Egbert

Egbert ,King of Wessex 775 - 836.

Egbert, also spelled Ecgberht, Ecgbert, or Ecgbriht, Ecgbeorht, was King of Wessex from 802 until his death in 839. His father was Ealhmund of Kent. In the 780s Egbert was forced into exile to Charlemagne's court in the Frankish Empire by Offa of Mercia and Beorhtric of Wessex, but on Beorhtric's death in 802 Egbert returned and took the throne.

Little is known of the first 20 years of Egbert's reign, but it is thought that he was able to maintain the independence of Wessex against the kingdom of Mercia, which at that time dominated the other southern English kingdoms. In 825 Egbert defeated Beornwulf of Mercia, ended Mercia's supremacy at the Battle of Ellandun, and proceeded to take control of the Mercian dependencies in southeastern England. In 829 he defeated Wiglaf of Mercia and drove him out of his kingdom, temporarily ruling Mercia directly. Later that year Egbert received the submission of the Northumbrian king at Dore. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle subsequently described Egbert as a bretwalda or 'wide-ruler' of Anglo-Saxon lands.


Photo: Unknown, Public Domain

Egbert was unable to maintain this dominant position, and within a year Wiglaf regained the throne of Mercia. However, Wessex did retain control of Kent, Sussex, and Surrey; these territories were given to Egbert's son Æthelwulf to rule as a subking under Egbert. When Egbert died in 839, Æthelwulf succeeded him; the southeastern kingdoms were finally absorbed into the kingdom of Wessex after the death of Æthelwulf's son Æthelbald in 860. Egbert's descendants ruled Wessex and, later, all of England continuously until 1013.
Egbert was buried in Winchester, as were his son, Ethelwulf, his grandson, Alfred the Great, and his great-grandson, Edward the Elder. During the ninth century, Winchester began to show signs of urbanisation, and it is likely that the sequence of burials indicates that Winchester was held in high regard by the West Saxon royal line.
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