Ramiro I of Asturias

Ramiro I was born about 790 and was King of Asturias from 842 until his death on 1st February 850. He was the son of King Bermudo I and became king after a power struggle for succession that followed the death of Alfonso II, who died without issue. Chronicles state that his reign was turbulent with attacks from both Vikings and Moors.

The death of King Alfonso II of Asturias brought about a succession crisis that would rock the whole kingdom. According to the Chronicle of Alfonso III, the childless Alfonso II chose Ramiro a distant kinsman and son of Alfonso’s predecessor Bermudo I. At the time of Alfonso’s death, Ramiro was attending his own wedding in Castile. In Ramiro’s absence Nepocian, the late king’s son-in-law contested the succession and was supported by Astures and Vascones who had both been loyal to Alfonso II. Ramiro turned to the area of Galicia and found support where he formed his army and advanced towards Oviedo.

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Nepotian waited at Cornellana by the river Narcea where either Ramiro either defeated them in battle or Nepotian’s troops fled without putting up a fight. Nepotian fled, but was caught by Count Scipion and Count Sonna. After capture Nepotian was blinded and interned into a monastery.

Ramiro now gained the crown, with which his first piece of business was to abandon the election process for the kings in which the nobles picked the successor monarch as the nobles had done with Nepotian.

Early in his reign, Ramiro received word that Vikings were raiding on the western coast of France and travelling south towards his own kingdom. Normally Vikings looked for rivers to navigate using their long boats and large cities to attack providing the most plunder. Luckily for Ramiro Asturias lacked both of these and chronicles of the time only refer to two small attacks, one in Gijon and one in A Coruna both in 844. The attacks were both challenged by troops sent by Ramiro.

According to legend in 834 Ramiro was said to have defeated the Moors at the Battle of Clavijo. The date was later changed to 844 to accommodate the contradictions in the story (Ramiro was not ruling in 834). The battle came to the spotlight because of a charter from the 12th Century written in Santiago de Compostela. Neither Asturian nor Arab chronicles of the time mention the battle. It’s possible that the battle is a myth and of the historical battle that took place between Ramiro’s son, Ordono I and Musa ibn Musa ibn Qasi. During the Second Battle of Albelda in 859, Ordono’s troops with Garcia Iniguez of Pamplona crushed the Moor forces. According to legend during the battle, Saint James the Greater, the Moor-slayer, is said to have appeared on a white horse bearing a white standard and aided the Asturian troops to defeat the Moors.

Ramiro’s actual battles with the Moors were not much of a success. Emir Abd ar-Rahman II of Cordoba also had to battle against Viking raids and also internal rebellions led by Musa ibn Musa of the Banu Qasi family. Ramiro tried to take advantage of this by repopulating the city of Leon. This was short lived and Abd ar-Rahman II dispatched both the rebels and the Vikings and sent an army under his son who would become Muhammad I of Cordoba making the Christians flee in 846. The city would not be re-occupied until 856 under Ordono I.

During the later part of Ramiro’s reign internal conflict would take over. Throughout discontented nobles made noises about rebellions. The Chronica Albeldenisis mentions two of these nobles. One being Piniolo who Ramiro condemned to death with his seven sons. The second was Aldroito who Ramiro punishment was for Aldroito to be blinded. Ramiro is said also to have dealt harshly with pagans and thieves who’s numbers are said to have grown through his reign.

The Chronica Albeldensis praises Ramiro as ‘the Rod of Justice’

Santa María del Naranco, at the capital of Oviedo, originally a recreational palace of Ramiro's, then a church.

Santa María del Naranco, at the capital of Oviedo, originally a recreational palace of Ramiro’s, then a church.

Not much is known of Ramiro’s first marriage except that it occurred early enough for his son to be old enough to be an adult at the time of his succession. His second marriage took place roughly about 842. At the time of Alfonso II’s death it is stated that Ramiro was in Castile at his own wedding. From this you would presume that his second wife Paterna was Castillian.

There is no solid evidence that Ramiro had any other children other than Ordono. It is said that Count Rodrigo of Castile (died 873) has been named as the son of Ramiro and Paterna and was named Count of Castile due to his connection with the royal family in Asturia.

