Part Two[*]

King of Kent

640 – 664  Eorcenberht

Son of Eadbald.

Eorcenberht ruled Kent “most nobly for 24 years and some months”, says Bede:

He was the first of the English kings who by 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 an older brother called Eormenred.[*] According to one of the Legend texts, an incomplete Old English Life of St Mildrith (preserved in British Library MS Cotton Caligula A xiv, mid-11th century), Eormenred and Eorcenberht jointly succeeded their father, Eadbald, as king. The Historia Regum text, however, 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.”  In a Worcester text, Eormenred is titled ‘petty king’ (regulus). 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 post.[*] 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 the year 664:

… there happened an eclipse of the sun, on the third day of May [actually, on 1st May], about the 10th hour of the day [i.e. about 4 in the afternoon]. 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
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 day before the Ides of July [i.e. on 14th July].[*] Eorcenberht, also, king of the people 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 (Ecgberht) may have been too young to rule on his own behalf when his father died – a 12th century Vita of Seaxburh (St Sexburga), his mother, indicates that, at first, she acted as regent.


The 12th century, Latin, Vita Beate Sexburge Regine (Life of Blessed Queen Seaxburh) apparently uses an earlier Old English text – a fragment of which survives, in Lambeth Palace MS 427, and is one of the Mildrith Legend texts – as a source. This earlier text actually replaces Egbert with Hlothhere, 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.
D.W. Rollason classes Lambeth Palace MS 427 folio 211 as a Mildrith Legend text. The previous folio, 210, which was not originally adjacent to folio 211, he considers to be a fragment of a different text. He considers both of these fragments to be distinct from the incomplete, mid-11th century, Old English Life of St Mildrith (another Mildrith Legend text) found in British Library MS Cotton Caligula A xiv. The relationship between these disconnected pieces is, however, a matter of scholarly opinion. M.J. Swanton considered all three to be parts of the same text, and published an edition and translation, titled ‘A Fragmentary Life of St Mildred and Other Kentish Royal Saints’ (Archaeologia Cantiana Vol.91, freely available online) in 1975. Stephanie Hollis – ‘The Old English “Ritual Admission of Mildrith” (London, Lambeth Palace 427, fol. 210)’, in The Journal of English and Germanic Philology Vol. 97 No. 3 (July 1998) – argues that folio 210, but not folio 211, of the Lambeth Palace manuscript belongs to a Life of St Mildrith.

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.

The see of Canterbury had been vacant since Deusdedit’s death in 664.

At this time the most noble kings of the English, Oswiu of the province of the Northumbrians and Egbert of the people 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 throughout all Britain. But Wigheard, arriving at Rome, was cut off by death [in 667?], before he could be consecrated bishop …
Bede 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


Bede does not supply a date for Wigheard’s selection, his dispatch to Rome nor his death. Deusdedit died on 14th July 664, and Bede (HE IV, 1) says only that the see of Canterbury had been “vacant for no small time” before Wigheard was sent off to be ordained. After Wigheard died, the pope eventually (his original choice having declined the offer) settled on one Theodore, a monk from Tarsus, to be the new archbishop of Canterbury. There was a hiatus of 4 months while Theodore grew his hair:
… that it might be shorn into the shape of a crown; for he had before the tonsure of St Paul, the Apostle, after the manner of the eastern people. He was ordained by Pope Vitalian, in the year of our Lord 668, on Sunday, the 7th of the Kalends of April [26th March] …
Manuscript E of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle places Wigheard’s journey and death in 667. This is probably simply deduced from Bede, but 667 does seem a likely date for Wigheard’s death, though his selection and journey would fit comfortably in 666.

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 Vita of 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 placed in the western part of Mercian territory, 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 the people of Kent, died in the month of July; his brother Hlothhere succeeded him in the kingdom, 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  Hlothhere

Son of Eorcenberht.

685 – 686  Eadric

Son of Egbert.

