Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sighard

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SIGHARD (fl. 695), king of the East-Saxons and of Kent, succeeded his father Sebbi [q. v.], king of the East-Saxons, about 695, and reigned conjointly with his brother Suefred. His name is variously given as Sigeheard, Swebheard, Saæbræd, Suaberd, Suaberht, or Webheard (cf. Bede, Hist. Eccl. iv. 11). He seems also to have reigned conjointly with his cousin Sigheri or Sighere [q. v.], son of Sigebert or Sebert, called the Little [q. v.], and was probably dead in 709, when Offa (fl. 709) [q. v.] made his pilgrimage to Rome, though it is perhaps possible that he is the Swebirht, king of the East-Saxons, whose death is recorded under 738 (Sym. Dunelm. ii. 32). His name along with those of his father and brother, is appended to a charter granted by their kinsman Oedilræd or Ethelred to Ethelburga or Æthelburh [q. v.], abbess of Barking, and to a charter of Erkenwald [q. v.]; all three being described as kings (Codex Diplomaticus, i. Nos. 35, 38; Monasticon, i. 438–9). Elmham (pp. 235–6) identifies him with Swebheard or Sueaberd, king of Kent, and he is undoubtedly right. Kent was overrun by Ethelred of Mercia in 676 (Hist. Eccl. iv. 12), and Ethelred appears to have set the East-Saxon princes to rule over at least part of it in subordination to himself. Accordingly in a spurious, though valuable, charter of Peterborough, to which are appended the names of Suebard or Swebheard, Sebbi, and Sigheri, Swebheard is called king of Kent, and it is stated that Kent had fallen into subjection to Sigheri, the East-Saxon king (Codex Dipl. i. No. 40). Two charters of Oswin, king of Kent, said to have been of the native Kentish line, one of them dated 675, the year before the overthrow of Rochester by the Mercians, are attested by Swebheard, who is not there described as king (ib. No. 8; Elmham, pp. 229–30). A charter dated 1 March 676 purports to be a grant by Swebheard of land in the isle of Thanet to Æbbe, abbess of Minster, and there Swebheard is described as king of the Kentishmen, and as making the grant by the advice of Archbishop Theodore, and of his father Sebbi (Codex Dipl. i. No. 14; Elmham, pp. 232–3). Another charter, also purporting to be a grant from Swebheard to Æbbe, describes him in like manner (Codex Dipl. i. No. 15; Elmham, p. 234). Swebheard was reigning in Kent conjointly with Wihtred, of the native line, in June 692 when Brihtwald [q. v.] was elected Archbishop of Canterbury (Hist. Eccl. v. 8; the statement in the Flores Historiarum, sub an., that they were brothers is evidently an erroneous assumption from the juxtaposition of their names in Bede's notice). Thorn (col. 1770) says that Swebheard obtained the kingship of Kent by violence, which would be the case if he became king in consequence of the Mercian invasion. It is evident that he had to contend against Wihtred, who is said to have succeeded to the throne in 694 (A.-S. Chron. sub an.), the date, doubtless, of his final triumph over the East-Saxon intruder, when, as Bede says (iv. 26), he freed his people from foreign invasion. Swebheard, then, must have lost his kingship in Kent and have retired to his own country about the time of his father's death. In 704 he appears as joining in a grant to Waldhere, bishop of London, which was confirmed by the Mercian kings Cœnred and Ceolrad, and is there described as king of the East-Saxons (Codex Dipl. i. No. 52).

[Kemble's Codex Dipl., Bede's Hist. Eccl. (both Engl. Hist. Soc.); Thorn's Chron. ed. Twisden; Elmham's Hist. Mon. S. Aug. Cantuar.; Sym. Dunelm. (both Rolls Ser.); Dict. Chr. Biogr. arts. ‘Sigheri,’ ‘Suefred,’ and ‘Wihtred,’ by Bishop Stubbs.]

W. H.