806. Eardwulf of Northumbria driven from his kingdom
806-66. Gap in reliable narrative sources for Northumbrian history

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports that in 806 Eardwulf of Northumbria was driven from his kingdom. Unfortunately, after this brief comment, sources of reliable narrative history for Northumbria lapse into near-silence for almost 60 years, picking up the story only with the Viking conquest in 866/7. (That there was continuity in Northumbrian attitudes and power-struggles is however suggested by the fact that at their reappearance in 866/7 they are said to be involved in great civil strife, having just deposed one king and taken on another.)

A set of early 9th-century Frankish annals (cited at EHD 21) reports under 808 that Eardwulf, having been expelled, visited Charlemagne, and then went on to Rome, and on his return from Rome he was escorted by envoys of the pope and of Charlemagne back to his kingdom. Since the annal for 809 deals with events after Eardwulf's return home, we can place this return somewhere in 808/9. The 12th-century History of the Church of Durham states that a certain Ælfwold, about whom nothing is known, ruled the Northumbrians for two years after Eardwulf's flight (ii.5). The same passage states that after Ælfwold, Eardwulf's son Eanred began to reign. The contradiction in sequence of events could be explained away by suggesting that Eardwulf was restored and immediately made way for his son Eanred who was seen as a more acceptable ruler, but it is more honest to admit we don't know precisely what happened. No coins of this second Ælfwold survive (another Ælfwold had ruled Northumbria 778/9-788), but this is not decisive either way, since until 1994 no coins of the otherwise-attested Eardwulf were known either (see Pirie 1995).

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle does note in 829 that Ecgberht of Wessex met the Northumbrians and made peace with them, but gives no indication who was in charge of the Northumbrians at the time. The 12th-century History of the Church of Durham states that Eanred ruled for 33 years, that Æthelred succeeded him, that Osberht succeeded Æthelred, that Osberht's fifth year was A.D. 854 (ii.5), and that A.D. 867 was the fifth year of Ælle, who succeeded the exiled Osberht (ii.6). If we assume that Eanred's reign started in 808, this gives Æthelred's succession in 841 and Osberht's in 849. The 13th-century Flowers of History of Roger of Wendover claims instead that Eanred succeeded Ælfwold in 810, and died himself in 840, when he was succeeded by his son Æthelred, that Æthelred was expelled from the kingdom by Rædwulf in 844, but when Rædwulf was killed in a battle with the pagans (Vikings) Æthelred resumed the kingship, and that in 848 Æthelred died and was succeeded by Osberht, who ruled for 18 years.

Both late narratives ignore the return of Eardwulf, mentioned in a contemporary source, and there is disagreement as to whether Ælle took over in 866 (Roger of Wendover) or 862 (History of the Church of Durham). It is uncertain that much weight can be placed on either of them (see Dumville). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that in 866/7 Osberht had just been deposed and Ælle elected. The substantial surviving coinage from 9th-century Northumbria provides independent evidence for the sequence of rulers Eanred, Æthelred, Rædwulf, Æthelred again, and Osberht. This supports the order of events given in the later sources, but numismatists have been troubled by the small volume of coins of Osberht in comparison to his predecessor, and this has led to suggestions that the coinage ended in 851 or that all the dates should be advanced by 14 years or so (so that Æthelred succeeds in 854, Rædwulf in 858, and Osberht in 862; see Pagan). Grierson and Blackburn, noting that Pagan's radical 14-year shift creates some problems in Northumbrian archiepiscopal chronology, prefer a less radical shift by which Æthelred's second reign is placed in the 850s and most of Osberht's in the 860s (pp.301-3). They do not commit themselves to a figure, however, with understandable caution in light of all the uncertainty (one question that has not been tackled, and which probably cannot be tackled, is what effect the continuing Northumbrian civil wars or intensifying Viking attacks may have had on coin production). It is probably best to admit that while we know the overall sequence of rulers for the period (with lingering question marks over Eardwulf's possible second reign after 808 and the civil strife between Osberht and Ælle), we do not have enough information to give dates for the individual reigns.

D. Dumville, "Textual archaeology and Northumbrian history subsequent to Bede", Coinage in Ninth-Century Northumbria (Oxford: 1987), pp.43-55

P. Grierson and M. Blackburn, Medieval European Coinage, 1: The Early Middle Ages (5th-10th centuries) (Cambridge: 1986), pp.301-3

H. Pagan, "Northumbrian Numismatic Chronology in the Ninth Century", British Numismatic Journal 38 (1969), pp.1-15

E. Pirie, "Earduulf: A Significant Addition to the Coinage of Northumbria", British Numismatic Journal 65 (1995), pp.20-31

807. Cuthred the (Mercian) king of Kent dies
Coenwulf of Mercia resumes direct control of Kent

811-4. Coenwulf of Mercia reconquers Sigered and the East Saxons

The East Saxon king after Offa's death had been Sigeric, who went to Rome in 798 (see entry for 796). There is a Sigered who is called king in charters of Coenwulf of Mercia for 811 (S 165, 168), subking (subregulus) in 812 (S 170), and ealdorman (dux) by 814 (S 180). This Sigered is not explicitly stated to be East Saxon in the charters, but the name appears in the East Saxon regnal list as a son of Sigeric, and the other neighbouring kingdoms, Kent and East Anglia, were firmly back under Mercian control before 811. The charters enable us to say that Coenwulf brought Sigered and the East Saxons back under his control in 811-4: there is unfortunately no way of knowing what relations existed between Coenwulf and Sigered before 811. It would be very interesting to know whether Coenwulf tolerated an independent East Saxon kingdom because he did not have the same resources that Offa had had and could not take it back, or whether he tolerated it because he could not be bothered to take it back, or whether he simply reached an agreement with Sigered which meant that he did not need to take it back. Perhaps Sigered was installed with Mercian support, much as Coenwulf established his brother Cuthred as king of Kent, and Coenwulf could have taken back full control at any time he wished. Whatever his status with regard to the Mercians, Sigered is the last known East Saxon king.

