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Eadwald of East Anglia

Eadwald of East Anglia

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Eadwald of East Anglia was an obscure king of the small Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia, from around 796 to 798. He lived at a time when East Anglia was eclipsed by its more powerful neighbour, Mercia: after his deposition or death, Mercian control was restored under Coenwulf and the East Anglians lost their independence for a quarter of a century.
Knowledge of Eadwald's short reign comes almost solely from the few surviving coins that were minted under his name. No details of his life, or rule as king, are known.


The kingdom of East Anglia (Old English: Ēast Engla Rīce) was a small independent Anglo-Saxon kingdom that comprised what are now the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk and perhaps the eastern part of the Cambridgeshire Fens.

From the 6th century, East Anglia was ruled by a single royal family known as the Wuffingas, who retained dynastic power until the end of the reign of Ælfwald in 749. After Ælfwald, the East Angles were ruled independently by a series of kings of unknown lineage, until in 794 their last independent king, Æthelberht, was beheaded in Mercia on the order of Offa of Mercia, who then ruled the kingdom directly. East Anglia briefly strove for independence after 796, the year that Offa was succeeded by his son Ecgfrith. Ecgfrith died after a rule of only five months and was succeeded by a distant kinsman, Coenwulf.


A map showing where the coins minted during Eadwald's reign have been discovered

Practically nothing is known of Eadwald's life or reign, so for instance it is not known with any certainty for how long he was king. The East Angles seemed to have maintained their independence for a short period after Ecgfrith's death, with Eadwald as their king, but the East Angles were then reconquered after Coenwulf became king of Mercia in 798, during a campaign in which Kent was also brought back under Mercian control. Scholars have suggested that Coenwulf may have been permitted Eadwald to rule East Anglia.

Eadwald died, or was at least deposed, in 798. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle omits any mention of an East Anglian king for this period.


Almost all that known about Eadwald comes from coins that are inscribed with his name. These are very rare today: only around twelve are known to exist. At the time that Offa ruled the East Angles, his Mercian coins were minted in East Anglia. The moneyers who went on to work for Eadwald adopted a distinctive style that included the use of runic letters, similar to those of Offa's coins. It is likely that Coenwulf had forcibly re-established Mercian dominance in East Anglia by about 805, when his own coins replaced those of Eadwald.

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