History Files


Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms

Saxons & Jutes of Southern England




MapEast Seaxe (East Saxons / Essex)
Incorporating the Daenningas, Gegingas, Haeferingas, & Rodingas

The region of the East Seaxe was settled by Saxons from circa AD 500,and it occupied the former (probable) British territory of Caer Colun (previously the Trinovantes tribe), north and east of London. There was probably already a Saxon population in the area from the late fourth century; the descendants of Roman foederati.

Although Æscwine is reputed to have founded the kingdom in AD 527 (Roger of Wendover, in the 'Flores Historiarum'), the length of his reign (to 587) is suspiciously long. It seems more likely that, although Æscwine may have been involved in unifying the East Seaxe, they seem to have been forged into a kingdom by Eormenric of the Cantware. He appears to have ruled the region direct from Kent at a time when Saxon tribes were still forging west and fighting the Britons. It seems likely that his son, Ethelbert, continued to rule the East Seaxe - either direct or through Æscwine - for a time before he married his sister, Ricola, to Æscwine's son, Sledda, while he governed the rest of the Angles and Saxons as Bretwalda.

The reasons for this apparent division of territory is unclear. Perhaps the the task of controlling one enlarged kingdom on both sides of the Thames was too much to contemplate (especially at a time when the first bridge was as far west as Roman London, and possibly even that was in a poor state of repair), or perhaps the Saxons had not yet envisaged larger, unified kingdoms in their newly conquered homeland. The third possibility is that Ethelbert was acknowledging a de facto division, and managed to secure some kind of influence and control in the newly independent kingdom by making sure his sister was installed there, if only as the king's wife.

Thanks to this arrangement, the East Saxons seem to have maintained their strong links with Kent for over a century. They controlled the Middel Seaxe London region itself from circa 600-730, although the city was mostly abandoned for a century or so around 600. Heavily wooded country lying along the kingdom's northern border became a political frontier between the East Seaxe and the East and Middil Engle, and many of the Roman roads through the woods fell into total disuse. Amongst the East Seaxe peoples themselves could be found the Rodingas, based on the modern group of Roding villages in Essex (possibly the Germanic Rondings of pre-migration Denmark?); the Gegingas, positioned immediately to the east of the Rodingas on the other side of the Roman road; the Daenningas, between Colchester and the coast at Bradwell; plus the Haeferingas.

It seems likely that there was not always one ruler of the East Saxons, and power and territory were sometimes shared or divided (as based on the Kentish model), although the kings were of a common dynasty. Because of this, reignal dates often overlap. It is probable that the lesser ruler governed the Middel Seaxe as a sub-king.

(Additional information from The Oxford History of England: The English Settlements, J N L Meyers, and The Oxford History of England: Anglo-Saxon England, Sir Frank Stenton.)


Saxons move into the British territory on the north bank of the Thames Estuary. They find that the Saxon descendants of Roman laeti have already been settled there for well over a century.

The local British administration based at the important sub-Roman town of Caer Colun (Roman Camulodunum, modern Colchester), seems in some way to have been subduing or holding off the new settlers, as shown by the lack of Anglo-Saxon relics in the area from this date, and this surviving pocket of British power may last well into the mid-500s. Very little fighting seems to take place in the territory, suggesting some kind of peaceful arrangement is reached, at least initially.

c.540 - c.550

The Cantware appear to be the ones to lead the 'fight' against the British, perhaps as part of a new wave of more aggressive territorial expansion. Once the defenders have capitulated, it is probably Eormenric who forges a kingdom of the East Seaxe. In fact, it is quite possible that he is acclaimed king of the East Seaxe while they are still fighting the Britons of Caer Colun. By this stage the invaders almost certainly control a large swathe of the coast area, marshy though much of it may be away from the Thames Estuary section.

540 - 560


King of the Cantware.

560 - c.580

Ethelbert I (Saint)

Son. King of the Cantware. Probable ruler of the East Seaxe.

c.560? - 587?

Æscwine / Erkenwine / Eorcenwine

Reputed founder of the kingdom.


Æscwine's name has Jutish origins, so it appears he may not even have been an East Seaxe himself. Instead, it is possible he is of the Cantware and is now placed in a position of authority in the territory by Eormenric or Æthelbert.


Æthelbert of the Cantware marries his sister, Ricola, to the East Seaxe Prince Sledd. He claims descent from Gesecg Seaxneting, a name not linked to other English genealogies. 'Seaxneting' contains an English form of Saxnot, the name of a god still worshipped by the Continental Saxons in the eighth century. The East Saxons may be of a strain that originates from farther south than the mainstream immigrants into Britain, who for the most part appear to link themselves to Woden, a 'god' who may have been a king of the Angles. The Cantware still claim overlordship of the East Seaxe at this time.