D. Dumville, "The West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List: Manuscripts and Texts", Anglia 104 (1986), pp.1-32 [for Sigered, son of Sigeric, see p.32]

815. Ecgberht of Wessex ravages Cornwall

816. Council of Chelsea: Wulfred, Archbishop of Canterbury, attacks Coenwulf of Mercia

No mention in ASC, but Wulfred was deprived of his see 817-21 (note archiepiscopal coins without names)

Wulfred forced to make terms in 821 or lose estates?

-- Wulfred attacks lay lordships and insists on bishop's right to appoint abbots

-- Wulfred then claims lordship of Reculver, Minster-in-Thanet (run by Coenwulf's daughter Cuenthryth)

-- Coenwulf suspends Wulfred for 6 years, threatens permanent exile, enlists papal support

-- Wulfred loses -- has to pay ?120 compensation, forfeits Eynsham, Oxon. -- and abbeys withhold obedience.

c.818. Coenwulf of Mercia devastates Dyfed

This battle is recorded only in the Annales Cambriae, which note "Coenwulf devastated the regio of the Demetae" (that is, Dyfed).

821. Coenwulf of Mercia dies
Ceolwulf, Cenwulf's brother, succeeds to Mercia

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records Coenwulf's death without details. It is in the 12th-century historical poem L'Estoire des Engleis of Geffrei Gaimar that we learn that he died at Basingwerk, at the north end of Wat's Dyke (Stenton, p.230, says this is unlikely to be invention and suggests it may come from a lost version of the Chronicle possessed by Gaimar).

Charters of Ceolwulf calling him the king of the Mercians and the people of Kent show that Ceolwulf retained control of Kent. The East Angles revolted briefly (q.v.), but the rebellion was quashed. Ceolwulf conquered Powys in 822, but was himself deposed in 823.

F. Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England, 3rd edn (Oxford: 1971)

821. On Coenwulf's death, Æthelstan of East Anglia revolts

While Æthelstan of East Anglia's reign properly begins in 827 on the death of Ludica, there are two coins of Æthelstan by the East Anglian moneyer Edgar which Marion Archibald has convincingly argued should be dated rather earlier than the rest of Æthelstan's coins, closer to the ship-type of Ceolwulf of Mercia (821-3). It seems most likely then that these two coins of Æthelstan should be dated c.821 and seen as evidence of an East Anglian revolt after Coenwulf's death, just as the coins of Eadwald point to an East Anglian revolt after the death of Offa (see entry for 796). Since the moneyer Edgar went on to mint coins for the Mercians Ceolwulf and Beornwulf, Æthelstan's revolt was presumably unsuccessful. He would try again in 826, when an unnamed East Anglian king applied to Ecgberht of Wessex for protection, and the East Angles killed the Mercian king Beornwulf (see entry on 826), but his reign still did not properly begin until 827.

822. Ceolwulf of Mercia conquers Powys

This conquest is recorded in the Annales Cambriae, which note "The fortress of Deganwy was destroyed by the Saxons and they took into their power the regio of Powys".

823. Ceolwulf of Mercia deprived of Mercia
Beornwulf succeeds to Mercia
Bealdred succeeds to Kent, with Beornwulf's support (?)

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle does not state that Ceolwulf died in 823, but that he was deprived of the kingdom. The very different name of the following king, Beornwulf (as compared to the brothers Coenwulf, Cuthred, and Ceolwulf) leads to the suspicion that he might have been from a different family. It is tempting to associate him with the Beornred who tried to take power in Mercia after Æthelbald's death in 757 but was ousted by Offa, but since Coenwulf is the last Mercian king for whom we have a full genealogy, there is no way of verifying this. Beornwulf is best remembered for losing the battle of Ellendun against the West Saxons in 825 and being killed by the East Angles in 826.

The position of Kent in Beornwulf's reign is uncertain. Where the Kentish mints had produced coins in the names of the previous Mercian kings Coenwulf and Ceolwulf, in Beornwulf's reign they produced coins in the name of one Bealdred. No charters of Bealdred survive, and he appears in the documentary sources only in the Chronicle's account of the West Saxon take-over of 825, in which after the defeat of Beornwulf, the West Saxons send some forces to Kent and drive out King Bealdred. The alliterating names raise the possibility that this Bealdred is a kinsman of Beornwulf of Mercia's, placed in charge of Kent just as Coenwulf of Mercia had put his brother Cuthred earlier (798-807). The fact that a charter of Archbishop Wulfred of 826 (S 1267) is dated by Beornwulf's regnal year, with no reference to Bealdred's, supports the theory that Bealdred was a Mercian caretaker or dependent rather than an independent king.

August 19, 825. Battle of Galford (Devon): Ecgberht of Wessex defeats the Britons

The precise date of this battle is supplied from the dating clauses of two charters, which note that they were drawn up on August 19 when the army of Ecgberht advanced against the Britons at the place called Creodantreow (S 272-3). A letter of Archbishop Dunstan in the 10th century (EHD 229) mentions that the people of Cornwall rose up against Ecgberht and he went there and subdued them, which may refer to this battle or the earlier one of 815.

825. Battle of Ellendun (Wroughton, Wilts.): Ecgberht of Wessex defeats Beornwulf of Mercia
Æthelwulf of Wessex drives Bealdred out of Kent
People of Kent, Surrey, South Saxons and East Saxons submit to Æthelwulf

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states that Ecgberht fought Beornwulf of Mercia at Ellendun (Wroughton) and that Ecgberht won and there was a great slaughter there. Then Ecgberht sent his son Æthelwulf and bishop Ealhstan and ealdorman Wulfheard to Kent, with a large force, and they drove Bealdred north across the Thames, and the people of Kent and Surrey and the South Saxons and the East Saxons submitted to Æthelwulf because they had been wrongfully forced away from his kinsmen.

