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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Stuckenschmidt

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Table of Content​

Chapter I - Introduction
Chapter II - Cynewulf (757 - 784)
Chapter III - Beorhtric "the Noble" (784 - 799)
Chapter IV - Cynewulf I "the Just" (799 - 847)
Chapter V - Beorhtric I (847 - 854)
Chapter VI - Osmund I (854 - 881)
Chapter VII - Excursus I: The Beginning of the Crusade Era
Chapter VIII - Edmund I (881 - 920)
Chapter IX - Edward I "the Wise" (920 - 951)
Chapter X - Wulfgar I "the Gentle" (951 - 984)
Chapter XI - Edmund II "the Holy" (984 - 1024)
Chapter XII - Edmund III (1024 - 1053)
Chapter XIII - Sigeberht I (1053 - 1083)
Chapter XIV - Beorhtmaer I "the Holy" (1083 - 1111)
Chapter XV - Edward II "the Great" (1111 - 1147)
Chapter XVI - Wulfgar II "the Unchaste" (1147 - 1165)
Chapter XVII - Osmund II "the Just" (1165 - 1189)
Chapter XVIII - Edgar I (1189 - 1232)
Chapter XIX - Osmund III "the Just" (1232 - 1264)
Chapter XX - Edgar II "the Just" (1264 - 1284)
Chapter XXI - Edmund I "the Chaste" (1284 - 1351)
Chapter XXII - Harold I "the Holy" (1351 - 1374)
Chapter XXIII - Edgar I (1374 - 1383)
Chapter XXIV - Harold II "the Cruel" (1383 - 1416)
Chapter XXV - Edgar II (1416 - 1425)
Chapter XXVI - Excursus II: The End of the Crusade Era
Chapter XXVII - Edmund II "the Monk" (1425 - 1452)
Chapter XXVIII - Epilogue
 
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Stuckenschmidt

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Hello fellow Forumites.

Last January I started my first AAR as Wessex, but somehow my motivation dropped down in April and then the project died a silent death. And this has been bugging me since then. So now with Charlemagne and Way of Life out and another 100 years to play I will start a second attempt.

Basically it will remain the same style as in the first one. One ruler = one chapter. And maybe some "specials" concerning specific issues like Crusades. I am determined to bring this project to an end this time so fingers crossed that I do not fail again.
 

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Introduction


A.D. 495. This year came two leaders into Britain, Cerdic and Cynric his son, with five ships, at a place that is called Cerdic's-ore. And they fought with the Welsh the same day. Then he died, and his son Cynric succeeded to the government, and held it six and twenty winters."

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle remains the most important source for the history of England between the Roman Era and the 11th century. Nevertheless one has to be careful using it, since, as with all ancient sources, it has several weaknesses. The first surviving parts of the Chronicles were written in the late 9th century, so many events of the previous centuries were taken from other sources or remind of mythological topoi. Additionally the Chronicles were written in different locations and times and hence represent different biases.

Thus it is no surprise, that Cerdic and Cynric, according to the Chronicle the first Kings of Wessex, are most probably fictional characters and that the origin of Wessex is not to be found in two men coming from the mainland invading some coastal territory, but in a region along the headwaters of Thames and / or Avon.

But despite these facts, the story of Cerdic and Cynric became important for the contemporary noble elite, for it represented two fundamental principles that were valid throughout the medieval age:

1. Legitimacy

Legitimacy, the rightfulness of a given ruler in the eyes of his peers and subjects, came in three versions. For the House of the ruler it was important to trace back its descent to these two first Kings in order to have a proper claim to the throne. Secondly the individual ruler had to be a legitimate descendant of his predecessors.

2. Personal Leadership

The third version of legitimacy was based on the ruler`s acceptance among his noble peers based on his deeds. In a world without administration and just a small circle of advisors at court, the personality of the ruler had a major impact on how efficient the realm was ruled. Personal virtues (be they positive or negative) shaped the opinion of his fellow men and could decide, whether his rule was long and stable or short and violent.


****​


"A.D. 635. This year King Cynegils was baptized by Bishop Birinus at Dorchester; and Oswald, king of the Northumbrians, was his sponsor."

The baptism of Cynegil is an important milestone in Wessex` history for two reasons.

