Anglo-Saxon England was early medieval England, existing from the 5th to the 11th centuries from the end of Roman Britain until the Norman conquest in 1066. It consisted of various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until 927 when it was united as the Kingdom of England by King Æthelstan (r. 927–939). It became part of the short-lived North Sea Empire of Cnut the Great, a personal union between England, Denmark and Norway in the 11th century.
The Anglo-Saxons were the members of Germanic-speaking groups who migrated to the southern half of the island of Great Britain from nearby northwestern Europe and their cultural descendants. Anglo-Saxon history thus begins during the period of Sub-Roman Britain following the end of Roman control, and traces the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the 5th and 6th centuries (conventionally identified as seven main kingdoms: Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex, and Wessex), their Christianisation during the 7th century, the threat of Viking invasions and Danish settlers, the gradual unification of England under Wessex hegemony during the 9th and 10th centuries, and ending with the Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066.
Anglo-Saxon identity survived beyond the Norman conquest, came to be known as Englishry under Norman rule, and through social and cultural integration with Celts, Danes and Anglo-Normans became the modern English people.
Bede completed his book Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People) in around 731. Thus the term for English people (Latin: gens Anglorum; Anglo-Saxon: Anglecynn) was in use by then to distinguish Germanic groups in Britain from those on the continent (Old Saxony in Northern Germany).[a] The term 'Anglo-Saxon' came in practice in the 8th century (probably by Paul the Deacon) to distinguish English Saxons from continental Saxons (Ealdseaxe, 'old' Saxons).
The historian James Campbell suggested that it was not until the late Anglo-Saxon period that England could be described as a nation state. It is certain that the concept of "Englishness" only developed very slowly.
As the Roman occupation of Britain was coming to an end, Constantine III withdrew the remains of the army in reaction to the Germanic invasion of Gaul with the Crossing of the Rhine in December 406. The Romano-British leaders were faced with an increasing security problem from seaborne raids, particularly by Picts on the east coast of England. The expedient adopted by the Romano-British leaders was to enlist the help of Anglo-Saxon mercenaries (known as foederati), to whom they ceded territory. In about 442 the Anglo-Saxons mutinied, apparently because they had not been paid. The Romano-British responded by appealing to the Roman commander of the Western empire, Aëtius, for help (a document known as the Groans of the Britons), even though Honorius, the Western Roman Emperor, had written to the British civitas in or about 410 telling them to look to their own defence. There then followed several years of fighting between the British and the Anglo-Saxons. The fighting continued until around 500, when, at the Battle of Mount Badon, the Britons inflicted a severe defeat on the Anglo-Saxons.
There are records of Germanic infiltration into Britain that date before the collapse of the Roman Empire. It is believed that the earliest Germanic visitors were eight cohorts of Batavians attached to the 14th Legion in the original invasion force under Aulus Plautius in AD 43. There is a recent hypothesis that some of the native tribes, identified as Britons by the Romans, may have been Germanic-language speakers, but most scholars disagree with this due to an insufficient record of local languages in Roman-period artefacts.
It was quite common for Rome to swell its legions with foederati recruited from the German homelands. This practice also extended to the army serving in Britain, and graves of these mercenaries, along with their families, can be identified in the Roman cemeteries of the period. The migration continued with the departure of the Roman army, when Anglo-Saxons were recruited to defend Britain; and also during the period of the Anglo-Saxon first rebellion of 442.
If the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is to be believed, the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms which eventually merged to become England were founded when small fleets of three or five ships of invaders arrived at various points around the coast of England to fight the Sub-Roman British, and conquered their lands. The language of the migrants, Old English, came over the next few centuries to predominate throughout what is now England, at the expense of British Celtic and British Latin.
The arrival of the Anglo-Saxons into Britain can be seen in the context of a general movement of Germanic peoples around Europe between the years 300 and 700, known as the Migration period (also called the Barbarian Invasions or Völkerwanderung). In the same period there were migrations of Britons to the Armorican peninsula (Brittany and Normandy in modern-day France): initially around 383 during Roman rule, but also c. 460 and in the 540s and 550s; the 460s migration is thought to be a reaction to the fighting during the Anglo-Saxon mutiny between about 450 to 500, as was the migration to Britonia (modern day Galicia, in northwest Spain) at about the same time. The historian Peter Hunter-Blair expounded what is now regarded as the traditional view of the Anglo-Saxon arrival in Britain. He suggested a mass immigration, fighting and driving the Sub-Roman Britons off their land and into the western extremities of the islands, and into the Breton and Iberian peninsulas. This view was probably influenced by sources such as Bede, where he talks about the Britons being slaughtered or going into "perpetual servitude". According to Härke the more modern view is of co-existence between the British and the Anglo-Saxons. He suggests that several modern archaeologists have now re-assessed the invasion model, and have developed a co-existence model largely based on the Laws of Ine. The laws include several clauses that provide six different wergild levels for the Britons, of which four are below that of freeman. Although it was possible for the Britons to be rich freemen in Anglo-Saxon society, generally it seems that they had a lower status than that of the Anglo-Saxons.
Discussions and analysis still continue on the size of the migration, and whether it was a small elite band of Anglo-Saxons who came in and took over the running of the country, or a mass migration of peoples who overwhelmed the Britons.
According to Gildas, initial vigorous British resistance was led by a man called Ambrosius Aurelianus, from which time victory fluctuated between the two peoples. Gildas records a "final" victory of the Britons at the Battle of Mount Badon in c. 500, and this might mark a point at which Anglo-Saxon migration was temporarily stemmed. Gildas said that this battle was "forty-four years and one month" after the arrival of the Saxons, and was also the year of his birth. He said that a time of great prosperity followed. But, despite the lull, the Anglo-Saxons took control of Sussex, Kent, East Anglia and part of Yorkshire; while the West Saxons founded a kingdom in Hampshire under the leadership of Cerdic, around 520. However, it was to be 50 years before the Anglo-Saxons began further major advances. In the intervening years the Britons exhausted themselves with civil war, internal disputes, and general unrest, which was the inspiration behind Gildas's book De Excidio Britanniae (The Ruin of Britain).
