The Saxons (Latin: Saxones, German: Sachsen, Old English: Seaxe, Old Saxon: Sahson, Low German: Sassen, Dutch: Saksen) were a Germanic people whose name was given in the early Middle Ages to a large country (Old Saxony, Latin: Saxonia) near the North Sea coast of what is now Germany. Earlier, in the late Roman Empire, the name was used to refer to Germanic inhabitants of what is now England, and also as a word something like the later "Viking", as a term for raiders. In Merovingian times, continental Saxons were associated with the coast of what later became Normandy. Though sometimes described as also fighting inland, coming in conflict with the Franks and Thuringians, no clear homeland can be defined. There is possibly a single classical reference to a smaller homeland of an early Saxon tribe, but it is disputed. According to this proposal, the Saxons' earliest area of settlement is believed to have been Northern Albingia. This general area is close to the probable homeland of the Angles.
In contrast, the British "Saxons", today referred to in English as Anglo-Saxons, became a single nation bringing together Germanic peoples (Frisian, Jutish, Angle) with the Romanized populations, establishing long-lasting post-Roman kingdoms equivalent to those formed by the Franks on the continent. Their earliest weapons and clothing south of the Thames were based on late Roman military fashions, but later immigrants north of the Thames showed a stronger North German influence. The term "Anglo-Saxon" came into use by the 8th century (for example Paul the Deacon) to distinguish English Saxons from continental Saxons (referred to in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as Ealdseaxe, "old Saxons"), but the Saxons of Britain and those of Old Saxony (Northern Germany) continued to be referred to as 'Saxons' in an indiscriminate manner, especially in the languages of Britain and Ireland.
However, while the English Saxons were no longer raiders, the political history of the continental Saxons is unclear until the time of the conflict between their semi-legendary hero Widukind and the Frankish emperor Charlemagne.
While the continental Saxons are no longer a distinctive ethnic group or country, their name lives on in the names of several regions and states of Germany, including Lower Saxony (which includes the original Saxon homeland known as Old Saxony), as well as the two states that make up Upper Saxony, known today as Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony. The latter have their names from dynastic history, and not their ethnic history.
Spread of Angles (red) and Saxons (yellow) around 500 AD
|Regions with significant populations|
|Old Saxony, Jutland, Frisia, Heptarchy (England)|
|Old Saxon, Old English|
|Originally Germanic and Anglo-Saxon paganism, later Christianity|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Anglo-Saxons, Angles, Frisii, Jutes|
The Saxons may have derived their name from seax, a kind of knife for which they were known. The seax has a lasting symbolic impact in the English counties of Essex and Middlesex, both of which feature three seaxes in their ceremonial emblem. Their names, along with those of Sussex and Wessex, contain a remnant of the word "Saxon".
Their names discover what their natures are, More hard than stones, and yet not stones indeed.— I.i.181-2
In the Celtic languages, the words designating English nationality derive from the Latin word Saxones. The most prominent example, a loanword in English, is the Scottish word Sassenach, used by Scots- or Scottish English-speakers in the 21st century as a jocular term for an English person. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) gives 1771 as the date of the earliest written use of the word in English.
It derives from the Scottish Gaelic Sasannach (older spelling: Sasunnach). The Gaelic name for England is Sasann, and Sasannach (formed with a common adjective suffix -ach) means "English" in reference to people and things, though not to the English Language, which is Beurla.
Sasanach, the Irish word for an Englishman, has the same derivation, as do the words used in Welsh to describe the English people (Saeson, sing. Sais) and the language and things English in general: Saesneg and Seisnig.
"England" in Scottish Gaelic is Sasann (older spelling: Sasunn, Genitive: Sasainn). Other examples include the Welsh Saesneg (the English language), Irish Sasana (England), Breton saoz(on) (English, saozneg "the English language", Bro-saoz "England"), and Cornish Sowson (English people), Sowsnek (English language), and Pow Sows for 'Land [Pays] of Saxons'.
The label "Saxons" (in Romanian: Sași) also became attached to German settlers who migrated during the 13th century to southeastern Transylvania. From Transylvania, some of these Saxons migrated to neighbouring Moldavia, as the name of the town Sas-cut shows. Sascut lies in the part of Moldavia that is today part of Romania.
During Georg Friederich Händel's visit to Italy (1706–09), much was made of his origins in Saxony; in particular, the Venetians greeted the 1709 performance of his opera Agrippina with the cry Viva il caro Sassone, "Cheers for the beloved Saxon!"
The Finns and Estonians have changed their usage of the root Saxon over the centuries to apply now to the whole country of Germany (Saksa and Saksamaa respectively) and the Germans (saksalaiset and sakslased, respectively). The Finnish word sakset (scissors) reflects the name of the old Saxon single-edged sword - seax - from which the name "Saxon" supposedly derives. In Estonian, saks means "a nobleman" or, colloquially, "a wealthy or powerful person". (As a result of 13th-century Northern Crusades, Estonia's upper class comprised mostly persons of German origin until well into the 20th century.)
Following the downfall of Henry the Lion (1129–1195, Duke of Saxony 1142–1180), and the subsequent splitting of the Saxon tribal duchy into several territories, the name of the Saxon duchy was transferred to the lands of the Ascanian family. This led to the differentiation between Lower Saxony, lands settled by the Saxon tribe and Upper Saxony, the lands belonging to the House of Wettin. Gradually, the latter region became known as "Saxony", ultimately usurping the name's original meaning. The area formerly known as Upper Saxony now lies in Central Germany.
Ptolemy's Geographia, written in the 2nd century, is sometimes considered to contain the first mentioning of the Saxons. Some copies of this text mention a tribe called Saxones in the area to the north of the lower Elbe. However, other versions refer to the same tribe as Axones. This may be a misspelling of the tribe that Tacitus in his Germania called Aviones. According to this theory, "Saxones" was the result of later scribes trying to correct a name that meant nothing to them. On the other hand, Schütte, in his analysis of such problems in Ptolemy's Maps of Northern Europe, believed that "Saxones" is correct. He notes that the loss of first letters occurs in numerous places in various copies of Ptolemy's work, and also that the manuscripts without "Saxones" are generally inferior overall.
