The death of Offa & his son led to the bloodletting normal when the succession was a bun fight. But this time round, it would have longer term consequences for the balance of power.
This image comes from the purse lid from Sutton Hoo, with the characteristic garnet work. It’s though that it represents Tiw, God of War. Tiw was to find the 9th Century fertile ground.
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Egbert, King of Wessex, 802-839 (b.775)
Egbert had been forced to flee to the Court of Charlemagne at Aachen during the reign of Offa in Wessex. There is some debate about his lineage – though he returned after the death of his predecessor, Beorthric, and claimed the throne of Wessex, he could well have been a descendant of the Kentish royal line. If so, this was to help him.
Egbert was able to establish independence from Mercian overlordship. But it was the battle of Ellendun in 825 that transformed the political map. By the end of his reign, it was Wessex, not Mercia, to whom all Anglo Saxon Kings gave recognition – even Northumbria seems to have recognised his leadership at Dore in 827. In 838, at the battle of Hingston Down, Egbert probably also snuffed out the independence of the Britons in Devon and Cornwall.
Egbert’s legacy was not as a king of England; his vision was very traditional, of leadership of a collection of kingdoms. But He brought Essex, Kent, Sussex into his direct control, with more success than Mercia; he transferred power smoothly to his son, Æthelwulf. In this way, he formed the basis of the one kingdom that would resist the Viking threat.
Charlemagne (king of the Franks 774-814; Emperor 800-814)
Charlemagne and the Franks form an increasing part of the story from here; Charlemgane’s interference in the politics of the island, harbouring folk like Egbert; and the Empire he formed, the Holy Roman Empire was the source of European power, and his court the source of enormous prestige; all kings wanted a piece of it, to be connected. Charlemagne would shape Eureopean history for centuries in some ways.
Here then is a map of the vast empire to which Charlemagne expanded his realm. And also the tripartite division that would appear after the death of his son, Louis the Pious in 840. If you want to know more, pick up episode 55 of the podcast where we talk about him, and look at the blog post.