7 Great Anglo Saxon Kingdoms

Introduction to Anglo Saxon Kingdoms

Anglo-Saxons were Germanic people who migrated from Germany to England at the invitation of the ruler of Briton, Vortigern.

Alfred-the-Great-Famous-Anglo-Saxon-King

Alfred the Great *Famous Anglo Saxon King

Who was Vortigern?

Vortigern was a 5th-century CE English ruler best known for inviting the Saxons to Britain to stop the incursions of the Picts and Scots and allowing them to take control of the land.

‘Vortigern’ is a title, not a given name, and means ‘Great Chief’ or ‘Supreme Lord’.

Vortigern pledged help from Anglo-Saxons to defend his kingdom from the attacks of marauding invaders. These invaders include Scotti and Picts from the lands we now call Scotland. After arriving in present-day England Anglo-Saxons started to settle in the region.

The areas where Anglo-Saxons settled Sussex, Middlesex, Essex, and Wessex.

Anglo Saxon England Anglo Saxon Life

Kent became the home of the Jutes and they started to call themselves the Kentings. The Angles inhabited East Anglia. Then the Anglo-Saxons started to name their villages and small towns after the names of their Gods.

Anglo-Saxons mainly settled near agricultural centers and near rivers.


7 Anglo Saxon Kingdoms – ‘The Heptarchy’

The heptarchy is a name collectively given to the 7 kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England from the 5th to 10th centuries. These are also called petty kingdoms.

These 7 kingdoms are

  1. East Anglia.
  2. Wessex.
  3. Mercia.
  4. Essex.
  5. Northumbria.
  6. Sussex.
  7. Kent.

Deira and Bernicia were the sub-kingdoms of Northumbria.

The term Heptarchy is used for convenience and does not imply the presence of a stable group of seven kingdoms. A great fluctuation in the number of kingdoms and sub-kingdoms is seen in this era as kings contended for supremacy.

The king of Kent was a prominent king in the south in the late 6th century. The kings of Wessex and Northumbria were a strong force in the 7th century.

Anglo-Saxon-Kingdoms


Anglo Saxon Kingdoms *East Anglia (1)

The Kingdom of the East Angles now called the Kingdom of East Anglia was a small kingdom in the present-day counties of Suffolk and Norfolk bordering the North Sea. East Anglia was formed in the wake of the settlement of Anglo-Saxons in the 6th century. Raedwald became the first East Anglian ruler to accept Christianity in 604.

Anglo Saxon Helmet Sutton Hoo

The Kingdom fell victim to the power of Mercia. In the 7th and 8th centuries, it was ruled by Wuffingas and fell to Mercia in 794. It was conquered by the Danes in 869. Edward the Elder incorporated it into the Kingdom of England in 918.

Edward the Elder Anglo Saxon King

Edward the Elder Anglo Saxon King


Anglo Saxon Kingdoms -Wessex (2)

This kingdom was in the south of Great Britain. It is believed that it was founded by Cerdic. It was ruled by Cerdic, Ine, Beretwalda Egbert, Alfred the Great and Aethelstan.

Alfred the Great *Anglo Saxon King

Alfred the Great *Anglo Saxon King

Cerdic

Cerdic

Dorchester and Winchester were the two main towns of Wessex. Cynegils was the first ruler of Wessex to accept Christianity in 630s. Other West Saxons did not accompany him. Wessex was attacked many times by Mercia as Mercia was expanding. After that, Vikings started to raid Wessex.

Winchester Sussex

Winchester


Mercia (3)

This kingdom was centered on the valley of the River Trent in the region now called the English Midlands. Mercia annexed or gained control of the other six kingdoms of the Heptarchy for 300 years from 600 to 900.

The period of domination of Mercia over England at the south of the River Humber is called Mercian Supremacy. The primary religion in Mercia was paganism before King Paeda was baptized in 656.

Anglo Saxon King Peada

Christianity got firmly established in the late 7th century.

The Reign of King Offa was the golden age of Mercia during which the kingdom gained control over a large area. Tamworth was its capital.

Anglo Saxon History


Anglo Saxon Kingdoms *Essex (4)

The kingdom of Essex was originally called the Kingdom of the East Saxons. It was established in the 6th century. In the north of this kingdom, there was River Stour, to the south River Thames and Kent were present, Mercia was on the west, and the North Sea in the east.

Medieval London City Image

The history of this Kingdom is not well documented. Its kings remained subservient to foreign rulers. Colchester and London were the two major towns in Essex. Aethelberht became Christian and built St. Pauls in London.

St Pauls Cathedral

St Pauls Cathedral

Essex had strong connections with Kent across the River Thames. In the 8th century, it was conquered by Mercia. Later on, it was conquered by King Egbert of Wessex.

St. Pauls Cathedral London

St. Pauls Cathedral London


Northumbria (5)

The Kingdom of Northumbria was an Anglian kingdom in present-day south-east Scotland and Northern England. It was consolidated into one kingdom in the early 7th century. It extended from Humber and River Mersey on the south to the Firth of Forth at its height. Deira and Bernicia unified to form the Kingdom of Northumbria.

The conflicts between these two kingdoms and Viking invasions once again divided Northumbria.

King Athelstan medieval king

King Athelstan was the first Anglo-Saxon King to have ruled the whole of England. He belonged to the House of Wessex and practiced Chalcedonian Christianity as a religion.

Notable kings of Northumbria

  • Aethelfrith
  • Edwin
  • Oswald
  • Oswiu
  • Halfdan
  • Ragnarsson
  • Aethelstan of Wessex.

The Anglo-Saxons of this region converted to Roman Catholicism. King Edwin accepted Roman Catholicism.


Anglo Saxon Kingdoms *Sussex (6)

Its old name is the Kingdom of the South Saxons. It was founded by Aelle in AD 477 as stated by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. It was located on the south coast of the island of Great Britain. It had a great forest that provided protection from neighbouring kingdoms.

The main towns of Sussex were

  • Lewes.
  • Steyning.
  • Chichester.
  • Pevensey.

There was an alliance between Mercia and Sussex in 607. Aeolwealh was baptized through the Mercian court. Its economy was good due to the coast. It was ruled by the kings of Sussex until the area was annexed by Wessex.

The Anglo Saxon People


Kent (7)

The old name of the Kingdom of Kent was the Kingdom of the Kentish. It was located in what is now South East England. The Jutes were settled in this kingdom. There was a radical transformation of Kent in the 5th century. The Kingdom of Kent had a relationship with the Kingdom of Francia. Aethelberht was a strong king of this kingdom.

Law of Aethelberht, the oldest text in Old English was produced in his era. Kent was the first Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the Anglo-Saxon region from where Christianity originated.

Kent England

Kent England


Summary of Anglo Saxon Kingdoms

• Anglo-Saxons were invited by Vortigern to England to defend his kingdom.
• Heptarchy is a collective name given to the seven kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England.
• Sussex was located on the South coast of England. It lasted from 477 to 860.
• Wessex was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the south of England. It lasted from 519 until 927. Wessex ultimately unified England.


• East Anglia was established in the 6th century and lasted until 918 although it was taken over first by Mercia and then by the Danes.
• Essex was established early in the 6th century. It existed until 825 when it was taken over by Wessex.
• Kent was established as a kingdom around 455. It lasted until 871. It was then absorbed by the Kingdom of Wessex.

Anglo Saxon Life
• Mercia had supremacy over other kingdoms for three centuries. It ended in 918.
• Deira and Bernicia unified to form the kingdom of Northumbria.