673  Egbert I
Son of Eorcenberht.
Egbert may have been too young to rule on his own behalf when his father died – a Latin ‘Life’ of Seaxburh (St Sexburga), his mother, indicates that, at first, she acted as regent.* Surrey was evidently under Kentish control at the beginning of Egbert's reign – probably in 666, the monastery of Chertsey was, as recorded in a charter (S1165), founded by him.
Since Deusdedit's death in 664, the see of Canterbury had been vacant. “At this time [667] the most noble kings of the English, Oswiu, of the province of the Northumbrians, and Egbert of Kent, consulted together to determine what ought to be done about the state of the English Church ... They selected, with the consent and by the choice of the holy Church of the English nation, a priest named Wigheard, one of Bishop Deusdedit's clergy, a good man and fitted for the episcopate, and sent him to Rome to be ordained bishop, to the end that, having been raised to the rank of an archbishop, he might ordain Catholic prelates for the Churches of the English nation throughout all Britain. But Wigheard, arriving at Rome, was cut off by death, before he could be consecrated bishop” (‘HE’ III, 29).  Later, Bede provides more information: “the priest Wigheard, a man of great learning in the teaching of the Church, of the English race, was sent to Rome by King Egbert and Oswiu, king of the Northumbrians, as was briefly mentioned in the foregoing book, with a request that he might be ordained archbishop of the Church of the English; and at the same time presents were sent to the Apostolic Pope, and many vessels of gold and silver. Arriving at Rome, where Vitalian presided at that time over the Apostolic See, and having made known to the aforesaid Apostolic Pope the occasion of his journey, he was not long after carried off, with almost all his companions who had come with him, by a pestilence which fell upon them.” (‘HE’ IV, 1).
Pope Vitalian ordained Theodore, a monk from Tarsus (in modern Turkey), in Wigheard's stead. Theodore eventually arrived at Canterbury in 669.* In the meantime though, Egbert, for want of his own bishop (the see of Rochester was also vacant), had been obliged to call on the services of Bishop Wilfrid to ordain: “priests and deacons in Kent till the archbishop should come to his see.” (‘HE’ IV, 2).
Egbert is one of the leading players in the Mildrith Legend. Eormenred, Egbert's uncle, was, according to the ‘Historia Regum’ text, a “pious man”. He and his “very pious wife” (other texts name her Oslafa) had two sons, Æthelberht and Æthelred: “marked by a singular beauty of holiness, bound in the closest yoke of charity, rich in the duties of meek humility, blessed with the distinction of unconquerable patience, adorned with the inmost grace of unwearying prayer, they were fulfilled with abundant reflections of the goodness of the Father of spirits.”  The brothers were orphaned and came into Egbert's care (according to a Latin ‘Life’ of St Mildrith, composed at the end of the 11th century by Goscelin, also a component of the Mildrith Legend, they were first in the care of Egbert's father, Eorcenberht). The ‘Historia Regum’ version of events says that: “in the royal palace was found a certain man of sin, and son of perdition, a limb of Satan, and of the house of the devil, who, puffed up with the empty pomp of the world, and graced by the munificence of the king, neither feared God nor regarded man.”  The man's name was Thunor: “which means ‘Thunder’, for he was unceasingly tormented by deadly furies of wicked spirits, by whose hideous tumults he should be sunk in the pit of hell.”  Thunor advises Egbert that the young brothers pose a threat to Egbert and his children, and should be exiled or murdered: “The king winked at these things, not asserting that he was averse to either plan”.  In Egbert's absence, Thunor kills Æthelberht and Æthelred and buries them under the king's throne. A heavenly column of light issues from where the bodies are buried, and Egbert discovers what has happened: “What could the king do? For struck with a paroxysm of fear, he stood stupefied and grieved to the utmost, because tormented by the sting of conscience that he shared in the infamy; since he had not strongly resisted the enemy of goodness, and because he was unable to avenge what had so wrongfully been perpetrated.”  (Other versions hold Egbert directly responsible for sanctioning the brothers' murder.) These events are purported to have taken place at Eastry, Kent, but the corpses are said to have been immovable until it was decided to take them to Wakering, in Essex, for proper burial.*
Æthelberht and Æthelred's sister, Eormenburh, was also known by the name Domne (‘Lady’) Eafe.* Domne Eafe had married Merewalh, who in the ‘Historia Regum’ is described as “king of the Mercians”. Merewalh wasn't king of Mercia proper. In two of the Legend texts his kingdom is restricted to the western part of Mercia, i.e. the Westerna, usually called the Magonsæte (Herefordshire and southern Shropshire). In several of the texts he is said to be a son of Penda, and, therefore brother of the incumbent king of Mercia, Wulfhere, who was married to Egbert's sister, Eormenhild. At any rate, in the ‘Historia Regum’, Egbert invites Domne Eafe to visit him (other texts note that she and Merewalh had, by this time, separated): “The king, therefore, designing to honour her, desired that she might ask whatever she wished within the compass of his power to bestow, if it were a thing becoming his dignity, and she should immediately receive it. [Other versions make it clear that Egbert's offer to Domne Eafe was in compensation for her brothers' murder.] The holy woman, in a meek reply, begged that he would grant her only as much land as a doe which she had brought up, guided by divine instinct, could travel in one day.”  The royal party travelled to the Isle of Thanet, and the doe began to encompass a large area of land. Thunor, “moved by spite” asked Egbert: “ “Since all your actions are guided by acute judgement, why do you follow, in this devout procession, this brute animal, as if it could perform something wonderful ?” As he said this, struck by the bolt of the Almighty, he fell from his steed. Immediately the very wretched Thunor was swallowed up, with his horse and arms, in a frightful chasm of the earth.”  Domne Eafe (St Ermenburga) founded the monastery of Minster-in-Thanet on the land selected by her doe, and became its first abbess. The second abbess was her daughter, Mildrith (St Mildred). Bede makes no mention of any aspect of the Mildrith Legend.
Bede notes that, in 673: “Egbert, king of Kent, died in the month of July; his brother Hlothere succeeded him on the throne, which he held 11 years and 7 months.” (‘HE’ IV, 5).  Frankish annals provide the precise day on which Egbert was buried: Monday, 4th July.
673/4 – 685  Hlothere
Son of Eorcenberht.
685 – 686  Eadric
Son of Egbert.
