Book 2, Chapter 2, 597 AD to 827 AD – King Egbert
In his old age, after a successful reign of thirty seven years, Ina vacated the throne in favour of his kinsman Ethelheard, and retired to Rome, where he lived in voluntary poverty and obscurity as a pilgrim, and where he died within a year. Ethelheard was succeeded by his brother Cuthred, in whose reign occurred the signal victory over the Menial’s, under Ethelbald, already mentioned. The next occupant of the throne, Sigeberht, was deposed on account of his arbitrary and unjust rule, and was succeeded by Cynewulf, who, after a not unprosperous reign of more than thirty years, was killed by Cyneheard, a brother of the late king’s, and who had cherished the hope of revenge during those long years in exile.
The circumstances of the murder serve to show the strength of the attachment which subsisted between the different grades of Saxons. Cynewulf was visiting a mistress at Merton, in Surrey, attended with but a slender retinue, who were lodged in neighbouring houses, when Cyneheard, with a band of desperadoes, attacked the king and slew him, though not without a desperate resistance. The noise of the attack and the cries of the woman aroused the attendants, who fought bravely, refusing offers of life and reward made by the assassins, and perished to a man. When the news spread, the chief officers and friends of the murdered monarch instantly assembled, and notwithstanding tempting offers made by Cyneheard, if they would assist him to the throne, they attacked and killed him and all his band. This occurred in 784, and was followed by the elevation of Brihtric to the throne, not upon any claims to succession, for Egbert, a young prince of great promise, had stronger claims, being descended from the brother of king Ida, but in those times the rule of succession was in a most unsettled state, the thanes retaining their old right of election, a practice, which though it gave rise to much strife and bloodshed, was, nevertheless, perpetuated even after the Anglo Saxon monarchy had assumed a settled and permanent form, as will appear when the functions and powers of the witenagemot come to be explained.
After a short contest, Egbert withdrew to the court of Offa, king of Mercia, and then Brihtric sent to demand the hand of Offa’s daughter in marriage, and the head of Egbert. The latter then went to the camp of Charlemagne, where he remained for fifteen years, and the former was sent as the wife of Brihtric, to whom she proved anything but a blessing, being a wanton, furious, cruel woman.
After some years of wedded misery, her husband died of poison which she prepared, either for him or for a favourite of his whom she hated, or for both, and then, being driven out of the country the wretched woman wandered about on the continent, and died in poverty. Immediately on the death of his rival, Egbert returned, and was welcomed by those who had before rejected him. His career was one of the most distinguished and successful of any of the Anglo Saxon race before the time of Alfred the Great, and it marks a most important era in the history of the country.
Chapter 2, Ethelbert of Kent
Chapter 2, Kings Alfred and Ethelbald
Chapter 2, King Egbert
History of Each Kingdom
Chapter 2, Invasion of the Northmen
Categories: Book 2