Sæberht of Essex

Title : King of Essex

Reign : c.604 – c.616

Born :

Died :

Spouse : Ethelgoda

Parents : Sledd, King of Essex and Ricula, sister of King Æthelberht of Kent

Succeeded his father Sledd as King of Essex in c.604 and is known as the first East Saxon king to convert to Christianity. He converted in 604 as per Bede and was baptised by Mellitus, Bishop of London.

Later medieval legend states that Sæberht and his wife Ethelgoda built the original chapel on the site of Westminster Abbey and were later buried there.

Sledd of Essex

Sledd (or Sledda) of Essex

Title : King of Essex

Reign : c 587 – c 604

Born :

Died : c.604

Spouse : Ricula, sister to King Æthelberht of Kent

Parents : Æscwine, King of Essex

Sledd was the son of Æscwine and the second king of the East Saxons and succeeded to the throne on the death of his father about c.587

Stedd married Ricula, sister to King Æthelberht of Kent and he was father to Sæberht whise rule bgan in c.604.  Another son is named as Seaxbald.

Æscwine of Essex

Title : King of Essex

Reign :

Born :

Died :

Spouse :

Parents :

Precious little is known regarding Æscwine and is listed as the first king of the East Saxons (Essex) in the Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies.

It is said that he is the father to Sledd and traces him back six generations to Seaxnet, the legendary founder of the Saxons.

Kings of Essex

So for some time now I have always wondered how I could link through all the different kings and queens I come across throughout time and space.  Well I am going to try something different for now.  This post will be a list of all the different kings of Sussex.  I have filled in some information about each regarding their reigns and parents where I have quickly found it and will continue to fill this in as I go along.  I also hope that this will be a starting point as such that will then grow into small posts giving brief outlines of each of the kings.  If this works well I may begin to do it for more different dynasties and families.  So here it goes….

Name Reign Spouse Father Mother Notes
Æscwine
Sledd c 587 – c 604 Ricula, sister of King Æthelberht of Kent Æscwine
Sæberht c 604 – c 616 Sledd Ricula, sister of King Æthelberht of Kent
Sexred c 616 – c 617 Sæberht Joint king with Sæward, killed in battle against the West Saxons
Sæward c 616 – c 617 Sæberht Joint king with Sexred, killed in battle against the West Saxons
Sigeberht I the Little 617 – 653 Sæward
Sigeberht II the Good c 653 – 660
Swithelm 660 – 664 murdered Sigeberht II
Sighere 664 – 683 Osyth, daughter of Firthwold, sub-king in Mercia Joint king with his Sebbi
Sebbi 664 – c 694 Joint king with Sighere, abdicated in favour of his sons Sigeheard and Swaefred
Sigeheard c 694 – c 709 Sebbi Joint king with his brother Swaefred
Swaefred c 695 – c 709 Sebbi Joint king with his brother Sigeheard
Offa 709 Sighere Osyth, daughter of Firthwold, sub-king in Mercia Abdicated, travelled to Rome with King Cenred of Mercia
Saelred c 709 – 746 Probably joint king with Swaefbert, claimed descent from Sigeberht II the Good
Swaefbert 715 – 738 Probably joint king with Saelred, possibly ruled sub-kingdom of Middlesex
Swithred 746 – 758 cousin of Saelred
Sigeric 758 – 798 Saelred Abdicated to go pilgramage to Rome
Sigered 798 – 825 Sigeric Rank reduced from King to Duke in 812 by Mrcian Overlords

The birth of Christianity in Kent.

It’s amazing how some things twist and some things turn and you have to question would something have happened eventually or was it only because of that single moment that it happened at all. That’s the statement and question I find myself asking when I look at the re-birth of Christianity within mainland England and has led me to explore the how’s and when’s of its happening.

We have to dig back towards the end of the 6th Century when Kent was a kingdom of its own and ruled by King Æthelberht. Æthelberht ruled Kent from roughly about 590 to his death on 24th February 616. He must have been quite important within modern England at the time as he is referred to as ‘bretwalda’ or British ruler in the entry in 827 of the Anglo Saxon Chronicle.

Æthelberht

Æthelberht

He is said within the Anglo Saxon Chronicle to be the first of the English kings to receive baptism.

This year died Ethelbert, king of Kent, the first of English that received baptism’

The Kentish people had strong ties with the Frankish people over the English Channel in modern day France. `Æthelberht looked to strengthen these ties with a marriage alliance. He had chosen Bertha of Paris, daughter to Charibert I of Paris and great granddaughter to the great Clovis I, king of the Franks. Bertha was already a Christian at the time of marriage and as part of the agreement she was to be allowed to carry on her faith in her new home.

This agreement then led to Bertha being allowed to restore a former Romano-British church at Canterbury, dedicating it to Saint Martin of Tours and it became Bertha’s private chapel and she brought with her Luidhard her own Chaplin and bishop.