1. Christianization

In the second half of the 6th century England, that was still dominated by an anglo-saxon paganism, came under the influence of the Christian religion from the north by Irish monks and the south by missionaries of the roman church. For the ruling elite, who were the first to be baptized, while the rest of the population often remained heathens for a long time, this was a beneficial step, since the educated clergy could support them in administrating their territories and the anointment was another strong source of legitimacy separate from the acceptance of their followers.

2. Balance of power

Although the concept of a Heptarchy has been dismissed in the 20th century, without any doubt there were several Kingdoms of differing power longing for supremacy on the island. And although Northumbria had still a dominant position in the early 7th century, the alliance between Oswald of Northumbria and Cynegil of Wessex, that became apparent during Cynegil`s baptism, was directed against the rising power of Mercia.


****​


In the year 769, when this book starts, the British Isles were divided in numerous political entities. Britain was dominated by three major realms. Pictland in the north, consisting of the northern and central part of today`s Scotland. Northumbria, consisting of southern Scotland and northern England. Finally Mercia in central England. Southern England and Wales were severely fragmented. Ireland had no dominating power at all, with several counties being caught in a permanent struggle for supremacy.

Fig. 1: The British Isles in 769​

Wessex had become a medium-sized petty Kingdom in southern England when expanding from its homeland westward into Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire. Cynewulf, the current King, claimed to be a direct descendant of Cerdic and hence head of the Cerdicing family. He also is the first of Wessex` rulers to be mentioned in several reliable sources and thus emerges from the darkness of myths and legends into the light of history.
 

Stuckenschmidt

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Cynewulf
(757 - 784)


It is not known, when Cynewulf was born, although the years around 720 are widely accepted as most probable period of time. The origin of his family is also debated. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states, that his paternal line went directly to Cerdic, but it is doubted considering the circumstances of his ascension to the throne.

He had numerous offspring with probably several women, but only one, Adela, gets mentioned in written sources. Six of his children are known by name:

Beorhtric (* 750?)
Aethelred (* 769)
Aethelwulf (* 775)
Hungifu (* 778)
Aelfwynn (* 778)
Cerdic (* 781)

It is believed, that he had more children, although the few sources do not mention any further.

Cynewulf died in 784, according to the Swithun Chronicle "early in the year". Although the cause of death does not get mentioned, he must have been at least sixty years old, so old age is a probable explanation.


Early Reign

Nothing is known about Cynewulf`s life until 757, when he deposed and later killed his predecessor Sigeberht and became King of Wessex himself.

For the next more than ten years nothing of note seemed to have happened until a day in 769. The Swithun Chronicle notes, that Cynewulf had a revelatory experience during a hailstorm, in which Jesus asked him to not further waste his life, since he was destined for greatness. It is believed, that Cynewulf needed the first decade after Sigeberht`s fall to consolidate his rule. That anecdote was a subsequent rationalization for a shift in his policy toward expansionism.


Expansionism and British Developments

Around 770 Mercia was the dominating power in England and Wessex was too weak to challenge it, hence it had to grow in size to remain its independence. Several small political entities existed in southern and eastern England and Cynewulf waged war versus them in the time period from 770 to 780.

His first actions were directed against the rulers east of Wessex, namely Osmund Haesting and Brorda Godhelming. During a war, that lasted between 5 and 7 years he could defeat all local rulers and conquer Sussex and Surrey. Shortly later he turned his attention northward, where King Uthred "the Wise" Oswalding ruled the Kingdom of Hwicce. In a probably short war, Uthred was defeated and exiled, while his capital Gloucester was added to Cynewulf`s realm.

Fig. 2: The British Isles in 784​

At the same time the northern Kingdom of Pictland could bring western Scotland under its control and tried to expand its influence southward. Between Pictland and Mercia was Northumbria. King Ealhred had died shortly after 770 and his son Osred succeeded him. It is probable, that Mercia and Pictland supported parts of the Northumbrian nobility, especially Osbald of Westmorland, to support the claim of Osred`s minor sister Eadflaed. After a long war, Osred was deposed and Eadflaed enthroned, with Osbald being her regent.


Aftermath

The contemporary sources reporting about Cynewulf say nothing about his qualities as individual or leader, but his importance for Wessex is undoubted.