Schütte also remarks that there was a medieval tradition of calling this area "Old Saxony" (covering Westphalia, Angria and Eastphalia). This view is in line with Bede who mentions Old Saxony was near the Rhine, somewhere to the north of the river Lippe (Westphalia, northeastern part of modern German state Nordrhein-Westfalen).
The first undisputed mention of the Saxon name in its modern form is from AD 356, when Julian, later the Roman Emperor, mentioned them in a speech as allies of Magnentius, a rival emperor in Gaul. Zosimus also mentions a specific tribe of Saxons, called the Kouadoi, which have been interpreted as a misunderstanding for the Chauci, or Chamavi. They entered the Rhineland and displaced the recently settled Salian Franks from Batavi, whereupon some of the Salians began to move into the Belgian territory of Toxandria, supported by Julian.
Both in this case and in others the Saxons were associated with using boats for their raids. In order to defend against Saxon raiders, the Romans created a military district called the Litus Saxonicum ("Saxon Coast") on both sides of the English Channel.
Saxons as inhabitants of present-day Northern Germany are first mentioned in 555, when the Frankish king Theudebald died, and the Saxons used the opportunity for an uprising. The uprising was suppressed by Chlothar I, Theudebald's successor. Some of their Frankish successors fought against the Saxons, others were allied with them. The Thuringians frequently appeared as allies of the Saxons.
In the Netherlands, Saxons occupied the territory south of the Frisians and north of the Franks. In the west it reached as far as the Gooi region, in the south as far as the Lower Rhine. After the conquest of Charlemagne, this area formed the main part of the Bishopric of Utrecht. The Saxon duchy of Hamaland played an important role in the formation of the duchy of Guelders.
In 569, some Saxons accompanied the Lombards into Italy under the leadership of Alboin and settled there. In 572, they raided southeastern Gaul as far as Stablo, now Estoublon. Divided, they were easily defeated by the Gallo-Roman general Mummolus. When the Saxons regrouped, a peace treaty was negotiated whereby the Italian Saxons were allowed to settle with their families in Austrasia. Gathering their families and belongings in Italy, they returned to Provence in two groups in 573. One group proceeded by way of Nice and another via Embrun, joining up at Avignon. They plundered the territory and were as a consequence stopped from crossing the Rhône by Mummolus. They were forced to pay compensation for what they had robbed before they could enter Austrasia. These people are known only by documents, and their settlement cannot be compared to the archeological artifacts and remains that attest to Saxon settlements in northern and western Gaul.
A Saxon king named Eadwacer conquered Angers in 463 only to be dislodged by Childeric I and the Salian Franks, allies of the Roman Empire. It is possible that Saxon settlement of Great Britain began only in response to expanding Frankish control of the Channel coast.
Some Saxons already lived along the Saxon shore of Gaul as Roman foederati. They can be traced in documents, but also in archeology and in toponymy. The Notitia Dignitatum mentions the Tribunus cohortis primae novae Armoricanae, Grannona in litore Saxonico. The location of Grannona is uncertain and was identified by the historians and toponymists at different places: mainly with the town known today as Granville (in Normandy) or nearby. The Notitia Dignitatum does not explain where these "Roman" soldiers came from. Some toponymists have proposed Graignes (Grania 1109–1113) as the location for Grannona/Grannonum. Although some scholars believe it could be the same element *gran, that is recognised in Guernsey (Greneroi 11th century), it most likely derives from the Gaulish god Grannos. This location is closer to Bayeux, where Gregory of Tours evokes otherwise the Saxones Bajocassini (Bessin Saxons), which were ineffective against the Breton Waroch II in 579.
A Saxon unit of laeti settled at Bayeux – the Saxones Baiocassenses. These Saxons became subjects of Clovis I late in the 5th century. The Saxons of Bayeux comprised a standing army and were often called upon to serve alongside the local levy of their region in Merovingian military campaigns. In 589, the Saxons wore their hair in the Breton fashion at the orders of Fredegund and fought with them as allies against Guntram. Beginning in 626, the Saxons of the Bessin were used by Dagobert I for his campaigns against the Basques. One of their own, Aeghyna, was created a dux over the region of Vasconia.
In 843 and 846 under king Charles the Bald, other official documents mention a pagus called Otlinga Saxonia in the Bessin region, but the meaning of Otlinga is unclear. Different Bessin toponyms were identified as typically Saxon, ex : Cottun (Coltun 1035–1037 ; Cola's "town"). It is the only place name in Normandy that can be interpreted as a -tun one (English -ton; cf. Colton). In contrast to this one example in Normandy are numerous -thun villages in the north of France, in Boulonnais, for example Alincthun, Verlincthun, and Pelingthun, showing, with other toponyms, an important Saxon or Anglo-Saxon settlement. Comparing the concentration of -ham/-hem (Anglo-Saxon hām > home) toponyms in the Bessin and in the Boulonnais gives more examples of Saxon settlement. In the area known today as Normandy, the -ham cases of Bessin are unique – they do not exist elsewhere. Other cases were considered, but there is no determining example. For example, Canehan (Kenehan 1030/Canaan 1030–1035) could be the biblical name Canaan or Airan (Heidram 9th century), the Germanic masculine name Hairammus.
