Kingdom of the East Angles
|Independent (6th century-794; 796-c. 799; 825-869)
Client state of Mercia (794-796; c. 799-825)
Part of the Danelaw (869-917)
| Anglo-Saxon paganism (before 7th century)
Christianity (after 7th century)
• Annexed by the Kingdom of Wessex
The Kingdom of the East Angles (Old English : Ēastengla Rīċe; Latin : Regnum Orientalium Anglorum), formally known as the Kingdom of East Anglia, was a small independent kingdom of the Angles during the Anglo-Saxon period comprising what are now the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk and perhaps the eastern part of the Fens, the area still known as East Anglia.
The kingdom formed in the 6th century in the wake of the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain and was one of the kingdoms of the Heptarchy. It was ruled by the Wuffingas dynasty in the 7th and 8th centuries, but the territory was taken by Offa of Mercia in 794. Mercia control lapsed briefly following the death of Offa but was reestablished. The Danish Great Heathen Army landed in East Anglia in 865, after taking York it returned to East Anglia, killing King Edmund ("the Martyr") and making it Danish land in 869. After Alfred the Great forced a treaty with the Danes, East Anglia was left as part of the Danelaw.
It was taken back from Danish control by Edward the Elder and incorporated into the Kingdom of Wessex in 917.
The Kingdom of East Anglia was organised in the first or second quarter of the 6th century, with Wehha listed as the first king of the East Angles, followed by Wuffa.The Anglo-Saxon genealogy for East Angles gives Wehha as descended from Woden via Caesar.
Until 749 the kings of East Anglia were Wuffingas, named after the semi-historical Wuffa. During the early 7th century under Rædwald of East Anglia, it was a powerful Anglo-Saxon kingdom. Rædwald, the first East Anglian king to be baptised a Christian, is seen by many scholars to be the person buried within (or commemorated by) the ship burial at Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge. During the decades that followed his death in about 624, East Anglia became increasingly dominated by the kingdom of Mercia. Several of Rædwald's successors were killed in battle, such as Sigeberht, under whose rule and with the guidance of his bishop, Felix of Burgundy, Christianity was firmly established.[ citation needed ]
From the death of Æthelberht II by the Mercians in 794 until 825, East Anglia ceased to be an independent kingdom, apart from a brief reassertion under Eadwald in 796. It survived until 869, when the Vikings defeated the East Anglians in battle and their king, Edmund the Martyr, was killed. After 879, the Vikings settled permanently in East Anglia. In 903 the exiled Æthelwold ætheling induced the East Anglian Danes to wage a disastrous war on his cousin Edward the Elder. By 918, after a succession of Danish defeats, East Anglia submitted to Edward and was incorporated into the Kingdom of Wessex.
East Anglia was settled by the Anglo-Saxons earlier than many other regions, possibly at the start of the 5th century.It emerged from the political consolidation of the Angles in the approximate area of the former territory of the Iceni and the Roman civitas , with its centre at Venta Icenorum , close to Caistor St Edmund. The region that was to become East Anglia seems to have been depopulated to some extent around the 4th century. Ken Dark writes that "in this area at least, and possibly more widely in eastern Britain, large tracts of land appear to have been deserted in the late 4th century, possibly including whole 'small towns' and villages. This does not seem to be a localised change in settlement location, size or character but genuine desertion."
According to Bede, the East Angles (and the Middle Angles, Mercians and Northumbrians) were descended from natives of Angeln (now in modern Germany).The first reference to the East Angles is from about 704–713, in the Whitby Life of St Gregory. While the archaeological and linguistic evidence suggests that a large-scale migration and settlement of the region by continental Germanic speakers occurred, it has been questioned whether all of the migrants self-identified as Angles.
The East Angles formed one of seven kingdoms known to post-medieval historians as the Heptarchy, a scheme used by Henry of Huntingdon in the 12th century. Some modern historians have questioned whether the seven ever existed contemporaneously and claim the political situation was far more complicated.
The East Angles were initially ruled by the pagan Wuffingas dynasty, apparently named after an early king Wuffa, although his name may be a back-creation from the name of the dynasty, which means "descendants of the wolf".An indispensable source on the early history of the kingdom and its rulers is Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People , but he provided little on the chronology of the East Anglian kings or the length of their reigns. Nothing is known of the earliest kings, or how the kingdom was organised, although a possible centre of royal power is the concentration of ship-burials at Snape and Sutton Hoo in eastern Suffolk. The "North Folk" and "South Folk" may have existed before the arrival of the first East Anglian kings.
