Ethelbert of Wessex

Ethelbert of Wessex

Infobox Monarch
title=King of Wessex

caption=A coin depicting Ethelbert
predecessor=Ethelbald of Wessex
date of birth= c 836
place of birth=Wessex, England
date of death=866 Wessex
place of death=
place of burial=

King Ethelbert or "Æþelberht" of Wessex (meaning "Magnificent Noble") was the third son of Ethelwulf of Wessex and was born around 835. He got his first taste of kingship in 855 when he was left in charge of Kent while his father, Ethelwulf, was in Rome. His brother Ethelbald was left in charge of the West Saxons. After his father and brother's deaths he succeeded his brother, Ethelbald of Wessex, as King of Wessex in 860. [Barbara Yorke, "Kings and Kingship in Early Anglo-Saxon England" (London: Seaby, 1990. ISBN 1-85264-927-8), pp. 148–158 & p. 133, table 15.] Ethelwulf seems to have intended Ethelbert to establish a cadet branch of West Saxon kings in Kent. However, when Ethelbald died in 860, the kingship of the West Saxons passed to Ethelbert, probably because both his younger brothers, Ethelred and Alfred, were too young to lead a country facing Viking attacks.


Like his father and brother he was also crowned at Kingston upon Thames. His reign saw a Danish plundering of Kent and raids in Northumbria, both led by Ragnar Lodbrok. They had also penetrated as far as Winchester in Ethelbert's early reign. One development was that Wessex and its recent south-eastern conquests became a united kingdom. Unlike his predecessors, Ethelbert did not appoint another member of his family as under-king of Kent. A charter issued in the first year of Ethelbert's reign reflects an extraordinary new kind of assembly: it was the first charter of a West Saxon king to include a full complement both of West Saxon and of Kentish witnesses. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle describes Ethelbert's reign as one of good harmony and lasting peace. Though this was true of internal affairs, the Vikings remained a great threat, unsuccessfully storming Winchester and ravaging vast parts of Kent. Ethelbert died in 866 and was buried at Sherborne Abbey in Dorset beside his brother Ethelbald.At the time of his death, Ethelbert was married (the records of his wife have not survived) and had two young sons: Aldhelm, who was killed, unmarried, during the Viking invasions in Alfred's reign; and Ethelward, who was only an infant in 866, but unnsuccessfully claimed the throne after Alfred's death in 899. He sought refuge in Danelaw where he was killed the following year. [Burke's Peerage, 107th ed, ISBN: 0-9711966-2-1, 2003]

ee also

*House of Wessex family tree


ee also

*List of monarchs of Kent
*Chronology of Kentish Kings

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