The Bessin examples are clear; for example, Ouistreham (Oistreham 1086), Étréham (Oesterham 1350 ?), Huppain (*Hubbehain ; Hubba's "home"), and Surrain (Surrehain 11th century). Another significant example can be found in the Norman onomastics: the widespread surname Lecesne, with variant spellings: Le Cesne, Lesène, Lecène, and Cesne. It comes from Gallo-Romance *SAXINU "the Saxon", which is saisne in Old French. These examples are not derived from more recent Anglo-Scandinavian toponyms, because in that case they would have been numerous in the Norman regions (pays de Caux, Basse-Seine, North-Cotentin) settled by Germanic peoples. That is not the case, nor does Bessin belong to the pagii, which were affected by an important wave of Anglo-Scandinavian immigration.
In addition, archaeological finds add evidence to the documents and the results of toponymic research. Around the city of Caen and in the Bessin (Vierville-sur-Mer, Bénouville, Giverville, Hérouvillette), excavations have yielded numerous examples of Anglo-Saxon jewellery, design elements, settings, and weapons. All of these things were discovered in cemeteries in a context of the 5th, 6th and 7th centuries AD.
The oldest and most spectacular Saxon site found in France to date is Vron, in Picardy. There, archaeologists excavated a large cemetery with tombs dating from the Roman Empire until the 6th century. Furniture and other grave goods, as well as the human remains, revealed a group of people buried in the 4th and 5th centuries AD. Physically different from the usual local inhabitants found before this period, they instead resembled the Germanic populations of the north. At the beginning (4th century), 92% were buried, sometimes with typical Germanic weapons. Then they were ranked to the east, when they were buried in the 5th and later to the beginning of the 6th century. A strong Anglo-Saxon influence became obvious for the middle of the period, but this influence later disappeared. Archaeological material, neighbouring toponymy, and texts support the same conclusion: settlement of Saxon foederati with their families. Further anthropological research by Joël Blondiaux shows these people were from Low Saxony.
Saxons, along with Angles, Frisians and Jutes, invaded or migrated to the island of Great Britain (Britannia) around the time of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Saxon raiders had been harassing the eastern and southern shores of Britannia for centuries before, prompting the construction of a string of coastal forts called the Litora Saxonica or Saxon Shore. Before the end of Roman rule in Britannia, many Saxons and other folk had been permitted to settle in these areas as farmers.
According to tradition, the Saxons (and other tribes) first entered Britain en masse as part of an agreement to protect the Britons from the incursions of the Picts, Gaels and others. The story, as reported in such sources as the Historia Brittonum and Gildas, indicates that the British king Vortigern allowed the Germanic warlords, later named as Hengist and Horsa by Bede, to settle their people on the Isle of Thanet in exchange for their service as mercenaries. According to Bede, Hengist manipulated Vortigern into granting more land and allowing for more settlers to come in, paving the way for the Germanic settlement of Britain.
Historians are divided about what followed: some argue that the takeover of southern Great Britain by the Anglo-Saxons was peaceful. The known account from a native Briton who lived in the mid-5th century AD, Gildas, described events as a forced takeover by armed attack:
For the fire...spread from sea to sea, fed by the hands of our foes in the east, and did not cease, until, destroying the neighbouring towns and lands, it reached the other side of the island, and dipped its red and savage tongue in the western ocean. In these assaults...all the columns were levelled with the ground by the frequent strokes of the battering-ram, all the husbandmen routed, together with their bishops, priests and people, whilst the sword gleamed, and the flames crackled around them on every side. Lamentable to behold, in the midst of the streets lay the tops of lofty towers, tumbled to the ground, stones of high walls, holy altars, fragments of human bodies, covered with livid clots of coagulated blood, looking as if they had been squeezed together in a press; and with no chance of being buried, save in the ruins of the houses, or in the ravening bellies of wild beasts and birds; with reverence be it spoken for their blessed souls, if, indeed, there were many found who were carried, at that time, into the high heaven by the holy angels... Some, therefore, of the miserable remnant, being taken in the mountains, were murdered in great numbers; others, constrained by famine, came and yielded themselves to be slaves for ever to their foes, running the risk of being instantly slain, which truly was the greatest favour that could be offered them: some others passed beyond the seas with loud lamentations instead of the voice of exhortation...Others, committing the safeguard of their lives, which were in continual jeopardy, to the mountains, precipices, thickly wooded forests and to the rocks of the seas (albeit with trembling hearts), remained still in their country.
Gildas described how the Saxons were later slaughtered at the battle of Mons Badonicus 44 years before he wrote his history, and their conquest of Britain halted. The 8th-century English historian Bede tells how their advance resumed thereafter. He said this resulted in a swift overrunning of the entirety of South-Eastern Britain, and the foundation of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
Four separate Saxon realms emerged:
During the period of the reigns from Egbert to Alfred the Great, the kings of Wessex emerged as Bretwalda, unifying the country. They eventually organised it as the kingdom of England in the face of Viking invasions.
The Continental Saxons living in what was known as Old Saxony (c. 531-804) appear to have become consolidated by the end of the 8th century. After subjugation by the Emperor Charlemagne, a political entity called the Duchy of Saxony (804-1296) appeared, covering Westphalia, Eastphalia, Angria and Nordalbingia (Holstein, southern part of modern-day Schleswig-Holstein state).
The Saxons long resisted becoming Christians and being incorporated into the orbit of the Frankish kingdom. In 776 the Saxons promised to convert to Christianity and vow loyalty to the king, but, during Charlemagne's campaign in Hispania (778), the Saxons advanced to Deutz on the Rhine and plundered along the river. This was an oft-repeated pattern when Charlemagne was distracted by other matters. They were conquered by Charlemagne in a long series of annual campaigns, the Saxon Wars (772–804). With defeat came enforced baptism and conversion as well as the union of the Saxons with the rest of the Germanic, Frankish empire. Their sacred tree or pillar, a symbol of Irminsul, was destroyed. Charlemagne also deported 10,000 Nordalbingian Saxons to Neustria and gave their now largely vacant lands in Wagria (approximately modern Plön and Ostholstein districts) to the loyal king of the Abotrites. Einhard, Charlemagne's biographer, says on the closing of this grand conflict:
The war that had lasted so many years was at length ended by their acceding to the terms offered by the king; which were renunciation of their national religious customs and the worship of devils, acceptance of the sacraments of the Christian faith and religion, and union with the Franks to form one people.
