King Egbert of Wessex

The First King of All England

King Egbert of Wessex
King Egbert of Wessex as depicted in Cassell's Illustrated History of England, published in 1857. Public Domain; courtesy of Wikimedia

This profile of Egbert of Wessex is part of
Who's Who in Medieval History

A B C D E F G H I J K L M
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Egbert of Wessex was also known as:

Egbert the Saxon; sometimes spelled Ecgberht or Ecgbryh. Has been called "the first king of all England" and "the first king of all the English."

Egbert of Wessex was noted for:

Helping to make Wessex such a powerful kingdom that England was eventually unified around it.

Because he was accepted as king in Essex, Kent, Surrey and Sussex and for a time also managed to conquer Mercia, he has been called "the first king of all England."

Occupations:

King
Military Leader

Places of Residence and Influence:

England
Europe

Important Dates:

Born: c. 770
Died: 839

About Egbert of Wessex:

Probably born as early as 770 but possibly as late as 780, Egbert was the son of Ealhmund (or Elmund), who, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, had been a king in Kent in 784. Virtually nothing is known of his life up to 789, when he was driven into exile by the West Saxon king Beorhtric with the help of his formidable ally, the Mercian king Offa. It is possible he may have spent some time at the court of Charlemagne.

A few years later, Egbert returned to Britain, where his subsequent activities for the next decade remain a mystery. In 802, he succeeded Beorhtric as king of Wessex and removed the kingdom from the Mercian confederation, establishing himself as an independent ruler.

Once again, information is scant, and scholars have no idea what actually took place over the next decade.

In or about 813, Egbert "spread devastation in Cornwall from east to west" (according to the Chronicle). Ten years later he embarked on a campaign against Mercia, and scored a victory but at a bloody price.

His hold on Mercia was tentative, but his military endeavors secured the conquest of Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Essex.

In 825, Egbert defeated the Mercian king Beornwulf at the Battle of Ellendune. This victory altered the balance of power in England, raising the power of Wessex at the expense of Mercia. Four years later he would conquer Mercia, but in 830 he lost it to Wiglaf. Still, Egbert's power base was unrivaled in England during his lifetime, and in 829 he was proclaimed "Bretwalda," ruler of all Britain.

More Egbert Resources:

Egbert of Wessex in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Egbert of Wessex in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,
page two
Egbert of Wessex on the Web
 

Egbert of Wessex in Print:

The link below will take you to an online bookstore, where you can find more information about the book to help you get it from your local library. This is provided as a convenience to you; neither Melissa Snell nor About is responsible for any purchases you make through this link.

The Warrior Kings of Saxon England
by Ralph Whitlock

Medieval & Renaissance Monarchs of England
Dark-Age Britain
Early Europe



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