In a charter (S7), the 1st April 675 is said to be in the first year of Hlothere's reign, in which case he cannot have become king until April 674 at the very earliest. Presumably, at the time of the death of his predecessor, his brother Egbert in July 673, the latter's sons were too young to succeed to the throne. There were, clearly, rivalries between branches of the Kentish royal family (as demonstrated by the Mildrith Legend), and it may well be that Hlothere's succession was contested, leaving Kent kingless for a year. Though the Mercian king Wulfhere does not feature in Bede's famous list of “English kings who ruled over all the southern provinces that are divided from the northern by the river Humber and the borders contiguous to it” (‘HE’ II, 5) – and, consequently isn't classed as a Bretwalda by the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ – it seems likely that he did, in fact, win the overlordship of southern England. Wulfhere was married to the sister of Egbert and Hlothere. Egbert's death may have presented him with the opportunity to extend his influence in Kent – perhaps he was opposed to Hlothere's succession. Certainly, about that time, Wulfhere took control of Surrey, which had previously been held by Egbert.* At any rate, not long after, probably in 674, Wulfhere's army, which was made up of contingents from all the southern English kingdoms, was crushingly defeated by the Northumbrian king, Ecgfrith. Wulfhere's grip on power was loosened. In 675 he fought with the West Saxons, and, in the same year, he died.
Without providing a reason, Bede reports: “In the year of our Lord 676, when Æthelred, king of the Mercians, ravaged Kent with a hostile army, and profaned churches and monasteries, without regard to pity, or the fear of God, in the general destruction he laid waste the city of Rochester; Putta, who was bishop, was absent at that time, but when he understood that his church was ravaged, and everything taken away from it, he went to Seaxwulf, bishop of the Mercians, and having received of him a certain church, and a small piece of land, ended his days there in peace; in no way endeavouring to restore his bishopric ... Theodore [archbishop of Canterbury] consecrated Cwichelm bishop of Rochester in his stead; but he, not long after, departing from his bishopric for want of necessaries, and withdrawing to other parts, Gebmund was put in his place by Theodore.” (‘HE’ IV, 12).
Possibly Æthelred's devastating raid was an attempt to reestablish Mercian authority in Kent, or, at least, designed to dissuade Hlothere from trying to regain control of Surrey or extending his influence in London.* It is clear, from a surviving Kentish law-code, that the kings of Kent had commercial interests in London – item 16 refers to “the king's residence in London” and “the reeve of the king's estate”.* In fact, as it now exists, this law-code is in the joint names of Hlothere and Eadric, which is widely believed to indicate that, by the time it was issued, Hlothere was sharing power with his nephew, Eadric.* If that was indeed the case, young Eadric was clearly unhappy playing second fiddle to his uncle. In 685: “Hlothere, king of Kent, died on the 8th of the Ides of February [6th February], when he had reigned 12 years after his brother Egbert, who had reigned 9 years: he was wounded in battle with the South Saxons, whom Eadric, the son of Egbert, had raised against him, and died whilst his wound was being dressed. After him, this same Eadric reigned a year and a half.” (‘HE’ IV, 26).
Whatever the nature of the alliance between Eadric and the South Saxons, it was brought to a swift conclusion by the activities of, the West Saxon king, Cædwalla. In 686, Cædwalla and his brother, Mul, “ravaged Kent and Wight”, says the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, but no further detail is given. The Isle of Wight had been subject to the South Saxons since Wulfhere had presented it to their king, Æthelwalh. Sometime between 681 and 685 (before he had taken the West Saxon throne in 685/6), Cædwalla had attacked the South Saxons and killed Æthelwalh (so it isn't clear whether or not it was Æthelwalh who helped Eadric defeat Hlothere). Cædwalla returned, as king of the West Saxons, killed one of Æthelwalh's successors, and took control of Sussex.
A charter (S9) shows that Eadric was alive in June 686, but Frankish annals say he was buried on Friday, 31st August 686.* “On his death”, says Bede, “kings of doubtful title, or of foreign origin, for some time wasted the kingdom [of Kent], till the lawful king, Wihtred, the son of Egbert, being settled in the throne, by his piety and zeal delivered his nation from foreign invasion.” (‘HE’ IV, 26).
Following the West Saxon invasion in 686, Mul, brother of the West Saxon king, Cædwalla, apparently ruled as king in Kent – a later Kentish charter (S10) refers to his reign. A charter (S233), recording a grant of land at Hoo in Kent to an Abbot Ecgbald, made by Cædwalla, suggests that the West Saxons had East Saxon assistance in their takeover of Kent – the East Saxon king Sigehere is featured in the witness-list, and within the body of the document there is a reference to Sigehere's conquest of Kent. Perhaps Mul shared the rule of Kent with Sigehere. Be that as it may, the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ reports that, in 687: “Mul was burnt in Kent, and 12 other men with him; and in that year Cædwalla again ravaged Kent.”  Cædwalla may have been seriously ill, however, and the next year he abdicated and travelled to Rome, where he died.
Oswine is only known from charters. There are three in his name: S12 (which is dated July 689), S13 and S14. The latter two are witnessed by Oswine's co-ruler, Swæfheard. In S13, dated 27th January 690, Oswine is said to be in the second year of his reign. Bede states (‘HE’ IV, 26) that, until the accession of “the lawful king”, i.e. Wihtred, son of King Egbert, Kent was ruled by “kings of doubtful title, or of foreign origin”. Oswine would appear to have been a descendant of Eormenred, brother of King Eorcenberht, so, presumably, it was Oswine who Bede had in mind when he used the phrase “of doubtful title”.*  There are possibly two charters in the name of Swæfheard (S10, S11), both of which are witnessed by Oswine. Swæfheard falls into Bede's category “of foreign origin”. In S10, Swæfheard identifies himself as the son of Sæbbi, king of the East Saxons, and Sæbbi himself is a witness. The indications are that this charter was issued on 1st March of 689, and Swæfheard is said to be in the second year of his reign. References in their charters (S12, S10) show that Æthelred, king of Mercia, had authority over both Oswine and Swæfheard. Perhaps, seizing the opportunity provided by the circumstances surrounding Cædwalla's abdication, Æthelred and Sæbbi cooperated to expunge West Saxon influence from Kent, and establish their own nominees on the throne. At any rate, in late-690 or 691, Wihtred, Bede's “lawful king”, would seem to have overthrown Oswine. Swæfheard, however, retained his share of the kingdom until at least 692, and possibly as late as 694.
690/1 – 725  Wihtred
Son of Egbert.