587? - c.600

Sledd / Sledda

Son. m Ricola/Ricula, Cantware princess.


Ricula / Ricola

Daughter of Eormenric of the Cantware (born 569?).

c.600 - 616


Son of Sledda & Ricola.


By this time the East Seaxe control the Middel Seaxe who are situated in the countryside around old Londinium. They also appear to dominate the southern region of the Middel Seaxe, the Suth-ge. In around 604 Sæberht is the first East Seaxe king to be baptised (by Mellitus, first bishop of London, consecrated by Augustine of Canterbury himself), but upon his death the kingdom reverts to paganism.


Sæberht is probably the occupier of the Prittlewell tomb 'by the Prittle stream', near Southend in Essex. A vastly important tomb, filled with expensive grave goods not only from England but including various articles imported from the Continent, it clearly points to the burial of an early Christian king (or a pagan king buried by Christians, although this is less likely). No trace other than a few teeth remain of the body itself, but the clearly Christian items within the wooden coffin mean this tomb must belong to either Sæberht or his grandson, Sigeberht the Saint. The fact that the Christian items are placed out of sight in the coffin, while the impressive grave goods are on display in the tomb itself, where they remain on show for a time (effectively a lying in state so that the dead king's subjects can pay their respects), suggests that this Christian king is buried by his pagan sons who perhaps respect his choice of beliefs but refuse to openly display them. Possibly, Mellitus is present when the king's body is laid to rest in the tomb, placing two Byzantine crosses on his closed eyes.

616 - c.623


Son of Sæberht. Killed in battle against the West Seaxe.

616 - c.623

Sexred shares power with his two brothers. It is possible that they rule by committee, but it is equally possible that they each hold one of the three seats of power in the kingdom, and perhaps in order of seniority, these being East Seaxe, Middel Seaxe, and Suth-rig.

FeatureThe three rulers take an equal share in making decisions regarding the kingdom, jointly agreeing to expel Mellitus, and his Gregorian missionaries and inadvertently ensuring that Canterbury remains the centre of Christianity in England. They also reject Kentish overlordship. Eadbald, the new king of the Cantware, is not able to enforce his claim.

616 - c.623


Brother. Killed in battle against the West Seaxe.

616 - c.623


Possible brother. Killed in battle against the West Seaxe.


All three kings are killed in battle against the West Seaxe. It has been realistically conjectured that the dispute concerns the control of Suth-rig. As this would have constituted a direct threat to at least one of the kings, all of them would have been involved in its defence.

c.623 - 653?

Sigeberht I Parvus (the Small)

Probable son of Sæward.

before 653 - 660

Sigeberht II Sanctus (the Holy)

Possible son of Sæward, but no written evidence remains.


A friend of Oswiu of Bernicia, Sigeberht is persuaded by him to restore Christianity from Canterbury in the kingdom. He is murdered by two brothers, possibly Swithelm and Swithfrith, because, according to Bede, 'he was too ready to pardon his enemies.

c.660 - c.664


Son of Seaxbald.

c.660 - ?


Possible brother. Bede implies he died before Swithelm.


A great plague hits the country, and Swithelm is one of its better known victims, along with Cadwaladr of Gwynedd.

c.664 - c.689?


Son of Sigberht I. Ruled Kent (687-688).

c.664? - c.689?


Son of Saeward. Probable sub-king of the Middel Seaxe to 689.

c.664 - c.683

Following the great plague, Barbara Yorke ('Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England') suggests that conflict between Sigehere and Sæbbi '. . . provided opportunities for foreign intervention and the rival candidates appear to have looked to different outside kingdoms for support. Sigehere may have thrown in his lot with Cædwalla of West Seaxe. A charter of Cædwalla, which Sigehere appears to have witnessed, refers to Sigehere's conquest of Kent. As any such conquest would have occurred at about the same time that Cædwalla's brother Mul became ruler of Kent it is possible that the two men worked together and briefly ruled Kent between them. Sæbbi, on the other hand, seems to have sided with the Mercian kings, and may have done so as early as 664. After Cædwalla's abdication in 668 Mercian support ensured the supremacy of Sæbbi's family.'

c.689? - 694


Former sub-king.

c.689? - 694

Upon the death of Sighere, Sæbbi becomes overall king of the East Saxons. This may occur in 688, explaining why Sighere's direct rule of Kent ends. Sæbbi's son, Swæfheard (Suaebhard or Waebheard in Kentish records), is placed in West Kent as a sub-king, and governs the kingdom up to 694 at the latest, by which time he is expelled by the Cantware themselves.

Sæbbi's second son, Sigeheard, appears to become a sub-king in the East Saxon kingdom (probably ruling the Middle Saxons), and attests a charter with the title of king in 690. He appears to retain the sub-kingdom upon the death of his father, with his younger brother, Swæfred, gaining the East Saxon throne. Between about 700-709 the brothers rule their domains without reference to each other, suggesting a degree of alienation.

