Before the coming of the Vikings swept away the many kings of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy they would recognise one amongst their number as overlord of all and thus the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle following the work of the Venerable Bede names the following eight Anglo-Saxon kings as BRETWALDA and pre-eminent amongst their peers;

  1. Ælle of Sussex 477-500
  2. Ceawlin of Wessex 560-591
  3. Æthelbert of Kent 591-616
  4. Rædwald of East Anglia 616-627
  5. Edwin of Deira 627-632
  6. Oswald of Bernicia 633-641
  7. Oswiu of Northumbria 641-670
  8. Egbert of Wessex 829-839

It is surely only the Christian prejudice of the Venerable Bede that omits the name of the noble Penda, great pagan king of Mercia that slew both Edwin and Oswald and proved himself the mightier warrior and more deserving of the accolade than either. And what of Æthelbald and Offa of Mercia? Many would add their names as deserving of the honour before that of Egbert, remembering that they both bent Wessex to their will and believe that the West Saxon scribes of the Chronicle omitted their names for fear of reminding Mercia of its proud history and its preceding dominion.