According to Bede's figures, Wihtred came to power in autumn 690. Other sources, though, indicate it was in 691.* At first, Wihtred shared the rule of Kent with Swæfheard, son of Sæbbi, king of the East Saxons. Bede reports that, after the see of Canterbury had been vacant for almost two years – since the death of Archbishop Theodore on 19th September 690 – Berhtwald, abbot of Reculver, was elected to the post: “He was chosen bishop in the year of our Lord 692, on the first day of July, when Wihtred and Swæfheard were kings in Kent” (‘HE’ V, 8).  There is no mention of Swæfheard (nor any foreign overlord) in the earliest of Wihtred's charters (S15), which is dated 17th July 694, so it would appear that between July 692 and July 694 Wihtred had become sole king of Kent – he had, in the words of Bede: “by his piety and zeal delivered his nation from foreign invasion.” (‘HE’ IV, 26).
An early (‘Primary phase’, c.680–c.710) silver coin of the type known as ‘sceattas’. This example was found near Broadstairs. As is usual, it bears no indication of where or when it was minted, but in Kent during Wihtred's reign seems a reasonable bet. The letters on the coin's reverse are meaningless, being a corrupt rendition of a motif found on 4th century Roman coins.*
The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ records, s.a. 694, that “the Kentish people” paid compensation to Ine, king of Wessex, “because they had formerly burned Mul.”  Mul had been killed in 687, having first been installed as king in Kent by his brother, Ine's predecessor, Cædwalla.* The ‘Chronicle’ continues Annal 694 with the comment: “And Wihtred succeeded to the kingdom of the Kentish people, and held it 33 winters.” There are suspicions that this, apparently late, notice of Wihtred's accession marks his emergence as Kent's sole king.
Henry of Huntingdon claims (‘HA’ IV, 6) that: “King Ine marched a formidable and well-arrayed army into Kent to obtain satisfaction for the burning of his kinsman Mul. King Wihtred, however, advanced to meet him not with fierce arrogance, but with peaceful supplication, not with angry threats, but with the honeyed phrases of a persuasive eloquence; and by these he prevailed on the incensed king to lay aside his arms and receive from the people of Kent a large sum of money as a compensation for the murder of the young prince. Thus the controversy was ended, and the peace now concluded was lasting. Thenceforth the king of Kent had a tranquil reign.”  Henry may have used his imagination to flesh-out the bare-bones report of the ‘Chronicle’, but his assessment of the outcome would appear to be accurate enough.
On 6th September 695 (probably), Wihtred issued a law-code, which, amongst other things, grants tax free status to the Church. Ine also issued a law-code, and there are a couple of hints of communication between the two royal courts whilst the laws were being drafted.*
Wihtred would appear, from charter evidence, to have had three wives. In order: Cynegyth, who features in S15, dated 17th July 694; Æthelburh, who features in four charters (S16, S18, S19 and S21), and who seems to have been queen in the late-690s and, possibly, early-700s; Werburh, who features in S22, which cannot be dated closer than 696x716.
In his final report on Kentish affairs, Bede states: “In the year of our Lord 725 ... Wihtred, the son of Egbert, king of Kent, died on the ninth of the Kalends of May [23rd April], and left his three sons, Æthelberht, Eadberht, and Alric, heirs of that kingdom, which he had governed 34 years and a half.” (‘HE’ V, 23).
A charter of Wihtred's (S22, dated 696x716) indicates that Alric's mother was Wihtred's last known wife, Werburh. Nothing is known of Alric's reign, though Symeon of Durham (‘HR’) preserves a note, s.a. 732, though it really should be in 731, which states: “Alric and Esc, with many others, were slain on Thursday the 10th of the Kalends of September [23rd August].”  Presumably this is the same Alric.
A charter dated 11th July 724 (S1180) records a grant of land to Mildrith, abbess of Minster-in-Thanet, made by Æthelberht before his accession to the throne. He is simply styled “son of the glorious king Wihtred”, but presumably he already had a share in the government of Kent. The earliest surviving charter issued by Æthelberht as king is dated 20th February 732 (S23). The earliest of his brother and co-ruler, Eadberht, is dated 14th October 727 (S26). It is evident that Æthelberht was the senior partner – a grant of land made by Eadberht required confirmation by Æthelberht (S27, dated April 738). Æthelberht (Æthelberht II) would appear to have ruled from Canterbury, in the east of the kingdom, whilst Eadberht (Eadberht I) ruled West Kent from Rochester.
Bede says (‘HE’ V, 23) that at the time he was writing his ‘Ecclesiastical History’, i.e. in 731, all the southern English kingdoms: “as far as the boundary formed by the river Humber, with their several kings” had become subject to Æthelbald, king of Mercia (d.757). Kentish charters reveal no sign of Æthelbald's overlordship, but presumably it was as a result of his influence that, when Berhtwald, archbishop of Canterbury, died in 731, a Mercian priest, Tatwine, succeeded him. Similarly, after Tatwine's death in 734, Nothhelm, a priest at London, was his successor, and after Nothhelm's death in 739, his replacement, Cuthbert, was probably the former bishop of Hereford.
With the departure of Bede, Kentish history becomes rather vague. Charters indicate that joint kingship continued after the deaths of Æthelberht II and Eadberht I. A conjectural line of succession is shown below.
725 – 748  Eadberht I
Son of Wihtred.
In May 748, Eadberht witnessed a charter (S91) of King Æthelbald at London, in which the Mercian king granted favourable tolls to Eadburg, abbess of Minster-in-Thanet. In its entry for 748, the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ notes that: “Eadberht, king of the Kentish people, died.”*
725 – 762  Æthelberht II
Son of Wihtred.
A letter from Æthelberht to St Boniface, the ‘Apostle of Germany’, has survived-.
748 ? – 762 ? Eardwulf
Son of Eadberht.
Two of King Eardwulf's charters are known. One (S30) is dated 762, but, since it is witnessed by Archbishop Cuthbert, can't post-date 760. It is also witnessed by Æthelberht. In the other (S31), which is undated, Eardwulf refers to “my father, Eadberht”.
A letter has survived, jointly written by Eardwulf and the bishop of Rochester, also called Eardwulf, to Lul, bishop of Mainz, who was an Englishman (he succeeded Boniface, also an Englishman, at Mainz in 754), requesting that Lul celebrate mass and pray for three of their recently deceased kinswomen.
 
The ‘Chronicle’ mentions, s.a. 754 (though it should be in 756), that “Canterbury was burnt”, with no further elaboration. In 757, Æthelbald, king of Mercia, was assassinated by his own men. Kent was free of Mercian overlordship (for the time being).
  Æthelberht's last charter is dated 762 (S25), and the ‘Chronicle’ places his death in the same year.*
762 ? – 764 ?  Sigered
King Sigered, whose name might suggest East Saxon origins, is known from two charters:
S32 is dated 762 and is witnessed by Eadberht.