Within a time period of roughly ten years the territory of the Kingdom almost doubled in size during two or three major wars, which were all successful. Additionally archaeological findings in Winchester from the 8th century, which are usually dated to Cynewulf`s reign, indicate that the city, which was the capital of the Kingdom, significantly increased its population and got additional fortifications.

All in all Cynewulf is seen as one of the "good" Kings of Wessex in respect to his achievements, which led the realm out of Mercia`s shadow.
 

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A merry christmas to all of you. :)
 

Tommy4ever

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I on,y just got the Charlemagne DLC myself today so was very pleased to find a good AAR using it here to read.

Starting from such a lowly position in the deepest darkest age is a really fascinating start point. I hope to see you slowly grow to domaine England before facing oblivion at the sharp end of a Norse axe. :D
 

Stuckenschmidt

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The Vikings are fine. The heretics, on the other hand... :eek::p
 

Stuckenschmidt

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Beorhtric "the Noble"
(784 - 799)



Beorhtric was born as son of King Cynewulf. Although the exact date of birth is unknown, the period around 750 is the most probable.

Beorhtric was married two times. His first wife was Anselperga Alachisling. Anselperga was the daughter of King Desiderius "the Just" of Lombardy. That the ruler of one of Europe`s major powers gives his daughter to the designated successor of a minor British realm is an interesting fact. Whether this happened because Desiderius thought that Wessex was a rising power, or he deemed one of his six daughters to be a small price to get an ally on the other side of the Frankish Empire remains unclear. But Beorhtric and Anselperga had four children:

Cynewulf (* 773)
Aelfswith (* 774; + 791?)
Aethelswith (* 778)
Edgar (* 787)

After Anselperga`s death Beorhtric married a second time and his wife was Gytha. Her origin is unknown and the marriage was childless.

Beorhtric died in 799 in Winchester for unknown reasons.


Early years

Beorhtric became Earl of Surrey in 769, meaning that he had to be an adult already at that time. All sources describe him as "brave in battle and skillful in leading soldiers". It is believed, that he did not only participate in his father`s wars during the 770s, but that he actually led the army in his father`s place. When Cynewulf died in 784, Beorhtric became his successor.


Religious unrest in Essex

In the year 790 Pope Vigilius II died after a long term of 16 years and his successor was Gregory IV. The fundamental difference between these two men was, that Vigilius had the support of the local nobility, while Gregory lacked the ability to gain supporters among the elite, which was in control of the city. Vigilius` connections with the leading families resulted in numerous offspring. In 790, shortly before his death, his two youngest children were born which he had with different women. After his death, the appropriate families, being uncomfortable with the new Pope, installed these two newborn children as antipopes and a sometimes bloody power struggle began. Gregory IV died after seven years in 797 and his successor Sisinnius II in 798.

Already in the 780s several religious movements appeared in central and western Europe, which held views that differed from the roman-catholic dogma. Although the amount and severity of these differences varied among the movements (e.g. denial of the transubstantiation, the devotion to the saints or the indulgence), they all emphasized a life in poverty. Although the church deemed all these movements to be heretical,its internal struggles did not only prevent the containment of these teachings, they actually encouraged their spreading.

Fig. 3: Spreading of Fraticelli (dark ochre), Waldensian (purple)
and Lollard (cyan) teachings around 800​

Probably around 780 such a heretic movement appeared in Essex. King Sigeric Offing failed to realize the vast support it had among the population and around 784 that movement led to an open revolt under leadership of Beorhthelm Stawell, probably a minor noble. Beorhthelm managed to defeat Sigeric`s army and occupied whole Middlesex, declaring himself to be the new Earl.

Beorhtric, according to the sources a not necessarily religious person, called for a Holy War against the heretic movement called Lollards and raised an army to march against Beorhthelm. Probably in 785 and 786 his armies defeated Beorhthelm and occupied Middlesex, ignoring the claims of Sigeric to these territories. But although the revolt was defeated, the Lollard dogma maintained a vast support by the people for the rest of Beorhtric`s reign.


The decline of Essex and Kent

In the years around 790 Beorhtric further expanded his influence eastward and waged wars versus King Sigeric Offing of Essex and King Eadberht III Wihtgilsing of Kent. Not later than 792 both realms were defeated and destroyed, with the counties of Essex and Kent being annexed by the Kingdom of Wessex.

