Beorhtric of Wessex

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Beorhtric
King of Wessex
Reign 786–802
Predecessor Cynewulf
Successor Egbert
House House of Wessex
Born Wessex, England
Died 802
Burial Wareham, Dorset

Beorhtric (also Brihtric; meaning 'Magnificent ruler') ( 802) was the King of Wessex from 786 to 802. He ruled Wessex as a figurehead king. His wife and father-in-law exercised most of the power.

King of Wessex[change | change source]

The names of his parents and his ancestry are unknown.[1] In 786, Cynewulf, king of Wessex, was killed by Cyneheard, brother of the former King Sigeberht.[2] Either with help of Offa of Mercia or quickly coming under his influence, Beorhtric became King of Wessex.[3] In 787, he held the Synod of Chelsea jointly with Offa. In 789 he married Eadburh, Offa's daughter.[2] That same year Vikings appeared off the coast of Devon. Believing they were traders the local reeve went to meet them and was killed. This was the first encounter with Vikings in southern England.[2]

After Offa's death in 796, Mercian power over England was weakened. There was a period of three years when some West Saxons tried to break free of Mercian control.[2] But Beorhtric and Cenfulf, the new king, signed a peace treaty. From that time on Wessex remained subordinate to Mercia.[2] Three West Saxon coins have survived from Beorhtric's reign.[4] In style they are very similar to coins struck by Offa. They were probably minted at Southampton after Offa's death.[4]

His queen[change | change source]

Queen Eadburh, as Offs's daughter, seems to have held all the power in Wessex. She had a reputation for great cruelty.[2] In later years Asser, a scholar at Alfred the Great's court, recorded the story that Beorhtric had died from being accidentally poisoned by his wife, Eadburh. She fled to a nunnery in Francia, from which she was later ejected after being found with a man. It was a good story but probably more myth than real.[5] But she was the reason Wessex would not have another queen for several generations.[a] The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that Beorhtric was buried at Wareham in 802.[7] He left no heirs.

Notes[change | change source]

  1. This pattern of the king's wife not being honored as a queen would last until the marriage of Athelwulf of Wessex to Judith, daughter of Charles the Bald.[6]

References[change | change source]

  1. Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 209
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens (New york: Carroll & Graf, 1999), p. 312
  3. Barbara Yorke, Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England (London: Routledge, 1997), p. 141
  4. 4.0 4.1 Rory Naismith, Money and Power in Anglo-Saxon England: The Southern English Kingdoms, 757-865 (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 120
  5. Pauline Stafford, 'Succession and inheritance: a gendered perspective on Alfred's family history', Alfred the Great: Papers from the Eleventh-centenary Conferences, ed. Timothy Reuter (Aldershot, UK; Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2003), p. 262
  6. Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 245
  7. Rosemary Cramp, Corpus of Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture in England, Volume 7 (London; New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 65

Other websites[change | change source]