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King of Wessex 802-839, and the first person who could be styled King of England, though he did not control all of the present-day country, but became ruler or bretwalda (overlord) of all the English kingdoms. He was the founder of a united England, because the dynasty he created continued to expand Wessex, defeating the Danes, gradually absorbing the other kingdoms.

The son of Ealhmund, a Wessex prince who was briefly co-king of Kent, he claimed the throne of Wessex on the death of Cynewulf in 786, but it was taken by Beorhtric, and Egbert went into exile in Charlemagne's court. There had not been a stable dynasty in Wessex for many years, and the last few kings had been distant kinsmen.

He succeeded Beorhtric in 802. He defeated the Cornish, then turned towards Mercia, which at this time controlled most of the minor kingdoms. At the battle of Ellandún in 821 (probably near Winchester) he defeated King Coenwulf of Mercia, became king of Kent in 825, and in 829 he accepted the fealty of Northumbria, the last and most distant of the English kingdoms.

Defeated by Vikings in Dorsetshire in 835, he returned to defeat them and their Cornish allies on the Tamar in 837. He died in 839 and was succeeded by his elder son Æthelwulf in Wessex and Æthelstan as under-king of Kent.

He and his wife Eadburgh (or Redburg) also had a daughter Editha, the abbess of Pellesworth. The name Egbert is modernized; the actual West Saxon was Ecgberht 'bright edge'.

Further reading on these confusing times, are rather useful timeline: http://www.britannia.com/history/saxontime3.html

It's nice to know my hairy companion has such an illustrious namesake.

My cat's name is Egbert. When I got him his name was Shylo (Shilo? Shiloh?), which sounded a bit too much like Shylock to me. I've always liked the word egg; it's the sound of it in English I think, which seems to match perfectly with its smooth self-contained referent. Then there's Englebert Humperdinck, whose name, along with much else about him, could not be more ridiculous. So I liked saying his name for a while too, just for the sheer absurdity of it. Then I got in a jag for a while of saying the word Egbert, as a kind of mid-point between egg and Englebert, and then I got a cat, and I didn't know what to call him, and since Egbert kept springing to my lips, that became his name, by default, as it were.

Egbert is my first all-my-own cat, as opposed to the family cats I grew up with. I'd wanted one for a long time, but I was alway so itinerant that it didn't seem right. Finally, after a remarkable two years in one location, I saw a sign in the mail room of my apartment that said "Free to a good home" etc etc. The woman who had him had a new boyfriend who was allergic, and she chose to keep the boyfriend - go figure! I phoned to ask her all these questions about him (the cat, not the boyfriend); my biggest concern was that he would have to be an indoor cat, because I live in an apartment on the third floor. She assured me he was used to that. I forgot to ask if he was a long-haired or short-haired cat, though. The last thing I said to my boyfriend as I left to go meet the cat was, "If he has long hair, I'm not going to take him."

Of course, he has very long hair indeed, and it permeates my life now, but what could I do? He was obviously lonely and in need of a good home, just like the sign said. And now he has one, with me.

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