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Egbert (or Ecgberht)

King of Wessex
In office
Preceded by Offa
Succeeded by Ethelwulf

Born 775
Died February 839[1]

Egbert or Ecgberht (775 - 839), (named as "Ecgbryht" in some editions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) king of Wessex 802-839, is considered to be the greatest of the West Saxon kings before Alfred the Great.

He came to the West Saxon throne in 802 after some years at the court of Charlemagne. Not a lot is known of his early reign, but by 827 he had expanded his own kingdom with victory over Celtic Cornwall in the west, conquest and union with Jutish Kent to the east and, in 825, a decisive defeat of the recently dominant Mercians to the north. Two years later he was in control of all Anglo-Saxon lands south of the River Humber and the Chronicle was describing him as bretwalda(overlord). In 829 he marched into Northumbria and that kingdom submitted.

For a brief period (830-831) he controlled all of non-Celtic Britain. It cannot be called a united country however. Soon the Mercians would regain autonomy, and the land, at least north of the Thames, reverted to competing kingdoms. Despite this, Egbert had made Wessex the dominant force in the land, where it would remain well into the next century. It is from Egbert and his line of West Saxon kings that the present monarch, Elizabeth II is descended.

In 835, the Chronicle reported that "Heathen men ravaged Sheppey". (North-east Kent) The next year there was "great slaughter" in Carhampton, West Somerset when Egbert lost to a Danish seaborne force. He defeated a Danish-Cornish alliance in 838 but these conflicts marked the beginning in earnest of the great waves of Danish (Viking) attempts at invasion, begun as sporadic raids in 793, that would continue almost unceasingly until the Norman Conquest.


“Oxford Companion to British History” p.338
“Anglo-Saxon Chronicle” trans. Anne Savage 1982 pp.82/83