List of monarchs of Mercia

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The Kingdom of Mercia was a state in the English Midlands 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 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 Angeln, see List of kings of the Angles. For their successors see List of English monarchs.

Kings of the Mercians[edit]

Further information: Iclingas

The traditional rulers of Mercia were known as the Iclingas, descendants of the kings of the Angles. When the Iclingas became extinct in the male line, a number of other families, labelled B, C and W by historians, competed for the throne.[1]

      Iclingas
      B-dynasty (so-called – a conjectural grouping based on names alone)
      C-dynasty (traditionally a branch of the Iclingas, probably instead descended from the West Saxon king Cenwalh and his Inclinga wife)
      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)

All the following are kings, unless specified. Those in italics are probably legendary, are of dubious authenticity, or may not have reigned.

Ruler Reign Biographical notes Died
Icel c. 527 (or c. 515)–? Son of Eomer, last King of the Angles in Angeln. Led his people across the North Sea to Britain. ?
Cnebba ? Son of Icel. ?
Cynewald ? Son of Cnebba. ?
Creoda c. 584–c. 593 Son of Cynewald. Probable founder of the Mercian royal fortress at Tamworth. c. 593
Pybba c. 593–c. 606 Son of Creoda. Extended Mercian control into the western Midlands. c. 606
Cearl c. 606–c. 626 Named as king by Bede, not included in later regnal lists. c. 626
Penda c. 626–655 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 Nov 655
Eowa c. 635–642 Son of Pybba. Co-ruler. Killed in battle. 5 Aug 642
Peada c. 653–656 Son of Penda. Co-ruler in the south-east Midlands. Murdered. 17 Apr 656
Oswiu of Northumbria 655–658 Briefly took direct control of Mercia after the death of Penda. Also King of Northumbria (655–670). 15 Feb 670
Wulfhere 658–675 Son of Penda. Restored Mercian dominance in England. First Christian king of all Mercia. 675
Æthelred I 675–704 Son of Penda. Abdicated and retired to a monastery at Bardney. 716
Cœnred 704–709 Son of Wulfhere. Abdicated and retired to Rome. ?
Ceolred 709–716 Son of Æthelred I. Probably poisoned. 716
Ceolwald 716 Presumed son of Æthelred I (may not have existed). 716
Æthelbald 716–757 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 757–796 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 Dyke, and introduced the silver penny. 26 or 29 Jul 796
Ecgfrith 787–796 Son of Offa. Co-ruler, died suddenly a few months after his father. 14 or 17 Dec 796
Cœnwulf 796–821 Seventh generation descendant of Pybba, probably through a sister of Penda. Assumed the title of 'emperor'. 821
Cynehelm c. 798–812 Son of Cœnwulf. Although he existed, his status as co-ruler and his murder are legendary. Canonised (St Kenelm). 812
Ceolwulf I 821–823 Brother of Cœnwulf. Deposed by Beornwulf. ?
Beornwulf 823–826 Conjectured kinsman of Beornred. Killed in battle against the East Anglians. 826
Ludeca 826–827 No known relation to his predecessors. Killed in battle against the East Anglians. 827
Wiglaf (1st reign) 827–829 No known relation to his predecessors. Deposed by Ecgberht of Wessex. 839
Ecgberht of Wessex 829–830 Briefly took direct control of Mercia after the deposition of Wiglaf. Also King of Wessex (802–839). 4 Feb 839
Wiglaf (2nd reign) 830–839 Restored. Although Mercia regained its independence, its dominance in England was lost. 839
Wigmund c. 839–c. 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 840–852 Claimed to be a cousin of Wigstan. Usurped the kingship and forced Ælfflæd to marry his son, Beorhtfrith. 852
Burgred 852–874 Conjectured kinsman of Beorhtwulf. Fled to Rome in the face of a Danish invasion. ?
Ceolwulf II 874–879 or c. 883 Possibly a descendant of the C-dynasty, of which Ceolwulf I was a member, perhaps via intermarriage with W-dynasty. Lost eastern Mercia to the Danes in 877. 879
Æthelred II (Lord) c. 883–911 Recognised Alfred of Wessex as his overlord. Regarded as an 'ealdorman' by West Saxon sources. 911
Æthelflæd (Lady) 911–918 Wife of Æthelred and daughter of Alfred of Wessex. Possibly descended from earlier Mercian kings via her mother. With her brother, Edward the Elder, reconquered eastern Mercia. 12 Jun 918
Ælfwynn (Lady) 918 Daughter of Æthelred II and Æthelflæd. Deposed by her uncle, Edward the Elder, Dec 918, who annexed Mercia to Wessex. ?

Titular kings following Mercia's annexation[edit]

Ruler Reign Biographical notes Died
Æthelstan 924 Son of Edward the Elder and nephew of Æthelflæd. Became King of Mercia on Edward's death (Jul 924), and King of Wessex about 16 days later. 27 Oct 939
Eadgar 957–959 Nephew of Æthelstan. Seized control of Mercia and Northumbria in May 957, before succeeding to the reunited English throne in Oct 959. 8 Jul 975

Ealdormen and Earls of the Mercians[edit]

The chief magnate of Mercia as an English province held the title of ealdorman until 1023/32, 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 (descendants of Leofwine)

Ruler Reign Biographical notes Died
Ælfhere 957–983 Appointed ealdorman of Mercia in 957 by Eadgar, when the English kingdom was disunited. 983
Ælfric Cild 983–985 Brother-in-law of Ælfhere. Deposed by Æthelred the Unready in 985. Killed in battle against the Danes in 1016. 18 Oct 1016
Wulfric Spot ?–1004 Possibly ealdorman of Mercia after the deposition of Ælfric Cild. 22 Oct 1004
Eadric Streona 1007–1017 Appointed by Æthelred. A notorious turncoat, he was later murdered by Cnut for his treachery. 25 Dec 1017
Leofwine 1017–1023/32 Possibly appointed by Cnut as ealdorman of Mercia, he was also ealdorman of the Hwicce. 1023/32
Leofric 1023/32–1057 Son of Leofwine, appointed by Cnut as earl. Chiefly remembered for his famous wife, Godgifu (Lady Godiva). 31 Aug
or 30 Sep 1057
Ælfgar 1057–1062 Son of Leofric. Had previously been Earl of East Anglia until succeeding his father to Mercia. 1062
Eadwine 1062–1071 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

Earls of March[edit]

The title Earl of March (etymologically identical to 'Earl of Mercia') was created in the western Midlands for Roger Mortimer in 1328. It has fallen extinct, and been recreated, three times since then, and exists today as a subsidiary title of the Duke of Richmond and Lennox.

Kings of Mercia family tree[edit]

Mercia family tree.png

References[edit]

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