Fig. 4: The British Isles in 799​

In the early 790s Wessex had managed to gain control over southern England. Although the Kingdom of Mercia had also expanded, when the County of Shrewsbury was conquered by Earl Wigheard Wiglafing of Chester, Mercia and Wessex were now equally powerful realms. But before a struggle concerning the supremacy over England could begin, a new threat for both realms evolved.


Beginning of the "Viking Age"

"A.D. 793. This year came dreadful fore-warnings over the land of the Northumbrians, terrifying the people most woefully: these were immense sheets of light rushing through the air, and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons flying across the firmament. These tremendous tokens were soon followed by a great famine: and not long after, on the sixth day before the ides of January in the same year, the harrowing inroads of heathen men made lamentable havoc in the church of God in Holy-island, by rapine and slaughter."

The reason for the Viking Expansion as of the late 8th century is still disputed. The most popular theories revolve around overpopulation, lower nobles seeking opportunities to obtain wealth and a general reaction of the Scandinavian cultures to the increasing influence of Christianity in Europe.

The raid on Lindisfarne in 793 marks the beginning of the Viking Era on the British Isles. Within the next years all parts of the islands experienced Viking raids. In southern England, Wessex had to fight back raiding parties in the years 797 and 798 from Gloucester in the west to Kent in the east. Beorhtric seems to have been rather successful in defending his realm, since there are no reports concerning major losses. Mercia was less fortunate, when Gainsborough was plundered and partially burned down in 799.


Last years

The Westminster Chronicle notes, that Beorhtric was wounded in the year 797 while personally leading his army against a Viking raiding group. In the following two years until his death no source reports any event in which the King was personally involved. A document from the year 798 survived, in which the city of Ilchester gains the privilege to build a port and receives funds from the royal treasury in order to do so. Said document is signed by Cuthraed, Beorhtric`s Chancellor.

It is still debated, how serious Beorhtric was wounded in 797. Some claim, that he was incapable to rule the realm and that Cuthraed served as regent. Others refute such a theory, since Beorhtric`s son Cynewulf, who eventually became his successor, would have been chosen as regent instead of the Chancellor. Anyway Beorhtric died in 799 at the age of roughly 50 years.


Aftermath

Beorhtric is seen in a positive light in respect of his achievements. He could expand his realm to the east, eliminating Essex and Kent. He also repelled a first wave of Viking raiders. Findings at several locations prove, that more settlements were fortified and that local garrisons were increased in size. Whether this was a reaction to the Viking threat or a general development to increase control and military power remains unknown.

Also rather nebulous is the origin of his epithet "the Noble". The Swithun Chronicle mentions it first roughly 20 years after his death and explains it with his generous character. But the authors of the Chronicle were traditionally affiliated to the ruling family, so it is also possible, that the epithet was simply introduced as a favor.
 
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Jokolytic

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I love this AAR; the scenario and writing style are adorable and intriguing. Merry belated Christmas to you as well!
 

Stuckenschmidt

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Thank you. :)
 

Stuckenschmidt

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O England! model to thy inward greatness
Like little body with a mighty heart
 

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Cynewulf I "the Just"
(799 - 847)



Cynewulf I "the Just" (also "the Holy") was born in 773 as first son of King Beorhtric "the Noble" of Wessex and Anselperga Alachisling. He became Earl of Surrey in 790 and, after the death of his father, King of Wessex in 799 at the age of 26 years.

He was married three times. His first wife was Adelgrima de Luna. She died in the aftermath of giving birth to Beorhtric (* 791).

Cynewulf`s second wife was Aethelgifu (+ 837). They had four children:

Aethelthryth (* 804)
Aethelred (* 806)
Margaret (* 811)
Edmund (* 821)

In his late years, Cynewulf got married to a woman called Amalberga, but this last marriage remained childless.

Cynewulf died in 847 at the age of 74 years in Winchester, probably after a long illness.


Viking Raids

The annual raids by Vikings remained a threat throughout Cynewulf`s reign. A comparison of all contemporary chronicles came to the result, that 43 out of the 48 years of his regency saw Viking attacks. These raids were more or less evenly distributed along the coastlines, with between 11 (County of Wessex) and 18 (County of Kent) raids in the period from 799 to 847.