Ramiro died on 1st February 850 in his palace at Santa Maria del Naranco located on Mount Naranco near Oviedo. He was buried in the Pantheon of Asturian Kings in the Cathedral of San Salvador, Oviedo alongside his second wife Paterna.

 

Arnulf of Carinthia

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Arnulf of Carinthia, was born around 850 A.D. He was the son of Carloman, King of Bavaria and his wife Liutswind, who was perhaps of Carantanian origin and possibly the sister of Ernst, Count of the Bavarian Nordgau Margraviate in the area of the Upper Palatinate or perhaps the burgave of Passau.

After Arnulf’s birth it is said that Carloman married another sister of Ernst before 861. She died after 8th August 879. It is mainly West-Franconian historiography that speaks of Arnulf’s illegitimacy and some believe that the two females may be one and the same person.

Arnulf was granted the Duchy of Carinthia, a Frankish vassal state and successor to the ancient Principality of Carantania by his father Carloman after Carloman had become reconciled with his own father Louis the German and was created King of Bavaria. It is believed that Arnulf spent the majority of his child hood in Moosburg, which is in Carinthia.

After Carloman suffered from a stroke in 879, Louis the Younger inherited Bavaria, Charles the Fat was given the Kingdom of Italy and Arnulf was confirmed in Carinthia, but largely ruled the majority of Bavaria. In 880 Carloman died with Arnulf being granted Pannonia or Carantanum as written by Regino of Prum.

In 882 Engelschalk II rebelled against the Margrave of Pannonia, Aribo which started the Wilhelminer War. Arnulf supported Engleschalf after accepting his and his brother’s homage which ruined Arnulf’s relationship with his uncle the current Holy Roman Emperor. It also sparked a war between Arnulf and Svatopluk of Moravia which saw Pannonia invaded. Arnulf and Svatopluk didn’t make peace until 885.

Arnulf took a leading role in the deposition of his unlce, Charles the Fat. In 887 Arnulf held a Diet at Tribur and with the support of his nobles and deposed Chales under the threat of military action. Charles peacefully went into retirement after chastising Arnulf for his actions. Arnulf granted Charles last requested for a few royal villas in Swabia to live out the rest of his life. Arnulf who had distinguished himself in the wars with the Slavs was elected by the nobles and assumed the title of King of East Francia.

Upon the death of Charles the Fat, Arnulf took advantage and secured the territory of Lorraine from West Frankia. He then created Lorraine as a kingdom for his son Zwetibold. In 889, Arulf supported the claim of Louis the Blind to the kingdom of Provence after he received a personal appeal from Louis mother, Emengard who visited him in Forcheim in May 889.

Arnulf looked to strengthen and enlarge his lands by taking advantage of fighting between Odo of France and Charles the Simple. Charles at one point had even fled and asks Arnulf for protection. This lead Pope Formosus to get involved as he was worried that the war weary West Francia would became easy prey for the Normans.

In 895 Arnulf summoned both Charles and Odo to his presence at Worms. Charles was persuaded by his advisors not to go and sent a representative in his place. Odo on the other hand attended in person with a large retinue bearing gifts for Arnulf. Angered by the non appearance in person of Charles, Arnulf welcomed Odo and supported his claim to the West Francian throne. During the same Diet he bestowed the crown of Lotharingia upon his illegitimate son Zwetibold.

As early as 880, Arnulf had designs on Great Moravia. Arnulf had the Frankish bishop Wiching of Nitra interfere with missionary activities with the aim of preventing any potential for creating a united Moravia. In 893 or 894, Greta Moravia probably lost part of its territory in modern day western Hungary to Arnulf. As a reward Wiching became chancellor in 892. Although he continued to attempt to conquer the whole of Great Moravia he didn’t succeed. Although in 895 Bohemia broke away from Moravia and did become his vassal.   An accord was made between him and the Borivoj I, Duke of Bohemia that Bohemia was freed from the dangers of invasion.

Further south in Italy Berengar of Friuli was crowned king of Lombardy in 887 and Guy II of Spoleto was crowned in 889 leading to a dispute. Pope Stephen V supported Guy, crowning him Roman Emperor in 891, while Arnulf supported Berengar. In 893, a new pope Formosus sent an embassy to Omuntesberch asking Arnulf to liberate Italy where he could be crowned in Rome. Arnulf sent his son Zwentibold with a Bavarian army to join Berengar and in due course they defeated Guy. In 894 Arnulf personally led an army across the Alps and took Bergamo in January 894. Count Ambrose, Guy’s representative was hung from a tree by the city’s gates.