As far as Bede knew, Hlothhere succeeded his brother Egbert smoothly, after the latter’s death in July 673. However, in a charter (S7), the 1st April 675 is said to be in the first year of Hlothhere’s reign, in which case he cannot have become king until April 674 at the very earliest.[*] When Egbert died his sons would have been 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 could be that Hlothhere’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 Hlothhere. Egbert’s death may have presented him with the opportunity to extend his influence in Kent – perhaps he was opposed to Hlothhere’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 re-establish Mercian authority in Kent, or, at least, designed to dissuade Hlothhere from trying to regain control of Surrey or extending his influence in Lundenwic, i.e. 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 hall in that town” and “the king’s town-reeve”.


Bede (HE IV, 22) tells 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 Hlothhere, 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.

In fact, as it now exists, this law-code is in the joint names of Hlothhere and Eadric, which is widely believed to indicate that, by the time it was issued, Hlothhere 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:

… Hlothhere, king of the people 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. For he was wounded in battle with the South Saxons, whom Eadric, the son of Egbert, had raised against him, and died during the cure. 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 gifted 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 Hlothhere). 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. According to Frankish annals 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).

686 – 694 ?  “Kings of doubtful title, or of foreign origin”

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, the East Saxon king, Sæbbi, and Sæbbi himself is a witness.[*] The indications are that this charter was issued on 1st March 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 co-operated 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 the East Saxon king Sæbbi. 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 people of Kent” 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 people of Kent, 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.

On 6th September 695 (probably), Wihtred issued a law-code, which, amongst other things, granted 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 the apparently genuine witness-list, dating from, or a little before, 716, that was added to a forged charter (S22) in the 9th century.

In his final report on Kentish affairs, Bede states:

In the year of our Lord 725 … Wihtred, the son of Egbert, king of the people 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

The witness-list of S22 identifies Werburh as Alric’s mother. If Alric ever reigned, there is no record of it. Symeon of Durham (HR) preserves a note, s.a. 732, though it should really 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), i.e. before Wihtred’s death, records a grant of land made by Æthelberht, with his father’s consent, to Mildrith, abbess of Minster-in-Thanet. Æthelberht has no title, being simply styled “son of the glorious king Wihtred”, but presumably, since he was able to grant the land, 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 (HE V, 23) states that at the time he was writing, 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 Eadburh, abbess of Minster-in-Thanet.[*]

In its entry for 748, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that: “Eadberht, king of the people of Kent, 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 I.

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), which closes with a request that Lul celebrate mass and pray for three of their deceased kinswomen, all nuns – promising to reciprocate for any relatives of Lul.

The Anglo-Saxon 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

Sigered, whose name might suggest East Saxon origins, is known from two charters:
S32 is dated 762 and is witnessed by Eadberht. Both men are titled “king of Kent”.

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 Sigered’s charter dated 762 (S32).


S33 is undated. Sigered refers to himself as “king of half the province of the people of Kent”, and it has a confirmation by King 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 in 764 – on 24th August, according to Florence of Worcester.

764 ? – 784 ?  Egbert II

764 ? – 778 ?  Heahberht

“Heahberht king of Kent” features in a charter (S105), issued in 764, by Offa, king of Mercia, at Canterbury.[*]

Egbert “king of Kent” 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 “king of Kent”, and then taken to Medeshamstede (now Peterborough), to be confirmed by Offa.


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 people of Kent fought at Otford [in Kent]”.  Henry of Huntingdon (HA IV, 23) flexes his imagination to give a fuller picture: “When there had been appalling slaughter on both sides, the famous Offa emerged victorious from the battle.”  It may well be, however, that it was in fact “the people of Kent” who were victorious. In a charter issued in or after 765 by Egbert (S37), Heahberht features as a witness, but no mention is made of Offa. Further, both Egbert and Heahberht minted silver pennies in their own names. So it would seem 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.[*]

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).[*]

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 Ealhmund “king of Kent” survives (S38). Manuscript F of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was produced at Canterbury. Its compiler inserted a comment between the lines, in Latin, pertaining to the year 784: “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 father of Egbert [king of Wessex 802–839], and Egbert was 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 before the end of 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 Cealchythe [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 “on account of the enmity he had formed against the venerable Jænberht and the people of Kent”, 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.

