Bretwalda

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Bretwalda, also brytenwalda and bretenanwealda, is an Old English word, the first record of which comes from the late 9th century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. It is applied in the Chronicle to some of the rulers of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms from the fifth century onwards who had achieved overlordship of some or all of the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. It is unclear whether the word dates back to the fifth century, and was used by the kings themselves, or whether it is a later, ninth-century invention.

The term bretwalda also appears in a charter of Æthelstan, King of the English.

The rulers of Mercia were generally the most powerful of the English kings from the mid-seventh to early ninth centuries but are not accorded the title bretwalda by the Chronicle, a fact usually assigned to the anti-Mercian bias of the Chroniclers. The Annals of Wales continued to recognize the lords of Northumbria as "King of the Saxons" (i.e. English) until the death of Osred I in 716.

Contents

Bretwaldas

Listed by Bede and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Mercian rulers with similar or greater authority

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