Under Carolingian rule, the Saxons were reduced to tributary status. There is evidence that the Saxons, as well as Slavic tributaries such as the Abodrites and the Wends, often provided troops to their Carolingian overlords. The dukes of Saxony became kings (Henry I, the Fowler, 919) and later the first emperors (Henry's son, Otto I, the Great) of Germany during the 10th century, but they lost this position in 1024. The duchy was divided in 1180 when Duke Henry the Lion refused to follow his cousin, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, into war in Lombardy.
During the High Middle Ages, under the Salian emperors and, later, under the Teutonic Knights, German settlers moved east of the Saale into the area of a western Slavic tribe, the Sorbs. The Sorbs were gradually Germanised. This region subsequently acquired the name Saxony through political circumstances, though it was initially called the March of Meissen. The rulers of Meissen acquired control of the Duchy of Saxony (only a remnant of the previous Duchy) in 1423; they eventually applied the name Saxony to the whole of their kingdom. Since then, this part of eastern Germany has been referred to as Saxony (German: Sachsen), a source of some misunderstanding about the original homeland of the Saxons, with a central part in the present-day German state of Lower Saxony (German: Niedersachsen).
Bede, a Northumbrian writing around the year 730, remarks that "the old (that is, the continental) Saxons have no king, but they are governed by several ealdormen (or satrapa) who, during war, cast lots for leadership but who, in time of peace, are equal in power." The regnum Saxonum was divided into three provinces – Westphalia, Eastphalia and Angria – which comprised about one hundred pagi or Gaue. Each Gau had its own satrap with enough military power to level whole villages that opposed him.
In the mid-9th century, Nithard first described the social structure of the Saxons beneath their leaders. The caste structure was rigid; in the Saxon language the three castes, excluding slaves, were called the edhilingui (related to the term aetheling), frilingi and lazzi. These terms were subsequently Latinised as nobiles or nobiliores; ingenui, ingenuiles or liberi; and liberti, liti or serviles. According to very early traditions that are presumed to contain a good deal of historical truth, the edhilingui were the descendants of the Saxons who led the tribe out of Holstein and during the migrations of the 6th century. They were a conquering warrior elite. The frilingi represented the descendants of the amicii, auxiliarii and manumissi of that caste. The lazzi represented the descendants of the original inhabitants of the conquered territories, who were forced to make oaths of submission and pay tribute to the edhilingui.
The Lex Saxonum regulated the Saxons' unusual society. Intermarriage between the castes was forbidden by the Lex, and wergilds were set based upon caste membership. The edhilingui were worth 1,440 solidi, or about 700 head of cattle, the highest wergild on the continent; the price of a bride was also very high. This was six times as much as that of the frilingi and eight times as much as the lazzi. The gulf between noble and ignoble was very large, but the difference between a freeman and an indentured labourer was small.
According to the Vita Lebuini antiqua, an important source for early Saxon history, the Saxons held an annual council at Marklo (Westphalia) where they "confirmed their laws, gave judgment on outstanding cases, and determined by common counsel whether they would go to war or be in peace that year." All three castes participated in the general council; twelve representatives from each caste were sent from each Gau. In 782, Charlemagne abolished the system of Gaue and replaced it with the Grafschaftsverfassung, the system of counties typical of Francia. By prohibiting the Marklo councils, Charlemagne pushed the frilingi and lazzi out of political power. The old Saxon system of Abgabengrundherrschaft, lordship based on dues and taxes, was replaced by a form of feudalism based on service and labour, personal relationships and oaths.
Saxon religious practices were closely related to their political practices. The annual councils of the entire tribe began with invocations of the gods. The procedure by which dukes were elected in wartime, by drawing lots, is presumed to have had religious significance, i.e. in giving trust to divine providence – it seems – to guide the random decision making. There were also sacred rituals and objects, such as the pillars called Irminsul; these were believed to connect heaven and earth, as with other examples of trees or ladders to heaven in numerous religions. Charlemagne had one such pillar chopped down in 772 close to the Eresburg stronghold.
Early Saxon religious practices in Britain can be gleaned from place names and the Germanic calendar in use at that time. The Germanic gods Woden, Frigg, Tiw and Thunor, who are attested to in every Germanic tradition, were worshipped in Wessex, Sussex and Essex. They are the only ones directly attested to, though the names of the third and fourth months (March and April) of the Old English calendar bear the names Hrethmonath and Eosturmonath, meaning "month of Hretha" and "month of Ēostre." It is presumed that these are the names of two goddesses who were worshipped around that season. The Saxons offered cakes to their gods in February (Solmonath). There was a religious festival associated with the harvest, Halegmonath ("holy month" or "month of offerings", September). The Saxon calendar began on 25 December, and the months of December and January were called Yule (or Giuli). They contained a Modra niht or "night of the mothers", another religious festival of unknown content.
The Saxon freemen and servile class remained faithful to their original beliefs long after their nominal conversion to Christianity. Nursing a hatred of the upper class, which, with Frankish assistance, had marginalised them from political power, the lower classes (the plebeium vulgus or cives) were a problem for Christian authorities as late as 836. The Translatio S. Liborii remarks on their obstinacy in pagan ritus et superstitio (usage and superstition).