796 – 798  Eadberht Præn

In July of 796, King Offa of Mercia died, followed by his successor, his son Ecgfrith, before the end of the same year. The throne of Mercia was acquired by a distant relative named Cenwulf. 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 Odberht” who had found safe exile from Offa’s clutches at the court of Charlemagne. Odberht is discussed in a letter from Charlemagne to Offa.[*] It seems that Offa was attempting to secure Odberht’s extradition to England. Charlemagne sent Odberht, and others who had sought sanctuary with him from Offa (“exiles who in fear of death have taken refuge under the wings of our protection”), to Rome so they could put their own cases to the pope, with Æthelheard, archbishop of Canterbury, as Offa’s representative in Rome: “What could be safer for us than that the opinion of the apostolic authority should determine a case in which the views of others disagree?”  With that, the letter moves on to another subject.

Following Eadberht’s seizure of Kent, Archbishop Æthelheard fled to safety.

The new king of Mercia, Cenwulf, entered into correspondence with Pope Leo III (795–816) regarding the organisation of the English Church. 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. This arrangement, says Cenwulf, was objected to by “our bishops and certain most learned men among us”, 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 Hadrian 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 continues:

And concerning that letter which the most reverend and holy Æthelheard sent to us, just as your excellency requested, and perusing it more plainly, as was fitting, 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 people of Kent with the whole force of his army, mightily devastated it, in a lamentable pillage, almost to its utter destruction. Eadberht, king of the people 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).  Chronicle Manuscript F 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 reveals that Cenwulf, “moved with feelings of pity”, had released Eadberht during the dedication ceremony of a new church at Winchcombe (Gloucestershire):

… 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 people of Kent, 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.

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:

He [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 people of Kent, 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 people of Kent, 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.