The most powerful of the Wuffingas kings was Rædwald, "son of Tytil, whose father was Wuffa",according to the Ecclesiastical History. For a brief period in the early 7th century, whilst Rædwald ruled, East Anglia was among the most powerful kingdoms in Anglo-Saxon England: he was described by Bede as the overlord of the kingdoms south of the Humber. and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle identifies him as Bretwalda. In 616, he had been strong enough to defeat and kill the Northumbrian king Æthelfrith at the Battle of the River Idle and enthrone Edwin of Northumbria. He was probably the individual honoured by the sumptuous ship burial at Sutton Hoo. It has been suggested by Blair, on the strength of parallels between some objects found under Mound 1 at Sutton Hoo and those discovered at Vendel in Sweden, that the Wuffingas may have been descendants of an eastern Swedish royal family. However, the items previously thought to have come from Sweden are now believed to have been made in England, and it seems less likely that the Wuffingas were of Swedish origin.
Anglo-Saxon Christianity became established in the 7th century. The extent to which paganism was displaced is exemplified by a lack of any East Anglian settlement named after the old gods.
In 604, Rædwald became the first East Anglian king to be baptised. He maintained a Christian altar, but at the same time continued to worship pagan gods.From 616, when pagan monarchs briefly returned in Kent and Essex, East Anglia until Rædwald's death was the only Anglo-Saxon kingdom with a reigning baptised king. On his death in around 624, he was succeeded by his son Eorpwald, who was soon afterwards converted from paganism under the influence of Edwin, but his new religion was evidently opposed in East Anglia and Eorpwald met his death at the hands of a pagan, Ricberht. After three years of apostasy, Christianity prevailed with the accession of Eorpwald's brother (or step-brother) Sigeberht, who had been baptised during his exile in Francia. Sigeberht oversaw the establishment of the first East Anglian see for Felix of Burgundy at Dommoc, probably Dunwich. He later abdicated in favour of his brother Ecgric and retired to a monastery.
The three daughters of Anna of East Anglia, Æthelthryth, Wendreda, Seaxburh of Ely, are associated with the founding of abbeys.
The eminence of East Anglia under Rædwald fell victim to the rising power of Penda of Mercia and successors. From the mid-7th to early 9th centuries Mercian power grew, until a vast region from the Thames to the Humber, including East Anglia and the south-east, came under Mercian hegemony.In the early 640s, Penda defeated and killed both Ecgric and Sigeberht, who, having retired to religious life was later venerated as a saint. Ecgric's successor Anna and Anna's son Jurmin were killed in 654 at the Battle of Bulcamp, near Blythburgh. Freed from Anna's challenge, Penda subjected East Anglia to the Mercians. In 655 Æthelhere of East Anglia joined Penda in a campaign against Oswiu that ended in a massive Mercian defeat at the Battle of the Winwaed, where Penda and his ally Æthelhere were killed.
The last Wuffingas king was Ælfwald, who died in 749.During the late 7th and 8th centuries East Anglia continued to be overshadowed by Mercian hegemony until, in 794, Offa of Mercia had the East Anglian king Æthelberht executed and then took control of the kingdom for himself. A brief revival of East Anglian independence under Eadwald, after Offa's death in 796, was suppressed by the new Mercian king, Coenwulf.
East Anglian independence was restored by a rebellion against Mercia led by Æthelstan in 825. Beornwulf of Mercia's attempt to restore Mercian control resulted in his defeat and death, and his successor Ludeca met the same end in 827. The East Angles appealed to Egbert of Wessex for protection against the Mercians and Æthelstan then acknowledged Egbert as his overlord. Whilst Wessex took control of the south-eastern kingdoms absorbed by Mercia in the 8th century, East Anglia could retain its independence.
In 865, East Anglia was invaded by the Danish Great Heathen Army, which occupied winter quarters and secured horses before departing for Northumbria.The Danes returned in 869 to winter at Thetford, before being attacked by the forces of Edmund of East Anglia, who was defeated and killed at Hægelisdun and then buried at Beodericsworth. Following his death Edmund became known as 'the Martyr' and venerated as patron saint and the town of Bury St Edmunds was established there.
