The Info List - Heptarchy

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The Heptarchy
is a collective name applied to the seven petty kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England
Anglo-Saxon England
from the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain
Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain
in 5th century
5th century
until their unification into the Kingdom of England
Kingdom of England
in the early 10th century. The term "Heptarchy" (from the Greek ἑπταρχία heptarchia, from ἑπτά hepta "seven", ἀρχή arche "reign, rule" and the suffix -ία -ia) alludes to the tradition that there were seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, usually enumerated as: East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Mercia, Northumbria, Sussex
and Wessex. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms eventually unified into the Kingdom of England. The historiographical tradition of the "seven kingdoms" is medieval, first recorded by Henry of Huntingdon in his Historia Anglorum (12th century);[1] the term Heptarchy
dates to the 16th century.


1 History 2 List of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms 3 Attributed arms 4 See also 5 Notes 6 References 7 Further reading 8 External links


The main Anglo-Saxon kingdoms

By convention, the Heptarchy
lasted from the end of Roman rule in Britain in the 5th century, until most of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms came under the overlordship of Egbert of Wessex
in 829: a period of European history often referred to as the Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages
or, more controversially, as the Dark Ages. Though heptarchy suggests the existence of seven kingdoms, the term is just used as a label of convenience and does not imply the existence of a clear-cut or stable group of seven kingdoms. The number of kingdoms and sub-kingdoms fluctuated as kings contended for supremacy.[2] In the late 6th century, the king of Kent
was a prominent lord in the south; in the 7th century, the rulers of Northumbria
and Wessex
were powerful; in the 8th century, Mercia achieved hegemony over the other surviving kingdoms, particularly with " Offa
the Great". Yet, as late as the reigns of Eadwig and Edgar (955–75), it was still possible to speak of separate kingdoms within the English population. There also existed alongside the seven kingdoms a number of other political divisions, such as the kingdoms (or sub-kingdoms) of: Bernicia
and Deira
within Northumbria; Lindsey in present-day Lincolnshire; the Hwicce
in the southwest Midlands; the Magonsæte
or Magonset, a sub-kingdom of Mercia
in what is now Herefordshire; the Wihtwara, a Jutish kingdom on the Isle of Wight, originally as important as the Cantwara
of Kent; the Middle Angles, a group of tribes based around modern Leicestershire, later conquered by the Mercians; the Hæstingas
(around the town of Hastings
in Sussex); and the Gewisse, a Saxon tribe in what is now southern Hampshire
that later developed into the kingdom of Wessex. The decline of the Heptarchy
and the eventual emergence of the kingdom of England
was also a drawn-out process, taking place over the course of the 9th to 10th centuries. Over the course of the 9th century, the Danish enclave at York
expanded into the Danelaw, with about half of England
under Danish rule. The English unification under Alfred the Great was a reaction to the threat by the common enemy. In 886, Alfred retook London, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
says that "all of the English people
English people
(all Angelcyn) not subject to the Danes submitted themselves to King Alfred."[3] The unification of the kingdom of England
was complete only in the 10th century, following the expulsion of Eric Bloodaxe
Eric Bloodaxe
as king of Northumbria. List of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms[edit] Further information: Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies The four main kingdoms in Anglo-Saxon England
Anglo-Saxon England

East Anglia Mercia Northumbria, including sub-kingdoms Bernicia
and Deira Wessex

The other main kingdoms, which were conquered by others entirely at some point in their history, before the unification of England, are:

Essex Kent Sussex

Other minor kingdoms and territories include:

(only subject to Wessex
at a later date) Haestingas The Hwicce Isle of Wight Kingdom of the Iclingas, a precursor state to Mercia Lindsey Magonsæte The Meonwara, a Jutish tribe in Hampshire Middle Angles Pecsæte Surrey Tomsæte Wreocensæte

Attributed arms[edit] Arms were attributed to the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy from the 12th or 13th century onward, with the development of heraldry. The Kingdom of Essex, for instance, was assigned a red shield with three notched swords (or "seaxes"). This coat was used by the counties of Essex
and Middlesex
until 1910, when the Middlesex
County Council applied for a formal grant from the College of Arms
College of Arms
(The Times, 1910). Middlesex
was granted a red shield with three notched swords and a "Saxon Crown". Essex
County Council was granted the arms without the crown in 1932.

