1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/East Anglia

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

EAST ANGLIA, one of the kingdoms into which Anglo-Saxon Britain was divided. Bede gives no information about its origin except that its earliest settlers were Angles. The kingdom of East Anglia comprised the two counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. With regard to the western boundary we have no accurate information, but it was probably formed by the fens of Cambridgeshire.

This kingdom first appears in Bede’s narrative early in the 7th century, when its power was at its height. Towards the end of the reign of Æthelberht, who died about 616, Rædwald of East Anglia, who had apparently spent some time at the court of Kent, began to win for himself the chief position among the Anglo-Saxon kings of his day. His position was assured, at least temporarily, in 617, when he decided to espouse the cause of the Northumbrian prince Edwin, then a fugitive at his court, and defeated Æthelfrith of Northumbria on the banks of the Idle, a tributary of the Trent, in Mercian territory. Rædwald had been converted to Christianity in Kent, but after his return home he relapsed, according to Bede, owing to the influence of his wife, and there were to be seen in the same building a Christian and a pagan altar. Bede states that Rædwald was the son of Tytili, the son of Wuffa, from whom the East Anglian royal family derived their name Wuffingas. According to the Historia Brittonum Guffa (Wuffa) was the son of (Guecha) Wehha, who first ruled the East Angles in Britain. This would put the organization of the kingdom in the first or second quarter of the 6th century. Eorpwald, the son of Rædwald, was converted to Christianity by Edwin, but was soon afterwards slain by Ricberht (627 or 628), whereupon the kingdom again became pagan for three years, when Sigeberht, the brother of Eorpwald, became king and founded a see for Felix at Dunwich. Sigeberht also founded a school in East Anglia, and on the arrival of an Irish missionary named Furšeus he built him a monastery at Cnobheresburg, perhaps to be identified with Burgh Castle. Before 644, however, Sigeberht resigned the crown in favour of his brother Ecgric and retired to a monastery. Shortly afterwards both brothers were slain by Penda of Mercia in his invasion of East Anglia, and Anna became king. This king was an enthusiastic Christian, and converted Cœnwalh, king of Wessex, who had fled to his court. Two of his daughters, Sæthryth and Æthelberg, took the veil; while another, Sexburg, was married to Earconberht, king of Kent; and a fourth, Æthelthryth, after two marriages, with Tondberht of the South Gyrwe and Ecgfrith of Northumbria, became abbess of Ely. In 654 Anna was slain by Penda of Mercia, and was succeeded by his brother Æthelhere, who was killed in 655 at the Winwaed, fighting for the Mercian king against Oswio of Northumbria. In 673 Archbishop Theodore divided the East Anglian diocese into two, Elmham being the seat of the northern, Dunwich that of the southern bishop. A long blank follows in the history of this kingdom, until in 792 we find Offa of Mercia slaying Æthelberht, king of East Anglia, who is said to have been his son-in-law. East Anglia was subject to the supremacy of the Mercian kings until 825, when its people slew Beornwulf of Mercia, and with their king acknowledged Ecgberht (Egbert) of Wessex as their lord. In 870 Edmund, king of East Anglia, was killed by the Danes under I′varr and Ubbi, the sons of Ragnar Loðbrok.

The following is a list of the kings of East Anglia of whom there is record:—Wehha; Wuffa; Rædwald, son of Tytili and grandson of Wuffa (reigning 617); Eorpwald, son of Rædwald (d. 627 or 628); Sigeberht, brother of Eorpwald; Ecgric, brother of Sigeberht (both slain before 644); Anna, son of Ene and grandson of Tytili (d. 654); Æthelhere, brother of Anna (d. 655); Æthelwald, a third brother; Aldwulf (succ. 663, d. 713), son of Æthelric and grandson of Ene; Elfwald, son of Aldwulf (d. 749); Hun Beonna and Alberht; Æthelberht (792); Edmund (870).

After the death of Ragnar Loðbrok’s sons East Anglia was occupied by the Danish king Guthrum, who made a treaty with Alfred settling their respective boundaries, probably about 880. Guthrum died in 890. A later king named Eohric took up the cause of Æthelwald, the son of Æthelred I., and was slain in the fight with the Kentish army at the Holm in 905. A war broke out with King Edward the Elder in 913; in 921 a king whose name is unknown was killed at the fall of Tempsford, and in the same year the Danes of East Anglia submitted to Edward the Elder. From this time, probably, East Anglia was governed by English earls, the most famous of whom were Æthelstan, surnamed Half-King (932-956) and his sons, Æthelwold (956-962), and Æthelwine, surnamed Dei amicus (962-992).

See Bede, Hist. Eccl. (ed. C. Plummer, Oxford. 1896), ii. 5, 15, iii. 7, 8, 18-20, 22, iv. 3, 5, 23; Saxon Chronicle (ed. Earle and Plummer, Oxford, 1899), s. a. 823, 838, 866, 870, 880, 885, 890, 894, 905, 921; Historia Brittonum (San-Marte, 1844), s. 59; H. Sweet, Oldest English Texts, p. 171 (London, 1885).

(F. G. M. B.)