From then on East Anglia effectively ceased to be an independent kingdom. Having defeated the East Angles, the Danes installed puppet-kings to govern on their behalf, while they resumed their campaigns against Mercia and Wessex.In 878 the last active portion of the Great Heathen Army was defeated by Alfred the Great and withdrew from Wessex after making peace and agreeing that the Danes would treat the Christians equally. The treaty between Alfred and Guthrum acknowledged the latter's landholdings in East Anglia. In 880 the Vikings returned to East Anglia under Guthrum, who according to the medieval historian Pauline Stafford, "swiftly adapted to territorial kingship and its trappings, including the minting of coins."
Along with the traditional territory of East Anglia, Cambridgeshire and parts of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, Guthrum's kingdom probably included Essex, the one portion of Wessex to come under Danish control.A peace treaty was made between Alfred and Guthrum sometime in the 880s.
Under Scandinavian control, there are settlements in East Anglia which have names with Old Norse elements, e.g. '-thorp', '-by'
In the early 10th century, the East Anglian Danes came under increasing pressure from Edward, King of Wessex. In 901, Edward's cousin Æthelwold ætheling,having been driven into exile after an unsuccessful bid for the throne, arrived in Essex after a stay in Northumbria. He was apparently accepted as king by some or all Danes in England and induced the East Anglian Danes to wage war on Edward in Mercia and Wessex. This ended in disaster with the death of Æthelwold and of Eohric of East Anglia in battle in December 902.
In 911–917 Edward expanded his control over the rest of England south of the Humber, establishing in Essex and Mercia burhs, often designed to control the use of a river by the Danes.In 917, the Danish position in the area suddenly collapsed. A rapid succession of defeats culminated in the loss of the territories of Northampton and Huntingdon, along with the rest of Essex: a Danish king, probably from East Anglia, was killed at Tempsford. Despite reinforcement from overseas, the Danish counter-attacks were crushed, and after the defection of many of their English subjects as Edward's army advanced, the Danes of East Anglia and of Cambridge capitulated.
East Anglia was absorbed into the Kingdom of Wessex in 917. Norfolk and Suffolk became part of a new earldom of East Anglia in 1017, when Thorkell the Tall was made earl by Cnut the Great.The restored ecclesiastical structure saw two former East Anglian bishoprics (Elmham and Dunwich) replaced by a single one at North Elmham.
The East Angles spoke Old English. Their language is historically important, as they were among the first Germanic settlers to arrive in Britain during the 5th century: according to Kortmann and Schneider, East Anglia "can seriously claim to be the first place in the world where English was spoken."
The evidence for dialects in Old English comes from the study of texts, place-names, personal names and coins.A. H. Smith was the first to recognise the existence of a separate Old East Anglian dialect, in addition to the recognised dialects of Northumbrian, Mercian, West Saxon and Kentish. He acknowledged that his proposal for such a dialect was tentative, acknowledging that "the linguistic boundaries of the original dialects could not have enjoyed prolonged stability." As no East Anglian manuscripts, Old English inscriptions or literary records such as charters have survived, there is little evidence to support the existence of such a dialect. According to a study by Von Feilitzen in the 1930s, the recording of many place-names in Domesday Book was "ultimately based on the evidence of local juries" and so the spoken form of Anglo-Saxon places and people was partly preserved in this way. Evidence from Domesday Book and later sources suggests that a dialect boundary once existed, corresponding with a line that separates from their neighbours the English counties of Cambridgeshire (including the once sparsely-inhabited Fens), Norfolk and Suffolk.
The kingdom of the East Angles bordered the North Sea to the north and the east, with the River Stour historically dividing it from the East Saxons to the south. The North Sea provided a "thriving maritime link to Scandinavia and the northern reaches of Germany", according to the historian Richard Hoggett. The port of Ipswich (Gipeswic) was established in 7th century.
The kingdom's western boundary varied from the rivers Ouse, Lark and Kennett to further westwards, as far as the Cam in what is now Cambridgeshire. At its greatest extent, the kingdom comprised the modern-day counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of eastern Cambridgeshire.
