Ecgfrith of Mercia

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King of Mercia
Reign 29 July 796 - December 796
Predecessor Offa
Successor Cœnwulf
House Iclingas

Ecgfrith was king of Mercia from 29 July to December 796. He was the son of Offa, one of the most powerful kings of Mercia, and Cynethryth.[1] In 787, Ecgfrith had been consecrated king, the first known consecration of an English king, probably arranged by Offa in imitation of the consecration of Charlemagne's sons by the pope in 781.[1][2]

According to the Croyland Chronicle "he (Ecgfrith) was seized with a malady, and departed this life." His reign lasted 141 days.[3]

Ecgfrith was succeeded by a distant relative, Cœnwulf, presumably because Offa had arranged the murder of nearer relatives in order to eliminate dynastic rivals. According to a contemporary letter from Alcuin of York, an English deacon and scholar who spent over a decade at Charlemagne's court as one of his chief advisors:[4]

That most noble young man has not died for his sins, but the vengeance for the blood shed by the father has reached the son. For you know how much blood his father shed to secure the kingdom upon his son.[1]

Alcuin added: "This was not a strengthening of the kingdom, but its ruin."[5]


  1. ^ a b c Ann Williams (1991). "Ecgfrith king of Mercia". In Ann Williams, Alfred P. Smyth, D. P. Kirby. A Biographical Dictionary of Dark Age Britain. Seaby. ISBN 1 85264 047-2. 
  2. ^ Kelly, S. E. (2007). "Offa (d. 796), king of the Mercians". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/52312. Retrieved 22 July 2012.  (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  3. ^ Swanton, Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, p. 50.
  4. ^ Lapidge, "Alcuin of York", in Lapidge et al., "Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England", p. 24.
  5. ^ Letter of Alcuin to Mercian ealdorman Osbert, tr. in Whitelock, English Historical Documents, p. 787

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Titles of nobility
Preceded by
King of Mercia
Succeeded by