762 ? – 764 ?  Eadberht II
Charter S28 was issued on 25th July of the first year of King Eadberht's reign. S29 was issued at an unspecified time in Eadberht's second year. In neither case is the AD year indicated, but both are witnessed by Bregowine, who was archbishop of Canterbury from 761 to 764. Eadberht also features as a witness in a charter of Sigered's, dated 762.*
 
S33 is undated. Sigered refers to himself as “king of half Kent”, and it has a confirmation by Eanmund added.
764 ?  Eanmund
King Eanmund is only known from an, undated, confirmation appended to a land-grant made by Sigered (S33). It is witnessed by Archbishop Bregowine, who died on 24th August (according to Florence of Worcester) 764.
764 ? – 784 ?  Egbert II


King Egbert first appears in a charter recording a land-grant he made to the bishop of Rochester in 765 (S34). The grant was confirmed by Heahberht, and then taken to Medeshamstede (now Peterborough), to be confirmed by Offa.
764 ? – 778 ?  Heahberht
“Heahberht, king of Kent” features in a charter (S105), issued in 764, by Offa, king of Mercia, at Canterbury.*
The appearance of, the Mercian king, Offa at Canterbury in 764, making a land-grant in his own name (S105), suggests that Kent was the first of the English kingdoms to succumb to his overlordship. It would seem he was still firmly in control a decade later – two charters (S110, S111) record land-grants he made to the archbishop of Canterbury in 774, without mention of any Kentish king.
A penny of Egbert II. Egbert's name (EGCBERHT) is inscribed around a central monogram representing Rex. The reverse is inscribed with the moneyer's name: Udd (VDD).*
In 776, given a passing mention by the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’: “the Mercians and the Kentish men fought at Otford [in Kent]”.  Henry of Huntingdon flexes his imagination to give a fuller picture: “after a dreadful slaughter on both sides, Offa gained the honour of victory.” (‘HA’ IV, 23).  It may well be, however, that, as proposed by Frank Stenton, it was in fact “the Kentish men” who were victorious. In an undated charter (S37), which must have been issued in 765 or after by Egbert,* Heahberht features as a witness, but no mention is made of Offa. Further, both Egbert and Heahberht minted silver pennies in their own names. It seems clear, then, that at some stage after 765 the Kentish kings won their independence from Offa, and it does not seem unreasonable to suggest that they managed this at Otford.*
Egbert's charters S35, dated 778, and S36, dated 779, have no references to any other monarch – neither Kentish co-king nor foreign overlord. The implication would seem to be that he was ruling Kent alone at this time.
784 ? – 785 ?  Ealhmund
A single charter, in an abbreviated version dated 784, of King Ealhmund survives (S38). Manuscript F of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ was produced at Canterbury. Its compiler added, s.a. 784, the Latin entry: “At this time King Ealhmund reigned in Kent.”  It may well have been the same scribe who appended the same remark, but in Old English, to the end of Manuscript A's annal 784. The source of the scribe's information was probably a copy of the charter that now survives as S38. In Manuscript F, however, a margin note, written in Old English, says: “This King Ealhmund was the father of Egbert [king of Wessex 802–839], and Egbert was the father of Æthelwulf [king of Wessex 839–858].”  An Ealhmund does indeed appear as the father of Egbert and grandfather of Æthelwulf in genealogies found in Manuscript A of the ‘Chronicle’ (in a preface and s.a. 855). Ealhmund is shown as the great-grandson of the brother of Ine (king of Wessex 688–726). Manuscript F's identification of this Ealhmund of West Saxon pedigrees with the king of Kent, though unique, is generally accepted as being correct.
 
It is very clear from charters (S123, S125, S128, S129, S130, S131) that by 785 Offa was in sole control of Kent – rather than acting as its overlord, he had annexed the kingdom. From later (i.e. after Offa's death) charters (S155, S1259, S1264), it is apparent that Offa rescinded land-grants made by Egbert II: “King Offa took away the aforesaid land from our community, as if, in fact, Egbert were not allowed to bestow by charter lands by hereditary right.” (S1264).
In 787: “there was a contentious synod at Cealchyth [Chelsea], and Archbishop Jænberht resigned a part of his bishopric, and Hygeberht was chosen by King Offa”, reports the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ (s.a. 785), somewhat cryptically. In fact, Offa had engineered the division of the archbishopric of Canterbury, “through enmity conceived against the venerable Jænberht and the Kentish people”, says Offa's eventual successor, Cenwulf, in a letter to Pope Leo III (795–816). The bishop of Lichfield, Hygeberht, was elevated to archbishop, and Jænberht, archbishop of Canterbury, had to cede his jurisdiction over several bishoprics to the new archbishop of Lichfield. Pope Leo, writing to King Cenwulf, says that his predecessor, Pope Hadrian I (772–795), had agreed to the division, and sent the pallium to Hygeberht, in response to Offa's assertion: “that it was the united wish and unanimous petition of you all”.*  The eminent teacher, scholar and theologian, Alcuin, though, comments that the division: “was made, it seems, through a desire for power, not by any sensible consideration”. (A49).  Jænberht, who, before becoming archbishop, had been abbot of St Augustine's in Canterbury, died in 792, and was succeeded by Æthelheard, abbot of Louth in Lindsey.
Though their earliest recorded raid on Kent is not until 835, it is clear that the Vikings had become a problem long before that.* In a confirmation of privileges to the churches of Kent, made, at the request of Archbishop Æthelheard, by Offa in the 35th year of his reign, i.e. in 792 (S134), Offa grants freedom from secular dues, with the exception of: “army service within Kent against pagan seamen with transgressing fleets, or in Sussex if necessary, and the building of bridges and the strengthening of fortresses against pagans also within the borders of Kent.”
 
796 – 798  Eadberht Præn
In July of 796, King Offa of Mercia died, followed by his successor, Ecgfrith, before the end of the same year. These circumstances seem to have provided the opportunity for one Eadberht, “whose other name was Præn” (‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, s.a. 794), to establish himself on the throne of Kent.
Eadberht is almost certainly “the priest Odbert” who had sought refuge from Offa at the court of Charlemagne.* It seems that Offa had sent Æthelheard, archbishop of Canterbury, to Rome, in order to secure Odbert's extradition to face charges in England. Charlemagne, however, sent Odbert, and others who had sought sanctuary from Offa, to Rome so they could put their own cases to the pope.
Following Eadberht's seizure of Kent, Archbishop Æthelheard fled to safety. Alcuin wrote to Æthelheard leaving him in no doubt that he disapproved of his deserting his post: “it seems to me on loving reflection that penance should be done for it.” (A49).