The next major campaign against the Britons was in 577, led by Cealin, king of Wessex, whose campaigns succeeded in taking Cirencester, Gloucester and Bath (known as the Battle of Dyrham). This expansion of Wessex ended abruptly when the Anglo-Saxons started fighting among themselves and resulted in Cealin retreating to his original territory. He was then replaced by Ceol (who was possibly his nephew). Cealin was killed the following year, but the annals do not specify by whom. Cirencester subsequently became an Anglo-Saxon kingdom under the overlordship of the Mercians, rather than Wessex.
By 600, a new order was developing, of kingdoms and sub-Kingdoms. The medieval historian Henry of Huntingdon conceived the idea of the Heptarchy, which consisted of the seven principal Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (Heptarchy literal translation from the Greek: hept – seven; archy – rule).
At the end of the 6th century the most powerful ruler in England was Æthelberht of Kent, whose lands extended north to the River Humber. In the early years of the 7th century, Kent and East Anglia were the leading English kingdoms. After the death of Æthelberht in 616, Rædwald of East Anglia became the most powerful leader south of the Humber.
Following the death of Æthelfrith of Northumbria, Rædwald provided military assistance to the Deiran Edwin in his struggle to take over the two dynasties of Deira and Bernicia in the unified kingdom of Northumbria. Upon the death of Rædwald, Edwin was able to pursue a grand plan to expand Northumbrian power.
The growing strength of Edwin of Northumbria forced the Anglo-Saxon Mercians under Penda into an alliance with the Welsh King Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd, and together they invaded Edwin's lands and defeated and killed him at the Battle of Hatfield Chase in 633. Their success was short-lived, as Oswald (one of the sons of the late King of Northumbria, Æthelfrith) defeated and killed Cadwallon at Heavenfield near Hexham. In less than a decade Penda again waged war against Northumbria, and killed Oswald in the Battle of Maserfield in 642.
His brother Oswiu was chased to the northern extremes of his kingdom. However, Oswiu killed Penda shortly after, and Mercia spent the rest of the 7th and all of the 8th century fighting the kingdom of Powys. The war reached its climax during the reign of Offa of Mercia, who is remembered for the construction of a 150-mile-long dyke which formed the Wales/England border. It is not clear whether this was a boundary line or a defensive position. The ascendency of the Mercians came to an end in 825, when they were soundly beaten under Beornwulf at the Battle of Ellendun by Egbert of Wessex.
Christianity had been introduced into the British Isles during the Roman occupation. The early Christian Berber author, Tertullian, writing in the 3rd century, said that "Christianity could even be found in Britain." The Roman Emperor Constantine (306–337), granted official tolerance to Christianity with the Edict of Milan in 313. Then, in the reign of Emperor Theodosius "the Great" (378–395), Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire.
It is not entirely clear how many Britons would have been Christian when the pagan Anglo-Saxons arrived. There had been attempts to evangelise the Irish by Pope Celestine I in 431. However, it was Saint Patrick who is credited with converting the Irish en-masse. A Christian Ireland then set about evangelising the rest of the British Isles, and Columba was sent to found a religious community in Iona, off the west coast of Scotland. Then Aidan was sent from Iona to set up his see in Northumbria, at Lindisfarne, between 635–651. Hence Northumbria was converted by the Celtic (Irish) church.
Bede is very uncomplimentary about the indigenous British clergy: in his Historia ecclesiastica he complains of their "unspeakable crimes", and that they did not preach the faith to the Angles or Saxons. Pope Gregory I sent Augustine in 597 to convert the Anglo-Saxons, but Bede says the British clergy refused to help Augustine in his mission. Despite Bede's complaints, it is now believed that the Britons played an important role in the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons. On arrival in the south east of England in 597, Augustine was given land by King Æthelberht of Kent to build a church; so in 597 Augustine built the church and founded the See at Canterbury. He baptised Æthelberht in 601, then continued with his mission to convert the English. Most of the north and east of England had already been evangelised by the Irish Church. However, Sussex and the Isle of Wight remained mainly pagan until the arrival of Saint Wilfrid, the exiled Archbishop of York, who converted Sussex around 681 and the Isle of Wight in 683.
It remains unclear what "conversion" actually meant. The ecclesiastical writers tended to declare a territory as "converted" merely because the local king had agreed to be baptised, regardless of whether, in reality, he actually adopted Christian practices; and regardless, too, of whether the general population of his kingdom did. When churches were built, they tended to include pagan as well as Christian symbols, evidencing an attempt to reach out to the pagan Anglo-Saxons, rather than demonstrating that they were already converted.
Even after Christianity had been set up in all of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, there was friction between the followers of the Roman rites and the Irish rites, particularly over the date on which Easter fell and the way monks cut their hair. In 664 a conference was held at Whitby Abbey (known as the Whitby Synod) to decide the matter; Saint Wilfrid was an advocate for the Roman rites and Bishop Colmán for the Irish rites. Wilfrid's argument won the day and Colmán and his party returned to Ireland in their bitter disappointment. The Roman rites were adopted by the English church, although they were not universally accepted by the Irish Church.
Between the 8th and 11th centuries, raiders and colonists from Scandinavia, mainly Danish and Norwegian, plundered western Europe, including the British Isles. These raiders came to be known as the Vikings; the name is believed to derive from Scandinavia, where the Vikings originated. The first raids in the British Isles were in the late 8th century, mainly on churches and monasteries (which were seen as centres of wealth). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports that the holy island of Lindisfarne was sacked in 793. The raiding then virtually stopped for around 40 years; but in about 835, it started becoming more regular.
In the 860s, instead of raids, the Danes mounted a full-scale invasion. In 865, an enlarged army arrived that the Anglo-Saxons described as the Great Heathen Army. This was reinforced in 871 by the Great Summer Army. Within ten years nearly all of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms fell to the invaders: Northumbria in 867, East Anglia in 869, and nearly all of Mercia in 874–77. Kingdoms, centres of learning, archives, and churches all fell before the onslaught from the invading Danes. Only the Kingdom of Wessex was able to survive. In March 878, the Anglo-Saxon King of Wessex, Alfred, with a few men, built a fortress at Athelney, hidden deep in the marshes of Somerset. He used this as a base from which to harry the Vikings. In May 878 he put together an army formed from the populations of Somerset, Wiltshire, and Hampshire, which defeated the Viking army in the Battle of Edington. The Vikings retreated to their stronghold, and Alfred laid siege to it. Ultimately the Danes capitulated, and their leader Guthrum agreed to withdraw from Wessex and to be baptised. The formal ceremony was completed a few days later at Wedmore. There followed a peace treaty between Alfred and Guthrum, which had a variety of provisions, including defining the boundaries of the area to be ruled by the Danes (which became known as the Danelaw) and those of Wessex. The Kingdom of Wessex controlled part of the Midlands and the whole of the South (apart from Cornwall, which was still held by the Britons), while the Danes held East Anglia and the North.
