When I was a child at school we studied history as we all do but for the life of me I can't recall very much of it. I feel we perhaps learned a lot about the French Revolution, a little English history and very little Australian history. I have become much more inquisitive about past events the older I am and decided it was time I found out a little more about the English monarchy. My mother had a beautiful book entitled "Kings & Queens of England and Scotland" by Allen Andrews (published by Marshall Cavendish in 1976 with several reprints).
Part of the introduction reads: "At present there are only ten reigning royal families in Europe in seven kingdoms, a pocket-sized Grand Duchy and two tiny principalities. Defeat in war, internal revolution and majority consensus have swept away the myriad emperors and kings, princes and dukes who held sway over millions of lives only a century ago. Yet at no time since the mid-seventeenth has the British monarchy been in any real danger of falling. Several times the monarch himself has come under attack - most recently when national outcry against his marriage plans made King Edward VIII feel in conscience bound to abdicate - but there has been no concerted attempt to discard the institution of monarchy in Britain. Presumably it would be possible to force a 'bad' king to give up his throne, were the future Charles III to prove a modern Charles I, demanding vast personal power in government, or a latter-day Charles II, scandalising his subjects with his blatant amours he might be forced to abdicate. Yet this is a possibility as hard to envisage as that of the permanent deposition of the royal dynasty. Whatever the future of Britain in the *European Economic Community in terms of abrogation of national sovereignty, the monarchy is already safeguarded under the terms of the Treaty of Rome. The very fact that such drastic steps seems so unlikely is due largely to the high standard of service tendered to Britain by her royal family in this (the 20th) century. Recent monarchs have served the nation so well, even 'beyond the call of duty', in both war and peace, that it is well-nigh impossible to visualise a time when they might fall short of their present high standard.
A would be President seeks power, a potential Pope achieves it, but a monarch "has greatness thrust upon him/her" by their accident of birth. The British monarch, whatever his or her intelligence, talents and propensities, is required to undertake duties, both intellectual and practical, diverse and daunting in their scope, which are asked of no other man or woman in the kingdom. Stories of foibles and failings of British monarchs in a thousand years and more of the nation's history only highlight the country's present good fortune in the royal House of Windsor.
Born: ?770-780. Succeeded as King of Wessex in 802, as overlord (by conquest) of the British of Cornwall and devon in 805 as King of Kent i 825, as King of the English in 829, and as overlord of Wales in 831.
Married: Eadburgh. Children: Ethelwulf, Editha, Etlstan.
Died: 839, probably in his sixties, having reigned 37 years.
Egbert was King of the West Saxons at the time when, after the death of Offa, King of Mercia in 769, Wessex took over the leading position among the three principal kingdoms. Northumbria had been in the ascendant in the seventh century and Mercia in the eighth. The four other rulers in the so-called Heptarchy of England - the kings of East Anglia, Kent, Essex, (including the former Middlesex) and Sussex) which with Kent, had partitioned the old Surrey) - were virtually vassals, and the last three realms were soon part of Wessex. Egbert absorbed the Kingdom of Kent in 825, and the territory was occasionally passed to a son or grandson as means of training in leadership. In 825 Egbert defeated the King of Mercia at the battle of Ellendun (now Wroughton, near Swindon), and his armies fanned out to occupy Mercia. They also demonstrated sufficient military presence on the northern border for Northumbria to pay particular attention to Egbert's political aims in that direction.
All this activity was comparatively minor. There was no great military tyrant crushing the spirit of a helpless nation, but Egbert's supremacy, operated from Wessex, was sufficient for him to take the ancient title of Bretwalda, ruler of Britain. This was a mystical, rather than a practical title. No new knees were bent in direct homage and no extra taxes were yielded, yet it is evident that even the kings of Scotland took some notice of those few Saxon kings whose prestige was great enough for them to be styled King of Britain. Egbert was the last Bretwalda. Militarily he could not justify his title for long, since in order to maintain political peace he gave Mercia a sort of independence in 830. But Egbert remained as overlord of the King of East Anglia, and had the kingdoms of Kent, Essex and Sussex in his family pocket, as the Crown today holds the Duchy of Cornwall. The Cornish, or West Welsh, who constantly threatened the other kingdoms made an alliance with the Danes and jointly invaded Wessex from the west in 838. Their decisive defeat by Egbert at the Hengist Down spelt out the epitaph on Cornish power and independence. As the father and trainer of a royal dynasty in Wessex which was to display the foremost military dash and administrative competence, Egbert laid the foundations on which his descendants on the throne of Wessex became the accepted kings of England.
I am sure this sounds dreadfully dull to most, if not all, of you but I have British ancestry and felt it high time I learned a little more about it and its people.
*The above was obviously written long before Brexit but it still fits in in context with the other information at that time. I will warn you now I will be writing more about the early kings of England some of whom only reigned for very short periods of time. I will never remember all of this but I will always have the book to refer to when queries arise in my mind. I tend to find it all very interesting and so different to modern times (or is it?).