Beornwulf of Mercia

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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.

Practically nothing is known about Beornwulf's family. 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]

Beornwulf deposed Ceolwulf I in 823, a charter depicts a disturbed state of affairs during Ceolwulf's reign: "After the death of Coenwulf, king of the Mercians, many disagreements and innumerable disputes arose among leading persons of every kind – kings, bishops, and ministers of the churches of God – concerning all manner of secular affairs". the Croyland Chronicle describes Beornwulf as "a foolish man, but remarkable for his wealth and influence, though in no way connected to the royal line." Beornwulf rebuilt the Abbey of St. Peter (later Gloucester Cathedral) and he presided over two synods at Clofesho (an unknown location believed to be near London) with archbishop Wulfred of Canterbury, in 824 and 825.[2]

In 825 Beornwulf marched against the West Saxons, Beornwulfs army met them at Ellandun now present day Wroughton near Swindon in Wiltshire, the battle ended in a disastrous defeat for the Mercian's and is seen by historians as the end of the so-called Mercian Supremacy. subsequently in 826 Ecgbert's son Æthelwulf 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. also in consequence the East Anglians asked for Egbert's protection against the Mercians in the same year.

Beornwulf "striving to make amends for his slothfulness" led an army in to East Anglia to crush a rebellion there, but he was defeated in battle and killed, Ludeca succeeded him:

[Beornwulf] assembling a considerable army entered the territories of the East Angles in a hostile manner, and began to put to death their principal people; but their king advanced against the enemy at the head of his forces, and giving them battle, put Beornwulf and the greatest part of his army to the sword: his kinsman Ludeca succeeded to his kingdom.

A Kentish charter shows that Beornwulf still had authority in Kent on 27 March 826 – S1267, issued on that date, is said to be in the third year of Beornwulf's reign.[3]

A silver penny coinage of Beornwulf was struck during his reign. These coins are very rare, 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. ^  Hunt, William (1885). "Beornwulf". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography 4. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  3. ^ Sawyer 1267,, retrieved 2015-01-14 
Titles of nobility
Preceded by
Ceolwulf I
King of Mercia
Succeeded by
King of East Anglia
Succeeded by