The reaction to this permanent threat was an increase of fortifications and garrisons. Archaeological findings suggest, that as of 820 all existing castles and cities experienced improvements in their defensive fortifications as well as in the size of local garrisons. The now nonexistent Fulham Castle was built in that period of time.

These countermeasures were effective, since none of the more than one hundred recorded Viking raids managed to seize any major settlement. Other locations were less fortunate, such as Dunbar and Teviotdale in Northumbria, which got looted in 830 and 841.


Struggle with Heretic movements

In the year 800, the Catholic church was amidst a deep crisis. There were three different Popes residing in Rome and none of them strong enough to seriously curtail the influence of their rivals. This inner strife caused an inability to counter the numerous religious faiths, which were heretical from the point of view of the roman-catholic dogma. These faiths were rampant in central and western Europe, since not only common people but also nobles supported them.

During his reign, Cynewulf remained loyal to the catholic church. A circumstance which earned him his epithets. Between 800 and 815 he faced at least three uprisings caused by people following the Lollard faith. Although exact numbers are not available, between 8.000 and 10.000 people are estimated to have been killed during these events.

As of the 810s the situation began to improve. The first Antipope died in 814 during an epidemic, while the other survived until 841. But the Popes Formosus II (813 - 818) and Paul II (825 - 838) had enough willpower and supporters within and outside the Church to take measures against the heretic movements. Between 810 and 850 several military and inquisitorial campaigns were successful and in the middle of the 9th century the once prospering movements were either exterminated or driven to peripheral regions as Wales and Scotland.

Fig. 5: Spread of the Waldensian (purple) and Fraticelli (dark ochre)
faiths around 850​

But although Cynewulf was supportive of the catholic faith, he had a less hostile attitude towards other minorities. In the year 808 the existence of a Jewish community is first mentioned in a document, when a Shabzai of Selz was granted the right to settle in Winchester. In the following decades some members of the Jewish community held important offices at court.


The decline of Mercia

When King Offa of Mercia died in 808 after a reign of approximately six decades, he left behind a strong realm which dominated central England. Since he had outlived all his children, his grandson succeeded him on the throne as Offa II.

Offa II was a staunch proponent of the Cathar faith and hence stood outside the catholic church at a point of time, when the heretic movements were already past their best. Supported by the catholic church, Northumbria, East Anglia, Wessex and the welsh Kingdom of Gwynedd started a series of so-called Holy Wars versus Mercia which lasted throughout the 810s and resulted in the loss of the Counties of Shrewsbury (to Gwynedd), Lincoln (to East Anglia), Oxford (to Wessex), Chester and Derby (to Northumbria).

Offa II was killed in 824 and it is believed, that his own son and successor Eormenric, who converted to Catholicism shortly after his succession, was the initiator of this bloody deed. Although this event saved Mercia from immediate extinction, it had lost more than half of its territory within twenty years, when Eormenric had to cede Bedford to Wessex in 827.


King of England

Simultaneously to his campaigns versus Mercia, Cynewulf began to expand into the Kingdom of East Anglia. During two wars between 820 and 830 he forced the Kings Eadmund and Raedwulf to cede Suffolk and Norfolk to Wessex.

In 830, with Mercia being seriously reduced and Northumbria amidst political turmoil, Wessex was the dominating power in Britannia. In order to publically demonstrate his status, he was crowned as King of England in the Old Minster in Winchester on 15th March 831.


Political developments on the British Isles

While Wesses consolidated its power in central and southern England and Mercia was struggling to survive, the rest of Britannia was shaken by political and religious shockwaves.

Northumbria had expanded at Mercia`s expense and its influence was greater than at any other point of history. But when Queen Eadflaed "the Usurper" died in 827, her successor was Queen Elisaued "the Unfaithful". It remains unclear, whether the Lords of Northumbria objected to the second female inheritance in a row or the character of said rulers, the whole south of the realm revolted against the Queen. By 835 as well York as Lancaster had successfully gained independence, reducing Northumbria to its northern half.

Even more troubled than Northumbria was Scotland. Hildegardis, daughter of Charlemagne and Queen of France since 801, died in 805. Since she was married to King Canuall of Scotland, their son Aniel was to rule France, which also contained Scotland as of then. The Scottish nobility, uncomfortable with the fact to lose their independence to France as well as being supporters of the Waldensian faith, revolted against Aniel. Within a few years most of Scotland was united under the leadership of King Tarla II of Alban.

