Ecgfrith of Mercia

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Ecgfrith ( 796) was the King of Mercia from July to December 796. He was the son of Offa, the King of Mercia, and Cynethryth.[1] In 787 he was crowned King of Mercia while his father still ruled. This is the first known consecration of an English king. No doubt it was Offs's imitation of the consecration of Charlemagne's sons by the pope in 781.[1][2] It was a practical way to recognize Ecgfrith as heir to the Mercian kingdom. Offa continued to rule and maintained all the power himself.[3]

Ecgfrith was succeeded as king by Coenwulf. This was probably because Offa had arranged the murder of nearer relatives in order to eliminate any rivals to Ecgfrith. Alcuin of York, an English deacon and scholar wrote:[a][4]

That most noble young man has not died for his sins, but the vengeance for the blood shed by the father has reached the son. For you know how much blood his father shed to secure the kingdom upon his son.[1]
Alcuin added: "This was not a strengthening of the kingdom, but its ruin."[5]

When his father died in July of 796 Ecgfrith was king for only 141 days. The cause of his death is unknown but may not have been natural.[3]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. Alcun was one of Charlemagne's chief advisors.[4]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ann Williams (1991). "Ecgfrith king of Mercia". A Biographical Dictionary of Dark Age Britain. Seaby. 
  2. Kelly, S. E. (2007). "Offa (d. 796), king of the Mercians". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. DOI:10.1093/ref:odnb/52312. Retrieved on 22 July 2012.  (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens (New york: Carroll & Graf, 1999), p. 259
  4. 4.0 4.1 Lapidge, "Alcuin of York", in Lapidge et al., "Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England", p. 24.
  5. Letter of Alcuin to Mercian ealdorman Osbert, tr. in Whitelock, English Historical Documents, p. 787