The conversion of the Saxons in England from their original Germanic religion to Christianity occurred in the early to late 7th century under the influence of the already converted Jutes of Kent. In the 630s, Birinus became the "apostle to the West Saxons" and converted Wessex, whose first Christian king was Cynegils. The West Saxons begin to emerge from obscurity only with their conversion to Christianity and keeping written records. The Gewisse, a West Saxon people, were especially resistant to Christianity; Birinus exercised more efforts against them and ultimately succeeded in conversion. In Wessex, a bishopric was founded at Dorchester. The South Saxons were first evangelised extensively under Anglian influence; Aethelwalh of Sussex was converted by Wulfhere, King of Mercia and allowed Wilfrid, Bishop of York, to evangelise his people beginning in 681. The chief South Saxon bishopric was that of Selsey. The East Saxons were more pagan than the southern or western Saxons; their territory had a superabundance of pagan sites. Their king, Saeberht, was converted early and a diocese was established at London. Its first bishop, Mellitus, was expelled by Saeberht's heirs. The conversion of the East Saxons was completed under Cedd in the 650s and 660s.
The continental Saxons were evangelised largely by English missionaries in the late 7th and early 8th centuries. Around 695, two early English missionaries, Hewald the White and Hewald the Black, were martyred by the vicani, that is, villagers. Throughout the century that followed, villagers and other peasants proved to be the greatest opponents of Christianisation, while missionaries often received the support of the edhilingui and other noblemen. Saint Lebuin, an Englishman who between 745 and 770 preached to the Saxons, mainly in the eastern Netherlands, built a church and made many friends among the nobility. Some of them rallied to save him from an angry mob at the annual council at Marklo (near river Weser, Bremen). Social tensions arose between the Christianity-sympathetic noblemen and the pagan lower castes, who were staunchly faithful to their traditional religion.
Under Charlemagne, the Saxon Wars had as their chief object the conversion and integration of the Saxons into the Frankish empire. Though much of the highest caste converted readily, forced baptisms and forced tithing made enemies of the lower orders. Even some contemporaries found the methods employed to win over the Saxons wanting, as this excerpt from a letter of Alcuin of York to his friend Meginfrid, written in 796, shows:
If the light yoke and sweet burden of Christ were to be preached to the most obstinate people of the Saxons with as much determination as the payment of tithes has been exacted, or as the force of the legal decree has been applied for fault of the most trifling sort imaginable, perhaps they would not be averse to their baptismal vows.
Charlemagne's successor, Louis the Pious, reportedly treated the Saxons more as Alcuin would have wished, and as a consequence they were faithful subjects. The lower classes, however, revolted against Frankish overlordship in favour of their old paganism as late as the 840s, when the Stellinga rose up against the Saxon leadership, who were allied with the Frankish emperor Lothair I. After the suppression of the Stellinga, in 851 Louis the German brought relics from Rome to Saxony to foster a devotion to the Roman Catholic Church. The Poeta Saxo, in his verse Annales of Charlemagne's reign (written between 888 and 891), laid an emphasis on his conquest of Saxony. He celebrated the Frankish monarch as on par with the Roman emperors and as the bringer of Christian salvation to people. References are made to periodic outbreaks of pagan worship, especially of Freya, among the Saxon peasantry as late as the 12th century.
In the 9th century, the Saxon nobility became vigorous supporters of monasticism and formed a bulwark of Christianity against the existing Slavic paganism to the east and the Nordic paganism of the Vikings to the north. Much Christian literature was produced in the vernacular Old Saxon, the notable ones being a result of the literary output and wide influence of Saxon monasteries such as Fulda, Corvey and Verden; and the theological controversy between the Augustinian Gottschalk and Rabanus Maurus.
From an early date, Charlemagne and Louis the Pious supported Christian vernacular works in order to evangelise the Saxons more efficiently. The Heliand, a verse epic of the life of Christ in a Germanic setting, and Genesis, another epic retelling of the events of the first book of the Bible, were commissioned in the early 9th century by Louis to disseminate scriptural knowledge to the masses. A council of Tours in 813 and then a synod of Mainz in 848 both declared that homilies ought to be preached in the vernacular. The earliest preserved text in the Saxon language is a baptismal vow from the late 8th or early 9th century; the vernacular was used extensively in an effort to Christianise the lowest castes of Saxon society.
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-Saxons
The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th century, and the direct ancestors of the majority of the modern British people. 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."Bishop of Chichester
The Bishop of Chichester is the ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Chichester in the Province of Canterbury. The diocese covers the counties of East and West Sussex. The see is based in the City of Chichester where the bishop's seat is located at the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity. On 3 May 2012 the appointment was announced of Martin Warner, Bishop of Whitby, as the next Bishop of Chichester. His enthronement took place on 25 November 2012 in Chichester Cathedral.
The bishop's residence is The Palace, Chichester. Since 2015, Warner has also fulfilled the diocesan-wide role of alternative episcopal oversight, following the decision by Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham, to recognise the orders of priests and bishops who are women.Bishop of London
The Bishop of London is the ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of London in the Province of Canterbury.
The diocese covers 458 km2 (177 sq mi) of 17 boroughs of Greater London north of the River Thames (historically the City of London and the County of Middlesex) and a small part of the County of Surrey (the district of Spelthorne, historically part of Middlesex). The see is in the City of London where the seat is St Paul's Cathedral which was founded as a cathedral in 604 and was rebuilt from 1675 following the Great Fire of London (1666).
Third in seniority in the Church of England after the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the bishop is one of five senior bishops who sit as of right as one of the 26 Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords (for the remaining diocesan bishops of lesser rank, seats are attained upon vacancy, determined by chronological seniority). The other four senior bishops are the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Durham and the Bishop of Winchester.
The bishop's residence is The Old Deanery, Dean's Court, City of London. Previously, for over 1000 years, Fulham Palace was the residence and from the 18th century the bishop had chambers at London House next to the Bishop's Chapel in Aldersgate Street.The current (133rd) Bishop of London is Sarah Mullally. She was confirmed on 8 March 2018 after acting in post immediately after her canonical election on 25 January 2018. The diocesan bishop of London has had direct episcopal oversight in the Two Cities area (the City of London and the City of Westminster) since the institution of the London area scheme in 1979.Bishop of Winchester
The Bishop of Winchester is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Winchester in the Church of England. The bishop's seat (cathedra) is at Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire.