This must have peaked Æthelberht’s interest in his wife’s religion as in 596/97 he welcomed what would become known as the Gregorian mission sent by Pope Gregory I to convert the people of Anglo Saxon England to their faith. The future St Augustine led the mission and baptised Æthelberht, himself becoming Bishop of Canterbury. Were Gregory’s hopes of conversion filled with the establishment of Bertha’s private chapel? St Martins Church in Canterbury is the oldest known English speaking church in the world today.

The king donated land to Augustine who founded the monastery to St Peter and St Paul which later became St Augustine’s Abbey. Pope Gregory had truly believed that Christianity had landed and taken a foot hold on the south east corner of the island and wrote in a letter to the patriarch of Alexandria that there had 10,000 conversions.

Augustine asks Gregory for assistance on how to set up the church and how it should act. In Bede’s The Ecclessiastical History of the English People written one hundred years later, Bede goes into great details of the questions asked and answered. Questions were asked about marriage within the family, about who could marry who, what should happen if someone steals from the church and how to deal with bishops from France and Britain amongst some.

Bertha of Kent

Bertha of Kent

Bede also confirms that Gregory in 601 sends more ministers to add him in the larger establishment of the church.

‘Moreover, the same Pope Gregory, hearing from Bishop Augustine, that he had a great harvest, and but few labourers, sent to him, together with his aforesaid messengers, several fellow labourers and ministers of the word of whom the first and principal were Mellitus, Justus , Paulinus and Rufinianus’

In 604, Roman bishops were established in London and Rochester and a school for Anglo Saxon priests and missionaries. Augustine consecrated his successor at Canterbury, Laurence and properly died later that year himself and in 606 Pope Gregory also died.

Æthelberht also established the first set of written Germanic-language law code and is thought to be the oldest example of written English albeit in a 12th century manuscript Textus Roffensis. It is believed that some of the laws were previous oral traditions from within Kent but could it have been the churches influences that made Æthelberht write these down.

Æthelberht died on 24th February 616 and was buried in the Church of St Peter and St Paul but was later exhumed so the shrine could be placed in the high alter of the Norman Church. Æthelberht, Bertha and Augustine were all created as Saints showing their importance at the time of setting up and establishing the early Christian church in Kent.

Æthelberht successor as king was his son Eadbald. Eadbald had been baptised but went back to his pagan beliefs. His father Æthelberht remarried after the death of his mother Bertha, although his new wife’s name is not recorded. Eadbald went against church laws and married his step mother who it is believed was a pagan herself.

St Augustine

St Augustine

Bede records that the church suffered a setback with this. Sæberht, the king of Essex had also converted to Christianity with the influence of Æthelberht but upon his death his sons expelled Mellitus, Bishop of London. Eadbald was punished for his faithlessness by frequent fits of insanity and was possessed by an evil spirit (could this have been epilepsy?), although Eadbald did reconvert back to Christianity.

‘Then abjuring the worship of idols, and renouncing the unlawful marriage, he embraced the faith of Christ and being baptized, promoted the affairs of the church to the utmost of his power.’

Eadbald then founded a church to St Mary in 624 which later became part of St Augustine’s Abbey. He also re-married Ymme who was Frankish and the connections between Kent and Frankia grew stronger again. Trade would have been important to Kent and this could of assisted with Eadbald’s re-found faith.

Christianity was now truly established and here to stay within the southern part of England. Kent had been the forerunner and base for the Bishops to push out on their conversion of other parts of England. My thoughts are that the marriage of Æthelberht and Bertha ignited the spark and the close trade links that would develop between both their kingdoms would allow Christian missions to be welcomed easier into Kent just in later years Viking warlords would convert themselves to aid in peace agreement’s and their land grabs a few hundred years later.

The Duke who started a war

Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, (1406-22nd May 1455), sometimes styled 1st Duke of Somerset was an English nobleman.  He also succeeded in the title of 4th Earl of Somerset and was created 1st Earl of Dorset and 1st Marquess of Dorset and Count of Mortain and was also known for his deadly rivalry with Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York.

Edmund was the 3rd surviving son of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset and Margaret Holland.  His paternal grandparents were John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and Katherine Swynford while his maternal grandparents were Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent and Alice FitzAlan.

Although head of one of England’s greatest families his inheritance was only 300 pounds, compared to his rival Richard, Duke of York net worth of 5,800 pounds.  His cousin Henry VI of England efforts to compensate Somerset with offices worth 3,000 pounds only served to offend many of the nobles and his arguments with York grew more personal.  Another dispute with the Earl of Warwick over the lordships of Glamorgan and Morgannwg may of forced Warwick into York’s camp.

Edmund’s brothers were taken captive at the Battle of Bauge in 1421.  Edmund was too young at the time to fight.  While his brothers were captive he gained military experience and took command of the English army in 1431.  After his re-capture of Harfleur and lifting the Burgundian Siege of Calais in 1436 he was named a Knight of the Garter.  After subsequent successes he was created Ear of Dorset (1442) and the next year Marquess of Dorset.  From 1444 to 1449 he served as Lieutenant of France.  In 1448 he was created Duke of Somerset.  As the title had previously been held by his brother he was usually called the second Duke.