Arnulf went on to conquer all the territory north of the Po, forcing Milan to surrender and then drove Guy out of Pavia. After this Arnulf was then crowned King of Italy. Guy died suddenly in late autumn and Arnulf headed back north. He was interrupted by Rudolph, King of Transjurane Burgundy. In retaliation Arnulf sent Zwentibold to ravage Burgundy.

In 895 a new embassy had been sent and Arnulf embarked on a second campaign in Italy. He quickly crossed the Alps and took Pavia. Lambert who now ruled in Guys place and his mother had imprisoned Formosus. The nobility of Tuscany slowly came out in support, Firstly with Maginulf, Count of Milan and then Walfred, Count of Pavia. They reached Rome finding the gates shut and Lambert’s mother in command. They attacked and took the city by force on the 21st February 895 freeing the Pope from his imprisonment greeting Arnulf on the steps of the Santi Apostoli.

On 22nd February 896 Fromosus led the king into the church and anointed and crowned him, saluting him as Augustus. They then went to the Basillica of Saint Peter Outside the Walls where he received the homage of the Roman people who swore ‘never to hand over the city to Lambert or his mother Ageltrude. Arnulf exiled to Bavaria two leading senators, Constantine and Stephen who had helped Lambert’s mother when seizing the city.

Arnulf left his vassal Farold to hold Rome while Arnulf marched to Spoleto where Angeltrude had fled to join her son Lambert. Arnulf’s luck though looked like it had run out when he suffered a stroke on the way to Spoleto and had to end the campaign returning to Bavaria.

On his way north Arnulf stopped and crowned his illegitimate son Ratold sub-King of Italy in Pavia, leaving him in Milan to try and hold Italy. The same year Fromosus died with Lambert seizing power with Berengar. They went on to murder any officials who had been appointed by Arnulf and Ratold fled as well to Bavaria.

On return to Germany in 896 Arnulf found out he had morbus pediculosis (infestation of lice under the eyelid) and this meant he was unable to deal with the problems around him. Italy was now lost and raiders from Moravia and Hungary were continually raiding into his lands and Lotharingia was in revolt against Zwentibold. He was also plagued by escalating violence between the lower German nobility.

On 8th December 899 Arnulf of Carinthia died at Ratisbon in Bavaria.

On Arnulf’s death, he was succeeded as king of East Francia by his son Louis the Child, mothered by his wife Ota (died 903). Louis the child was his only legitimate son and died in 911 at the age of 17 or 18 and due to this the eastern (German) branch of the house of Charlemagne ceased to exist. Arnulf’s illegitimate sons Zwentibold and Ratold were recognised as Arnulf’s successors with Zwentibold continuing to be King of Lotharingia till 900.

Arnulf is entombed in St Emmeram’s Basilica at Rengensburg, which is now known as Schloss Thurn und Taxis, the palace of the Princes of Thurn and Taxis.

Arnulf defiantly had a busy life and with much of central Europe at the time his hand seems to be in many different jars and the strings of many different kingdoms seem to be pulled by him. A descendant of Charlemagne he played his part in the web that was central European politics at the time.

Urraca – Queen of Leon and Castile

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Urraca was the daughter of Alfonso VI of Leon and his second wife Constance of Burgundy and was born in April 1079. As her father’s eldest legitimate child she was heiress presumptive of his lands from when she was born until 1107. In 1107 Alfonso recognised his illegitimate son Sancho as his heir. This didn’t last for long as the following year Sancho died and Urraca once more became heiress presumptive.

As heiress presumptive Urraca was the source and focus of dynastic politics. She became a child bride at the age of eight when she was married to Raymond of Burgundy. Author Bernard F Reilly suggests that Urraca and Richard were fully married when she was eight because Richard is then named in documents as Alfonso’s son-in-;aw. Reilly though states that the marriage wouldn’t of been consummated till Urraca reached thirteen, as she was placed under the care of a trusted magnate. At the age of fourteen she fell pregnant although suffered a still birth, which suggests the marriage was consummated when she was thirteen or fourteen.ile, even tough it stayed loyal to Urraca.