694 - 709


Son. King of the Middle Saxons.

before 693 - 709


Brother. King of the East Saxons.

after 694 - 709


Son of Sighere. A lesser heir although still possessing power.

694 - 709

MapAlthough Offa signs some charters with the title of king he should probably be seen as a sub-king. He grants land in Hemel Hempstead as king and also gives land as sub-king in the kingdom of the Hwicce. He abdicates (or is perhaps deposed) in 709 and journeys to Rome in the company of Coenred of Mercia, who may also have been deposed. He is the last East Saxon king to be mentioned by Bede. His name is only one of three which doesn't begin with an 's', and his pedigree is preserved in a West Saxon manuscript.

Saxon sceat of Essex
This Anglo-Saxon silver sceat dates to about AD 700 and was found in East Hertfordshire in England, territory on the border between the East Saxon kingdom and Mercia

c.689? - 709


Kinsman of Sæbbi. Witnesses charters along with Offa.

c.709 - 746


Son of Sigeberht. Slain.

c.709 - 738


Of unknown parentage.


The East Saxons appear to lose control of the Middle Saxons to Mercia.

746 - 759


Son of Sigemund. Grandson of Sigeheard.

759 - 798

Sigeric / Siric

Son of Swæfberht. Abdicated and went to Rome.

798 - 829

Sigered I



Sigered is reduced in rank by his Mercian overlords from king to dux (effectively a sub-king).


Ecgberht of Wessex defeats the mighty Mercians at the Battle of Ellandon. The sub-kingdoms of Sussex and Surrey submit to him and become dependencies, ruled by his son Æthulwulf as king of Kent. London is swiftly seized by Ecgberht and Essex remains a dependency, albeit with its own sub-king.


Ecgberht deposes Sigered.

829 - 855/860?

Sigered II

Possible son.

829 - 855/860?

Sigered II appears as 'minister' of King Wiglaf of Mercia between 829 and 837. His 'reign' marks the end of an independent Essex as Mercia appears to regain temporary control over the kingdom before Wessex integrates it totally into its own territory. Essex is governed from Kent by the king's son.

878 - 918

Ceded by Wessex under the Peace of Wedmore to the Danelaw,Essex falls under the control of the Danish Kingdom of East Anglia.

902 - 903

Æthelwald the rebel son of Æthelred I of Wessex returns, arriving on the Essex coast with Danish support, either from York or from Denmark itself. He ravages west as far as Mercia. Alternatively called 'prince', 'elected king', 'King of the Danes', and even 'King of the Pagans', in 903 he is brought to battle against Edward in a major confrontation somewhere in Cambridgeshire. Many fall on either side, including Eohric, king of the Danelaw and Æthelwald himself.

912 - 913

Edward the Elder, king of Wessex, establishes two burhs in the borderland between Anglo-Saxon London and the Danish kingdom of East Anglia in 912 and 913 as part of the ongoing campaign to reconquer the east. These burhs form the earliest basis for the later county of Hertfordshire, which is first mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1011.

914 (916)

Edward the Elder of Wessex receives the submission of the Danish Jarl Thurketel of Bedford, close to Essex territory. (The Peterborough Chronicle, which deals with local events in local territory, is regarded as more accurate than the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Peterborough dates are shown in red.)

915 (917)

Edward advances to the Danish-held fortress of Bedford, taking direct control. Although Jarl Thurketel had offered submission in 914 (917), Edward wants to ensure his control is made effective in practice.

917 (918)

The Danes of East Anglia organise a counter-offensive consisting of three separate strikes: a) an army from Northampton, Leicester and the North attacks the new 'burh' at Towcester (from 24 July to 1 August); b) an army from Huntingdon and part of East Anglia under the Danish king, Guthrum II, with Jarl Toglos and his son Jarl Manna, advances to Tempsford, where they construct a new fortress from which they launch an attempt to recover Bedford; and c) an army from East Anglia attempts to seize the new 'burh' of Wigingamere in Essex.

Viking helmet

The failure to apply a concentrated force means that the Danes are defeated on all three fronts. They lose a large number of men - particularly at Bedford, where a sortie organised by the besieged English garrison inflicts a severe defeat upon them and puts their army to flight. A local account recalls how the townswomen are instrumental in swaying things their way, when they rush out and attack the Viking force. Later that year (the following year), Edward attacks Tempsford and inflicts a heavy defeat upon the Vikings, killing their king, Guthrum II, together with jarls Toglos and Manna.

Edward of Wessex becomes overlord of East Anglia, and by default overlord of its dependent territory of Essex and the eastern half of Mercia. Lindsey, if it had been part of the Danelaw, is possibly taken by York.