In a letter to “the praiseworthy people” of Kent, Alcuin writes: “The greatest danger overhangs this island and the people living in it. A pagan people habitually makes pirate raids on our shores, a thing never heard of before.* And the English peoples, kingdoms and kings disagree among themselves. Scarcely anyone is found now of the old stock of kings, and I weep to say it; the more obscure their origin, the less their courage... Recall your bishop, Æthelheard, if you think well; he is a wise and worthy man... Disobeying the priests and driving away preachers of salvation always means the ruin of a people. Submit humbly to your archbishop and the preacher of your salvation that divine grace may follow you in all your doings.” (A50).
The new king of Mercia, Cenwulf, entered into correspondence with Pope Leo III (795–816) regarding the organisation of the Church in England. Under Offa, and with the consent of Leo's predecessor, Hadrian I (772–795), the archbishop of Canterbury's jurisdiction had been divided, and a third archbishopric created at Lichfield. According to Cenwulf, his “bishops and learned men” objected to this arrangement, since it contravened the structure of the Church outlined by Pope Gregory I (590–604). Gregory's original intention was that there should be two archbishops: one in the South, located at London, and the other in the North, located at York. As events turned out, the southern archbishop's seat became ensconced at Canterbury, and it wasn't until 735 that York became a permanent archbishopric. At any rate, Cenwulf, in effect, suggested to Leo that the archbishopric of Lichfield should be abandoned, and that the southern archbishop should be transferred from Canterbury to London – London being firmly in Mercian hands. Leo defended Hadrian's agreement to the division of the southern archbishop's territory – saying he had been persuaded by the arguments of “your excellent king, Offa” – and ruled out the possibility of relocating the archbishop of Canterbury in London. Leo also mentioned to Cenwulf: “concerning that letter which the most reverend and holy Æthelheard sent to us, just as your excellency requested ... we have sent a reply more clearly to his Holiness: that as regards that apostate cleric who mounted the throne [i.e. Eadberht Præn], we, accounting him like Julian the Apostate, excommunicate and reject him, having regard to the safety of his soul. For if he should still persist in that wicked behaviour, be sure to inform us quickly, that we may send the apostolic reminder to all in general, both to princes and to all people dwelling in the island of Britain, exhorting them to expel him from his most wicked rule and procure the safety of his soul.”*
In 798: “Cenwulf, king of the Mercians, entering the province of the Kentish men with the whole force of his army, mightily devastated it, in a lamentable pillage, almost to its utter destruction. Eadberht, king of the men of Kent, was at the same time taken prisoner, whose eyes the king of the Mercians ordered to be put out, and his hands to be cut off without pity, on account of the arrogance and deceit of his people.”  So says Symeon of Durham (‘HR’). Manuscript F of the ‘Chronicle’ agrees with Symeon that Eadberht had is eyes put out and his hands cut off.* William of Malmesbury does not record the maiming, but says that Eadberht was taken captive, “fettered, and put in prison; but being soon afterwards set at liberty by his enemies, though not received by his own subjects, it is uncertain by what end he perished.” (‘GR’ I §15).  Later, William reports that, “moved with feelings of pity“, Cenwulf had released Eadberht at Winchcombe, Gloucestershire: “where he had built a church to God, which yet remains, on the day of its dedication he freed the captive king at the altar, and consoled him with liberty, thereby giving a memorable instance of his clemency. Cuthred, whom he had made king over the Kentish people, was present to applaud this act of royal munificence.” (‘GR’ I §95).
798 – 807  Cuthred
Brother of Cenwulf, king of Mercia.
Cuthred is called Cenwulf's brother in two charters: S157, dated 801, and S160, dated 804.
There had still been no resolution to the problem of the, now unwanted, third English archbishopric at Lichfield, which had, under Offa, been created to reduce the jurisdiction of the archbishop of Canterbury. Pope Leo III, though, had more pressing problems. As reported by the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, s.a. 797 (actually 799): “In this year the Romans cut out the tongue of Pope Leo, and put out his eyes, and drove him from his see; and then soon after, with the aid of God, he could see and speak, and was pope again as he had been before.”  Symeon of Durham (‘HR’, s.a. 800) takes up the story: “Charles [Charlemagne], king of the Franks, of renowned valour, entered the walls of the city of Rome with a great multitude of his army, and remained there for some months ... He also gave magnificent presents to the venerable pope Leo, and dispersed his adversaries; some he destroyed or condemned to banishment, some he killed, who wickedly raised a conspiracy against him... on the day of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ [25th December 800], this mighty emperor, with dukes and magistrates and soldiers, went to the church of the most holy prince of the apostles, where he was robed with the royal purple by the lord pope Leo, a crown of gold was placed on his head, and a sceptre in his hand. This dignity he deserved on that day to receive from every people, that he should be called, as he was, emperor of the whole world.”  Anyway, the archbishop of Canterbury, Æthelheard, travelled to Rome in 801, and persuaded Pope Leo to restore the see of Canterbury's status. On 12th October 803, in a synod at a place called Clofesho (the location of which is not known, but Brixworth in Northamptonshire is a popular candidate), this was enacted and the archbishopric of Lichfield was abolished. Archbishop Æthelheard died in 805.
Cuthred died in 807. No immediate successor is evident. Cenwulf and, his successor, Ceolwulf ruled Kent directly. In charters, both Cenwulf (S164, dated 809) and Ceolwulf (S186, dated 822; S187, dated 823) are referred to as kings of Mercia and Kent.
Æthelheard's successor, Archbishop Wulfred, and Cenwulf became embroiled in a bitter dispute, which seems (as set-out in S1436) to have been centred on Cenwulf's claim to ownership of the monasteries of Reculver and Minster-in-Thanet, and escalated to the point where Wulfred was suspended from duty – during 817, after which year he no longer figures in charters. Cenwulf died in 821. His brother and successor, Ceolwulf, had come to an understanding with Wulfred by 17th September 822, when the archbishop officiated at his consecration (recorded in S186).
823 ? – 826  Baldred
King Ceolwulf of Mercia was deposed in 823. Around the same time, one Baldred, mainly known from his coinage, appears as king of Kent. He was probably installed by the new Mercian king, Beornwulf – indeed, his name suggests he was a relative of Beornwulf.
