Beornwulf of Mercia

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King of Mercia
Reign 823–26 AD
Predecessor Ceolwulf I
Successor Ludeca
King of East Anglia
Reign 823–25 AD
Predecessor Ceolwulf I
Successor Æthelstan
House House of Mercia
Father Beorhtweald
Died 826 AD

Beornwulf (died 826) was King of Mercia (now the Midlands of England) from 823 to 826. His short reign saw the collapse of Mercia's supremacy over the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy.


Beornwulf's ancestry is practically unknown. His father was a Mercian nobleman, ealdorman Beorhtweald (died 796). A man named Beornwulf is mentioned as having witnessed a charter of King Coenwulf in 812 and another of King Ceolwulf in 823, but his position on each of these charters suggests he was not of an exceptionally high rank.[1]

Ceolwulf I was overthrown in 823, and Beornwulf became king. Powys was conquered by the Mercians at about this time, but it is unclear which of the two kings was ruling when it occurred. It has been argued that the known record suggests Beornwulf was more vigorous and likely to wage such a campaign than Ceolwulf, and that the conquest of Powys may have therefore been accomplished by Beornwulf at the beginning of his rule.[2] Soon after he rebuilt the Abbey of St. Peter (later Gloucester Cathedral). He presided over two synods at Clofesho (an unknown location believed to be near London) with archbishop Wulfred of Canterbury, in 824 and 825.[3]

From their recent success against the Welsh, it can be judged that the Mercian army was a formidable force. It must have been with a high degree of confidence, therefore, that, in 825, Beornwulf marched against the West Saxons, but was badly defeated at the battle of Ellandun at the hands of their king Egbert, fought at present day Wroughton near Swindon, Wiltshire. Ecgbert's son Æðelwulf subsequently invaded Kent and drove out its pro-Mercian king, Baldred.

In the wake of these events, Mercia's dominance of southern England rapidly unravelled. Essex and Sussex switched their loyalty to Egbert. The East Angles, led by Athelstan and backed by the West Saxons, exploited the moment of weakness by rebelling against Mercian rule, and Beornwulf was killed attempting to crush the revolt. One extant charter of Beornwulf refers to his third regnal year, 825.

A silver penny coinage of Beornwulf was struck during his reign. These coins are very rare indeed today, with only around twenty-five examples known to exist.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stenton, Frank (1998) [1943, 1971], Anglo-Saxon England (paperback), Oxford, p. 231, note 1 .
  2. ^ Kirby, DP (2000) [1991], The Earliest English Kings (paperback), Routledge, pp. 154–55 .
  3. ^  Hunt, William (1885). "Beornwulf". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography 4. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
Titles of nobility
Preceded by
Ceolwulf I
King of Mercia
Succeeded by
King of East Anglia
Succeeded by