The Anglo-Saxons came to England after the Romans left in the year 410. Nobody was really ruling all of England at the time – there were a lot of little kingdoms ruled by Anglo-Saxons that eventually came together as one country. Between the 7th and 8th centuries, Anglo-Saxon England became a strong and stable nation, organized around a solid and powerful monarchy.
Anglo-Saxons ruled for about three centuries, and during this time they formed the basis for the English monarchy and laws. The earliest English kings were Anglo-Saxons, starting with Ecgberht, King of Wessex, in the year 802. The two most famous Anglo-Saxon kings are Alfred the Great (from 871 to 899) and Canute the Great (from 990 to 1035).
Despite this incredible legacy, there are certain facts about the Anglo-Saxons that many people overlook today. The following 10 items highlight mere sampling of this forgotten history:
10. Justice System in the Anglo-Saxon Monarchy
The Anglo-Saxons are made up of three tribes who came to England from across the North Sea around the middle of the 5th century – the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. For a long time, England wasn’t really one country – Anglo-Saxon kings ruled lots of little kingdoms across the land.
Egbert was the first Anglo-Saxon king to rule England. He along with the later King and his witan (council) was the ultimate source of justice in the Kingdom. They brought problems to the attention of the King and assented to his most important ecclesiastical appointments and land-grants.
9. Standardized Coinage
A standardized coinage system, based on the silver penny, was introduced by Offa of Mercia. It was used for most transactions and was accepted widely at the time.
8. Offa’s Dyke
One of the most well-known kings of Merica was Offa. He declared himself the first ‘king of the English’ because he won battles involving kings in the surrounding kingdoms, but their dominance didn’t really last after Offa died.
Offa’s Dyke is a large linear earthwork that roughly follows the current border between England and Wales. It was intended more to mark the border than for defence. Offa is most remembered for Offa’s Dyke along the border between England and Wales – it was a 150-mile barrier that gave the Merican’s some protection if they were about to be invaded.
7. The Royal Hall of Cheddar
The Cheddar Palace was established in the 9th century, in Cheddar, Somerset, England. It was a royal hunting lodge in the Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods and was the first permanent royal residences. The witan enjoyed the King’s hospitality and advised him in such halls.
6. Anglo-Saxon Minted their own Coins
Mints were set up in many towns in the later Anglo-Saxon period. As many as 44 places issued coins in the ten-month region of Harold in 1066 alone.
During that time, the King kept strict control over the currency maintaining the purity of the metal and regularly recalling the entire coinage for reissue, at one time every six years. Strict penalties were imposed for counterfeiting that includes mutilation and death.
5. The Vikings and Danegeld Tax
Vikings from the east were still invading England during the time of the Anglo-Saxons. Sometimes, instead of fighting the Vikings, people would pay them money to leave them in peace. This payment is called Danegeld.
4. The Danelaw
The Danelaw, as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, is a historical name given to the part of England in which the laws of the Danes held sway and dominated those of the Anglo-Saxons. It was recognized by King Alfred in the treaty of 886.
In the east of the country, the Danish traditions of independence and local autonomy continue well into the medieval period. A Viking kingdom was soon established in Lancashire which prevented the Danish expansion to the north.
3. Edgar the Peaceable
Edgar known as the Peaceful or the Peaceable was King of England from 959 until his death. He was the younger son of Edmund I, and came to the throne as a teenager, following the death of his older brother Eadwig.
He was a powerful king who is said to have shown his political authority over the whole of England by being rowed on the River Dee by all eight-sub-kings, attended by a great concourse of nobles.
Guthrum was the leader of a major Danish invasion of Anglo-Saxon England who waged war against the West Saxon king Alfred the Great (reigned 871–899) and later made himself king of East Anglia (reigned 880–890). He is said to have been the first Scandinavian to settle in England.
He is mainly known for his conflict with Alfred the Great. Guthrum went to England in the great Danish invasion of 865, and in mid-January 878 he attacked Alfred’s kingdom of Wessex.
Although all Wessex was overrun, a successful counterattack by Alfred in May brought Guthrum to terms. While negotiations were in progress, Guthrum allowed himself to be baptized under the name Aethelstan, with Alfred as his godfather.
1. Canute, the King
Cnut the Great, also known as Canute was King of Denmark, England, and Norway; together often referred to as the North Sea Empire.
As King of England, he strengthened the currency, initiating a series of coins of equal weight to those being used in Denmark and other parts of Scandinavia and was generally remembered as a wise and successful king of England.