The marriage was part of Alfonso’s plans to try and create greater unity across the Pyrenees. In 1105 she gave birth to a son that would go on to become Alfonso VII. Richard died in 1107 and Alfonso VI moved to try and unite Leon and Castile with Aragon with a marriage to Alfonso I of Aragon.

Marriage negotiations were still being carried out when Alfonso VI died in 1109. Many of the leading magnates and advisors silently opposed the wedding worrying how much influence Alfonso of Aragon would have over Urraca. Urraca herself didn’t favour the marriage but honoured her now late father’s wishes and married Alfonso.

As soon as they were married it sparked rebellion in Galicia, under the influence of her half-sister Theresa and her husband Henry, Count of Portugal. The relationship between Urraca and Alfonso quickly soured and she accused him of physical abuse and by May 1110 they had separated.

Urraca had become unhappy with Alfonso’s treatment of rebels, especially with a certain rebel who he had executed after he had surrendered to the queen. This then led to open warfare between the two kingdoms. This escalated into an alliance between Alfonso I of Aragon and Henry of Portugal at the Battle of Candespina in 1111. Urraca’s chief supporter and lover Gomez Gonzalez died at the battle and was replaced in both roles by Pedro Gonzalez de Lara.

By the end of 1112 a truce had been called which led to the annulment of the marriage between Alfonso and Urraca. Urraca recovered Asturias, Leon and Galicia with Alfonso still occupying large parts of Castile, even though large parts of it stayed loyal to Urraca.

With being a female in a very dominated male world Urraca defiantly had her challenges, but it seems despite different set backs she embraced this and strived to maintain her kingdom. This helped lay the foundations for her son to become Alfonso VII even despite the opposition from her lover Pedro Gonzalez de Lara upon her death in 1126.

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Princess Victoria Eugenie and the curse of haemophilia

Victoria Eugenie 1As I mentioned in my last piece regarding the sons of Prince Henry of Battenberg and Princess Beatrice, daughter to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, the story of Princess Victoria Eugenie Julia Ena was quite a story on its own.

The first half of the twentieth century seemed to be quite a dangerous time for some of the granddaughters of Victoria and the royal curse of haemophilia

Victoria Eugenie known to the family and British public as Ena was no different and below I want to tell her story.

Victoria Eugenie was born on the 24th October 1887 at Balmoral Castle to Prince Henry of Battenberg and Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom. She spent most of her childhood between Balmoral, Osborne House and Windsor Castle. As part of Victoria’s agreement for her daughter Beatrice to marry Henry she had to stay as her full time companion and personal secretary which meant Victoria Eugenie would spent a lot of her time as a child in Victoria’s household.

Victoria Eugenie was bridesmaid to Mary of Teck in her wedding to the future King George V in 1893. In 1896 her father died and in 1901 Queen Victoria herself also died. After this the Battenberg’s took up residence in Kensington Palace, London.

In 1905 King Alfonso XIII of Spain made an official visit to the United Kingdom and King Edward VII hosted a dinner at Buckingham Palace in his honour. It was known that Alfonso was looking for a suitable wife. It was thought that Princess Patricia, another of Edward VII’s nieces was the most suitable match for Alfonso but she was unimpressed by his advances and then his attention turned to Victoria Eugenie.

On his return to Spain Alfonso he wrote to Victoria Eugenie sending her numerous post cards. His mother Maria Christina didn’t approve of his interest in the British princess preferring for her son to marry from her own Habsburg family from Austria. There was also the issue of religion. Spain was a Roman Catholic country and Victoria Eugenie came from a Protestant background. The royal curse of haemophilia was also a concern.

This did not stop Alfonso and he would not be held back from his continued attention to the British princess and after about a year of communication and rumours about who Alfonso would marry, his mother finally caved in and agreed to the marriage. She wrote to Princess Beatrice telling her about the love her son had for Victoria Eugenie and things then moved quickly and a couple of days later at Windsor King Edward congratulated his niece on her future engagement.