After the victory at Edington and resultant peace treaty, Alfred set about transforming his Kingdom of Wessex into a society on a full-time war footing. He built a navy, reorganised the army, and set up a system of fortified towns known as burhs. He mainly used old Roman cities for his burhs, as he was able to rebuild and reinforce their existing fortifications. To maintain the burhs, and the standing army, he set up a taxation system known as the Burghal Hidage. These burhs (or burghs) operated as defensive structures. The Vikings were thereafter unable to cross large sections of Wessex: the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports that a Danish raiding party was defeated when it tried to attack the burh of Chichester.
Although the burhs were primarily designed as defensive structures, they were also commercial centres, attracting traders and markets to a safe haven, and they provided a safe place for the king's moneyers and mints. A new wave of Danish invasions commenced in the year 891, beginning a war that lasted over three years. Alfred's new system of defence worked, however, and ultimately it wore the Danes down: they gave up and dispersed in the summer of 896.
Alfred is remembered as a literate king. He or his court commissioned the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was written in Old English (rather than in Latin, which was the language of the European annals). Alfred's own literary output was mainly of translations, but he also wrote introductions and amended manuscripts.
When Æthelred died in 911, his widow administered the Mercian province with the title "Lady of the Mercians". As commander of the Mercian army she worked with her brother, Edward the Elder, to win back the Mercian lands that were under Danish control. Edward and his successors expanded Alfred's network of fortified burhs, a key element of their strategy, enabling them to go on the offensive. Edward recaptured Essex in 913. Edward's son, Æthelstan, annexed Northumbria and forced the kings of Wales to submit; at the Battle of Brunanburh in 937, he defeated an alliance of the Scots, Danes, and Vikings to become King of all England.
Along with the Britons and the settled Danes, some of the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms disliked being ruled by Wessex. Consequently, the death of a Wessex king would be followed by rebellion, particularly in Northumbria. In 973, Alfred's great-grandson, Edgar, was crowned King of England and Emperor of Britain at Bath. On his coinage he had inscribed EADGAR REX ANGLORUM ("Edgar, King of the English"). Edgar's coronation was a magnificent affair, and many of its rituals and words could still be seen in the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, though in English rather than Latin.
The presence of Danish and Norse settlers in the Danelaw had a lasting impact; the people there saw themselves as "armies" a hundred years after settlement: King Edgar issued a law code in 962 that was to include the people of Northumbria, so he addressed it to Earl Olac "and all the army that live in that earldom". There are over 3,000 words in modern English that have Scandinavian roots, Additionally, more than 1,500 place-names in England are Scandinavian in origin; for example, topographic names such as Howe, Norfolk and Howe, North Yorkshire are derived from the Old Norse word haugr meaning hill, knoll, or mound. In archeology and other academic contexts the term Anglo-Scandinavian is often used for Scandinavian culture in England.
Two years after his coronation, Edgar died while still only in his early thirties. Some magnates supported the succession of his younger son, Æthelred, but his elder half-brother, Edward was elected, aged about twelve. His reign was marked by disorder, and three years later, in 978, he was assassinated by some of his half-brother's retainers. Æthelred succeeded, and although he reigned for thirty-eight years, one of the longest reigns in English history, he earned the name "Æthelred the Unready", as he proved to be one of England's most disastrous kings. William of Malmesbury, writing in his Chronicle of the kings of England about one hundred years later, was scathing in his criticism of Æthelred, saying that he occupied the kingdom, rather than governed it.
Just as Æthelred was being crowned, the Danish King Gormsson was trying to force Christianity onto his domain. Many of his subjects did not like this idea, and shortly before 988, Swein, his son, drove his father from the kingdom. The rebels, dispossessed at home, probably formed the first waves of raids on the English coast. The rebels did so well in their raiding that the Danish kings decided to take over the campaign themselves.
In 991 the Vikings sacked Ipswich, and their fleet made landfall near Maldon in Essex. The Danes demanded that the English pay a ransom, but the English commander Byrhtnoth refused; he was killed in the ensuing Battle of Maldon, and the English were easily defeated. From then on the Vikings seem to have raided anywhere at will; they were contemptuous of the lack of resistance from the English. Even the Alfredian systems of burhs failed. Æthelred seems to have just hidden, out of range of the raiders.
By the 980s the kings of Wessex had a powerful grip on the coinage of the realm. It is reckoned there were about 300 moneyers, and 60 mints, around the country. Every five or six years the coinage in circulation would cease to be legal tender and new coins were issued. The system controlling the currency around the country was extremely sophisticated; this enabled the king to raise large sums of money if needed. The need indeed arose after the battle of Maldon, as Æthelred decided that, rather than fight, he would pay ransom to the Danes in a system known as Danegeld. As part of the ransom, a peace treaty was drawn up that was intended to stop the raids. However, rather than buying the Vikings off, payment of Danegeld only encouraged them to come back for more.
The Dukes of Normandy were quite happy to allow these Danish adventurers to use their ports for raids on the English coast. The result was that the courts of England and Normandy became increasingly hostile to each other. Eventually, Æthelred sought a treaty with the Normans, and ended up marrying Emma, daughter of Richard I, Duke of Normandy in the Spring of 1002, which was seen as an attempt to break the link between the raiders and Normandy.
In the summer of 1013, Sven Forkbeard, King of Denmark, brought the Danish fleet to Sandwich, Kent. From there he went north to the Danelaw, where the locals immediately agreed to support him. He then struck south, forcing Æthelred into exile in Normandy (1013–1014). However, on 3 February 1014, Sven died suddenly. Capitalising on his death, Æthelred returned to England and drove Sven's son, Cnut, back to Denmark, forcing him to abandon his allies in the process.