Baldred's only mention in the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ is the report of his overthrow. In 825, Beornwulf was decisively defeated by Egbert, king of Wessex. The ‘Chronicle’ says that Egbert: “then sent Æthelwulf his son, from the army, and Ealhstan his bishop, and Wulfheard his ealdorman, to Kent with a large force, and they drove Baldred the king north over the Thames; and the Kentish people, and those of Surrey, and the South Saxons, and the East Saxons, turned to him [Egbert], because they had formerly been unjustly forced from his kinsmen.* ... and in this same year the East Angles slew Beornwulf, king of the Mercians.”  The ‘Chronicle’ places this entry two years early (that is, s.a. 823),* but it is also apparent that the events described begin in 825 and run on into 826. A Kentish charter shows that Beornwulf still had authority in Kent on 27th March 826 – S1267, issued on that date, is said to be in the third year of Beornwulf's reign. It would seem likely, therefore, that Baldred was not expelled from Kent until 826.
 
The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ reports (s.a. 823, for 826) that: “the Kentish people, and those of Surrey, and the South Saxons, and the East Saxons” submitted to Egbert. These territories were grouped together to form a sub-kingdom of Wessex, initially ruled by, Egbert's son, Æthelwulf. In 860, this sub-kingdom was integrated into Wessex proper.
 
Translations:
Law-codes by F.L. Attenborough
‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ by Benjamin Thorpe (adapted)
Symeon of Durham ‘Historia Regum’ by Joseph Stevenson
Bede ‘Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum’ by A.M. Sellar
‘The English Correspondence of St Boniface’ by Edward Kylie
Henry of Huntingdon ‘Historia Anglorum’ by Thomas Forester
William of Malmesbury ‘Gesta Regum Anglorum’ by John Sharpe, revised by Joseph Stevenson
In the interests of clarity, the spelling of personal names, most of which are found in several forms, has been standardized. Those names which have survived into modern times are given their familiar spelling.
Back to: section one.
See: Shillings and Pence.
See: An Instructive Example of Godliness.
S37 is witnessed by Archbishop Jænberht, who was ordained in February 765.
Bede tells (‘HE’ IV, 22) a tale in which one Imma, a Northumbrian warrior, is taken captive by Mercians in 679 – after Æthelred's defeat of Ecgfrith near the river Trent. Eventually, Imma is sold as a slave, to a Frisian, in London. For miraculous reasons, however, he cannot be fettered. When the Frisian realizes this he gives Imma permission to try to ransom himself: “He [Imma], having taken an oath that he would either return, or send his owner the money for the ransom, went into Kent to King Hlothere, who was the son of the sister of Queen Æthelthryth [ex-wife of Ecgfrith] ... for he had once been that queen's thegn. From him he asked and obtained the price of his freedom, and as he had promised, sent it to his master for his ransom.”
Frequently, the genuineness of a charter text is simply a matter of opinion. Whilst Frank Stenton cites the two land-grants made to the archbishop of Canterbury by Offa in 774 (S110, S111) as evidence of the latter's power in Kent, D.P. Kirby disparages them as being of “doubtful authenticity”. If these two charters are disregarded, there is no evidence of Offa in Kent between 765 and 785. Dr Kirby argues that his involvement was limited to 764–5, and raises the possibility that the battle of Otford “was fought in the aftermath of the death of Heahberht”.
‘The Earliest English Kings’ (Second Edition, 2000), Chapter 8.
The earliest precisely dated Viking raid on England took place on 8th June 793, at Lindisfarne, an island monastery off the Northumbrian coast. Three Viking ships are also reported to have landed at Portland, Dorset, sometime during the reign of, the West Saxon king, Beorhtric (786–802).
Æthelberht II's letter
The pall or pallium: a white, scarf-like, vestment worn by the pope, and bestowed by him on archbishops as a symbol of delegated papal authority.
The Legend also provides Eorcenberht and Eormenred with a sister, Eanswith, who is credited with founding a monastery at Folkestone.
The historical and archaeological evidence tends to suggest that the kingdom of Kent had been formed from two pre-existing ‘peoples’. Presumably during the 6th century, the eastern-Kentish people had annexed the territory of the western-Kentish, and, as a result, there was a dominant king, the nominal king of Kent, based in Canterbury, but there was also a subordinate king who ruled in West Kent, based in Rochester.
The ‘Historia Regum’ is a compilation traditionally attributed to Symeon of Durham. The first item in the compilation is concerned with “the Martyrdom of Saints Æthelberht and Æthelred, youths of the royal lineage”. (Æthelberht and Æthelred are the sons of Eormenred.) It is this item which is one of the Mildrith Legend texts – indeed, it represents the earliest version of the Legend. It is believed to have been composed in the late-10th or early-11th century by Byrhtferth, a monk and teacher at Ramsey Abbey (north of Huntingdon), who based it on a text composed, in Essex, in the second quarter of the eighth century.
Bede: “His [Eorcenberht's] daughter Eorcengota, as became the offspring of such a parent, was a most virtuous virgin, serving God in a monastery in the country of the Franks, built by a most noble abbess, named Fara, at a place called In Brige [Faremoutiers-en-Brie]; for at that time but few monasteries had been built in the country of the Angles [i.e. in England], and many were wont, for the sake of monastic life, to repair to the monasteries of the Franks or Gauls; and they also sent their daughters there to be instructed, and united to their Heavenly Bridegroom, especially in the monasteries of Brige, of Cale [Chelles], and Andilegum [Andelys-sur-Seine].” (‘HE’ III, 8). In fact, two of Eorcengota's aunts (a daughter and a stepdaughter of Anna) were at Brie, both of whom became abbess there.
See: Queen Æthelthryth.
Bede is inconsistent in regard of Deusdedit's death. Here he clearly dates it to 14th July 664. Earlier (‘HE’ III, 20), though, he says Deusdedit's predecessor, Honorius: “having run his course, departed this life in the year of our Lord 653, on the day before the Kalends of October [i.e. on 30th September]; and when the see had been vacant a year and six months, Deusdedit of the nation of the West Saxons, was chosen the sixth archbishop of Canterbury [the first Englishman to hold the post]... His ordination was on the 7th of the Kalends of April [26th March], and he ruled the church 9 years, 4 months, and two days.”  By this token, Deusdedit died on 28th July 664.
See: Benedict Biscop.
The ‘Historia Regum’ text and the fragmentary Old English ‘Life of St Mildrith’ name Deusdedit as archbishop of Canterbury at the time of these events, but some of the other texts (including Goscelin's Latin ‘Life’) name Theodore. Since Deusdedit was dead when Egbert succeeded to the throne (indeed, according to Bede, Deusdedit died on the same day as Egbert's father), it could only have been Theodore.
