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The Kingdom of Merciamarker was an important state in the English Midlandsmarker from the 6th century to the 10th. For some two hundred years from the mid-7th century onwards it was the dominant member of the Heptarchy and consequently the most powerful of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. During this period its rulers became the very first English monarchs to assume such wide ranging titles as King of Britain and King of the English.

Spellings varied widely in this period, even within a single document, and a number of variants exist for the names given below. For example, the sound th was usually represented with the Old English letters ð or þ.

For the Continental predecessors of the Mercians in Angelnmarker, see List of kings of the Angles.

Kings of the Mercians

The traditional rulers of Mercia were known as the Iclings, descendants of the kings of the Angles. When the Iclings became extinct in the male line, a number of other families, labelled B, C and W by historians, competed for the throne.

      Iclings (Icel and his male-line descendants)

      B-dynasty (so-called – a conjectural grouping based on names alone)

      C-dynasty (apparently descended from a sister of Penda)

      W-dynasty (Wiglaf and his descendants, later intermarried with C)

      Unknown dynastic affiliation

      Mercia under external occupation

      Æthelred II and family (recognising West Saxon overlordship)



Ruler Reign Biographical notes Died
Icel c.527 (or c.515)–? Son of Eomer, last King of the Angles in Angelnmarker. Led his people across the North Seamarker to Britainmarker. ?
Cnebba ? Son of Icel. ?
Cynewald ? Son of Cnebba. ?
Creoda c.584c.593 Son of Cynewald. Probable founder of the Mercian royal fortress at Tamworthmarker. c.593
Pybba c.593c.606 Son of Creoda. Extended Mercian control into the western Midlandsmarker. c.606
Cearl c.606c.626 No known relation to his predecessors. Possibly a usurper or distant kinsman. c.626
Penda c.626655 Son of Pybba. Raised Mercia to dominant status amongst the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Last pagan ruler of Mercia. Killed in battle by Oswiu of Northumbria. 15 November 655
Eowa c.635642 Son of Pybba. Co-ruler. Killed in battle. 5 August 642
Peada c.653656 Son of Penda. Co-ruler in the south-east Midlands. Murdered. 17 April 656
Oswiu of Northumbria 655658 Briefly took direct control of Mercia after the death of Penda. Also King of Northumbria (655670). 15 February 670
Wulfhere 658675 Son of Penda. Restored Mercian dominance in England. First Christian king of all Mercia. 675
Æthelred I 675704 Son of Penda. Abdicated and retired to a monastery at Bardneymarker. 716
Cœnred 704709 Son of Wulfhere. Abdicated and retired to Romemarker. ?
Ceolred 709716 Son of Æthelred I. Probably poisoned. 716
Ceolwald 716 Presumed son of Æthelred I (may not have existed). 716
Æthelbald 716757 Grandson of Eowa. Proclaimed himself King of Britain in 736. Murdered by his bodyguards. 757
Beornred 757 No known relation to his predecessors. Deposed by Offa. Possibly burnt to death in 769 in Northumbria. 769
Offa 757796 Great-great-grandson of Eowa. The greatest and most powerful of all Mercian kings, he proclaimed himself King of the English in 774, built Offa's Dykemarker, and introduced the silver penny. 26 or 29 July 796
Ecgfrith 787796 Son of Offa. Co-ruler, died suddenly a few months after his father. 14 or 17 December 796
Cœnwulf 796821 Seventh generation descendant of Pybba, probably through a sister of Penda. Assumed the title of 'emperor'. 821
Cynehelm c.798812 Son of Cœnwulf. Co-ruler. Allegedly murdered, and later canonised (St Kenelm). 812
Ceolwulf I 821823 Brother of Cœnwulf. Deposed by Beornwulf. ?
Beornwulf 823826 Conjectured kinsman of Beornred. Killed in battle against the East Anglians. 826
Ludeca 826827 No known relation to his predecessors. Killed in battle against the East Anglians. 827
Wiglaf (1st reign) 827829 No known relation to his predecessors. Deposed by Ecgberht of Wessex. 839
Ecgberht of Wessex 829830 Briefly took direct control of Mercia after the deposition of Wiglaf. Also King of Wessex (802839). 4 February 839
Wiglaf (2nd reign) 830839 Restored. Although Mercia regained its independence, its dominance in England was lost. 839
Wigmund c.839c.840 Son of Wiglaf and son-in-law of Ceolwulf I. Probably co-ruler. c.840
Wigstan 840 Son of Wigmund. Declined the kingship and was later murdered by Beorhtwulf. Canonised (St Wystan). 849
Ælfflæd (Queen) 840 Daughter of Ceolwulf I, wife of Wigmund and mother of Wigstan. Appointed regent by Wigstan. ?
Beorhtwulf 840852 Claimed to be a cousin of Wigstan. Usurped the kingship and forced Ælfflæd to marry his son, Beorhtfrith. 852
Burgred 852874 Conjectured kinsman of Beorhtwulf. Fled to Rome in the face of a Danish invasion. ?
Ceolwulf II 874c.883 Possibly a son or grandson of Wigmund and Ælfflæd. Set up by the Danes as a puppet ruler in western Mercia. c.883
Æthelred II c.883911 Recognised Alfred of Wessex as his overlord. Sometimes listed as 'ealdorman' rather than 'king'. 911
Æthelflæd (Lady) 911918 Wife of Æthelred II, daughter of Alfred of Wessex and niece of Burgred. Reconquered eastern Mercia. 12 June 918
Ælfwynn (Lady) 918 Daughter of Æthelred II and Æthelflæd. Deposed by her uncle, Edward the Elder (4 December 918), who annexed Mercia to Wessex, creating the Kingdom of England. ?


