Early Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms c. 500–770


Map Code: Ax02359

As the Roman grip weakened, seaborne marauding by Germanic tribes upon Britain southern coasts became so incessant that it was named the “Saxon Shore”. When the Romans finally evacuated in 410, the incursions became permanent. The feuding native Britons were able to unite briefly to inflict defeat on the invaders at Badon Hill (perhaps Badbury in Wiltshire) – but respite was brief. By 500, Aelle of the South Saxons had sufficient authority to be termed the first Bretwalda (“Britain ruler”) by the monkish chronicler Bede, with overlordship (probably through a network of tributary kingdoms) stretching from the Channel to the Humber. The centre of power shuttled between the Saxon tribes, king by king, battle by battle. Subsequent Bretwaldas hailed from the East Saxons (Raedwald), West Saxons (Ceawlin) and Kent (Ethelbert). By the end of the 7th century, the contest for primacy had shifted northward to the kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria.

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