In 1015, Cnut launched a new campaign against England. Edmund fell out with his father, Æthelred, and struck out on his own. Some English leaders decided to support Cnut, so Æthelred ultimately retreated to London. Before engagement with the Danish army, Æthelred died and was replaced by Edmund. The Danish army encircled and besieged London, but Edmund was able to escape and raised an army of loyalists. Edmund's army routed the Danes, but the success was short-lived: at the Battle of Ashingdon, the Danes were victorious, and many of the English leaders were killed. Cnut and Edmund agreed to split the kingdom in two, with Edmund ruling Wessex and Cnut the rest.
In 1017, Edmund died in mysterious circumstances, probably murdered by Cnut or his supporters, and the English council (the witan) confirmed Cnut as king of all England. Cnut divided England into earldoms: most of these were allocated to nobles of Danish descent, but he made an Englishman earl of Wessex. The man he appointed was Godwin, who eventually became part of the extended royal family when he married the king's sister-in-law. In the summer of 1017, Cnut sent for Æthelred's widow, Emma, with the intention of marrying her. It seems that Emma agreed to marry the king on condition that he would limit the English succession to the children born of their union. Cnut already had a wife, known as Ælfgifu of Northampton, who bore him two sons, Svein and Harold Harefoot. The church, however, seems to have regarded Ælfgifu as Cnut's concubine rather than his wife. In addition to the two sons he had with Ælfgifu, he had a further son with Emma, who was named Harthacnut.
When Cnut's brother, Harald II, King of Denmark, died in 1018, Cnut went to Denmark to secure that realm. Two years later, Cnut brought Norway under his control, and he gave Ælfgifu and their son Svein the job of governing it.
One result of Cnut's marriage to Emma was to precipitate a succession crisis after his death in 1035, as the throne was disputed between Ælfgifu's son, Harald Harefoot, and Emma's son, Harthacnut. Emma supported her son by Cnut, Harthacnut, rather than a son by Æthelred. Her son by Æthelred, Edward, made an unsuccessful raid on Southampton, and his brother Alfred was murdered on an expedition to England in 1036. Emma fled to Bruges when Harald Harefoot became king of England, but when he died in 1040 Harthacnut was able to take over as king. Harthacnut quickly developed a reputation for imposing high taxes on England. He became so unpopular that Edward was invited to return from exile in Normandy to be recognised as Harthacnut's heir, and when Harthacnut died suddenly in 1042 (probably murdered), Edward (known to posterity as Edward the Confessor) became king.
Edward was supported by Earl Godwin of Wessex and married the earl's daughter. This arrangement was seen as expedient, however, as Godwin had been implicated in the murder of Alfred, the king's brother. In 1051 one of Edward's in-laws, Eustace, arrived to take up residence in Dover; the men of Dover objected and killed some of Eustace's men. When Godwin refused to punish them, the king, who had been unhappy with the Godwins for some time, summoned them to trial. Stigand, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was chosen to deliver the news to Godwin and his family. The Godwins fled rather than face trial. Norman accounts suggest that at this time Edward offered the succession to his cousin, William (duke) of Normandy (also known as William the Conqueror, William the Bastard, or William I), though this is unlikely given that accession to the Anglo-Saxon kingship was by election, not heredity – a fact which Edward would surely have known, having been elected himself by the Witenagemot.
The Godwins, having previously fled, threatened to invade England. Edward is said to have wanted to fight, but at a Great Council meeting in Westminster, Earl Godwin laid down all his weapons and asked the king to allow him to purge himself of all crimes. The king and Godwin were reconciled, and the Godwins thus became the most powerful family in England after the king. On Godwin's death in 1053, his son Harold succeeded to the earldom of Wessex; Harold's brothers Gyrth, Leofwine, and Tostig were given East Anglia, Mercia, and Northumbria. The Northumbrians disliked Tostig for his harsh behaviour, and he was expelled to an exile in Flanders, in the process falling out with his brother Harold, who supported the king's line in backing the Northumbrians.
On 26 December 1065, Edward was taken ill. He took to his bed and fell into a coma; at one point he woke and turned to Harold Godwinson and asked him to protect the Queen and the kingdom. On 5 January 1066 Edward the Confessor died, and Harold was declared king. The following day, 6 January 1066, Edward was buried and Harold crowned.
Although Harold Godwinson had "grabbed" the crown of England, others laid claim to it, primarily William, Duke of Normandy, who was cousin to Edward the Confessor through his aunt, Emma of Normandy. It is believed that Edward had promised the crown to William. Harold Godwinson had agreed to support William's claim after being imprisoned in Normandy, by Guy of Ponthieu. William had demanded and received Harold's release, then during his stay under William's protection it is claimed, by the Normans, that Harold swore "a solemn oath" of loyalty to William.
Harald Hardrada ("The Ruthless") of Norway also had a claim on England, through Cnut and his successors. He had a further claim based on a pact between Harthacnut, King of Denmark (Cnut's son) and Magnus, King of Norway.
Tostig, Harold's estranged brother, was the first to move; according to the medieval historian Orderic Vitalis, he travelled to Normandy to enlist the help of William, Duke of Normandy, later to be known as William the Conqueror. William was not ready to get involved so Tostig sailed from the Cotentin Peninsula, but because of storms ended up in Norway, where he successfully enlisted the help of Harald Hardrada. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle has a different version of the story, having Tostig land in the Isle of Wight in May 1066, then ravaging the English coast, before arriving at Sandwich, Kent. At Sandwich Tostig is said to have enlisted and press ganged sailors before sailing north where, after battling some of the northern earls and also visiting Scotland, he eventually joined Hardrada (possibly in Scotland or at the mouth of the river Tyne).
According to the Anglo Saxon Chronicle (Manuscripts D and E) Tostig became Hadrada's vassal, and then with 300 or so longships sailed up the Humber Estuary bottling the English fleet in the river Swale and then landed at Riccall on the Ouse on 24 September. They marched towards York, where they were confronted, at Fulford Gate, by the English forces that were under the command of the northern earls, Edwin and Morcar; the battle of Fulford Gate followed, on 20 September, which was one of the bloodiest battles of mediaeval times. The English forces were routed, though Edwin and Morcar escaped. The victors entered the city of York, exchanged hostages and were provisioned. Hearing the news whilst in London, Harold Godwinson force-marched a second English army to Tadcaster by the night of the 24th, and after catching Harald Hardrada by surprise, on the morning of the 25 September, Harold achieved a total victory over the Scandinavian horde after a two-day-long engagement at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Harold gave quarter to the survivors allowing them to leave in 20 ships.