A late 11th-century manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes under 784 that Ealhmund ruled in Kent, and that Ealhmund was Ecgberht's father, who was Æthelwulf's father. This makes clear the link between the West Saxon ruling house and Kent and the south-east. Since we know that members of the main West Saxon ruling family were not in power in Wessex between Ine's death in 726 and Ecgberht's accession in 802, the most likely explanation is that one of these exiled West Saxon æthelings gained a foothold in Kent while Cynewulf was ruling in Wessex (757-86). (See also Keynes, p.3, n.8)

S. Keynes, "King Alfred and the Mercians", in M. Blackburn and D. Dumville (edd.), Kings, Currency and Alliances: History and Coinage of Southern England in the Ninth Century (Woodbridge: 1998), pp.1-45

826. East Angles appeal to Ecgberht of Wessex for protection
Beornwulf of Mercia killed by the East Angles
Ludica succeeds to Mercia

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle seems to date these events to 825, but this long annal probably recounts the events of more than one year. Corroboration that Beornwulf lasted until at least 826 is provided by a charter of that year (S 1267), which is dated to the third year of Beornwulf of Mercia. The king of the East Angles who appealed to Ecgberht for peace and protection, unnamed by the Chronicle, was probably the Æthelstan who rebelled in 821 and began his reign properly in 827, and whose name is recorded only on his coins. The death of Beornwulf of Mercia was not enough to gain the East Angles their independence, as Beornwulf's successor Ludica continued to issue coins in East Anglia (Grierson and Blackburn, pp.293-4). Ludica witnesses a record of a council at Clofesho of King Beornwulf of 824 as an ealdorman (S 1434). Almost nothing is known of his reign.

P. Grierson and M. Blackburn, Medieval European Coinage, 1: The Early Middle Ages (5th-10th centuries) (Cambridge: 1986)

827. Ludica of Mercia killed
Wiglaf succeeds to Mercia

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that Ludica was killed, and his five ealdormen with him, and that Wiglaf succeeded.

Wiglaf was conquered by Ecgberht of Wessex in 829, but re-emerged as Mercian king the following year (q.v.). He died in 840.

827-870. East Anglia in the 9th century

The narrative sources for East Anglia dry up in the ninth century, even more so than for Northumbria (see entry on 806-66). Beyond the facts that an unnamed East Anglian king sought the help of Ecgberht of Wessex and that the East Angles killed Beornwulf of Mercia in 826, that East Anglia was one of the many targets of Viking raids in 841 and the landing-place of the "Great Heathen Army" in 865, the East Angles leave no traces in narrative history until the martyrdom of King Edmund in 869. It is only from their coins that we can deduce the existence of the kings Æthelstan and Æthelweard, predecessors of Edmund of East Anglia.

The two ship-type coins of Æthelstan seem to date from a revolt after Coenwulf's death in 821. The rest of Æthelstan's coinage follows on directly from the coinage of Ludica of Mercia: no coins of Wiglaf of Mercia were minted in East Anglia, and since we know from other sources that Ludica was killed in 827, that year probably also marks the beginning of Æthelstan's reign as king of an independent East Anglia.

The problems of constructing a skeletal history from the coinage are discussed at length by Pagan. A hoard deposited c.840 and containing (among its East Anglian coins) only coins of King Æthelstan allows the probability that Æthelstan was king at least until 840. A hoard deposited c.860 and containing East Anglian coins of Æthelstan (3), Æthelweard (16), and Edmund (3) suggests that Edmund had come to power shortly before 860, since otherwise we might expect more coins of Edmund. (A hoard deposited c.872, for instance, includes 50 East Anglian coins of Edmund, 5 of Æthelweard, and 2 of Æthelstan.) It would be plausible then to assume that Æthelstan ruled from 827 until the early 840s (perhaps falling in the Viking raids of 841), Æthelweard ruled for the later 840s and early 850s, and Edmund ruled from the later 850s until his death on 20 November 869. Later accounts of Edmund's martyrdom such as the Annals of St Neots place it in his 16th year, and while this appears too late to be accepted as historical evidence it may be noted that the coinage does not contradict a reign-beginning for Edmund in 855.

P. Grierson and M. Blackburn, Medieval European Coinage, 1: The Early Middle Ages (5th-10th centuries) (Cambridge: 1986)

H. Pagan, "The Coinage of the East Anglian Kingdom from 825 to 870", British Numismatic Journal 52 (1982), pp.41-83

829. Ecgberht of Wessex takes direct control over Mercia
Ecgberht of Wessex meets the Northumbrians and makes peace with them

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that Ecgberht conquered the kingdom of the Mercians. This is confirmed by an issue of coins of Ecgberht as king of the Mercians (with the inscription ECGBERHT REX M, for Rex Merciorum), and a regnal list of Mercia which assigns Ecgberht a reign of one year (see Keynes, "Alfred", p.4, and references there).

The Chronicle notes further that Ecgberht had conquered everything south of the Humber, and so was the eighth king who was Bretwalda, or Brytenwalda; the chronicler then inserts Bede's list of seven kings who held wide powers south of the Humber (HE, ii.5), and adds Ecgberht at the end. This annal has seemed to solidify the idea of overlordship over Southumbrian England into a recognized post, with attendant ramifications and questions (Was the "sceptre" found at Sutton Hoo the symbol of Rædwald's "Bretwalda-ship"? Why are the Mercian overlords from Penda to Offa not counted as "Bretwaldas" number 8-12, making Ecgberht the 13th?). It seems more likely, however, that the word was invented by the chronicler than that it was a long-recognized official title. It appears elsewhere only once, in a forged charter of King Æthelstan (S 427; not even the 9th-century Old English translation of Bede uses "Bretwalda"), and the copyists of the Chronicle seem unsure what the word is (different manuscripts use three different words, Bretwalda, Brytenwalda, and Brytenanwalda; see further Keynes, "Bretwalda", pp.110-16).