Victoria Eugenie 2

Princess Beatrice and Princess Victoria Eugenie travelled to Biarritz on 22nd January 1906 and stayed at the Villa Mauriscot. Alfonso arrived, a couple of days later and spent three days chaperoned getting to know Victoria Eugenie more. Alfonso then took both Victoria Eugenie and her mother to San Sebastian to meet Maria Christina. On the 3rd February he left them to travel to Madrid while the two princess left for Versailles to be instructed in the Roman Catholic faith as would be required for her to be the future Queen of Spain.

King Alfonso XIII and Princess Victoria Eugenie married on 31st May 1906 at the Royal Monastery of San Jeronimo.   The wedding didn’t go without a hitch as an assignation attempt took place. Mateu Morral threw a bomb at the the royal carriage. Victoria Eugenie turned at the same time the bomb was thrown to look at St Mary’s church in the city centre which Alfonso was pointing out to her. This action is believed to have saved her although her dress was splattered with blood from a Guard who was riding alongside the carriage. Fifteen people died. There is a statue to the victims of the bombing at the front of the Royal Monastery of San Jeronimo.

The couple’s first child was Alfonso, Prince of Asturias who was born 10th May 1907. This gained Victoria Eugenie some favour with her new people, to which her early relationship was quite strained. Doctors though on carrying out the new Prince’s circumcision noted that he did not stop bleeding showing that he had inherited the dreaded haemophilia.

King Alfonso never forgave his Queen for this fact. There youngest son also had haemophilia. The couple went on to have seven children in total, five boys and two girls. Once all the children were born the relationship between the couple went even sourer and Alfonso is believed to have had numerous affairs fathering several illegitimate children.

Victoria Eugenie devoted herself to working in hospitals and services for the poor. She was heavily involved in the reorganisation of the Spanish Red Cross. In 1929 in Barcelona a statue was raised to her in nurse’s uniform in recognition of the work she had done. The statue no longer stands and has since been destroyed.

In 1931 the whole Spanish Royal family went into exile after elections brought Republicans to power across many major cities and the proclamation of the 2nd Spanish Republic. The family went at first to France before later moving to Italy. Later Alfonso and Victoria Eugenie separated and she started to spend more time in the United Kingdom before she settled on the chateau Vielle Fontaine outside Lausanne, Switzerland.

The whole family though were brought together again in Rome for the baptism of her grandson Juan Carlos in 1938. On 15th January 1941 Alfonso XIII felling that death was close transferred his rights to the Spanish crown to their son Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona. The feeling Alfonso had was true and he suffered a heart attack on 12th February and died sixteen days later.

In 1942 living in Italy Victoria Eugenie was asked to leave for being ‘persona non grata’ to the Italian government. According to Harold Tittmann, a US representative to the Vatican at the time the reason for this was Victoria Eugenie’s ill disguised feelings of support for the Allied armies during the Second World War.

She did return briefly to Spain to stand as godmother to her great grandson Infante Felipe in February 1968. Felipe was the son of Infante Juan Carlos and Princess Sophia of Denmark and Greece. Felipe became King of Spain in June 2014 after the abdication of his father.

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Victoria died back in Lausanne on 15th April 1969 aged 81 years old. It was exactly 38 years after she had left Spain in exile. As well as her great grandson being King of Spain her other godchildren include; Albert, Prince of Monaco; Queen Fabiola of Belgium and Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 18th Duchess of Alba.

She came from a generation and family that spread right across Europe and could include King of United Kingdom, Queen of Norway, Empress of Russia, Queen of Romania, Emperor of Germany, Queen of Sweden and Queen of Greece all as first cousins.

The sons of Prince Henry of Battenberg and Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom

Princess Beatrice was the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of the United Kingdom. She married Prince Henry of Battenberg. They had four children, Alexander, Victoria Eugenie, Leopold and Maurice. This piece will be about the three boys with a further piece will be about Victoria Eugenie who went on to become Queen of Spain.

Alexander Mountbatten, Marquess of Carisbrooke.

Alexander Mountbatten as he would later become was born Prince Alexander Albert of Battenberg, on the 23rd November 1886 at Windsor Castle, Berkshire in England. He was the eldest son of Prince Henry and Princess Beatrice.