Harold would have been celebrating his victory at Stamford Bridge on the night of 26/27 September 1066, while William of Normandy's invasion fleet set sail for England on the morning of 27 September 1066. Harold marched his army back down to the south coast, where he met William's army, at a place now called Battle just outside Hastings. Harold was killed when he fought and lost the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066.
The Battle of Hastings virtually destroyed the Godwin dynasty. Harold and his brothers Gyrth and Leofwine were dead on the battlefield, as was their uncle Ælfwig, Abbot of Newminster. Tostig had been killed at Stamford Bridge. Wulfnoth was a hostage of William the Conqueror. The Godwin women who remained were either dead or childless.
William marched on London. The city leaders surrendered the kingdom to him, and he was crowned at Westminster Abbey, Edward the Confessor's new church, on Christmas Day 1066. It took William a further ten years to consolidate his kingdom, during which any opposition was suppressed ruthlessly; in a particularly brutal process known as the Harrying of the North, William issued orders to lay waste the north and burn all the cattle, crops and farming equipment and to poison the earth. According to Orderic Vitalis, the Anglo-Norman chronicler, over one hundred thousand people died of starvation. Figures based on the returns for the Domesday Book estimate that the overall population of England in 1086 was about 2.25 million, so the figure of one hundred thousand deaths, due to starvation, would have been a huge proportion (about one in 20) of the population.
By the time of William's death in 1087, those who had been England's Anglo-Saxon rulers were dead, exiled, or had joined the ranks of the peasantry. It was estimated that only about 8 percent of the land was under Anglo-Saxon control. Nearly all the Anglo-Saxon cathedrals and abbeys of any note had been demolished and replaced with Norman-style architecture by 1200.
Anglo-Saxon architecture was a period in the history of architecture in England, and parts of Wales, from the mid-5th century until the Norman Conquest of 1066. Anglo-Saxon secular buildings in Britain were generally simple, constructed mainly using timber with thatch for roofing. No universally accepted example survives above ground.
There are, however, many remains of Anglo-Saxon church architecture. At least fifty churches are of Anglo-Saxon origin with major Anglo-Saxon architectural features, with many more claiming to be, although in some cases the Anglo-Saxon part is small and much-altered. It is often impossible to reliably distinguish between pre- and post-Conquest 11th century work in buildings where most parts are later additions or alterations. The round-tower church and tower-nave church are distinctive Anglo-Saxon types. All surviving churches, except one timber church, are built of stone or brick, and in some cases show evidence of re-used Roman work.
The architectural character of Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical buildings range from Celtic influenced architecture in the early period; Early Christian basilica influenced architecture; and in the later Anglo-Saxon period, an architecture characterised by pilaster-strips, blank arcading, baluster shafts and triangular headed openings. In the last decades of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom a more general Romanesque style was introduced from the Continent, as in the now built-over additions to Westminster Abbey made from 1050 onwards, already influenced by Norman style. In recent decades architectural historians have become less confident that all undocumented minor "Romanesque" features post-date the Norman Conquest. Although once common, it has been incorrect for several decades to use the plain term "Saxon" for anything Anglo-Saxon that is later than the initial period of settlement in Britain.
Early Anglo-Saxon buildings in Britain were generally simple, constructed mainly using timber with thatch for roofing. Generally preferring not to settle within the old Roman cities, the Anglo-Saxons built small towns near their centres of agriculture, at fords in rivers or sited to serve as ports. In each town, a main hall was in the centre, provided with a central hearth.Anglo-Saxon charters
Anglo-Saxon charters are documents from the early medieval period in England, which typically made a grant of land, or recorded a privilege. The earliest surviving charters were drawn up in the 670s: the oldest surviving charters granted land to the Church, but from the eighth century, surviving charters were increasingly used to grant land to lay people.
The term charter covers a range of written legal documentation including diplomas, writs and wills. A diploma was a royal charter that granted rights over land or other privileges by the king, whereas a writ was an instruction (or prohibition) by the king which may have contained evidence of rights or privileges. Diplomas were usually written on parchment in Latin, but often contained sections in the vernacular, describing the bounds of estates, which often correspond closely to modern parish boundaries. The writ was authenticated by a seal and gradually replaced the diploma as evidence of land tenure during the late Anglo-Saxon and early Norman periods. Land held by virtue of a charter was known as bookland.
Charters have provided historians with fundamental source material for understanding Anglo-Saxon England, complementing the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and other literary sources. They are catalogued in Peter Sawyer's Annotated List and are usually referred to by their Sawyer number (e.g. S 407).Anglo-Saxon dress
Anglo-Saxon dress refers to the clothing and accessories worn by the Anglo-Saxons from the middle of the 5th century through the eleventh century. Archaeological finds in Anglo-Saxon cemeteries have provided the best source of information on Anglo-Saxon costume. It is possible to reconstruct Anglo-Saxon dress using archaeological evidence combined with Anglo-Saxon and European art, writing and literature of the time period. Archaeological finds have both supported and contradicted the characteristic Anglo-Saxon costume as illustrated and described by these contemporary sources.
The collective evidence of cemetery grave-goods indicates that men's and women's costume was not alike. Women's dress changed frequently from century to century, while men's dress changed very little. Women typically wore jewellery, men wore little or no jewellery. The beginning of the seventh century marked the conversion of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms to Christianity. Religious art, symbols and writings from the conversion years greatly influenced costume fashion from this period onward, especially's women's dress and jewellery. Historical research has shown that Anglo-Saxon children wore smaller versions of adult garments.
Clothing worn by the military, the elite class and religious orders was initially similar to the daily garments of the common man and woman. Over time, and with the influence of European culture, the spread of Christianity and the increasing prosperity of Anglo-Saxon England, garments and accessories specific to each group became the standard by which they were identified.
During the Anglo-Saxon era, textiles were created from natural materials: wool from sheep, linen from flax and imported silk. In the fifth and sixth centuries, women were the manufacturers of Anglo-Saxon clothing, weaving textiles on looms in their individual dwellings. In the seventh thru the ninth centuries, Anglo-Saxon communities changed slowly from primarily small settlements to a mix of small and large settlements, and large estates. Specialized workshops on large landholdings were responsible for the manufacture of textiles and clothing for the estate community. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, the growth of urban centers throughout England expanded the variety and quantity of textiles, clothing, and accessories that were made available to the public and also changed the way in which clothing and accessories were manufactured.Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain
The Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain describes the process which changed the language and culture of most of what became England from Romano-British to Germanic. The Germanic-speakers in Britain, themselves of diverse origins, eventually developed a common cultural identity as Anglo-Saxons. This process occurred from the mid-fifth to early seventh centuries, following the end of Roman rule in Britain around the year 410. The settlement was followed by the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the south and east of Britain, later followed by the rest of modern England.