Part One
Shillings and Pence
S37 is witnessed by Archbishop Jænberht, who was ordained in February 765.
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 Offa’s involvement in Kentish affairs in 764–5 was shortlived, either a response to or an attempt to take advantage of a particular crisis”, and raises the possibility that the battle of Otford “was fought in the aftermath of the death of Heahberht”.
* Frank Stenton Anglo-Saxon England Third Edition (1971), Chapter 7 (pp.206–8).
** D.P. Kirby The Earliest English Kings Revised Edition (2000), Chapter 8 (pp.136–7).
Cenwulf’s letter is preserved by William of Malmesbury (GR I §88). Pope Leo’s survives in British Library MS Cotton Vespasian A xiv.
Both letters are published, in English translation (the originals are in Latin), in English Historical Documents c. 500–1042 (Second Edition, 1979), edited by Dorothy Whitelock, Items 204 and 205.
Pope Leo, in his letter, praises Archbishop Æthelheard “because he endangered his life for the orthodox faith”, but Alcuin wrote to Æthelheard, leaving him in no doubt that he disapproved of his deserting his post: “You know yourself why you left your see, whether through fear of death or barbaric tortures or through the curse of idolatry … But whatever the reason was, it seems to me on loving reflection that penance should be done for it.” (A49).
The first Viking raiders recorded in England landed at Portland (in Dorset) during the reign of the West Saxon king Beorhtric, i.e. 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.
Æthelberht II’s Letter to Boniface
The Mildrith Legend is worked into a piece on the genealogy of the kings of Kent, in the miscellaneous collection of lists and genealogies prefixed to the Chronicon ex Chronicis of Florence of Worcester.
Bede (HE IV, 5) places Egbert’s death in July 673, and says Hlothhere succeeded him and reigned for 11 years and 7 months. This is consistent with the date that Bede (HE IV, 26) provides for Hlothhere’s death: 6th February 685.
The dating clause of charter S7, which only survives in an early-15th century copy by Thomas Elmham, reads: anno regni nostri primo, indictione tercia, sub die kalendarum Aprilis, “in the first year of our reign, the third indiction, on the 1st April”.  The year commencing 1st September 674 is in the third indiction (the next third indiction is 15 years later, i.e. after Hlothhere’s death). If Hlothhere became king in July 673, as implied by Bede, then 1st April in his first year would be in the second indiction. (See Anno Domini.)
Kemble, in 1839, and Birch, in 1885, published the text of S10 (numbered 14 in Kemble; 42 in Birch) as it is found in the early-15th century copy made by Thomas Elmham. In this text, however, the dating clauses have been tampered with, such that both the main body of the charter and Æthelred’s added confirmation are ostensibly dated to the year 676. The tampering has not, though, been thoroughly carried out, producing incompatible dating combinations, and giving rise to much scholarly debate/speculation.
In 1995, S.E. Kelly published The Charters of St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury, and Minster-in-Thanet, in which the text of S10 (numbered 40 in Kelly) is taken from a 13th century manuscript (London, Public Record Office, E 164/27). In this earlier copy there are no dating conflicts. The date indicated in the body of the charter is 1st March 689: anno secundo regni nostri, indictione secunda, sub die kalendarum Martis, “in the second year of our [i.e. Swæfheard’s] reign, the second indiction, on the 1st March”.  Æthelred’s confirmation is dated 8th January 691: anno ab incarnatione Christi .dcxci., indictione .iiii., .viii. die mensis Ianuarii, prima feria, “in the year from the incarnation of Christ 691, the 4th indiction, the 8th day of January, a Sunday”.  (S.E. Kelly speculates that the text-tampering evident in the Elmham manuscript was carried out: “in order to associate the charter with Æthelred’s invasion of Kent in 676”.)
S91 is dated “the month of May … the 14th indiction, in the year from the incarnation of Christ 748 [dccxlviii]”. However, the correct Indiction for May 748 is the 1st – the 14th is appropriate for May 746 [dccxlvi]. (See Anno Domini.)
Ætheling: a male of royal blood; an eligible candidate for the throne. Henry of Huntingdon, writing in Latin of course, employs the word iuvenis, literally ‘young-man’, in lieu of ætheling.
Æthel (Æþel), meaning ‘noble’, features as an element of many Anglo-Saxon names – Æthelberht = ‘Noble bright’.
The 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 (HE III, 8): “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 English, 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 the Heavenly Bridegroom, especially in the monasteries of Brige [Faremoutiers-en-Brie], of Cale [Chelles], and Andilegum [Andelys-sur-Seine].”  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. In fact, Deusdedit’s eventual successor at Canterbury, Theodore, was ordained on 26th March (668), so perhaps Bede has inadvertently also attributed that date to Deusdedit. If so, Deusdedit was ordained on 12th March 655.
See Benedict Biscop.
The Historia Regum text and the incomplete 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 Vita) 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. The genealogical introduction to a Vita of, Mildrith’s sister, Mildburh (St Milburga), probably composed towards the end of the 11th century (perhaps by Goscelin).
2. The section concerning the genealogy of the kings of Kent in the miscellany that precedes 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 Vita 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, Aeaba 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.
Wicgerefa. The term wic indicates, not just a town, but a major trading centre. 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 Hlothhere shared royal power as king of Kent with his nephew. The laws of Hlothhere and Eadric appear in their extant version as a single code issued jointly by Hlothhere 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.”
* The Earliest English Kings Revised Edition (2000), Chapter 6 (p.99).
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.” (Chapter 3, p.39).
A charter of Hlothhere’s dated May 679 (S8) shows 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 Vol. 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; Hlothhere 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.