After Ecgberht conquered the Mercians, the Chronicle reports that he led an army to Dore (in northern Derbyshire) against the Northumbrians, and they submitted to him there and made peace with him, and parted on those terms. Roger of Wendover in the 13th century writes that Ecgberht took a large army into Northumbria and ravaged the province and made King Eanred pay tribute, but this contradicts earlier accounts and one might expect the Chronicle written in the reign of Ecgberht's grandson to make more of such a conquest if it had taken place.

S. Keynes, "Rædwald the Bretwalda", Voyage to the Other World: The Legacy of Sutton Hoo (Minneapolis: 1992), pp.103-23

S. Keynes, "King Alfred and the Mercians", in M. Blackburn and D. Dumville (edd.), Kings, Currency and Alliances: History and Coinage of Southern England in the Ninth Century (Woodbridge: 1998), pp.1-45

830. Wiglaf re-emerges as king of Mercia

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes laconically (after Ecgberht had conquered the kingdom of the Mercians the previous year) that Wiglaf again obtained the kingdom of the Mercians. The surviving evidence gives no indication whether this was the result of a Mercian rebellion or of a new arrangement peacefully agreed between the West Saxons and the Mercians (see further Keynes, p.4 n.14). The fact that Ecgberht led an army (presumably through Mercia) against the Welsh in 830 with no apparent difficulties suggests that the West Saxons and the Mercians were on good terms, or at the very least that the balance of power was in Ecgberht's favour and he could have prevented a Mercian revolt had he wished.

S. Keynes, "King Alfred and the Mercians", in M. Blackburn and D. Dumville (edd.), Kings, Currency and Alliances: History and Coinage of Southern England in the Ninth Century (Woodbridge: 1998), pp.1-45

830. Ecgberht of Wessex defeats the Welsh

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that Ecgberht led an army against the Welsh, and reduced them all to submission to him. It is important to note that Ecgberht of the West Saxons was leading this campaign, unlike some earlier campaigns against the Welsh when West Saxon kings may have fought under Mercian supervision (see entries on 726 and 743). The balance of power had clearly shifted in favour of the West Saxons.

835. Vikings ravage Sheppey

836. Ecgberht of Wessex loses to the Vikings at Carhampton

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that Ecgberht fought against the crews of 35 ships at Carhampton (on the coast of Somerset), and that there was a great slaughter and the Danes won.

838. Ecgberht of Wessex defeats the Vikings and Cornish at Hingston Down (Cornwall)

838. Council of Kingston: Archbishop of Canterbury pledges support to West Saxons

839. Ecgberht of Wessex dies
Æthelwulf, Ecgberht's son, succeeds to Wessex
Æthelstan, Æthelwulf's son, succeeds to the eastern provinces

840. Ealdorman Wulfheard defeats the Vikings at Southampton
Ealdorman Æthelhelm of Dorset is defeated and killed by the Vikings at Portland

840. Wiglaf of Mercia dies
Beorhtwulf succeeds to Mercia

840s. Æthelwulf of Wessex and Beorhtwulf of Mercia mint coins by same moneyers

841. Viking raids in Lindsey, East Anglia, and Kent

842. Great slaughter in London and Rochester (presumably Vikings)

842. Vikings raid Southampton

This raid is noted in Nithard's History of the Sons of Louis the Pious, written in the 840s (extract, EHD 22). Nithard notes that after ravaging the Continental centre of Quentovic, the Northmen crossed the sea and plundered Southampton and Nordhamwig (perhaps Northam; see Whitelock's note, EHD, p.342 n.3).

843. Æthelwulf of Wessex loses to the Danes at Carhampton

845. Ealdorman Eanwulf of Somerset and Osric of Dorset defeat the Vikings

850. Ealdorman Ceorl of Devon defeats the Vikings

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that Ealdorman Ceorl and the men of Devon fought against the Vikings at Wicganbeorg (unidentified, but presumably in Devon), and defeated them. Ceorl was an ealdorman throughout the 840s, witnessing charters in 840 and 846 (S 290 and 298, in which he has the Latin title princeps; he also appears in two dubious charters of 844, S 294 and 322). It may have been the band defeated by Ceorl which moved around to the east coast and took up winter quarters at Thanet (q.v.).

850/1. Vikings first spend winter in England, at Thanet

851. Huge fleet storms Canterbury and London
Puts Beorhtwulf of Mercia to flight
Æthelwulf of Wessex and son Æthelbald defeat the Vikings at Aclea

851. Æthelstan, Æthelwulf's son, defeats the Vikings at Sandwich

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports that King Æthelstan and Ealdorman Ealhhere fought a naval battle and defeated a great army at Sandwich in Kent, capturing nine ships and putting the others to flight. This is Æthelstan's last appearance; he was presumably dead by 855, when Æthelwulf divided the kingdom between Æthelstan's two younger brothers. He may have been dead by 853, when Ealdorman Ealhhere alone is reported as leading the people of Kent, but this is not certain.

c.852. Beorhtwulf of Mercia dies
Burgred succeeds to Mercia

853. Æthelwulf of Wessex and Burgred of Mercia together attack the Welsh

853. Burgred of Mercia marries Æthelswith, daughter of Æthelwulf of Wessex

853. Ealhhere of Kent and Huda of Surrey fight the Vikings at Thanet (both killed)

854/5. Vikings winter at Sheppey

855. Æthelwulf of Wessex goes to Rome
Æthelwulf leaves Wessex proper to son Æthelbald, and eastern provinces to younger son Æthelberht

856. Æthelwulf returns, with Judith
Conflict between Æthelwulf and son Æthelbald

858. Æthelwulf of Wessex dies
Æthelbald succeeds to Wessex, and Æthelberht to the eastern provinces
Æthelbald marries Judith, Æthelwulf's widow

860. Æthelbald of Wessex dies
Æthelberht, Æthelbald's brother, succeeds to Wessex (including the eastern provinces)

860. Viking naval force goes inland, storms Winchester; defeated

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that a great naval force came inland and stormed Winchester, and Ealdorman Osric of Winchester and Ealdorman Æthelwulf of Berkshire fought against the army, and put them to flight. The Continental Annals of St Bertin note that this army travelled from the Somme to its defeat by the Anglo-Saxons in 860, and record its return to the Continent in 861.