The available evidence includes the scant contemporary and near-contemporary written record, and archaeological and genetic information. The few literary sources tell of hostility between incomers and natives. They describe violence, destruction, massacre and the flight of the Romano-British population. Moreover, there is little clear evidence for the influence of British Celtic or British Latin on Old English. These factors have suggested a very large-scale invasion by various Germanic peoples. In this view, held by the majority of historians until the mid to late twentieth century, much of what is now England was cleared of its prior inhabitants. If this traditional viewpoint were to be correct, the genes of the later English people would have been overwhelmingly inherited from Germanic migrants.
However, another view, probably the most widely held today, is that the migrants were fewer, possibly centred on a warrior elite. This hypothesis suggests that the incomers, having achieved a position of political and social dominance, initiated a process of acculturation by the natives to their language and material culture, and intermarried with them to a significant degree. Archaeologists have found that settlement patterns and land-use show no clear break with the Romano-British past, though there are marked changes in material culture. This view predicts that the ancestry of the people of Anglo-Saxon and modern England would be largely derived from the native Romano-British. The uncertain results of genetic studies have tended to support both a predominant amount of native British Celtic ancestry, as well as a significant continental contribution resulting from Germanic immigration.
Even so, if these incomers established themselves as a social elite, this could have allowed them enhanced reproductive success (the so-called 'Apartheid Theory'). In this case, the prevalent genes of later Anglo-Saxon England could have been largely derived from moderate numbers of Germanic migrants. This theory, originating in a population genetics study, has proven controversial, and has been critically received by a number of scholars.Anglo-Saxons
The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th century. They comprise people from Germanic tribes who migrated to the island from continental Europe, their descendants, and indigenous British groups who adopted many aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture and language; the cultural foundations laid by the Anglo-Saxons are the foundation of the modern English legal system and of many aspects of English society; the modern English language owes over half its words – including the most common words of everyday speech – to the language of the Anglo-Saxons. Historically, the Anglo-Saxon period denotes the period in Britain between about 450 and 1066, after their initial settlement and up until the Norman conquest.
The early Anglo-Saxon period includes the creation of an English nation, with many of the aspects that survive today, including regional government of shires and hundreds. During this period, Christianity was established and there was a flowering of literature and language. Charters and law were also established. The term Anglo-Saxon is popularly used for the language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons in England and eastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century. In scholarly use, it is more commonly called Old English.The history of the Anglo-Saxons is the history of a cultural identity. It developed from divergent groups in association with the people's adoption of Christianity, and was integral to the establishment of various kingdoms. Threatened by extended Danish invasions and military occupation of eastern England, this identity was re-established; it dominated until after the Norman Conquest. The visible Anglo-Saxon culture can be seen in the material culture of buildings, dress styles, illuminated texts and grave goods. Behind the symbolic nature of these cultural emblems, there are strong elements of tribal and lordship ties. The elite declared themselves as kings who developed burhs, and identified their roles and peoples in Biblical terms. Above all, as Helena Hamerow has observed, "local and extended kin groups remained...the essential unit of production throughout the Anglo-Saxon period." The effects persist in the 21st century as, according to a study published in March 2015, the genetic makeup of British populations today shows divisions of the tribal political units of the early Anglo-Saxon period.Use of the term Anglo-Saxon assumes that the words Angles, Saxons or Anglo-Saxon have the same meaning in all the sources. This term began to be used only in the 8th century to distinguish "Germanic" groups in Britain from those on the continent (Old Saxony in Northern Germany). Catherine Hills summarised the views of many modern scholars in her observation that attitudes towards Anglo-Saxons, and hence the interpretation of their culture and history, have been "more contingent on contemporary political and religious theology as on any kind of evidence."Battle of Corbridge
The Battle of Corbridge took place on the banks of the River Tyne near the village of Corbridge in Northumberland in the year 918.
The battle was referenced in the Annals of Ulster and the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba. The battle was fought between Norse-Gael leader Ragnall ua Ímair and his allies against the forces of Constantín mac Áeda, King of Scotland together with those of Ealdred I of Bamburgh who had previously been driven from his lands by Ragnall. The Historia de Sancto Cuthberto adds that English fought alongside Norsemen. The Annals of Ulster informs us that the Norse army divided itself into four columns, in one of which may have been Jarl Ottir Iarla, a long-time ally of Ragnall.The Scots destroyed the first three columns but were ambushed by the last. This unit had remained hidden behind a hill and was commanded by Ragnall. The Scots, however, managed to escape without disaster. It seems that it was an indecisive engagement, although it did allow Ragnall to further establish himself in Northumbria. In 919, Ragnall descended on York where he took the city and had himself proclaimed king. The Bernicians remained under him, although Ealdred I of Bamburgh and Domnall I, king of Strathclyde, paid homage to the king of England.In 1950, F. T. Wainwright argued that there were two battles of Corbridge in 914 and 918, and his view was widely accepted for over fifty years, but since around 2006 historians have taken the view that there was only one battle in 918.H. R. Loyn
Henry Royston Loyn (16 June 1922 – 9 October 2000), FBA, was a British historian specialising in the history of Anglo-Saxon England. His eminence in his field made him a natural candidate to run the Sylloge of the Coins of the British Isles, which he chaired from 1979 to 1993. He was Professor of Medieval History in the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire and afterwards Professor of Medieval History at Westfield College in the University of London.Hen Ogledd
Yr Hen Ogledd (Welsh pronunciation: [ər ˌheːn ˈɔɡlɛð]), in English the Old North, is the region of Northern England and the southern Scottish Lowlands inhabited by the Celtic Britons of sub-Roman Britain in the Early Middle Ages. Its denizens spoke a variety of the Brittonic language known as Cumbric. The Hen Ogledd was distinct from the parts of northern Britain inhabited by the Picts, Anglo-Saxons, and Scoti as well as from Wales, although the people of the Hen Ogledd were the same Brittonic stock as the Picts, Welsh and Cornish, and the region loomed large in Welsh literature and tradition for centuries after its kingdoms had disappeared.