The Bishop of Winchester is appointed by the Crown, and is one of five Church of England bishops who sit ex officio among the 26 Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords, regardless of their length of service.
The Diocese of Winchester is one of the oldest and most important in England. Originally it was the see of the kingdom of Wessex, with the cathedra at Dorchester Cathedral under Saints Birinus and Agilbert. It was transferred to Winchester in AD 660. During the Middle Ages, it was one of the wealthiest English sees and its bishops have included a number of politically prominent Englishmen, notably the 9th century Saint Swithun and medieval magnates including William of Wykeham and Henry of Blois.
A cathedral at Dorchester was founded in 634 by the Roman missionary Saint Birinus. It was the seat of a Bishop of the West Saxons; the episcopal see for that kingdom was moved to Winchester in 660 and so the Wessex Bishops of Dorchester were succeeded by the Bishops of Winchester.
Winchester was divided in AD 909, with Wiltshire and Berkshire transferring to the new See of Ramsbury. Nevertheless, the domains of the Bishop of Winchester ran from the south coast to the south bank of the River Thames at Southwark, where the bishop had one of his palaces, making it one of the largest as well as one of the richest sees in the land. In more modern times, the former extent of the Diocese of Winchester was reduced by the formation of a new diocese of Southwark in south London, a new diocese of Guildford in Surrey and a new diocese of Portsmouth in Hampshire. The most recent loss of territory was in 2014 when the Channel Islands were removed from the diocese of Winchester after a dispute with Bishop Tim Dakin led to a breakdown in relations. However, this arrangement is expressed to be an interim one and will not necessarily become permanent. The Channel Islands remain part of the Diocese of Winchester effectively under a scheme of episcopal delegation. The Bishop of Winchester delegated his episcopal authority in relation to the Channel Islands to the Archbishop of Canterbury who in turn placed the Channel Islands under the pastoral supervision of the Bishop of Dover. The Channel Islands have not been transferred to and incorporated within another diocese.Traditionally, in the general order of precedence before 1533, the Bishop of Winchester was given precedence over all other diocesan bishops - that is, the first English bishop in rank behind the archbishops of Canterbury and York. But in 1533, Henry VIII of England raised the rank of the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Durham, relegating Winchester to third (but still above other remaining diocesan bishops). The Bishop of Winchester has almost always (that is, except during the period of the Commonwealth until the Restoration of the
Monarchy) held the office of Prelate of the Order of the Garter since its foundation in 1348.The official residence of the Bishop of Winchester is Wolvesey Palace in Winchester. Other historic homes of the bishops included Farnham Castle, Bishop’s Waltham Palace and a town residence at Winchester Palace in Southwark, Surrey (now London). The bishop is the visitor to five Oxford colleges, including New College, Oxford and St John's College, Oxford.
The current Bishop of Winchester, Tim Dakin, was enthroned on 21 April 2012, having been elected on 14 October 2011. He was consecrated as a bishop at St Paul's Cathedral, London, on 25 January 2012.Churchill Cup
The Churchill Cup was an annual rugby union tournament, held in June, contested by representative men's (and formerly women's) teams from Canada, England, the United States, and other invited teams (originally one and later three) from a wide array of countries.
It began in 2003 as an initiative of the governing bodies of the three regular participants—Rugby Canada, the Rugby Football Union (RFU), and USA Rugby—in cooperation with the sport's worldwide governing body World Rugby (at the time called the "International Rugby Board" (IRB)).The main intent was to provide the US and Canada with regular international competition. The final edition in 2011 featured invited teams from Italy, Russia, and Tonga, and was won by England Saxons (that country's "A", or developmental, national team). All three governing bodies of the permanent participants agreed to end the tournament after its 2011 edition, as World Rugby will include the US and Canada in its international Test calendar from 2012. Canada and the USA will, however, continue to be supported by the RFU.The tournament was named after British prime minister Winston Churchill.Cædwalla of Wessex
Cædwalla (c. 659 – 20 April 689) was the King of Wessex from approximately 685 until he abdicated in 688. His name is derived from the Welsh Cadwallon. He was exiled from Wessex as a youth and during this period gathered forces and attacked the South Saxons, killing their king, Æthelwealh, in what is now Sussex. Cædwalla was unable to hold the South Saxon territory, however, and was driven out by Æthelwealh's ealdormen. In either 685 or 686, he became King of Wessex. He may have been involved in suppressing rival dynasties at this time, as an early source records that Wessex was ruled by underkings until Cædwalla.
After his accession Cædwalla returned to Sussex and won the territory again, and also conquered the Isle of Wight, engaging in genocide, extinguishing the ruling dynasty there, and forcing the population of the island at sword point to renounce their pagan beliefs for Christianity. He gained control of Surrey and the kingdom of Kent, and in 686 he installed his brother, Mul, as king of Kent. Mul was burned in a Kentish revolt a year later, and Cædwalla returned, possibly ruling Kent directly for a period.
Cædwalla was wounded during the conquest of the Isle of Wight, and perhaps for this reason he abdicated in 688 to travel to Rome for baptism. He reached Rome in April 689, and was baptised by Pope Sergius I on the Saturday before Easter, dying ten days later on 20 April 689. He was succeeded by Ine.Diocese of London
The Diocese of London forms part of the Church of England's Province of Canterbury in England.
Historically the diocese covered a large area north of the Thames and bordered the dioceses of Norwich and Lincoln to the north and west. The present diocese covers 177 square miles (460 km2) and 17 London boroughs, covering most of Greater London north of the River Thames and west of the River Lea. This area covers nearly all of the historic county of Middlesex. It includes the City of London in which lies its cathedral, St Paul's, and also encompasses Spelthorne which was formerly in Middlesex but is now part of Surrey.