J. Nelson, The Annals of St-Bertin (Manchester, 1991), pp. 92, 95

864. Vikings camp at Thanet, "make peace" with people of Kent

865. Æthelberht of Wessex dies
Æthelred, Æthelberht's brother, succeeds to Wessex

c.865-75. Burgred of Mercia's "Lunette" coinage, also adopted by Wessex

865/6. Viking "Great Heathen Army" lands in East Anglia, and spends winter there
East Anglians "make peace" with the army

866/7. "Great Heathen Army" moves from East Anglia to Northumbria, takes York

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that at the time of the arrival of the army in Northumbrian York there was great civil strife among that people, who had deposed their king Osberht and taken a king with no hereditary right, Ælle. It was not until late in the year that they united sufficiently to fight against the raiding army. They gathered a large army and attacked the Vikings who held York, but there was an immense slaughter of the Northumbrians, and both kings were killed, and the survivors made peace with the enemy.

Later sources give more details, though of uncertain value: the 12th-century History of the Church of Durham notes that the Vikings took York on November 1, 867 (866 in our reckoning), and that the English tried to take back York on March 21, 867. Simeon of Durham adds in his Historia Regum that after that the Vikings set up Ecgberht as ruler under their dominion of the Northumbrians beyond the Tyne, which was presuambly roughly the same as the ancient kingdom of Bernicia. Simeon adds that Ecgberht died in 873 and was succeeded by Ricsige, and that Ricsige was succeeded in 876 by Ecgberht the second. However, effective power will have been held by the Vikings, who visited in 872, wintered by the Tyne in 874/5, and shared out the land of the Northumbrians in 876.

867/8. "Great Heathen Army" moves from Northumbria to Notthingham in Mercia, winters there

868. Alfred of Wessex marries Ealhswith of the Mercians

Asser records that in 868 Alfred, then called secundarius, married a woman of Mercian noble stock, the daughter of Æthelred Mucil, ealdorman of the Gaini, and of Eadburh, from the royal line of the king of the Mercians.

868. Burgred of Mercia and Æthelred and Alfred of Wessex join forces against the Vikings
Combined English besiege Vikings in Nottingham, but no serious battle, and Mercians "make peace"

868/9. "Great Heathen Army" back to York; stays for a year

869/70. "Great Heathen Army" rides across Mercia to Thetford in East Anglia, winters there
November 20, 869. King Edmund of East Anglia killed by the Vikings
Æthelred succeeds to East Anglia (?)

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that after the Danes had the victory and killed Edmund, they conquered East Anglia. As a result of this, the two coins in the name of Æthelred and looking like imitations of East Anglian issues have been taken as probable East Anglian Viking imitations of coins of the West Saxon Æthelred I, just as slightly later Viking issues copy coins of Alfred (see Grierson and Blackburn, p.294). However, the recent discovery of a new coin of Æthelred which matches the coinage of Edmund much more precisely raises the probability that it is a genuine East Anglian coin and that Æthelred was in fact Edmund's successor, and retained (or regained) power in East Anglia for some part of the 870s before Guthrum and his army settled there in 880.

P. Grierson and M. Blackburn, Medieval European Coinage, 1: The Early Middle Ages (5th-10th centuries) (Cambridge: 1986)

Spink Coin Auctions, no. 111 (21 November 1995), lot 57 (Early Medieval Corpus no. 1995.1057)

871. "Great Heathen Army" invades Wessex
Battles of Reading, Ashdown, Basing, Meretun

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle describes this invasion in much more detail than the attacks on Mercia or Northumbria, which shows quite clearly its origins as a West Saxon document. The army came first to Reading, and three days later two Danish earls rode farther inland, where they were met by Ealdorman Æthelwulf at Englefield, and one of the Danes was killed. Four days after that King Æthelred and Alfred led a great army to Reading and there was a pitched battle with great slaughter in which Ealdorman Æthelwulf was killed, and the Vikings were victorious.

Four days after that, Æthelred and Alfred had rallied their troops and fought against the Vikings at Ashdown: this fight continued until nightfall and this time the English put the Vikings to flight. The chronicler adds that the Vikings forces were in two halves: King Æthelred faced the one led by the heathen kings, Bagsecg and Halfdan, and Bagsecg was slain, and Alfred faced the one led by the earls, several of whom (Sidroc the Old, Sidroc the Younger, Osbearn, Fræna and Harold) were slain.

A fortnight later Æthelred and Alfred fought the Vikings at Basing, and this time the Vikings won.

Two months later Æthelred and Alfred fought the Vikings at Meretun (unidentified), and the Vikings won, though only after a long battle and great slaughter; the chronicler notes that the English put the Vikings to flight and were victorious far into the day.

871. "Great Summer Army" comes to Reading

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle puts this arrival in 871, before Æthelred's death in April. The "Great Summer Army" came to Reading, and presumably joined there the "Great Heathen Army" of 865, which had successfully beaten off an English attack on its camp at Reading earlier in the year. The armies probably campaigned together until 874, when Halfdan (the surviving king from the "Great Heathen Army" noted at the Battle of Ashdown in 871) led part of the army up to Northumbria.

late April, 871. Æthelred of Wessex dies
Alfred, Æthelred's brother, succeeds to Wessex

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that Æthelred died after Easter (April 15 in 871). John of Worcester in his 12th-century chronicle gives the date as April 23, but Stevenson points out that this cannot be trusted, since another and a more famous King Æthelred died on April 23 (1016), and the 12th-century chronicler may have found that date in a calendar, without a year or an identification of which King Æthelred was meant (in the form "9 kal. May [23 April]: rex Æthelredus obiit") and applied it to the wrong king (Stevenson, pp.240-1).