The major kingdoms of the Hen Ogledd were Elmet in western Yorkshire; Gododdin in Lothian and the Scottish Borders; Rheged, centred in Galloway; and Kingdom of Strathclyde, situated around the Firth of Clyde. Smaller kingdoms or districts included Aeron, Calchfynydd, Eidyn, Lleuddiniawn, and Manaw Gododdin; the last three were evidently parts of Gododdin. The Angle kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia both had Brittonic-derived names, suggesting they may have been Brittonic kingdoms in origin. All the kingdoms of the Old North except Strathclyde were conquered by Anglo-Saxons and Picts by about 800; Strathclyde was incorporated into the rising Middle Irish-speaking Kingdom of Scotland in the 11th century.
The legacy of the Hen Ogledd remained strong in Wales. Welsh tradition included genealogies of the Gwŷr y Gogledd, or Men of the North, and several important Welsh dynasties traced their lineage to them. A number of important early Welsh texts were attributed to the Men of the North, such as Taliesin, Aneirin, Myrddin Wyllt, and the Cynfeirdd poets. Heroes of the north such as Urien, Owain mab Urien, and Coel Hen and his descendants feature in Welsh poetry and the Welsh Triads.Heptarchy
The Heptarchy is a collective name applied to the seven kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England (sometimes referred to as petty kingdoms) from the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain in the 5th century until their unification into the Kingdom of England in the early 10th century.
The term "Heptarchy" (from the Greek ἑπταρχία heptarchia, from ἑπτά hepta "seven", ἀρχή arche "reign, rule" and the suffix -ία -ia)
alludes to the tradition that there were seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, usually enumerated as:
East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Mercia, Northumbria, Sussex, and Wessex.
The historiographical tradition of the "seven kingdoms" is medieval, first recorded by Henry of Huntingdon in his Historia Anglorum (12th century);
the term Heptarchy dates to the 16th century.History of local government in England
The history of local government in England is one of gradual change and evolution since the Middle Ages. England has never possessed a formal written constitution, with the result that modern administration (and the judicial system) is based on precedent, and is derived from administrative powers granted (usually by the Crown) to older systems, such as that of the shires.
The concept of local government in England spans back into the history of Anglo-Saxon England (c. 700-1066), and certain aspects of its modern system are directly derived from this time; particularly the paradigm that towns and the countryside should be administrated separately. In this context, the feudal system introduced by the Normans, and perhaps lasting 300 years, can be seen as a 'blip', before earlier patterns of administration re-emerged.
The dramatic increase in population, and change in population distribution caused by the Industrial Revolution necessitated similarly dramatic reform in local administration in England, which was achieved gradually throughout the 19th century. Much of the 20th century was spent searching for an idealised system of local government. The most sweeping change in that period was the Local Government Act 1972, which resulted in a uniform two-tier system of counties and districts being introduced in 1974; however, further waves of reform has led to a more heterogeneous system in use today.Insular art
Insular art, also known as Hiberno-Saxon art, is the style of art produced in the post-Roman history of Ireland and Britain. The term derives from insula, the Latin term for "island"; in this period Britain and Ireland shared a largely common style different from that of the rest of Europe. Art historians usually group insular art as part of the Migration Period art movement as well as Early Medieval Western art, and it is the combination of these two traditions that gives the style its special character.Most Insular art originates from the Irish monastic movement of Celtic Christianity, or metalwork for the secular elite, and the period begins around 600 with the combining of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon styles. One major distinctive feature is interlace decoration, in particular the interlace decoration as found at Sutton Hoo, in East Anglia. This is now applied to decorating new types of objects mostly copied from the Mediterranean world, above all the codex or book.The finest period of the style was brought to an end by the disruption to monastic centres and aristocratic life of the Viking raids which began in the late 8th century. These are presumed to have interrupted work on the Book of Kells, and no later Gospel books are as heavily or finely illuminated as the masterpieces of the 8th century. In England the style merged into Anglo-Saxon art around 900, whilst in Ireland the style continued until the 12th century, when it merged into Romanesque art. Ireland, Scotland and the kingdom of Northumbria in northern England are the most important centres, but examples were found also in southern England, Wales and in Continental Europe, especially Gaul (modern France), in centres founded by the Hiberno-Scottish mission and Anglo-Saxon missions. The influence of insular art affected all subsequent European medieval art, especially in the decorative elements of Romanesque and Gothic manuscripts.Surviving examples of Insular art are mainly illuminated manuscripts, metalwork and carvings in stone, especially stone crosses. Surfaces are highly decorated with intricate patterning, with no attempt to give an impression of depth, volume or recession. The best examples include the Book of Kells, Lindisfarne Gospels, Book of Durrow, brooches such as the Tara Brooch and the Ruthwell Cross. Carpet pages are a characteristic feature of Insular manuscripts, although historiated initials (an Insular invention), canon tables and figurative miniatures, especially Evangelist portraits, are also common.John the Old Saxon
John the Old Saxon (active c. 885–904), also known as John of Saxony or Scotus, was a scholar and abbot of Athelney, probably born in Old Saxony. He was invited to England by King Alfred and contributed to Alfred's revival of English learning. In his life of Alfred, the Welsh monk Asser reports that John "was a man of most acute intelligence, immensely learned in all fields of literary endeavour, and extremely ingenious in many other forms of expression".Leigh, Greater Manchester
Leigh is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan, Greater Manchester, England, 7.7 miles (12 km) southeast of Wigan and 9.5 miles (15.3 km) west of Manchester, on low-lying land northwest of Chat Moss.
Historically part of Lancashire, Leigh was originally the centre of a large ecclesiastical parish covering six vills or townships. When the three townships of Pennington, Westleigh and Bedford merged in 1875 forming the Leigh Local Board District, Leigh became the official name for the town although it had been applied to the area of Pennington and Westleigh around the parish church for many centuries.
The town became an urban district in 1894 when part of Atherton was added. In 1899 Leigh became a municipal borough. The first town hall was built in King Street and replaced by the present building in 1907.
