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Anglo-Saxon Monarchs
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Anglo-Saxon MonarchsThe British Monarchy Began in an historical landscape very différent from our experience. Although the land’s geography and some of its place names may be the same, they belonged to a country that we would find unfamiliar. What we think of as the United Kingdom is a recent création, in historical terms.

Immigrant Saxon warbands, settling after Roman control of Britain ended around 410, created the first English kingdoms. These existed as a constantly altering patchwork of warring tribal states over which first one, then another, gained supremacy. At various times, one ruler claimed ascendancy over all others. The historian Bede (d. 735) lists seven ‘British rulers’ or Bretwaldas - Aelle of Sussex (late 5th century), Ceawlin ofWessex, Ethelbert of Kent (d. 616), Raedwald of East Anglia(d. c. 625), and three kings of Northumbria: Edwin, Oswald and Oswy.

King Offa of Mercia (reigned 757-96) carved out a sizeable kingdom and claimed ‘kingship of the English’.

In the 800s, the British Isles faced Viking attack. Résistance to these onslaughts helped unité the kingdoms of Wales, under Rhodri Mawr of Gwynedd (d. 878) and of Scotland, under Kenneth MacAlpin (reigned 843-60). In England, the kingdom ofWessex had risen to power in the early 9th century at the expense of Mercia and Northumbria. Viking attacks threatened to overwhelm all, including Wessex, the last free English kingdom. But the West Saxons had a stability in their ruling family that other English kingdoms lacked, through the four sons of King Ethelwulf. The last of these was Alfred, greatest of all Saxon kings, and the ruler whose life and reign begin the story of the kings and queens of England.

Anglo-Saxon Monarchs

Cathedral in Alfred's Royal capital
In the 9th century, King Alfred made Winchester, a city with a pre-Roman history, his royal capital. The present cathedral, begun by the Normans in 1079, stands partly over an earlier Christian church, in which Saxon kings were crowned.

Anglo-Saxon Monarchs

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