Egbert, d. 839, king of Wessex (802–39). His name also appears as Ecgberht. He was descended from Cerdic and was apparently an unsuccessful aspirant for the crown of Wessex against Beohtric (reigned 786–802). He took refuge at the court of Offa of Mercia, but the alliance of Offa and Beohtric drove him to the Frankish court, where he may have spent three years. At Beohtric's death he became king of Wessex, apparently without opposition. In 815 he harried Cornwall, returning to defeat the Britons there again in 825. He also defeated King Beornwulf of Mercia at Ellandune (or Ellendun) in 825. He sent his son Æthelwulf and an army to Kent, which was then made a dependency of Wessex. East Anglia sought Egbert's protection and revolted against Mercia. Beornwulf was killed in battle, and Mercia submitted (828?) to Egbert. He then (829?) secured the nominal submission of Northumbria without a battle. Later historians called him the first king of England, an anachronistic title, for there was no conception of a kingdom of England in his day. The extent of his power varied from kingdom to kingdom and from year to year. After 834 he had to defend his realm against the Danes, and in his last battle (838) he again defeated the Britons of Cornwall, who had allied themselves with the Danes. Egbert was succeeded by his son, Æthelwulf.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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