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  Egbert Family History

Brief Summary of the Life of King Egbert

 Earlier in his life Egbert had been exiled for three years by Offa and Beorhtric, and had spent that time in the court of Charlemagne. Egbert was the son of Ealmund, and succeeded to the throne in 802 on the death of Beorhtric. Egbert claimed direct descent from the kings of the migration period.  In 815 Egbert conquered the territories of the west Welsh, which was the area  of Cornwall. The next important event in his reign was the defeat of Beornwulf of Mercia at Ellandun in 1825. King Egbert sent his son Aethelwulf against Kent, and pushed Baldred, king of Kent, across the Thames. Kent, Surry, Sussex and Essex soon afterward acknowledged Egbert as overlord. In 829 the king finally conquered Mercia, and Northumbria, which accepted him as overlord.  King Egbert then became the first king of the whole of England. He also increased his power by reversing the Mercian policy of resisting the authority of the archbishops, and by making an agreement of perpetual alliance with the church of Canterbury. In 830 he led a successful expedition against the Welsh. In 836 he was defeated by the Danes, but in 838 he entirely routed them and their allies at Hingston Down (Hengestdune) in Cornwall. Egbert died in 839, after a reign of 37 years and was succeeded by his son, Aethelwulf.

With Ceolwulf (821-823) the direct line of the Mercian dynasty ended, and after a brief interval the overlordship of the southern English was won by Egbert king of Wessex, who alone among the English rulers of his day could claim direct descent from the kings of the migration times. It was to this fact that he owed his opportunity. At his accession Wessex was an unimportant kingdom, and Egbert himself remained to the last an insular figure. But his reign marks an important stage in the unification of England. As the heir of the last of the archaic English dynasties he obtained ready recognition as overlord in the smaller kingdoms of the south, Kent, Sussex, and Essex. In a battle fought at a place named Ellandum in north Wiltshire in 825 he overthrew Beornwulf, king of the Mercians, and the East Angles deliberately chose him as their protector against Mercian aggression. Four years later, he received the submission of the Mercians themselves, and immediately imposed his overlordship on the Northumbrians. By the close of his reign he had obtained a postion virtually identical with that which Offa had held.

This fact was destined to influence the whole course of early English history. Already in Egbert's reign isolated companies of Vikings were visiting the English coasts, and within thirty years of his death in 839 an organized army was ravaging the whole land. The real importance of Egbert's career lies in the fact that he was able to make the kings of Wessex supreme over all other English peoples before the whole fabric of English society was attacked by the new invaders from the east. It was to the king of Wessex that the men of Mercia, East Anglia, and even Northumbria turned when their own royal lines had been overthrown. And it so happened that the West Saxon royal house produced in Alfred (871-899), grandson of Egbert, the greatest military leader whom the Scandinavian raiders ever met in Western Europe.

( excerpts from Encyclopedia Britannica, vols. 7 & 8)

Egbert: called the first king of all England. He was born about 775 and fled from his cousin Brethrick, taking refuge in the court of Charlemagne, where he stayed for about twelve years, serving as one of his captains. On the death of Brethrick, who was poisoned by his wife, Egbert returned to England. In 802 at Winchester he was crowned king of the West Saxons. He subdured West Wales, or Cornwall, defeated the king of Mercia at Ellandune, annexed Kent and in 829 became overlrod of all the English kings an gave the name England to the whole realm. There are still in existence some coins struck by Egbert, though these are now extemely rare. In 835 Egbert defeated a formidable army of Danes at Hingston Down in Cornwall, when they attempted to invade England. He married Lady Redburga and dying in 839, was buried at Winchester. He was succeeded by his son Ethelwulf, "Noble Wolf."

Aethelwulf: During his reign the Danes miserably spoiled England, daring to winter there for the first time. In 851 Ethelwulf routed them at Oakley in Surry. By the advise of St. Swithin, Bishop of Winchester, he granted to the church the tithe of all his dominions. His first wife, the mother of Alfred, was Lady Osburga, daughter of Oslac, the royal cup-bearer. On a pilgrimage to Rome in 855, Ethelwulf marred his second wife, Judith, daughter of Charles the Bald. When he returned home it is said that he made his son Ethelbald king of Wessex, and retained Kent as his own rule. He died January 13, 857, and was buried at Stamridge, his body later being removed to Winchester. Ethelwulf was succeeded by each of his four sons in turn, the fourth and youngest of whom was Alfred the Great.

Alfred the Great: the ablest king who ever sat upon the English throne. No name in english history is so justly popular as his. That he taught his people to defend themselves and defeat their enemies, is the least of his many claims to our grateful admiration; he did more than this: he launched his people upon a great advance in civilization, and showed a horde of untaught country men that there were other and worthier pursuits than war or the pleasures of the table. He was indeed one of the highly gifted men that would seem to be especially raised up by Providence to protect and advance his people. In 871 he succeeded as king.

(excerpts from Magna Charta, by John S. Wurts)

 King Egbert, the Man and His Times

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