Athelbert of Wessex

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Athelbert
King of Wessex
Æthelberht - MS Royal 14 B VI.jpg
Reign 860-865
Died 866
Father Ethelwulf
Mother Osburga

Athelbert, also spelled Æthelbert ( 866), was a West Saxon nobleman. He was the sub-king of Kent from 858–860. He was the King of Wessex from 860-865.


Career[change | change source]

He was the third son of Ethelwulf of Wessex and Osburga.[1] She was the daughter of Oslac, Athelwulf's butler.[a][1] He got his first taste of kingship in 855 when he was left in charge of Kent while his father, King Athelwulf of Wessex, was in Rome.[3] His brother Athelbald was left in charge of the West Saxon kingdom. When their father returned from Rome, Athelbald would not give up the throne. To avoid a civil war, their father Athelwulf took the subkingdom of Kent and Athelbald ruled as king of Wessex. When Athelwulf died in 858, Athelbert was once again appointed king of Kent.[3]

When his brother Athelbald died in 860, Athelbert succeeded him as king of Wessex.[4] Athelbert still had two younger brothers, Athelred and Alfred. But neither were appointed to fill the role of sub-king of Kent. Athelbert consolidated the kingdom of Kent into the kingdom of Wessex.[3] During his reign Viking attacks grew more frequent. One Viking army advanced into Wessex as far as Winchester before being defeated. But the year 865 saw the arrival of the Great Heathen Army in East Anglia.[5] This was a much larger army and would remain in England. For a time they were more interested in Northumbria. They gained control of York and moved south into Mercia then made their winter camp in Nottingham.[5] Meanwhile King Athelbert died in early 866.[6] Since he died childless, he was succeeded by his brother Athelred.[6]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. The office of chief butler in an Anglo-Saxon royal household is most likely his title here. He would be a nobleman who held the honorary office of butler.[2]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Asser's Life of King Alfred, Trans. L.C. Jane (London: Chatto & Windus, 1926), p. 3
  2. Laurence Marcellus Larson, The King's Household in England Before the Norman Conquest, Thesis (Ph. D.), University of Wisconsin (1902), p. 127
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens (New york: Carroll & Graf, 1999), p. 318
  4. Barbara Yorke, Kings and Kingship in Early Anglo-Saxon England (London: Seaby, 1990. ISBN 0-415-16639-X, pp. 148–158 & p. 133, table 15.
  5. 5.0 5.1 D. P. Kirby, The Earliest English Kings, Second Edition (London; New York: Routledge, 2000), p. 173
  6. 6.0 6.1 Asser's Life of King Alfred, trans. L.C. Jane (London: Chatto and Windus, 1908), p. 155

Other websites[change | change source]