Hwicce

From Academic Kids

The Hwicce (Template:Audio) were one of the peoples of Anglo-Saxon Britain. The exact dimensions of their kingdom are unknown; they probably coincided with those of the old diocese of Worcester, the early bishops of which bore the title "Episcopus Hwicciorum." It would therefore include Worcestershire, Gloucestershire except the Forest of Dean, the southern half of Warwickshire, and the neighbourhood of Bath.

The name Hwicce survives in Wychwood in Oxfordshire, Whichford in Warwickshire and the Wychavon district of Worcestershire. These districts, or at least the southern portion of them, were originally conquered by the West Saxons under Ceawlin, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, s.a. 577. This area was taken by the Hwicce and was ruled independently from Wessex. In later times, however, the kingdom of the Hwicce appears to have been always subject to Mercian supremacy, and possibly it was separated from Wessex in the time of Edwin.

The first kings of whom we read were two brothers, Eanhere and Eanfrith, probably contemporaries of Wulfhere. They were followed by a king named Osric, a contemporary of Æthelred of Mercia, and he by a king Oshere. Oshere had three sons who reigned after him, Æthelheard, Æthelweard and Æthelric. The two last named appear to have been reigning in the year 706.

Hwicce is first found to be mentioned in 626 in the Tribal Hidage1. In Bede's The Ecclesiastical History of the English People he notes that Queen Eafe "had been baptised in her own country, the kingdom of the Hwicce. She was the daughter of Eanfrith, Eanhere's brother, both of whom were Christians, as were their people."2 From this we deduce that Hwicce was a Christian kingdom and that Eanfrith and Eanhere were royal. We may further deduce from placenames that the area was Anglo-Saxon with Anglian bias in the north and Saxon in the south. Pagan burial is also notable in the north-east of the kingdom3.

At the beginning of Offa's reign we again find the kingdom ruled by three brothers, named Eanberht, Uhtred and Aldred, the two latter of whom lived until about 780. After them the title of king seems to have been given up. Their successor Æthelmund, who was killed in a campaign against Wessex in 802, is described only as an earl.

The district remained in possession of the rulers of Mercia until the fall of that kingdom. Together with the rest of English Mercia it submitted to King Alfred about 877-883 under Earl Æthelred, who possibly himself belonged to the Hwicce. No genealogy or list of kings has been preserved, and we do not know whether the dynasty was connected with that of Wessex or Mercia.

It is likely that the British Church itself converted the Hwicce to Christianity rather than missions from Pope Gregory—conjecture based upon the fact that Bede does not comment on the matter, despite conversion being the dedication of his work4. Conversion may also be attributed to surrounding Christian communities or forced conversion by the ruling dynasty, who may have intermarried into the Christian British ruling aristocracy. Two place names suggest that Christianity was still followed in communities into the Anglo-Saxon nation including burials beneath Worcester Cathedral and St Mary de Lode, Gloucester.5 Other evidence indicates a direct relationship between pre-Roman and Anglo-Saxon pagan worship within communities.

Contents

Kings of Hwicce

Those who ruled over Hwicce did so largely in tandem for all or part of their reign. This gives rise to an overlap in the dates of reigns as may be seen below.

Name Dates6 Notes
577Kingdom assumes power over Gloucester
628Kingdom is conquered by Penda of Mercia
Eanfrith650s674
Eanhere674–675
Osric6756857Entombed at Gloucester Cathedral
Oshere6796938
Æthelberht693–?9
Æthelweard693–?9
Æthelric693–?9
Osred693–?9
Eanberhtfl.759
Uhtredfl.759
Ealdredfl.759 & 77810
~790Hwicce totally assimilated into Mercia

Notes

  1. N. J. Higham, An English Empire: Bede and the early Anglo-Saxon kings (Manchester 1995), pp.74- 111.
  2. Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People ed. J.McClure and R.Collins (Oxford, 1994), p.193.
  3. D.Hooke, The Anglo-Saxon Landscape: The Kingdom of the Hwicce (Manchester, 1985), pp.8-10; Sims-Williams, 'St Wilfred and two charters dated AD 676 and 680', Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 39, part 2 (1988), p.169.
  4. Building History website (http://www.building-history.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/Bath/Saxon/Dobunni.htm) is the basis of the Christian conversion conjecture.
  5. C. Thomas, Christianity in Roman Britain to AD 500 (1981), pp.253-71; Hooke, p.10; C.Heighway, 'Saxon Gloucester' in J.Haslam ed., Anglo-Saxon Towns in Southern England (Chichester, 1984)p.375.
  6. All dates, like all information about Hwicce, are academic approximations
  7. kessler-web.co.uk (http://www.kessler-web.co.uk/History/KingListsBritain/EnglandHwicce.htm) (retrieved 10 March 2005) suggests Osric's reign ended in 679
  8. The same website source suggests that Oshere ruled until 704
  9. Source also suggests that the four kings ruled "ar. 700", "ar. 710", "ar. 720" and "ar. 730s" respectively.
  10. Source further states that Ealdred ruled "c.759 - c.790"

Further reading

  • Bede, Historia eccles. (edited by C Plummer) iv. 13 (Oxford, 1896)
  • W de G Birch, Cartularium Saxonicum, 43, 51, 76, 85, 116, 117, 122, 163, I87, 232, 233, 238 (Oxford, 1885-1889).

External link

  • Dobunni to Hwicce (http://www.building-history.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/Bath/Saxon/Dobunni.htm) - An extract from Jean Manco, Saxon Bath: The Legacy of Rome and the Saxon Rebirth, Bath History vol. 7 (1998).

References

The Heptarchy
East Anglia | Essex | Kent | Mercia | Northumbria | Sussex | Wessex
de:Königreich Hwicce
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