Essex formed part of the diocese until 1846 when the county became part of the Diocese of Rochester (and later changed again to the Diocese of St Albans and is now in the Diocese of Chelmsford).England Saxons
England Saxons is the current name of England's men's second national rugby union team. The team has previously been known by a number of names, such as England B, Emerging England and, most recently, England A. The Saxons play a key role in the development of emerging talent, allowing players to gain experience in an international environment and to show that they have the ability to perform at Test level for the England first team. England Saxons were unbeaten for 13 games until losing to Ireland A, now known as Ireland Wolfhounds, in the 2009 Churchill Cup Final on 21 June 2009.
England Saxons were one of three sides that regularly competed in the now-defunct annual Churchill Cup competition, the others being the full national teams of Canada and the United States. Since 2006, they have also played two matches, against Ireland Wolfhounds and Italy A, in parallel with the full Six Nations Championship.
The Saxons' head coach is currently Ali Hepher.Hengist and Horsa
Hengist and Horsa are legendary brothers said to have led the Angles, Saxons and Jutes in their invasion of Britain in the 5th century. Tradition lists Hengist as the first of the Jutish kings of Kent.
According to early sources, Hengist and Horsa arrived in Britain at Ebbsfleet on the Isle of Thanet. For a time, they served as mercenaries for Vortigern, King of the Britons, but later they turned against him (British accounts have them betraying him in the Treachery
of the Long Knives). Horsa was killed fighting the Britons, but Hengist successfully conquered Kent, becoming the forefather of its kings.
A figure named Hengest, who may be identifiable with the leader of British legend, appears in the Finnsburg Fragment and in Beowulf.
Legends of horse-associated founding brothers are attested among other Germanic peoples and appear in other Indo-European cultures. As a result, scholars have theorized a pan-Germanic mythological origin for Hengist and Horsa, stemming originally from divine twins found in Proto-Indo-European religion. Other scholars, including J. R. R. Tolkien, have argued for a historical basis for Hengist and Horsa.Jutes
The Jutes (), Iuti, or Iutæ were a Germanic people. According to Bede, the Jutes were one of the three most powerful Germanic peoples of their time in the Nordic Iron Age, the other two being the Saxons and the Angles.The Jutes are believed to have originated from the Jutland Peninsula (called Iutum in Latin) and part of the North Frisian coast. In present times, the Jutlandic Peninsula consists of the mainland of Denmark and Southern Schleswig in Germany. North Frisia is also part of Germany.
The Jutes invaded and settled in southern Britain in the late 4th century during the Age of Migrations, as part of a larger wave of Germanic settlement in the British Isles.Kingdom of Essex
The kingdom of the East Saxons (Old English: Ēast Seaxna Rīce; Latin: Regnum Orientalium Saxonum), today referred to as the Kingdom of Essex , was one of the seven traditional kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. It was founded in the 6th century and covered the territory later occupied by the counties of Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and (for a short while) Kent. Kings of Essex were frequently subservient to foreign overlords. The last king of Essex was Sigered and in 825, he ceded the kingdom to Ecgberht, King of Wessex.Kingdom of Sussex
The Kingdom of the South Saxons, today referred to as the Kingdom of Sussex (; Old English: Sūþseaxna rīce), was one of the seven traditional kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. On the south coast of the island of Great Britain, it was originally a sixth century Saxon colony and later an independent kingdom. The South Saxons were ruled by the kings of Sussex until the country was annexed by Wessex, probably in 827, in the aftermath of the Battle of Ellandun.List of English monarchs
This list of kings and queens of the Kingdom of England begins with Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, one of the seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (Heptarchy) which made up modern England. Alfred styled himself King of the Anglo-Saxons from about 886, and while he was not the first king to claim to rule all of the English, his rule represents the start of the first unbroken line of kings to rule the whole of England, the House of Wessex. The last monarch of a distinct kingdom of England was Anne, who became Queen of Great Britain when England merged with Scotland to form a union in 1707.
Arguments are made for a few different kings deemed to control enough of the Heptarchy to be deemed the first king of England. For example, Offa, king of Mercia, and Egbert, king of Wessex, are sometimes described as kings of England by popular writers, but it is no longer the majority view of historians that their wide dominions are part of a process leading to a unified England, as highlighted by historian Simon Keynes stating, for example, that "Offa was driven by a lust for power, not a vision of English unity; and what he left was a reputation, not a legacy." This refers to a period in the late 8th century when Offa achieved a dominance over many of the kingdoms of southern England, but this did not survive his death in 796.In 829 Egbert of Wessex conquered Mercia, but he soon lost control of it. It was not until the late 9th century that one kingdom, Wessex, had become the dominant Anglo-Saxon kingdom. Its king, Alfred the Great, was overlord of western Mercia and used the title King of the Angles and Saxons, but he never ruled eastern and northern England, which was then known as the Danelaw, having earlier been conquered by the Danes from Scandinavia. His son Edward the Elder conquered the eastern Danelaw, but Edward's son Æthelstan became the first king to rule the whole of England when he conquered Northumbria in 927, and he is regarded by some modern historians as the first true king of England. The title "King of the English" or Rex Anglorum in Latin, was first used to describe Æthelstan in one of his charters in 928.
The Principality of Wales was incorporated into the Kingdom of England under the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284, and in 1301 King Edward I invested his eldest son, the future King Edward II, as Prince of Wales. Since that time, except for King Edward III, the eldest sons of all English monarchs have borne this title.
After the death of Queen Elizabeth I without issue, in 1603, King James VI of Scotland also became James I of England, joining the crowns of England and Scotland in personal union. By royal proclamation, James styled himself "King of Great Britain", but no such kingdom was actually created until 1707, when England and Scotland united to form the new Kingdom of Great Britain, with a single British parliament sitting at Westminster, during the reign of Queen Anne.List of monarchs of Sussex
This list of kings and ealdormen of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the South Saxons contains substantial gaps, and many of the dates from this time are unreliable. No authentic South Saxon king list or genealogy exists, unlike what can be found for other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Most kings are known only from charters, some of which are forgeries, which makes it difficult to date the reigns of each king.