Erosion on the eastern border and deposition on the north coast altered the East Anglian coastline in Roman and Anglo-Saxon times (and continues to do so). In the latter, the sea flooded the low-lying Fens. As sea levels fell alluvium was deposited near major river estuaries and the "Great Estuary" (which the Saxon Shore forts at Burgh Castle and Caister had guarded) became closed off by a large spit of land.
No East Anglian charters (and few other documents) have survived, while the medieval chronicles that refer to the East Angles are treated with great caution by scholars. So few records from the Kingdom of the East Angles have survived because of a complete destruction of the kingdom's monasteries and disappearance of the two East Anglian sees as a result of Viking raids and settlement.The main documentary source for the early period is Bede's 8th-century Ecclesiastical History of the English People . East Anglia is first mentioned as a distinct political unit in the Tribal Hidage, thought to have been compiled somewhere in England during the 7th century.
Anglo-Saxon sources that include information about the East Angles or events relating to the kingdom:
Post-Norman sources (of variable historical validity):
Rædwald, also written as Raedwald or Redwald, was a king of East Anglia, an Anglo-Saxon kingdom which included the present-day English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. He was the son of Tytila of East Anglia and a member of the Wuffingas dynasty, who were the first kings of the East Angles. Details about Rædwald's reign are scarce, primarily because the Viking invasions of the 9th century destroyed the monasteries in East Anglia where many documents would have been kept. Rædwald reigned from about 599 until his death around 624, initially under the overlordship of Æthelberht of Kent. In 616, as a result of fighting the Battle of the River Idle and defeating Æthelfrith of Northumbria, he was able to install Edwin, who was acquiescent to his authority, as the new king of Northumbria. During the battle, both Æthelfrith and Rædwald's son, Rægenhere, were killed.
Wulfhere or Wulfar was King of Mercia from 658 until 675 AD. He was the first Christian king of all of Mercia, though it is not known when or how he converted from Anglo-Saxon paganism. His accession marked the end of Oswiu of Northumbria's overlordship of southern England, and Wulfhere extended his influence over much of that region. His campaigns against the West Saxons led to Mercian control of much of the Thames valley. He conquered the Isle of Wight and the Meon valley and gave them to King Æthelwealh of the South Saxons. He also had influence in Surrey, Essex, and Kent. He married Eormenhild, the daughter of King Eorcenberht of Kent.
Æthelhere was King of East Anglia from 653 or 654 until his death. He was a member of the ruling Wuffingas dynasty and one of three sons of Eni to rule East Anglia as Christian kings. He was a nephew of Rædwald, who was the first of the Wuffingas of which more than a name is known.
Anna was king of East Anglia from the early 640s until his death. He was a member of the Wuffingas family, the ruling dynasty of the East Angles, and one of the three sons of Eni who ruled the kingdom of East Anglia, succeeding some time after Ecgric was killed in battle by Penda of Mercia. Anna was praised by Bede for his devotion to Christianity and was renowned for the saintliness of his family: his son Jurmin and all his daughters – Seaxburh, Æthelthryth, Æthelburh and possibly a fourth, Wihtburh – were canonised.
Tytila was a semi-historical pagan king of East Anglia, a small Anglo-Saxon kingdom which today includes the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. Early sources, including Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, identify him as an early member of the Wuffingas dynasty who succeeded his father Wuffa. A later chronicle dates his reign from 578, but he is not known to have definitely ruled as king and nothing of his life is known. He is listed in a number of genealogical lists.
Ecgric was a king of East Anglia, the independent Anglo-Saxon kingdom that today includes the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. He was a member of the ruling Wuffingas dynasty, but his relationship with other known members of the dynasty is not known with any certainty. Anna of East Anglia may have been his brother, or his cousin. It has also been suggested that he was identical with Æthelric, who married the Northumbrian princess Hereswith and was the father of Ealdwulf of East Anglia. The primary source for the little that is known about Ecgric's life is Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, written by the English Benedictine monk Bede in around 731 AD.
The Wuffingas, Uffingas or Wiffings were the ruling dynasty of East Anglia, the long-lived Anglo-Saxon kingdom which today includes the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. The Wuffingas took their name from Wuffa, an early East Anglian king. Nothing is known of the members of the dynasty before Rædwald, who ruled from about 599 to c.624. The Viking invasions of the 9th century and Dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century both led to the destruction of documents relating to the rule of the Wuffingas.