Fig. 6: The British Isles in 847​

Wales, traditionally a fragmented political landscape, experienced severe unrest when the Fraticelli movement gained support. Around 850 it consisted of many independent Counties. Ireland, an even more disunited country than Wales, experienced some changes during the first half of the 9th century, when the Duchies of Mide and Mumu could gain a stronger power basis in central and southern Ireland than any other political entity before.


Late years

Not long after his coronation, Cynewulf`s physical condition must have significantly deteriorated and for at least the last decade of his life a regency council was ruling the country.

Although the causes for this development are unknown, several sources indicate, that his wife Amalberga and his second son Aethelred played a prominent role within the council. During these years, they managed to take advantage of the situation and secure fiefs for themselves which were part of the crown domain before. It remains unknown, whether this happened in concert with the actual heir Beorhtric, but the lack of sanctions after Beorhtric`s succession indicate, that he agreed to let his relatives gain an own domain in exchange for running the country.

During this last decade, no military campaigns were performed. On the other hand it was during the second quarter of the 9th century, that, despite the constant Viking threat, many cities increased in size and importance for trade and commerce. Whether the origin for this urban boom was the governance of the regency council or the general political and economic "climate" is unknown.


Aftermath

Cynewulf is a key figure in early English history. In an age of severe political and religious unrest he managed to keep his realm together, averted the danger of religious disunity and foreign invasion and established the Kingdom of England.

But despite his importance for the establishment of today`s United Kingdom and the fact, that he was one of the favorites of historians in the 19th century, he is almost completely unknown among the population today.
 

Jokolytic

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I think you formed England a bit too early. :( You should aim for a custom Empire in this case.
 

Stuckenschmidt

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I think you formed England a bit too early. :(
I don`t think there is something like "become King too early". ;)

Don`t worry. It is still a long way before I control all of England and Wales. And there will be weird inheritances, uprisings, Crusades, maybe an invasion or two. That`s the good thing about CK2. Something is happening all the time.
 

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Beorhtric I
(847 - 854)



Beorhtric I was born in 791 as first son of King Cynewulf I "the Just" and Adelgrima de Luna. He became Earl of Surrey in 809 and, after the death of his father, King of England in 847 at the age of 55 years.

Beorhtric was married three times. His first wife was Wulfhild Rose (+ 834), daughter of the Chief of Teviotdale. They had two children:

Cynewulf (* 819; + 835)
Gunhilda (* 823; + 841)

Another son was born during his second marriage with Aethelburg Eadwulfing (+ 843):

Osmund (* 837)

Finally, as a result of his third marriage with Aelfwynn, he became father of three more children:

Edgar (* 847)
Aelfgyth (* 850)
Edmund (* 852)

Beorhtric died due to old age in Winchester in the year 854 at the age of 62 years.


Expansion in the north

Despite his short reign, Beorhtric I continued the offensive policy of his predecessors toward Mercia and East Anglia. A first campaign was directed against King Wulfgar Iceling of Mercia, the grandson of the unfortunate Offa II. Already in 848 Wulfgar had to surrender and ceded Northampton to England.

Fig. 7: The British Isles in 854​

The next target was the County of Lincoln. Since 815 it belonged to East Anglia and was its last holding since the war against Wessex in 830. In 851 the small Anglian army was destroyed and Gainsborough Castle captured. King Raedwulf Wuffing fled the country and with Lincoln being annexed by England, the Kingdom of East Anglia ceased to exist.


Aftermath

Beorhtric belongs to the less noticed rulers in medieval Britannia. Due to his short reign it is difficult to identify genuine accomplishments besides the resumption of an expansionist policy.

The Westminster Chronicle indicates the existence of an armed retinue, an early form of standing army, of roughly 500 soldiers during the Mercian war in 848 and many historians did attribute the invention of this institution to Beorhtric. But in the recent decades many authors pointed out, that such a retinue must have existed for a longer time, if it was already operational directly after the succession. Hence the credit is given to his father Cynewulf I or his brother Aethelred (who ruled the country as regent for several years before Cynewulf`s death) nowadays.
 
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Stuckenschmidt

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