Egbert of Wessex

Egbert (also Ecgberht or Ecgbert; † 839 in Wessex, England ) was from 802 until his death King of Wessex. Under Egbert Wessex strengthened the most powerful of the kingdoms within the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy and overcame the previous supremacy Mercia.


The question regarding Egberts origin is controversial. In the entry for the year 825 the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that the people in the southeast accepted Egberts rule, since he had been unjustly expelled from there. In a chronicle of Christchurch ( Canterbury ) from the 11-12. Century Ealhmund is listed as the father of Kent Egberts. Also, another source reports suggest rather to an origin from Kent and not of Wessex, although such was constructed later. In modern research is now usually assumed that Ealhmund was actually Egberts father and Egbert thus descended from the royal house of Kent, but that was at the beginning of the 9th century already long since disempowered.

After the assassination of King Cynewulfs in 786 Egbert must have already tried ( at what exact time is unclear), to ascend the throne of Wessex, but he was defeated Beorhtric, an ally of Offa of Mercia. From the land of banned ( this was probably 789-796 ) Egbert went into exile and spent this time on the Continent, where he was also at the court of Charlemagne. He was recognized by Beorhtrics death in 802 by the West Saxons when King after he was apparently enters by force in possession of the kingdom of Wessex. Beorhtric had clearly the kings of Mercia Offa and Cenwulf subordinate, while Egbert Wessex striving for greater independence.

Over the first years of the reign Egberts, the sources report factually anything, he seems to have made ​​no campaigns at this time. However, 815 he conquered Cornwall, which was now part of the Kingdom of Wessex. In 825 he defeated Beornwulf of Mercia at Ellandun. After this victory, Kent, Surrey subdued, the Kingdom of Sussex ( probably only 827 ) and the Kingdom of Essex the rule of Wessex; also East Anglia, that rose against the rule of Mercier, Egbert recognized as ruler.

Egbert forced in the following years further military expansion. In 829 he defeated Wiglaf, king of Mercia, Northumbria also recognized him as ruler. In the entry of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is reported for the year 829, Egbert that all areas south of the Humber dominated and now acted as bretwalda. This description is found only in manuscript A of the Chronicle (and its copy G). Bretwalda was the term for an Overlord in the early Anglo-Saxon period, of which the Venerable Bede reported. For Egberts time this term is anachronistic and should probably clarify only Egberts position of power. It is certain that he was now the most powerful king in southern England, but whose influence extended even to Northumbria.

830 Egbert led a successful campaign against Wales, while Mercia again won independence under Wiglaf. Whether this was due to a rebellion or an act of grace towards Egberts Wiglaf, is unknown, but the Mercian hegemony was obviously broken; also are not Wiglafs coinage from this period is known which might still standing influence among Egberts. In 836 Egbert was attacked by the Danes; 838 he defeated them and their allies the West Welsh at Hingston Down in a battle in Cornwall.

Inside Egbert maintained good relations with the Church, had several mint coins and issued orders. He married the Frankish princess Redburga (possibly a sister of Charlemagne ) and seems to have maintained good contacts with the Frankenhof. He had two sons and a daughter. Egbert died in 839 and was buried in the cathedral of Winchester, was succeeded by his son Æthelwulf.


A memorial plaque for him was taken in in the Walhalla near Regensburg.