Eadric’s burial is recorded in two manuscripts – in one the year 686 is indicated, but in the other the year 687. However, 31st August was, indeed, a Friday in 686, and the date is consistent with the reign length assigned to Eadric by Bede.
Now, in 1841 Georg Pertz published, under the title Annales Lindisfarnenses et Cantuarienses (in Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores, Vol. IV, p.2), the entries from the manuscript that gives the date of Eadric’s burial as 31st August 687. Charles Plummer, in his ‘Notes to the Ecclesiastical History’ (p.264), published in 1896, drew attention to Pertz’s edition (though he didn’t mention that the day is given as Friday, which is incompatible with 31st August 687), and contrasted it with Bede’s comment, that Eadric “reigned a year and a half”, which puts Eadric’s death a year earlier. The upshot seems to have been that the date of Eadric’s death has become unnecessarily confused.
As it stands, S233 is a fake. However, it is evidently based on authentic material.
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 “near relative in the flesh and mother in God”. (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 the people 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. Manuscripts D and E of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle date Wihtred’s death to 23rd April 725, but allot 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 30 thousand, but don’t say 30 thousand what. B and F say it was 30 thousand pounds. C says it was 30 pounds, whilst G says 30 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, following Bede, place Wihtred’s death in 725.
Wihtred’s law-code was issued: “in the fifth year of his reign, the ninth indiction, on the sixth day of Rugern, in the place which is called Berghamstyde”. Rugern means ‘rye-harvest’, and probably equates to the month of September. The ninth indiction begins in September 695 – almost certainly 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 a distance or a foreigner goes off the track, and he neither shouts nor blows a horn, he is to be assumed to be a thief, to be either killed or redeemed.”
Ine’s code, Item 20 (of 76): “If a man from a distance or a foreigner goes through the wood off the track, and does not shout nor blow a horn, he is to be assumed to be a thief, to be either killed or redeemed.”
Also, the earlier Kentish law-codes (Æthelberht I; Hlothhere 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).
This entry is dated 747 in Manuscript C.
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.
The assumption that Wihtred’s sons ruled consecutively is also made by William of Malmesbury (GR I §15). William too has Æthelberht II succeed Eadberht I, but elaborates further, having Alric succeed Æthelberht II, and reign until the succession of the next Kentish king mentioned by the Chronicle, another Eadberht, “whose other name was Præn”, in 796.
There is further confusion in the section devoted to the kings of Kent in the collection of various lists and genealogies prefixed to the Chronicon ex Chronicis of Florence of Worcester. Here, Æthelberht II succeeds his father, Wihtred, and is in turn succeeded by his brother, Eadberht. However, Æthelberht’s brother is wrongly identified as Eadberht Præn, neatly losing more than thirty years history.
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 HR entry s.a. 732 begins with the death of Archbishop Berhtwald, which event is placed in January 731 by Bede (HE V, 23), and 23rd August was 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 the copies of S28 and S29 found in Thomas Elmham’s Speculum Augustinianum, [*] Eadberht’s regnal years have been tampered with to read as if for Eadberht I, i.e. they are dated to the 36th year.
In S105 Offa repeats a land-grant only recently made in the names of Sigered and Eanmund (S33).
A Heahberht, without title, witnesses Sigered’s charter of 762 (S32). This man could be the future King Heahberht.
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.
Both letters are published, in English translation (the originals are in Latin), in English Historical Documents c. 500–1042 (Second Edition, 1979), edited by Dorothy Whitelock, Items 204 and 205.
Lindsey – once a kingdom in its own right, but by this time a region of Mercia – occupied northern 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.
Charlemagne’s letter to Offa, in English translation, is Item 197 in English Historical Documents c. 500–1042 (Second Edition, 1979), edited by Dorothy Whitelock.
Manuscripts B and C of the Chronicle: “Cenwulf, king of the Mercians, ravaged the people of Kent and the people of the Marsh [i.e. Romney Marsh], and took Præn their king, and led him bound into Mercia.”  Only Manuscripts B and C correctly name the Mercian king Cenwulf – the rest have Ceolwulf, who was Cenwulf’s successor. Also, in Manuscript A, the Mercian king: “ravaged the people of Kent as far as the Marsh”.  The compiler of Manuscript F has made a marginal addition to his slightly abbreviated (there is no mention of the Marsh) entry: “and caused his eyes to be put out, and his hands cut off.”  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.
Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum
(Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation).
Thomas Elmham evidently stopped working on his Speculum Augustinianum – a history of St Augustine’s Abbey Canterbury, which incorporates copies of Anglo-Saxon charters – in 1414, when he left St Augustine’s for Lenton, near Nottingham, leaving the job incomplete (Cambridge, Trinity Hall MS 1).
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.” (Chapter 1, p.9).
The Mildrith Legend: A Study in Early Medieval Hagiography in England (1982).
Gesta Regum Anglorum
(Deeds of the Kings of England).
Anglo-Saxon charters are referred to by their number in Sawyer’s catalogue.
Available online: The Electronic Sawyer.
s.a. = sub anno = ‘under the year’.
Henry, archdeacon of Huntingdon, first produced his Historia Anglorum (History of the English) about 1130. He later revisited the work – revising and extending – several times. The final version concludes with the accession of Henry II in 1154.
Historia Regum (History of the Kings).
Alcuin (born c.735), a Northumbrian, 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.