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Anglo-Saxon England

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Edward the Elder - MS Royal 14 B VI.jpg

Anglo-Saxon England lasted from the end of the Roman occupation of Britain and the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the 5th century until the Norman conquest of England of October the 14th 1066. The Anglo-Saxons were Germanic tribes who settled in the southern half of Britain from continental Europe, and their descendants as well as indigenous people who adopted the Anglo-Saxon culture and language, in the 5th and 6th centuries. Their language, which is now called Old English, and the culture of the era, has long attracted popular and scholarly attention.

Until the 9th century, Anglo-Saxon England was dominated by the kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent and Wessex. The Anglo-Saxons were initially pagans, but they converted to Christianity during the 7th century.

Facing the threat of Viking attacks that began in the 9th century, the kings of Wessex became dominant amongst the Anglo-Saxon rulers. During the 10th century, the individual kingdoms unified under the rule of Wessex to become the kingdom of England, which stood opposed to the Viking kingdoms established in the north and east of England. The Kingdom of England fell in the Viking invasion from Denmark in 1013 and again in 1016. England was ruled by the House of Denmark until 1042, when the Anglo-Saxon House of Wessex was restored. The last Anglo-Saxon king, Harold Godwinson, was killed in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings.

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Lindsey or Linnuis (Old English Lindesege) was a lesser Anglo-Saxon kingdom, absorbed into Northumbria in the 7th century.

It lay between the Humber estuary and the Wash, forming its inland boundaries from the courses of the Witham and Trent rivers, and the Foss Dyke between them. A marshy region south of the Humber known as the Isle of Axholme was also included. Place-name evidence indicates that the Anglian settlement known as Lindisfaras spread from the Humber coast.

Lindsey means the 'island of Lincoln': it was surrounded by water and very wet land, and Lincoln was in the south-west part of the kingdom. Although it has its own list of kings, at an early date it came under external influence. It was from time to time effectively part of Deira, of the Northumbrian kingdom, and particularly later, of Mercia. Lindsey lost its independence long before the arrival of the Danish settlers.

The kingdom's heyday seems to have come before the historical period. By the time of the first historical records of Lindsey, it had become a subjugated polity, under the alternating control of Northumbria and Mercia. All trace of its individuality had vanished before the Viking assault in the late ninth century. Its territories evolved into the historical English county of Lincolnshire, the northern part of which is called Lindsey. (more...)

Did you know?

Did you know...
  • ...that in Anglo-Saxon England, pregnant women were warned against eating food that was too salty or too sweet, or other fatty foods, and were also cautioned not to drink strong alcohol or travel on horseback?
  • ...that the ship-burial at Snape is the only one in England that can be compared to the example at Sutton Hoo?
  • ...that the name Taplow of the burial mound at Taplow, comes from Old English Tæppas hláw ('Tæppa's mound'), so that the name of the man buried in the mound would seem to have been Tæppa?
  • ...that the Ordinance Concerning the Dunsaete, which gave procedures for dealing with disputes between the English and the Welsh of Archenfield, stated that the English should only cross into the Welsh side, and vice versa, in the presence of an appointed man who had to make sure that the foreigner was safely escorted back to the crossing point?


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Hoard of Anglo-Saxon rings
Credit: Odejea

The statue of Alfred the Great at Winchester by Hamo Thornycroft (1899).

Selected biography

Translation of Saint Æthelthryth.jpg

Seaxburh (Old English: Sexburh); also Saint Sexburga of Ely, (died about 699) was the queen of King Eorcenberht of Kent, as well as an abbess and a saint of the Christian Church.

Seaxburh's sisters were Æthelburg of Faremoutiers, Saethryth, Æthelthryth and possibly Withburga. Her marriage to Eorcenberht produced two sons, both of whom ruled, and two daughters. After her husband's death in 664, Seaxburh remained in Kent to bring up her children. She acted as regent until her young son Ecgberht came of age.

Seaxburh founded the abbeys at Milton Regis and Minster-in-Sheppey, where her daughter Ermenilda was also a nun. She moved to the double monastery at Ely where her sister Æthelthryth was abbess and succeeded her when Æthelthryth died in 679. Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People celebrates the saintly virtues of Æthelthryth, but speaks less highly of Seaxburh, referring only to her marriage, succession as abbess and translation of her sister's relics. The date of Seaxburh's death at Ely is not known. (more...)

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