1. A Latin ‘Life’ of, Mildrith's sister, Mildburh (St Milburga), probably composed at the end of the 11th century.
2. In the miscellaneous collection of lists and genealogies prefixed to the ‘Chronicon ex Chronicis’ of Florence of Worcester.
The ‘Historia Regum’ text explicitly says that Eormenburh (Eormenburga) and Domne Eafe (Domneva) are one and the same, and three other texts echo that view. This is, however, an area of confusion amongst the various versions. For instance, the Goscelin Latin ‘Life’ of Mildrith gives Domne Eafe three sisters: Eormengith, Ermenberga and Ermenburga. In the miscellaneous collection of lists and genealogies prefixed to the ‘Chronicon ex Chronicis’ of  Florence of Worcester, though, the name Domne Eafe does not appear at all – there are three sisters: Eormengith, Eormenbeorga, who is married to Merewalh (and, therefore, equates to Domne Eafe), and Eormenburga. In a charter of Wihtred, Egbert's son, dated 699 (S20), the names Eormenburh and Eafe (in the form Æbba) both appear as abbesses, alongside two others, one of whom, Eormenhild, is presumably Egbert's sister: “the most famous abbesses being present, that is Eormenhild, Eormenburh, Æbba and Nerienda.”  (Hirminhilda, Irminburga, Æaba et Nerienda).
The monastery of Chertsey was probably founded in 666. According to a charter (S1165), it was founded by Egbert, indicating that he had control of Surrey at that time. This particular charter, however, originates from around the time of Egbert's death, and records a grant of land made to Chertsey by one Frithuwald, who was acting in the capacity of sub-king (subregulus) of Surrey, under King Wulfhere of Mercia.
Book I, Chapter 36 of the ‘Liber Eliensis’ (Book of Ely) – a history of the monastery of Ely, from its 7th century beginnings (it was founded by Seaxburh's sister, Æthelthryth) to the 12th century.
The 12th century Latin ‘Life’ (British Library MS Cotton Caligula A viii) apparently uses an earlier Old English text, a fragment of which survives (Lambeth Palace MS 427) and is one of the Mildrith Legend texts, as a source. This earlier text actually replaces Egbert with Hlothere, who was Egbert's brother, and who, after Egbert's reign of nine years, ruled prior to Egbert's own sons. In this instance, therefore, it would seem more likely that the later Latin text is correct, and that (if anyone) it was Egbert who required a regent.
The term reeve (gerefa) applies to a whole raft of administrative officials. In the course of time, there arose the position of shire-reeve (scirgerefa), i.e. sheriff.
Though D.P. Kirby warns: “There is no certain evidence that Hlothere shared royal power as king of Kent with his nephew. The laws of Hlothere and Eadric appear in their extant version as a single code issued jointly by Hlothere and Eadric as kings of Kent, but they may represent a conflation of two originally separate sets of laws or even a confirmation by Eadric of the dooms of his uncle.”
However, D.W. Rollason makes another suggestion: “According to the Mildrith Legend, Æthelred was related by marriage to the murdered princes since his brother Merewalh had married their sister Domne Eafe [see above]... Despite Egbert's propitiatory gesture in bestowing lands on Domne Eafe, Æthelred may have felt some further retribution on behalf of his family to be required and the 676 raid may have been the form it took.”
A charter of Hlothere's dated May 679 (S8) exhibits no sign that Æthelred had any authority in Kent.
There are a small number of brief notes pertaining to Northumbria and Kent, written in the margins of Easter tables, surviving in seven manuscripts that were produced between c.740 and c.830 (though no one manuscript contains all the notes). Joanna Story has christened them ‘The Frankish Annals of Lindisfarne and Kent’, in her paper of the same name (‘Anglo-Saxon England 34’, 2005). The annals record the burial dates of a number of kings of Kent. For two of them, Bede provides an exact date of death. In these instances, the date of burial given in the annals is the day after the date of death given by Bede: Eorcenberht died in 664 on 14th July, and was buried on Monday 15th July; Hlothere died in 685 on 6th February, and was buried on Tuesday 7th February. The days of the week provided by the annals are appropriate to the dates.
Joanna Story (‘The Frankish Annals of Lindisfarne and Kent’, in ‘Anglo-Saxon England 34’, 2005) convincingly shows that the date of Eadric's burial was 31st August 686 (which is consistent with the reign length he is credited with by Bede), and not 31st August 687, which some commentators have deduced from the Frankish annals (and which leaves a mysterious extra year of Eadric's life to be explained away).
Not a fake as such, S233 appears to be a composite document, compiled from a number of charters.
Charters S13 and S14 record grants of land to Æbba, abbess of Minster-in-Thanet. Æbba, otherwise known as Domne Eafe, was the daughter of Eormenred (see above), and, in S13, Oswine refers to her as his relative. (In S14 Oswine refers to Kent as “the kingdom of my fathers”.)
S18 can be placed in 697, since it was in Wihtred's 6th year. The other charters are dated by indiction (see: Anno Domini). Because the indiction has a fifteen year cycle, S16 could be placed in March of either 696 or 711. Similarly, S19 could date from July of either 697 or 712, and S21 from 700 or 715 (no month is given).
In S10, Swæfheard's name takes the form Suabhardus. Elsewhere it appears in various spellings of this form. However, in S11 (which, incidentally, is undated) the king's name is Suabertus, which would be a form of Swæfberht. It is generally assumed that Suabertus and Suabhardus are one and the same, but the possibility remains that Swæfberht was another East Saxon who ruled as a king in Kent.
Bede says (‘HE’ V, 23): “In the year of our Lord 725 ... Wihtred, the son of Egbert, king of Kent, died on the ninth of the Kalends of May [23rd April] ... he had governed 34 years and a half.”  By this token, Wihtred became king about late-October 690. However:
In S15, dated 17th July 694, Wihtred is said to be in the third year of his reign.
In S18, dated April 697, Wihtred is said to be in the 6th year of his reign.
In S20, dated 8th April 699, Wihtred is said to be in the 8th year of his reign.
In S1180, dated 11th July 724, Wihtred is said to be in the 33rd year of his reign.
These charters, therefore, place Wihtred's accession between 18th July 691 and 8th April 692. Manuscript E of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ dates Wihtred's death to 23rd April 725, but allots him a reign of just 34 years, suggesting that he became king in 691.
The compensation paid to Ine is variously recorded by the ‘Chronicle’ manuscripts. A, D and E say it was thirty thousand, but don't say thirty thousand what. B and F say it was thirty thousand pounds. C says it was thirty pounds, whilst G says thirty men. It was probably thirty thousand of the silver coins – forerunners of the penny, called ‘sceattas’ by numismatists – which were being produced by this time.