Originally an agricultural area noted for dairy farming, domestic spinning and weaving led to a considerable silk and, in the 20th century, cotton industry. Leigh also exploited the underlying coal measures particularly after the town was connected to the canals and railways. Leigh had an important engineering base. The legacy of Leigh's industrial past can be seen in the remaining red brick mills – some of which are listed buildings – although it is now a mainly residential town, with Edwardian and Victorian terraced housing packed around the town centre. Leigh's present-day economy is based largely on the retail sector.List of women warriors in folklore
This is a list of women who engaged in war, found throughout mythology and folklore, studied in fields such as literature, sociology, psychology, anthropology, film studies, cultural studies, and women's studies. A mythological figure does not always mean a fictional one, but rather, someone of whom stories have been told that have entered the cultural heritage of a people. Some women warriors are documented in the written record and as such form part of history (e.g. the Ancient Briton queen Boudica, who led the Iceni into battle against the Romans). However, to be considered a warrior, the woman in question must have belonged to some sort of military, be it recognized, like an organized army, or unrecognized, like revolutionaries.Sarah Foot
Sarah Rosamund Irvine Foot (born 23 February 1961) is an English early medieval historian, academic, and Anglican priest. She is the current Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Oxford.Staffordshire Hoard
The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork yet found. It consists of over 3,500 items, amounting to a total of 5.1 kg (11 lb) of gold, 1.4 kg (3 lb) of silver and some 3,500 pieces of garnet cloisonné jewellery.The hoard was most likely deposited in the 7th century, and contains artefacts probably manufactured during the 6th and 7th centuries. It was discovered in 2009 in a field near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, England. The location was in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia at the time of the hoard's deposition.
The hoard is of considerable importance in Anglo-Saxon archaeology. The artefacts are nearly all martial in character and contain no objects specific to female uses. The average quality of the workmanship is extremely high and especially remarkable in view of the large number of individual objects, such as swords and a helmet, from which many of the fragments in the hoard came.
The hoard was purchased jointly by the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery for £3.285 million under the Treasure Act 1996.The Saxon Stories
The Saxon Stories (also known as Saxon Tales/Saxon Chronicles in the US and The Warrior Chronicles and most recently as The Last Kingdom series) is a historical novel series written by Bernard Cornwell about the history of Anglo-Saxon England in the ninth and tenth centuries. The protagonist of the series is Uhtred of Bebbanburg, born to a Saxon lord in Northumbria, but captured and adopted by the Danes. The story takes place during the Danish invasions of Britain, when all but one of the English kingdoms are conquered. The name of the fictional protagonist comes from the historical Uhtred the Bold; Cornwell is descended from this long ago family.The story centres on the emergence of England as a nation on the island of Britain from the vision and actions of Alfred, later dubbed "the Great". King Alfred of Wessex reluctantly accepts that he cannot drive the invaders from the island, after his defeat at Wilton, and is forced to make peace with them. His heirs consolidate what Alfred begins.
The first six novels in the series were adapted for three seasons of the television series The Last Kingdom, starring Alexander Dreymon. Cornwell subsequently posted a note on his web site: "The Warrior Chronicles/Saxon Stories have been renamed The Last Kingdom series".
The third season of ten episodes was released by Netflix on 19 November 2018. On 26 December 2018, the series was renewed for a fourth season by Netflix.Tyldesley
Tyldesley ( or ) is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan in Greater Manchester, England, but historically in Lancashire. It is north of Chat Moss near the foothills of the West Pennine Moors, 7.7 miles (12.4 km) southeast of Wigan and 8.9 miles (14.3 km) northwest of Manchester. At the United Kingdom Census 2001, the Tyldesley built-up area, excluding Shakerley, had a population of 16,142.The remains of a Roman road passing through the township on its ancient course between Coccium (Wigan) and Mamucium (Manchester) were evident during the 19th century. Following the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain, Tyldesley was part of the manor of Warrington, until the Norman conquest of England, when the settlement constituted a township called Tyldesley-with-Shakerley in the ancient parish of Leigh.The factory system and textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution triggered population growth and urbanisation, and by the early 20th century it was said that the mill town was "eminently characteristic of an industrial district whose natural features have been almost entirely swept away to give place to factories, iron foundries, and collieries". After industrial activity declined in the late 20th century, land reclamation and post-war residential developments have altered the landscape and encouraged economic activity along Elliott Street.Æthelwulf, King of Wessex
Æthelwulf (; Old English for "Noble Wolf"; died 13 January 858) was King of Wessex from 839 to 858. In 825, his father, King Egbert, defeated King Beornwulf of Mercia, ending a long Mercian dominance over Anglo-Saxon England south of the Humber. Egbert sent Æthelwulf with an army to Kent, where he expelled the Mercian sub-king and was himself appointed sub-king. After 830, Egbert maintained good relations with Mercia, and this was continued by Æthelwulf when he became king in 839, the first son to succeed his father as West Saxon king since 641.
The Vikings were not a major threat to Wessex during Æthelwulf's reign. In 843, he was defeated in a battle against the Vikings at Carhampton in Somerset, but he achieved a major victory at the Battle of Aclea in 851. In 853 he joined a successful Mercian expedition to Wales to restore the traditional Mercian hegemony, and in the same year his daughter Æthelswith married King Burgred of Mercia. In 855 Æthelwulf went on pilgrimage to Rome. In preparation he gave a "decimation", donating a tenth of his personal property to his subjects; he appointed his eldest surviving son Æthelbald to act as King of Wessex in his absence, and his next son Æthelberht to rule Kent and the south-east. Æthelwulf spent a year in Rome, and on his way back he married Judith, the daughter of the West Frankish King Charles the Bald.
When Æthelwulf returned to England, Æthelbald refused to surrender the West Saxon throne, and Æthelwulf agreed to divide the kingdom, taking the east and leaving the west in Æthelbald's hands. On Æthelwulf's death in 858 he left Wessex to Æthelbald and Kent to Æthelberht, but Æthelbald's death only two years later led to the reunification of the kingdom.
In the 20th century Æthelwulf's reputation among historians was poor: he was seen as excessively pious and impractical, and his pilgrimage was viewed as a desertion of his duties. Historians in the 21st century see him very differently, as a king who consolidated and extended the power of his dynasty, commanded respect on the continent, and dealt more effectively than most of his contemporaries with Viking attacks. He is regarded as one of the most successful West Saxon kings, who laid the foundations for the success of his son Alfred the Great.
European Middle Ages by region
of current political units
History of the Germanic peoples
Early Middle Ages)