According to the charters, most kings did not govern alone: Nothhelm reigned with two or three colleagues and Oslac with four. The locations of the lands granted in their charters indicate that they reigned jointly and that there was no division of territory. Such joint reigns can also be demonstrated for the Hwicce, the East Saxons, and the West Saxons. Indeed, “[t]here is nothing remarkable in the existence of two or even more contemporary kings in the same people in the seventh century. The ancient idea that royal dignity was a matter of birth rather than of territorial rule still survived at this date.”The traditional residence of the South Saxon kings was at Kingsham, once outside the southern walls of Chichester although within its modern boundaries.List of monarchs of Wessex
This is a list of monarchs of Wessex until 927. For later monarchs, see the List of English monarchs. While the details of the later monarchs are confirmed by a number of sources, the earlier ones are in many cases obscure.
The names are given in modern English form followed by the names and titles (as far as is known) in contemporary Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and Latin, the prevalent "official" languages of the time in England.
This was a period in which spellings varied widely, even within a document. A number of variations of the details below exist. Among these are the preference between the runic character thorn (Þ, lower-case þ, from the rune of the same name) and the letter eth (Ð or ð), both of which are pronounced /th/ and were interchangeable. They were used indiscriminately for voiced and unvoiced /th/ sounds, unlike in modern Icelandic. Thorn tended to be more used in the south (Wessex) and eth in the North (Mercia and Northumbria). Separate letters th were preferred in the earliest period in Northern texts, and returned to dominate by the Middle English period onward.
The character ⁊ (Tironian et) was used as the ampersand (&) in contemporary Anglo-Saxon writings. The era pre-dates the emergence of some forms of writing accepted today; notably rare were lower case characters, and the letters W and U. W was occasionally rendered VV (later UU), but the runic character wynn (Ƿ or ƿ) was a common way of writing the /w/ sound. Again the West Saxons initially preferred the character derived from a rune, and the Angles/Engle preferred the Latin-derived lettering VV, consistent with the thorn versus eth usage pattern.
Except in manuscripts, runic letters were an Anglian phenomenon. The early Engle restricted the use of runes to monuments, whereas the Saxons adopted wynn and thorn for sounds which did not have a Latin equivalent. Otherwise they were not used in Wessex.Old Saxony
Old Saxony is the original homeland of the Saxons in the northwest corner of modern Germany and roughly corresponds today to the modern German state of Lower Saxony, Westphalia, Nordalbingia (Holstein, southern part of Schleswig-Holstein) and western Saxony-Anhalt.Transylvanian Saxons
The Transylvanian Saxons (German: Siebenbürger Sachsen; Transylvanian Saxon: Siweberjer Såksen; Romanian: Sași ardeleni, sași transilvăneni; Hungarian: Erdélyi szászok) are a people of German ethnicity who were settled in Transylvania (German: Siebenbürgen) in waves starting from the mid-12th century until the late Modern Age (specifically mid-19th century).
After 1918 and the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, in the wake of the Treaty of Trianon, Transylvania was joined to the Kingdom of Romania, Transylvanian Saxons, together with other German sub-groups in newly enlarged Romania (namely Banat Swabians, Sathmar Swabians, Bessarabia Germans, Bukovina Germans, and Zipser Germans), became part of that country's broader German minority.
Relatively few still live in Romania, where the last official census carried out in 2011 indicated around 36,000 Germans, out of which approximately 13,000 were of Transylvanian Saxon descent.Wessex
Wessex (; Old English: Westseaxna rīce [westsæɑksnɑ riːt͡ʃe], the "kingdom of the West Saxons") was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the south of Great Britain, from 519 until England was unified by Æthelstan in the early 10th century.
The Anglo-Saxons believed that Wessex was founded by Cerdic and Cynric, but this may be a legend. The two main sources for the history of Wessex are the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List, which sometimes conflict. Wessex became a Christian kingdom after Cenwalh was baptised and was expanded under his rule. Cædwalla later conquered Sussex, Kent and the Isle of Wight. His successor, Ine, issued one of the oldest surviving English law codes and established a second West Saxon bishopric. The throne subsequently passed to a series of kings with unknown genealogies.
During the 8th century, as the hegemony of Mercia grew, Wessex largely retained its independence. It was during this period that the system of shires was established. Under Egbert, Surrey, Sussex, Kent, Essex, and Mercia, along with parts of Dumnonia, were conquered. He also obtained the overlordship of the Northumbrian king. However, Mercian independence was restored in 830. During the reign of his successor, Æthelwulf, a Danish army arrived in the Thames estuary, but was decisively defeated. When Æthelwulf's son, Æthelbald, usurped the throne, the kingdom was divided to avoid war. Æthelwulf was succeeded in turn by his four sons, the youngest being Alfred the Great.
Wessex was invaded by the Danes in 871, and Alfred was compelled to pay them to leave. They returned in 876, but were forced to withdraw. In 878 they forced Alfred to flee to the Somerset Levels, but were eventually defeated at the Battle of Edington. During his reign Alfred issued a new law code, gathered scholars to his court and was able to devote funds to building ships, organising an army and establishing a system of burhs. Alfred's son, Edward, captured the eastern Midlands and East Anglia from the Danes and became ruler of Mercia in 918 upon the death of his sister, Æthelflæd. Edward's son, Æthelstan, conquered Northumbria in 927, and England became a unified kingdom for the first time. Cnut the Great, who conquered England in 1016, created the wealthy and powerful earldom of Wessex, but in 1066 Harold Godwinson reunited the earldom with the crown and Wessex ceased to exist.
History of the Germanic peoples
Early Middle Ages)
History of the Germanic peoples
Early Middle Ages)