Cynewulf of Wessex

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Cynewulf
King of Wessex
Reign 757–786
Predecessor Sigeberht
Successor Beorhtric
House House of Wessex
Died 786
Burial Winchester Cathedral[1]

Cynewulf ( 786) was a West Saxon nobleman, a member of the West Saxon witan, and was King of Wessex from 757 until his death in 786.

Career[change | edit source]

Cynewulf was a member of the West Saxon witan. He led that council in expelling Sigeberht.[2] Cynewulf was elected by the witan to rule Wessex in place of Sigeberht. He attested a charter at the court of King Æthelbald of Mercia. The charter was for Cynewulf to grant land to an abbot in Wiltshire. This indicates Wessex was still a dependency of Mercia.[3] Æthelbald died a few months later.[2] Taking advantage of this Cynewulf took back lands he lost in Berkshire and Wiltshire.[2] Cynewulf was occupied during much of his reign in wars against the Welsh of Dumnonia. He was never able to conqueror Cornwall however.[2] In 779, Cynewulf was defeated by Offa of Mercia at the Battle of Bensington.[4] and Offa then retook Berkshire, and perhaps also London. Despite this defeat, there is no evidence to suggest Cynewulf became subject to Offa (as his successor, Beorhtric was).[2]

In 786 Cynewulf was surprised and killed by Cyneheard, the brother of the deposed king Sigeberht.[a] The entry for the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 784 (actual date 786) was: "This year Cyneheard slew [killed] king Cenewulf, and he was there slain, and eighty-four men with him; then Beorhtric succeeded to the kingdom of the West Saxons..."[6] Cynewulf had a long reign of twenty-nine years.[2] He died leaving no heirs.[7]

Notes[change | edit source]

  1. The story of Cynewulf and Cyneheard is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 755. It is the earliest written story or narrative prose, in English writing. Chronologically the story is out of place in the chronicle because the events did not take place in 755. They took place in 786 and the story is repeated briefly under the year 784 (corrected to 786). It is an example of heroic verse that was written before the time of Alfred the Great.[5]

References[change | edit source]

  1. John Crook, The Architectural Setting of the Cult of Saints in the Early Christian West c.300–c.1200 (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 331
  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. 311
  3. Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 204
  4. Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 209
  5. Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 209, note 3
  6. Benjamin Thorpe, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle according to the Several Original Authorities: Translation (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1861), p. 47
  7. Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens (New york: Carroll & Graf, 1999), p. 312

Other websites[change | edit source]