Ælfwald was an 8th-century king of East Anglia, an Anglo-Saxon kingdom that today includes the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. The last king of the Wuffingas dynasty, Ælfwald succeeded his father Ealdwulf, who had ruled for 49 years. Ælfwald himself ruled for 36 years. Their combined reigns, with barely any record of external military action or internal dynastic strife, represent a long period of peaceful stability for the East Angles. In Ælfwald's time, this was probably owing to a number of factors, including the settled nature of East Anglian ecclesiastical affairs and the prosperity brought through Rhineland commerce with the East Anglian port of Gipeswic. The coinage of Anglo-Saxon sceattas expanded in Ælfwald's time: evidence of East Anglian mints, markets, and industry are suggested where concentrations of such coins have been discovered.
Eadwald of East Anglia was an obscure king of the small Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia from around the year 796 to some point between 798 and 805. He lived at a time when East Anglia was eclipsed by its more powerful neighbour, Mercia. After his deposition, submission, or death, Mercian control was restored under Coenwulf and the East Anglians lost their independence for a quarter of a century. Knowledge of Eadwald's short reign comes almost solely from the few surviving coins that were minted under his name. No details of his life or reign are known.
Ealdwulf, also known as Aldulf or Adulf, was king of East Anglia from c. 664 to 713. He was the son of Hereswitha, a Northumbrian princess, and of Æthilric, whose brothers all ruled East Anglia during the 7th century. Ealdwulf recalled that when he was very young, he saw the Christian/pagan temple belonging to his ancestor Rædwald.
Felix of Burgundy, also known as Felix of Dunwich, was a saint and the first bishop of the kingdom of the East Angles. He is widely credited as the man who introduced Christianity to the kingdom. Almost all that is known about him comes from The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, completed by the English historian Bede in about 731, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Bede wrote that Felix freed "the whole of this kingdom from long-standing evil and unhappiness".
Sigeberht of East Anglia, was a saint and a king of East Anglia, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom which today includes the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. He was the first English king to receive a Christian baptism and education before his succession and the first to abdicate in order to enter the monastic life. The principal source for Sigeberht is Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, which was completed in the 730s.
Eorpwald; also Erpenwald or Earpwald,, succeeded his father Rædwald as King of the East Angles. Eorpwald was a member of the East Anglian dynasty known as the Wuffingas, named after the semi-historical king Wuffa.
Ricberht, may have briefly ruled East Anglia, a small independent Anglo-Saxon kingdom which today forms the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. Little is known of his life or his reign.
Æthelwold, also known as Æthelwald or Æþelwald, was a 7th-century king of East Anglia, the long-lived Anglo-Saxon kingdom which today includes the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. He was a member of the Wuffingas dynasty, which ruled East Anglia from their regio at Rendlesham. The two Anglo-Saxon cemeteries at Sutton Hoo, the monastery at Iken, the East Anglian see at Dommoc and the emerging port of Ipswich were all in the vicinity of Rendlesham.
Wuffa is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon genealogies as an early king of East Anglia. If historical, he would have flourished in the 6th century.
Wehha of East Anglia is listed by Anglo-Saxon records as a king of the East Angles. If he existed, Wehha ruled the East Angles as a pagan king during the 6th century, at the time the region was being established as a kingdom by migrants arriving from what is now Frisia and the southern Jutland peninsula. Early sources identify him as a member of the Wuffingas dynasty, which was established around the east coast of Suffolk. Nothing of his reign is known.
Beonna was King of East Anglia from 749. He is notable for being the first East Anglian king whose coinage included both the ruler's name and his title. The end-date of Beonna's reign is not known, but may have been around 760. It is thought that he shared the kingdom with another ruler called Alberht and possibly with a third man, named Hun. Not all experts agree with these regnal dates, or the nature of his kingship: it has been suggested that he may have ruled alone from around 758.
Alberht was an eighth-century ruler of the kingdom of East Anglia. He shared the kingdom with Beonna and possibly Hun, who may not have existed. He may still have been king in around 760. He is recorded by the Fitzwilliam Museum and the historian Simon Keynes as Æthelberht I.