Ealdormen & Earls of the Mercians

The chief magnate of Mercia as an English province held the title of ealdorman until 1017, and earl thereafter. Both offices were royal appointments, but the latter in effect became hereditary.

      Ealdormen of the Mercians (non-dynastic)

      Earls of the Mercians (Leofric and his descendants)



Ruler Reign Biographical notes Died
Ælfhere 957983 Appointed ealdorman, or 'prince' of the Mercians in 957 by King Edgar, when the English kingdom was disunited. 983
Ælfric Cild 983985 Brother-in-law of Ælfhere. Deposed by Ethelred in 985. Killed in battle against the Danes in 1016. 18 October 1016
Wulfric Spot ?–1004 Possibly ealdorman, or 'count' of the Mercians after the deposition of Ælfric Cild. 22 October 1004
Eadric Streona 10071017 Appointed by Ethelred. A notorious turncoat, he was later murdered by Canute for his treachery. 25 December 1017
Leofric 10171057 Appointed by Canute. Chiefly remembered for his famous wife, Godgifu (Lady Godiva). 31 August or
30 September 1057
Ælfgar 10571062 Son of Leofric. Had previously been Earl of East Anglia until succeeding his father to Mercia. 1062
Eadwine 10621071 Son of Ælfgar. Submitted to William the Conqueror in 1066, but later rebelled, and was betrayed by his own men. Mercia was then broken up into smaller earldoms. 1071


Kings of Mercia family tree



Descendants of the Iclings

The union of Æthelgyth, granddaughter of Wigmund and Ælfflæd, and Æthelfrith, grandson of Æthelred of Wessexmarker, after six generations produced Harold Godwinson, ill-fated King of England in 1066, who thus held the senior hereditary claim to both Mercia and Wessex (with the descendants of Alfred the Great representing the junior West Saxon line). After Harold's death at the Battle of Hastingsmarker his exiled daughter Gytha married Vladimir II Monomakh, Grand Prince of Kiev, and in succeeding centuries the claim passed from the Russian Rurik dynasty to the German Welf, Oldenburg and Habsburg. It is represented today by Otto von Habsburg, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who is also, through a series of dynastic flukes, the hereditary claimant to a great number of other extinct monarchies.

References

  1. Zaluckyj, Sarah & Feryok, Marge. Mercia: The Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Central England (2001) ISBN 1-873827-62-8
  2. Regnal Chronologies: Pretenders (Anglo-Saxon)



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