Except Manuscript E, which has “three and twenty winters”. Either way, it is erroneous – all ‘Chronicle’ manuscripts, and Bede, place Wihtred's death in 725.
Wihtred's law-code was issued: “During the sovereignty of Wihtred, the most gracious king of Kent, in the fifth year of his reign, the ninth indiction, the sixth day of Rugern, in a place which is called Berghamstyde”.  “Rugern” means ‘rye-harvest’, and probably equates to the month of September. The ninth indiction begins in September 695 – probably on the 1st of the month. On this basis, then, a date of 6th September 695 is arrived at (and Wihtred's accession is placed between September 690 and September 691). However, it could be that Rugern is August, in which case the date indicated is 6th August 696 (and Wihtred's accession is placed between August 691 and August 692).
Incidentally, the location of “Berghamstyde” is not known with certainty, but Bearstead, near Maidstone, is the favourite candidate.
Wihtred's code, Item 28 (of 28): “If a man from afar, or a stranger, quits the road, and neither shouts nor blows a horn, he shall be assumed to be a thief, [and as such] may be either slain or put to ransom.”
Ine's code, Item 20 (of 76): “If a man from afar, or a stranger, travels through a wood off the highway, and neither shouts nor blows a horn, he shall be assumed to be a thief, and as such may be either slain or put to ransom.”
Further, the earlier Kentish law-codes (Æthelberht I; Hlothere and Eadric) use the word ‘eorlcund’ to denote a nobleman, whilst Wihtred's code falls into line with Ine's, using the word ‘gesiðcund’ (gesithcund).
An addition made to Manuscript A at Canterbury continues “and Æthelberht, son of King Wihtred, succeeded to the kingdom”, but, clearly, Æthelberht was already ruling in Kent.
Between 754 and 845 there is a chronological dislocation in all extant manuscripts of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ – hence it must have been in their common antecedent. The majority of entries up to 828 are placed two years too early. From then until 845 the error is increased to three years. (It is a peculiarity of Manuscript B that after 652 the year-number is generally omitted.)
The annal begins with the death of Archbishop Berhtwald, placed in January 731 by Bede (‘HE’ V, 23). 23rd August was on a Thursday in 731.
Since, as already mentioned, the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ is two years adrift at this time, Æthelberht's death appears s.a. 760.
In one copy (early-15th century, made by Thomas Elmham) of S28 and S29, the regnal years read as if for Eadberht I, i.e. they are placed in the 36th year. If this were to be accepted as correct (and not simply the result of late-medieval tampering), then, clearly, the ‘Chronicle’ entry apparently placing Eadberht I's death in 748 cannot be accepted, and Eadberht II is a phantom. Certainly, there are no surviving charters featuring a King Eadberht between 748 (S91) and S28, which could be seen as confirmation that there were indeed two Eadberht's, except there are none featuring Æthelberht between 748 and 762 either.
In fact, in S105 Offa repeats the land-grant only recently made in the names of Sigered and Eanmund (S33).
As previously noted, the majority of ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ entries at this time are placed two years too early. As a result this entry appears s.a. 774, except in Manuscript A, where it is placed s.a. 773.
Cenwulf's letter is preserved by William of Malmesbury (‘GR’ I §88). Pope Leo's survives in British Library MS Cotton Vespasian A xiv, and is translated into English in Dorothy Whitelock's ‘English Historical Documents, 500–1042’ (Second Edition, 1979).
Lindsey – once a kingdom in its own right, but by this time a region of Mercia – covered much of modern-day Lincolnshire.
Presumably the ‘Chronicle’ is only referring to Kent having been “unjustly forced from his [Egbert's] kinsmen”, the other territories mentioned being, in effect, in parentheses. Egbert's father, Ealhmund, had briefly ruled Kent in the mid-780s, prior to its takeover by Offa, king of Mercia.
Odbert is discussed in a letter from Charlemagne to Offa (A40).
The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ says: “Cenwulf,* king of the Mercians, ravaged Kent as far as the marsh, and took Præn their king, and led him bound into Mercia.”  An addition to Manuscript F mentions the eyes/hands incident. Of course, this event appears two years early (that is, s.a. 796) in all ‘Chronicle’ manuscripts. Symeon of Durham, though, places it correctly s.a. 798.
The first Viking raiders recorded in England landed at Portland (in Dorset) during Beorhtric's reign (786–802), but evidently before 8th June 793, when the earliest precisely dated raid, on the island of Lindisfarne (off the Northumberland coast), took place. V
In fact, only Manuscripts B and C correctly name the Mercian king Cenwulf. The rest have Ceolwulf, who was Cenwulf's successor.
‘Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum’ (Ecclesiastical History of the English People).
‘Historia Monasterii Sancti Augustini Cantuariensis’ (History of St Augustine's, Canterbury).
The term ‘Mildrith Legend’ is used by D.W. Rollason to describe a group of texts linked by some connection to, the early-8th century abbess of Minster-in-Thanet, Mildrith (St Mildred). Dr Rollason writes: “The legend is found in a number of versions [he details eleven texts] which, although they have much common ground, differ significantly in their contents. In some versions, Mildrith is the most prominent figure, in others she has much less importance and from some she is completely absent.”
‘The Mildrith Legend: A Study in Early Medieval Hagiography in England’, 1982.
‘Gesta Regum Anglorum’ (Deeds of the Kings of England).
Charters are referred to by their number in Sawyer's catalogue.
Available online: The Electronic Sawyer.
‘The Earliest English Kings’ (Second Edition, 2000), Chapter 6.
‘Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England’ (1990), Chapter 2.
s.a. = sub anno = ‘under the year’.
Henry of Huntingdon first produced his ‘Historia Anglorum’ (History of the English) around 1130. He then revisited the work – revising and extending – several times before his death. The final version concludes with the accession of Henry II in 1154.
‘Historia Regum’ (History of the Kings).
‘Anglo-Saxon England’ (Third Edition, 1971), Chapter 7.
Alcuin, who was of noble Northumbrian parentage, was educated in the cathedral school at York, and eventually became its headmaster. In 781, whilst returning to York from Rome, he met Charles the Great, king of the Franks (better known as Charlemagne), who invited him to teach in the palace school at Aachen. Alcuin accepted the invitation. In 796, he was appointed abbot of St Martin's monastery at Tours. He died in 804.
The number refers to Stephen Allott's edition of Alcuin's letter-collection in English translation (the originals are in Latin), first published in 1974, under the title ‘Alcuin of York’.
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