Kingdom of East Anglia

Kingdom of Essex

Kingdom of Kent
Kingdom of Kent
(White horse of Kent)

Kingdom of Mercia
(Flag of Mercia)

Kingdom of Northumbria

Kingdom of Sussex

Kingdom of Wessex
(Arms of Edward the Confessor)

See also[edit]

Anglo-Saxon England
Anglo-Saxon England

History of Anglo-Saxon England Cornovii (Cornish) Related terms: Bretwalda, High King
High King
for hegemons among kings Compare: Tetrarchy


^ Historia Anglorum: the history of ... - Google Books. Books.google.com.au. 1996. ISBN 9780198222248. Retrieved 2010-04-09.  ^ Norman F. Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages1993:163f. ^ The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Freely licensed version at Gutenberg Project. Note: This electronic edition is a collation of material from nine diverse extant versions of the Chronicle. It contains primarily the translation of Rev. James Ingram, as published in the Everyman edition. Asser's Life of King Alfred, ch. 83, trans. Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge, Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred & Other Contemporary Sources (Penguin Classics) (1984), pp. 97–8.


Westermann Großer Atlas zur Weltgeschichte

Further reading[edit]

Campbell, J. et al. The Anglo-Saxons. (Penguin, 1991) Sawyer, Peter Hayes. From Roman Britain to Norman England
(Routledge, 2002). Stenton, F. M. Anglo-Saxon England, (3rd edition. Oxford U. P. 1971),

External links[edit]

Monarchs of Britain, Encyclopædia Britannica ogdoad.force9.co.uk: The Burghal Hidage
Burghal Hidage
– Wessex's fortified burhs

v t e

Kingdoms and subdivisions of Anglo-Saxon England


East Anglia Essex Kent Mercia Northumbria Bernicia Deira Sussex Wessex

Lesser kingdoms

Wiht Meonwara Surrey Lindsey Hwicce Magonsæte Pencersæte Pecsæte Wreocensæte Tomsæte Haestingas Gyrwas Southumbrians

Minor Anglo-Saxon tribes and fiefs

Ælfingas Æbbingas Godhelmingas Arosæte Beormingas Bilsæte Brahhingas Duddensæte Cilternsæte Eorlingas Husmerae Gaini Sunningas Brycgstowl Banesbyrig Lindisfaras Woccingas Nox-gaga and Oht-gaga Middle Saxons Middle Angles North Mercians Duddaæte Gyrwas Hroðingas Tetingas Basingas Snotingas Spaldingas Stoppingas Sweordora Tewingas Westerne Elmetsæte Gewisse Rēadingas Weorgoran Sumorsaete Waeclingas Haueringas Ytenes

v t e

Barbarian kingdoms
Barbarian kingdoms
established around the Migration Period

Germanic kingdoms

Alamannian Kingdom Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy Bavarian Duchy Burgundian Kingdom Frankish Kingdom Frisian Kingdom Gepid Kingdom Odoacer's Kingdom Lombard Kingdom Petty kingdoms of Norway Suevian Kingdom Ostrogothic Kingdom Rugian Kingdom Saxonian Duchy Thuringii
Kingdom Vandal Kingdom Visigothic Kingdom

Hunnic kingdoms

Hunnic Empire

Turkic kingdoms

Great Bulgaria Bulgar Khanate Khazar Khaganate

Iranian kingdoms

Alani Kingdom Avar Khaganate

Celtic kingdoms

Bro Gwened Cantabri Cornouaille Domnonée Hen Ogledd Gaelic Ireland Petty kingdoms of Wales

Slavic kingdoms

Carantian Principality Samo's Empire

v t e

 Kingdom of England


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