W. Stevenson, ed., Asser's Life of King Alfred together with the Annals of Saint Neots Erroneously Ascribed to Asser (Oxford: 1904)

871. Alfred fights the Vikings at Wilton, and elsewhere
The West Saxons make peace with the Vikings

A month after his accession (so presumably in late May, 871), Alfred led a small force against the Viking army at Wilton, and the Vikings won (though, as in the discussion of the battle at Meretun in 870/1, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle puts a brave face on it, saying that the English were victorious far into the day, though the Danes won in the end).

Summing up the year 871, the chronicler notes that there were nine large battles (variant figures range from eight to fifteen) against the Danes that year, not counting smaller engagements, that nine Danish earls and one king (Bagsecg, at the Battle of Ashdown) were killed, and only after this does he admit that the West Saxons "made peace" with the Vikings.

871/2. Vikings take winter quarters in London
The Mercians make peace with the Vikings

872/3. Vikings go up to Northumbria; take winter quarters at Torksey in Lindsey
The Mercians make peace with the Vikings

Roger of Wendover, writing in the 13th century, explains the Viking raid on Northumbria by noting that the Northumbrians had expelled King Ecgberht and Archbishop Wulfhere. This is quite in character for the Northumbrians, in view of the civil war they were having in 866/7 and the fluidity of the political situation in the 8th and mid-10th centuries, but it is not recorded by any earlier historians. Simeon of Durham notes only that Ecgberht died in 873.

873/4. Vikings take winter quarters at Repton in Mercia
Burgred of Mercia driven over the sea
Ceolwulf succeeds to Mercia

In the winter of 873/4, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that the Viking army moved from Lindsey to Repton (in the heart of Mercia), and took up winter quarters there, and drove Burgred of Mercia across the sea, and that he ended up in Rome where he died and was buried. The Chronicle then notes that the army gave the kingdom of the Mercians to Ceolwulf, "a foolish king's thegn", who swore oaths to deliver Mercia up to them whenever they asked.

It should be remembered though that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle here is a West Saxon account written some twenty years later at the West Saxon court, and painting a fair and accurate picture of a defeated ruler of another kingdom was probably not a priority. Such contemporary evidence as exists shows Ceolwulf acting independently as king of the Mercians: he issues charters as king, witnessed by Mercian bishops and nobles; he also issues coins, one type of which, the Cross and Lozenge type, looks like the result of a reform of the coinage carried out by Alfred and Ceolwulf together. So it seems that at the time, Ceolwulf was recognized as the Mercian king by Mercians and West Saxons alike. He was probably also the leader of the English force which killed Rhodri Mawr of Gwynedd in 878, a battle mentioned only in Welsh and Irish annals. The fact that Ceolwulf kept the western parts of Mercia after the partition with the Vikings in 877 -- unlike the other occupied English nations which were completely taken over -- may even suggest that Ceolwulf was a shrewder negotiator than the West Saxon chronicler cared to remember.

874/5. Army leaves Repton
Halfdan takes part of it to Northumbria and takes winter quarters by the river Tyne
Guthrum, Oscetel and Anwend lead the rest to Cambridge, stay for a year
Alfred wins a naval battle against the Vikings

Since Halfdan was one of the kings leading the "Great Heathen Army" in 871, it may be that this division sees the remnants of the "Great Heathen Army" of 865 and the "Great Summer Army" of 871 going their separate ways.

875. Lindisfarne abandoned

c.875. Alfred's first coinage reform

876. Vikings (Guthrum's army) move from Cambridge into Wareham
Alfred makes peace with the Vikings
Halfdan shares out the land of the Northumbrians among his army

876/7. Vikings (Guthrum's army) to Exeter
Alfred pursues Vikings to Exeter, and they make peace there

Autumn, 877. Vikings (Guthrum's army) take over eastern Mercia, leaving Ceolwulf in the west

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that in the harvest season the army went into Mercia and shared out part of it, and left the rest for Ceolwulf. (Asser seems to give the month as August, but this chapter in Asser is probably an interpolation; see Keynes and Lapidge, pp.246-7 n.94.) Æthelweard in his version of the Chronicle adds that the Vikings set up camp in Gloucester.

S. Keynes and M. Lapidge, Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources (Harmondsworth: 1983)

January 878. Vikings (Guthrum's army) to Chippenham, occupy the land of the West Saxons
Alfred reduced to hiding in the marshes

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that in midwinter, after twelfth night (i.e., January 878), the Vikings came stealthily to Chippenham, and occupied the land of the West Saxons and settled there, driving most of the English across the sea and conquering many of the rest, and that the people submitted, except for King Alfred, who continued the resistance with a small force in the woods and the fens.

In the same winter, the chronicler notes that the brother of Ivar and Halfdan was in Devon with a naval force, and was killed there with most of his men, and the "Raven" banner was captured. Asser adds the details that the Viking leader came with twenty-three ships from Dyfed in Wales, and that he was slain at the fortress at Countisbury (Life of King Alfred, chapter 23). We do not know this brother's name, though Geffrei Gaimar in the 12th century asserts that it was Ubba, and the legend of St Edmund of East Anglia names Ubba and Ivar as the Viking leaders who martyred King Edmund in 869 (see Ælfric's Life of St Edmund).