He was educated at Stubbington House and Wellington College before going on to join the Royal Navy in 1902. He served until 1908 and in 1910 joined an exclusive dining club called the Castaways Club. This club was for former junior officers who wished to stay in contact after leaving the Navy. He was in good company as the current Duke of Edinburgh; Price Philip was also a member as was also Prince Charles the current Prince of Wales.

After serving in the Navy he transferred to the Army serving in the Grenadier Guards. On 15th August 1913 he became a 2nd Lieutenant and in 1915 reached the rank of Captain. In 1917 Alexander was authorised to wear the insignia of the Russian Order of St Vladimir fourth class with Swords. On 19th November 1919 he resigned his commission.

Alexander of Battenberg (later Alexander Mountbatten), Marquess of Carisbrooke

During the First World War a lot of anti-German sentiment grew in Great Britain and because of this the British Royal family relinquished their German titles and changed their names. Battenberg changed to Mountbatten. This was when Alexander was given the titles of Marquess of Carisbrooke, Earl of Berkampsted and Viscount Launceston.

Alexander also got married in 1917 to Lady Irene Adza Denison (1890-1956) daughter of the 2nd Earl of Londesborough and Lady Grace Adelaide Fane. They married at the Chapel Royal in St James Palace, London. Alexander and Lady Irene had one daughter together, Lady Iris Mountbatten born in 1920.

After the First World War he started life as an ordinary clerk in the offices of Lazard Brothers, the bankers. Later he would become a director of Lazard Brothers.

Early in the Second World War he joined the RAF where he served as a staff officer attached to Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory before moving to Fighter Command Headquarters.

After the war he lived in Kings Cottage overlooking Kew Garderns before moving on to Kensington Palace.

Alexander died in 1960 aged 73 at Kensington Palace and was buried in the Battenberg Chapel, St Mildred’s Church, Whippngham on the Isle of Wight. The title Marquess of Carisbrooke became extinct upon his death. At his death he was the last surviving grandson of Queen Victoria.

Lord Leopold Mountbatten

Prince Leopold Arthur Louis of Battenberg was born on the 21st May 1889 at Windsor Castle and was the second son to Prince Henry and Princess Beatrice. As with the other British Royals at the time he relinquished his German title in 1917 and changed his name from Battenberg to Mountbatten.

Leopold became Sir Leopold Mountbatten due to him being a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order until by a Royal Warrant in September 1917 he was granted the style and precedence of the younger son of a Marquess and became Lord Leopold Mountbatten.

Leopold Mountbatten

Unfortunately Leopold was blighted by the royal curse of haemophilia which he inherited from his mother. He died on 23rd April 1922 aged just 32 during a hip operation. He is buried in the Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore and a memorial tablet to him and his brother Maurice is in Winchester Cathedral.

Prince Maurice of Battenberg

Maurice Victor Donald was the third son of Prince Henry and Princess Beatrice and the youngest of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren. He was names Maurice after his great-grandfather Count Maurice von Hauke, Victor after his maternal grandmother and Donald because he was born at Balmoral Castle. He was born on 3rd October 1891 and is said to have been the closest of the four siblings to resemble his father’s looks.

prince maurice of battenburg

His father died when he was aged just four, which is the same age at which his mother lost her father Prince Albert. He was educated at Lockers Prep School in Hertfordshire before going on to study at Wellington College. He then took his place in the British Army.

He served as a Lieutenant in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. During the First Battle of Ypres he was mortally wounded by shrapnel and died on the field of battle before his men could lead him to safety.  He is buried in Ypres Town Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery.

As he died before the relinquishment of the German titles by the British Royal family he was always known by his German title Prince of Battenberg even though he fought on the side of the British.

prince maurice grave

Swithelm of Essex

Title : King of Essex

Reign : 660-664

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Swithelm ruled in Essex as king between 660-664. With his brother it is believed they killed the previous King Sigeberht II the Good.

The accused Sigeberht of being too friendly towards Christians, but was persuaded to convert to Christianity by Aethelwald, King of East Anglia.

Sigeberht II the Good

Title : King of Essex

Reign : c 653 – c 660

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Sigeberht II was sometimes called the Good or the Blessed. He ruled between c 653 and c 660. The re-Christianity of Essex took place during his reign.

He could have been murdered by his successor Swithelm in a power struggle with in the East Saxon elite.