display | more...

In the year 409 the inhabitants of the former Roman diocese of Britannia (that's Britain to you and me) rebelled against their former Roman masters, and declared their independence. This self government lasted a generation or more before it broke down in the face of the revolt of some of the Germanic mercenaries hired to protect the island and the influx of fresh Germanic insurgents from the continent. (See Sub-Roman Britain for further details of this confused and ill-documented period of British history.)

And so it came to pass that a a rag-bag of former mercenaries, pirates and sundry warlords of Germanic origin ended up on the shores of Britain all engaged in the business of looting, pillaging, fighting local Romano-British rulers (and each other) and seeking to establish for themselves their own little kingdoms. In the process of which they stopped being Germanic and became Englisc or Anglo-Saxons as we prefer to call them today to avoid confusion with the post-1066 Frenchified English.

Many of these 'Anglo-Saxon' kingdoms were comparatively short lived, and existed only for a generation or two in the fifth and sixth centuries; some now exist in name only, some are known only for a short list of kings, and most were swallowed up or relegated to the status of sub-kingdom by one of the 'big three', that is Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex.

Northumbria made the early running, expanding at the expense of its Brythonic neighbours and reaching the peak of its power in the late seventh century; Mercia became the dominant power in the eighth century and Wessex vied to keep up. Which one of these three would have eventually won the race to domonate the island of Britain is uncertain, in the end the contest was decided by the Vikings who conquered Northumbria, fatally weakened Mercia and left Wessex to inherit the prize on the basis of the last man standing.

The Everything list of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms

And as you will see, there are a lot more than seven, therefore laying to rest that hoary old myth of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.