March 23 (Easter), 878. Alfred makes a stronghold at Athelney in Somerset
May 878. Battle of Edington: Alfred defeats Guthrum's army
June 878. Guthrum baptized at Aller near Athelney

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports that at Easter (23 March), King Alfred with a small troop made a stronghold at Athelney, from which he and the nearby people of Somerset fought against the enemy. In the seventh week after Easter (mid-May) he rode to Ecgberht's Stone (unidentified) east of Selwood, and was there met by the people of Somerset and Wiltshire and Hampshire. The next day he went to Iley, and then to Edington, where he fought the whole army and put it to flight. He pursued them as far as their fortress, and besieged them there for a fortnight. This time it was the Vikings who had to give in and sue for peace. They gave him hostages and swore great oaths to leave the kingdom, and also that their king should receive baptism. They kept both promises: three weeks later (early June?) Guthrum and 30 of his chief men were baptized at Aller, near Athelney, and King Alfred stood sponsor to Guthrum there. Guthrum stayed with Alfred for twelve days, and greatly honoured him and his companions with gifts.

878. English force (led by Ceolwulf?) kills Rhodri Mawr of Gwynedd

This battle is mentioned in the Annales Cambriae, which note under 877 (for 878) that Rhodri and his son Gwriad were killed by the Saxons. There is no indication of who led the English force, but it was probably Ceolwulf of Mercia, both because Mercia was the neighbouring English kingdom (perhaps looking to expand westwards after the partition with the Vikings in 877) and because the West Saxons were coping with a major Viking invasion and near-conquest in 878. Besides which, if Alfred had won a victory over the Welsh in 878 on top of his defeat of the Vikings, one might expect the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to make a note of it, and no English sources mention this battle.

878/9. Guthrum's army goes from Chippenham to Cirencester, where it stays for a year
Another band of Vikings camps at Fulham by the Thames

879/80. Guthrum's army goes from Cirencester to East Anglia, and shares out the land
The army at Fulham goes overseas to the Frankish empire (until 892)

c.880. End of Ceolwulf's authority in Mercia
(Ealdorman) Æthelred succeeds to Mercia, under Alfred of Wessex

The length of Ceolwulf's reign is uncertain. A regnal list kept at Worcester (in the western half of Mercia, and so unaffected by the partition of 877) gives him a reign of five years, which would take it to 879. By 883 (according to S 218), Ealdorman Æthelred was in charge of Mercia, under the overall authority of King Alfred of Wessex. No contemporary sources explain how this came about, though the Viking army which settled in Cirencester in western Mercia for a year in 878/9 might have finally extinguished Ceolwulf's independent Mercian kingdom.

c.880. Alfred's second coinage reform

880. Army from Cirencester to East Anglia
Army settles in East Anglia and shares out the land

882. Alfred wins a naval battle against the Vikings

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in the 880s follows the career of the Viking army on the Continent, until its return in 892. The entry for 882 also notes that Alfred went out to sea and fought against four Viking ships, and he captured two of them and killed all who were on board, and the other two surrendered. A charter of 882 (S 345) notes that Alfred was also in this year on campaign (in expeditione) at Epsom in Surrey, quite possibly against another Viking incursion, but there are no further details.

883. English encamped against the enemy army at London

885. Viking army arrives, besieges Rochester
Alfred arrives and the Vikings flee (some overseas, some to Viking East Anglia)
East Anglians and new arrivals raid Benfleet in Essex
Alfred raids East Anglia

A part of the army that had gone to the Continent in 880 seems to have returned to England in this year and besieged Rochester. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that the city held out until Alfred came with his army, at which point the Vikings fled to their ships. The Chronicle implies they then went back over the sea, but Æthelweard's version of the Chronicle suggests that the army split again, and some went back over the sea and some stayed on, joining up with Guthrum's East Anglians, and the East Anglians and the newly-arrived Vikings attacked Benfleet in Essex. (The main Chronicle confirms that in this year the Viking army in East Anglia broke their truce with King Alfred.) Æthelweard goes on to say that then the new Vikings and the East Anglian Vikings fell out, and some (presumably the newcomers) went back over the sea. Æthelweard and the main Chronicle then agree that Alfred sent a fleet into East Anglia, which was defeated by the Vikings.

886. Alfred occupies London
All the English not under Viking control submit to him (Kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons?)
Alfred entrusts London to Ealdorman Æthelred of Mercia

890. Guthrum of Viking East Anglia dies

892. "Great Danish Army" returns from the Continent, in 250 ships
Hasteinn comes with 80 ships
Both armies make fortresses in Kent

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that the "Great Danish Army" arrived with 250 ships in the estuary of the Lympne, and rowed four miles inland to the Weald, where they found and occupied a half-built fortress at Appledore. In the same year Hasteinn came with 80 ships up the Thames estuary and made a fortress at Milton. (This Hasteinn is perhaps identical with the Viking chief who was on the Loire in the late 860s and in 882.)

893-6. Northumbrians and East Anglians break truces and join forces with newly-arrived Vikings
Viking raids on remaining English areas
After three years of fighting, the English see off the new arrivals

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives a quite detailed account of the attacks and counter-attacks of these years, and it emerges clearly from this that the England faced by the Vikings in the 890s was very different from the walkover they faced in the 860s. They face well-organized resistance and armies gathered on at least one occasion from large parts of England and Wales, they are chased up and down the country and holed up in sieges, and so it is no surprise that in the summer of 896 they split up, some of them retreating into Viking-held Northumbria and East Anglia, and the others returning to the Continent.

The Chronicle starts by condemning the Northumbrians and East Anglians for siding with the Vikings, even though they had sworn oaths to King Alfred and the East Anglians at least had given hostages. Given that the Northumbrians and East Anglians concerned are presumably the remnants or the descendants of Halfdan's "Great Heathen Army" (which settled Northumbria in 876) and Guthrum's "Great Summer Army" (which settled East Anglia in 880), their loyalty to the newly-arrived Vikings is not surprising.