Somerset was appointed as commander in France replacing York in 1448.  In 1449 fighting broke out in Normandy and Somerset’s defeats left him open to criticism from York’s supporters.  Somerset was meant to be paid 20,000 pounds but no evidence exists that he ever received the payment.  He failed to repulse French attacks and by the summer of 1450 nearly all of England’s French possessions were lost.   By 1453 all of England’s possessions in the south of France were lost as well and the Battle of Castillon ended the Hundred Year War.

York used the insanity of the King to be made Lord Protector gaining power which had been monopolised by Somerset since 1451.  York imprisoned Somerset in the Tower of London and his life was probably saved by the King’s recovery in 1454, to again save one of his favourites.  York at this point was forced to surrender his office.

By now York was determined to be rid of Somerset one way or another and in May 1455 he raised an army.  He confronted Somerset and the King at the First Battle of St Albans.  This marked the beginning of the War of the Roses.  Somerset was killed in a charge from the house he had been hiding in.  His son Henry could never forgive York and Warwick for his father’s death and would spend the next nine years trying to avenge him and restore his family’s honour.

Henry VI definitely had his favourites rightly or wrongly and it seems to be that they definitely help lead him into a Civil War which would split a country in two for years to come.

Arms of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, Edmund's father

Arms of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, Edmund’s father

Traitorous Merchant who lost his head

An imaginary portrat of William de la Pole by Thomas Tindall Wildridge, 1888

An imaginary portrat of William de la Pole by Thomas Tindall Wildridge, 1888

William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk (16th October 1396 – 2nd May 1450) was an English commander during the Hundred Year War and Lord High Admiral of England from 1447 to 1450.  He was born at Cotton Suffolk and was second d son of Michael de la Pole, 2nd Earl of Suffolk and Katherine de Stafford, daughter of Hugh de Stafford, 2nd Earl of Stafford and Philippa de Beauchamp.

He was seriously injured during the Siege of Harfleur in 1415.  His father also died of dysentery during the siege.  Later in that year his elder brother Michael de la Pole, 3rd Earl of Suffolk died at the Battle of Agincourt.  William then succeeded as the 4th Earl of Suffolk.  He became co-commander of the English army at the Siege of Orleans in 1429 after the death of Thomas Montacute, 4th Earl of Salisbury.  When the city was then relieved by Joan of Arc in the same year he managed to retreat to Jargeau where he was forced to surrender on the 12th June.  He remained a prisoner of Charles VII, King of France for three years before he was ransomed. 

After his return to England in 1434 he was made Constable of Wallingford Castle.  He became a courtier and a close ally to Cardinal Henry Beaufort.  His most notable achievement during this period but also his most controversial was his help with negotiating the marriage of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou in 1444.  This earned him the elevation to Marques of Suffolk.  Although a secret deal with in the marriage contract gave Maine and Anjou back to France was not popular in England and would eventually bring the downfall of William.

His own marriage took place on the 11th November 1430 to Alice Chaucer (1404-1475).  Alice was the daughter of Thomas Chaucer of Ewelme, Oxfordshire and granddaughter to the poet Geoffrey Chaucer and his wife Philippa de Roet.

With the deaths of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and Cardinal Beaufort in 1447, Suffolk became the principal power behind the throne.    He was appointed Chamberlain, Admiral of England as well as other important offices, and made Earl of Pembroke in 1447 and Duke of Suffolk in 1448. 

On 16th July Suffolk met in secret with Jean d’Orleans, comte de Dunois at his mansion of the Rose in Candlewick Street.  This was the first of several meetings in London as Suffolk passed Council minutes to Dunois in assistance with the plans for the French invasion of England.  Dunois was a French hero from the Siege of Orleans.  It was rumoured that Suffolk never paid the £20,000 owed to Dunois for his ransom and because of this he now passed on state secrets. 

The following three years saw the near complete loss of England’s possessions in northern France.  Suffolk could not avoid the blame for these failures partly because of the loss of Maine and Anjou with the marriage arrangements for Henry.  On 28th January 1450 he was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. The king intervened and tried to save his favourite who was then banished for five years.   Suffolk then sailed to Calais by ship but was intercepted by the ship ‘Nicholas of the Tower’ and captured.  He was then subject to a mock trial and executed by beheading. 

Suffolk was interred in the Carthusian Priory, Hull by his widow Alice.  The Priory was founded in 1377, by Suffolk’s grandfather Michael de la Pole, the 1st Earl of Suffolk and then dissolved in 1539.  Almost none of the original buildings survive following two English Civil War sieges in Hull in 1642 and 1643   

He was one of the first from the merchant class to raise him into a loftier position.  For this alone he is an important figure who fought for Henry VI’s father and then twisted himself either by chance or with his known traitorous acts manipulated his way into a higher position.  Whichever it was the weakness of Henry VI definitely helped him.  William was succeeded as the Duke of Suffolk by his only known legitimate son John, who became the 2nd Duke of Suffolk.