Egbert of Wessex

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Egbert (also spelled Ecgberht or Ecgbriht) was King of Wessex from 802 until 839. His father was Ealhmund of Kent. In the 780s Egbert was forced into exile 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 Wessex's independence against the kingdom of Mercia, which at that time dominated the other southern English kingdoms. In 825 Egbert defeated Beornwulf of Mercia and ended Mercia's supremacy at the Battle of Ellandun, and proceeded to take control of the Mercian dependencies in southeastern England. In 829 Egbert 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, near Sheffield. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle subsequently described Egbert as a bretwalda, or "Ruler of Britain."

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 Æthelwulf's death in 858.



The earliest version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Parker Chronicle, begins with a genealogical preface tracing the ancestry of Egbert's son Æthelwulf back through Egbert, Ealhmund (thought to be Ealhmund of Kent), and the otherwise unknown Eoppa and Eafa to Ingild, brother of king Ine of Wessex, who abdicated the throne in 726. It continues back to Cerdic, founder of the House of Wessex.[1] Egbert was born around 769 or 771. He is reputed to have had a half-sister Alburga, later to be recognized as a saint. She was married to Wulstan, Ealdorman of Wiltshire, and on his death she became a nun.[2] The only source naming the wife of Egbert is a later medieval manuscript at Trinity College, Oxford, which relates that Egbert married Redburga, regis Francorum sororia, thought to indicate sister, sister-in law or niece of the Frankish Emperor.[3] This seems consistent with Egbert's strong ties to the Frankish royal court and his exile there, but lacks contemporary support.

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