In 893, after the Vikings had occupied their fortresses in Kent (see 892), Alfred gathered his army and took up a position between the enemy forces, so that he could reach either army if they left their fortresses. What the chronicler only relates later in the annal is that Alfred seems also to have come to an agreement with Hasteinn at this point, by which Alfred gave Hasteinn rich gifts of money, and Hasteinn gave Alfred oaths and hostages, and Hasteinn's two sons were baptized with the sponsorship of Alfred and Ealdorman Æthelred. This was presumably done to make peace with Hasteinn's forces, but Hasteinn then took his army from Milton to Benfleet and ravaged the province. The Vikings at Appledore went on a long raid inland, as far as Wessex, and ravaged Hampshire and Berkshire. They returned, loaded with booty, which they wanted to take back to their ships, but they were cut off at Farnham in Surrey by an army led by Alfred's son, Edward the Elder. Edward's army recovered the spoils and put the Vikings to flight, and eventually caught up with them and besieged them.

Meanwhile, the Vikings of Northumbria and East Anglia gathered a fleet together and besieged Exeter and a fortress on the north coast of Devon. Alfred, who had been going to help besiege the Vikings cut off by his son, turned instead and took most of his army to Exeter, where he attacked the Vikings. Alfred sent part of his army on to London, where they gathered reinforcements and stormed and took Hasteinn's camp at Benfleet, and destroyed or captured all of the ships there. (Hasteinn was away on a raid.)

While Alfred was in Exeter, the other Viking armies assembled at Shoebury in Essex, and built a fortress there, and went up along the Thames, where they received reinforcements from the Northumbrians and East Anglians, and then continued along the Severn. At Buttington by the Severn they were met by the English, led by the ealdormen Æthelred (of Mercia) and Æthelhelm (of Wiltshire) and Æthelnoth (of Somerset), and comprising men from Wessex and Mercia and Wales (the Chronicle notes king's thegns from every fortress east of the Parret, and both west and east of Selwood, and also north of the Thames and west of the Severn). This combined English/Welsh force besieged the Vikings at Buttington for several weeks, starving them out until finally the Vikings had to emerge and they were defeated there by the English and the Welsh: the surviving Vikings fled back to Essex.

The Vikings regrouped in Essex, again collected a large army from Northumbria and East Anglia, placed their women and ships and property in Viking-held East Anglia, and travelled to the deserted city of Chester. The English army could not overtake them before they reached the fortress, but they did besiege the fortress and seize all the cattle outside and burn or consume all the corn in the surrounding districts, so that, as at Buttington, the Vikings were starved out and had to leave the fortification.

The annal for 894 begins with the Viking army leaving Chester and raiding Wales, and then returning from Wales through Northumbria and East Anglia (where the English army could not reach them) to eastern Essex. These Vikings then rowed up the Thames and up the Lea, where they built a fortress, 20 miles above London, and stayed the winter there.

The other Viking army, which had gathered from Northumbria and East Anglia and attacked Exeter and then been besieged by Alfred in 893, also went home this year. Though they stopped and tried to ravage in Sussex near Chichester on the way, the locals put them to flight and killed hundreds of them and captured some of their ships.

In the summer of 895 the English from London and elsewhere marched on the fortress of the Vikings by the Lea, but they were put to flight. In the autumn, though, Alfred camped his army nearby to contain the Vikings, and built two fortresses lower down the river Lea so that the Vikings could not get their ships back out. When the Vikings discovered this, they abandoned their ships and went overland to Bridgnorth on the Severn where they built a fortress. The English army rode after the Vikings, and the men of London (as before with Hasteinn's fleet at Benfleet in Essex) fetched the ships from the camp by the Lea, and destroyed the ones they could not bring away. The Vikings stayed the winter at Bridgnorth.

In the summer of 896, as noted at the beginning of this entry, the Vikings gave up their assaults, and some of them went into East Anglia and some into Northumbria, and the rest went south across the sea to the Seine.

896. Wessex raided from Viking East Anglia and Northumbria
Alfred orders the building of English "long ships"

Though the summer of 896 saw the departure of the Vikings who had come in 892, East Anglia and Northumbria were still Viking-held areas and marauding bands continued to harrass the south coast of Wessex. The Chronicle notes that they were still doing damage, mostly with the warships which they had built many years before, so Alfred ordered the building of bigger ships (almost twice as long as the Viking ships) to defeat them. These new ships were tested when a force of six Viking ships were harrying around the Isle of Wight, and Alfred sent nine of his new ships to contain them. The account of this local skirmish in the Chronicle is interesting because of the significant proportion of Frisians in the English force: casualty figures for one pitched battle record 62 "Frisians and English" and 120 Danes. Asser, in chapter 76 of his Life of King Alfred, mentions the Frisians among several other races who received a warm welcome at Alfred's court.

October 26, 899. Death of King Alfred
Succession of King Edward (the Elder)
Revolt of Æthelwold, son of Alfred's brother Æthelred

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that Alfred died on October 26, and that his son Edward succeeded to the kingdom. However, the ætheling Æthelwold, son of Alfred's elder brother Æthelred (king of the West Saxons 865-71), refused to accept Edward's lordship and rode instead and seized royal residences at Wimborne (Dorset) and at Christchurch (Hants), against the will of the king. Edward took his army to Badbury near Wimborne, and Æthelwold barricaded himself within Wimborne with his men and a nun he had kidnapped, saying that he would live there or die there. The stage seems set for another set-piece of loyalty and heroism like the fights of Cynewulf and Cyneheard (see entry for 786), but instead Æthelwold fled by night and went to the Viking army in Northumbria, who accepted him as king and swore allegiance to him.

The earliest record of King Edward being called senior ("the Elder") is near the beginning of a Life of St Æthelwold from the end of the 10th century, presumably to distinguish him from the more recent King Edward (the Martyr, of 975-8).

M. Lapidge and M. Winterbottom (edd.), Wulfstan of Winchester: Life of St Æthelwold (Oxford: 1991), pp.2-3