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The Kingdoms of England during the 9th to the 11th centuries AD comprised seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, including East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Mercia, Northumbria, Sussex, and Wessex, together called The Heptarchy [2]. These kingdoms roughly correspond to modern-day counties in central and southern England.

This paper looks at the history of England (aka Great Britain or the United Kingdom). The story travels through the different States of England as it has been known during its history, such as the Angevin Empire. The Romans, the Vikings, and the Anglo-Saxons established the main kingdoms in England. Here are some of them:

  • Roman Britain (43-410 CE): The Romans established several important cities and settlements in Britain, including London (Londinium), York (Eboracum), and Bath (Aquae Sulis). These cities were strategically located to help the Romans control the region and facilitate trade.
  • Kingdom of Northumbria (604-954 CE): The Northumbrian kingdom was founded by the Anglo-Saxons and included the modern-day counties of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, County Durham, and part of Cumbria. Its capital was initially Bamburgh, but it was later moved to York. Northumbria was an important centre of learning and culture and produced several famous scholars and poets, including the Venerable Bede.
  • Kingdom of Mercia (527-879 CE): The Mercian kingdom was located in central England and included parts of modern-day Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Warwickshire. Its capital was Tamworth, known for its powerful kings and military strength. Mercia was also an important centre of trade and commerce.
  • Kingdom of Wessex (519-927 CE): The West Saxon kingdom was located in the southwest of England and included modern-day Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, and parts of Somerset, Berkshire, and Devon. The capital was Winchester, known for its strong navy and powerful kings, including Alfred the Great. Wessex eventually became the dominant kingdom in England and formed the basis for the Kingdom of England.
  • Danelaw (865-954 CE): The Danelaw was a region of England occupied by the Vikings, who established their own settlements and kingdoms. The Danelaw included parts of modern-day Yorkshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, and Lincolnshire. The Anglo-Saxons eventually defeated the Vikings, whose settlements were absorbed into the Kingdom of England.

These kingdoms were established in different ways and for different reasons. The Romans founded their cities and settlements for strategic and economic reasons, while the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings established their kingdoms through conquest and settlement. The location or name of each kingdom was often influenced by geography, such as the location of rivers or other natural features, as well as cultural and historical factors.

Title: Roman roads around 150 AD
Attribution: Andrei nacu at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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England Under Attack
Throughout its history, England has experienced periods of political instability, civil unrest, and conflict, which have slowed economic growth, deterred investment, and disrupted trade. England has been attacked multiple times throughout its history. There are many reasons for this, including its strategic location, its wealth and resources, and its status as a major world power:

  • One of the primary reasons for England’s vulnerability to attack is its island geography. As an island nation, England is surrounded by water, making it difficult to defend against seaborne attacks, making it a prime target for invading forces throughout history, including the Vikings, the Normans, and the Spanish Armada.
  • Additionally, England’s wealth and resources have long made it an attractive target for foreign powers seeking to expand their territory or increase their wealth. The country’s natural resources, such as coal, iron, and tin, were highly valued during the Industrial Revolution, and its position as a major economic and cultural centre in Europe made it a coveted prize for many empires.
  • England’s status as a major world power has also made it a target for attack throughout history. As one of the most powerful and influential countries in the world, England has been involved in numerous conflicts and wars over the centuries, often leading to retaliation from other nations or groups.

In short, England’s geography, wealth, and power have all contributed to its history of being attacked multiple times throughout the centuries. But that’s not all. Internal strife has also contributed to England’s history of being attacked. Throughout its history, England has experienced numerous periods of political instability and civil unrest, which have weakened the country and made it vulnerable to attack from external forces. For example, during the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century, England was torn apart by a series of conflicts between rival factions, which allowed foreign powers such as France to launch attacks on English territory. Similarly, during the English Civil War in the 17th century, the country was divided between Royalist and Parliamentarian forces, which made it easier for Scotland and other and other European powers to invade.

On the other hand, periods of relative stability and unity have also contributed to England’s growth and development. For example, the period of Roman occupation from the 1st to the 5th centuries saw the development of infrastructure, trade, and governance in England, while the Tudor period in the 16th century saw the growth of trade, exploration, and cultural achievements.

Was England under attack more often than other European countries?
It is difficult to make a direct comparison as different countries and regions in Europe have faced different threats at different times throughout history. However, England has experienced several significant attacks and invasions over the centuries, including invasions by the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Normans and attacks by other European powers, such as the Spanish Armada in the 16th century. The country’s location as an island nation has also made it more vulnerable to seaborne attacks throughout history. However, other European countries have also faced significant military and territorial threats at different times, such as France during the Hundred Years’ War and the Napoleonic Wars or Poland during the partitions and World War II.

Establishment of Cities
During England’s journey to becoming one united kingdom, several cities were established – a few examples of which are:

  • York: Founded by the Romans in AD 71, York was later taken over by the Vikings in the 9th century and became the capital of their kingdom in England. The Vikings renamed the city Jorvik and established a thriving trade centre.
  • Winchester: Winchester was the capital city of Wessex, one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. It was an important religious centre and the site of the royal palace. The city was also known for its silver industry and mint.
  • London: London was founded by the Romans in AD 43 and became an important commercial and cultural centre.
  • Bristol: Bristol was founded by the Anglo-Saxons in the 10th century and quickly became an important centre of trade and commerce. The city’s location on the River Avon made it a natural port and helped to facilitate trade with the continent.
  • Exeter: Exeter was another important city founded by the Anglo-Saxons in the 10th century. It was a key centre of trade and commerce, with a thriving wool industry.
  • Norwich: Norwich was founded by the Anglo-Saxons in the 9th century and became an important centre of trade and commerce, particularly in textiles.
  • Chester: Chester was an important Roman city and later became a key centre of trade and commerce during the Anglo-Saxon period. It was also an important religious centre and the site of several important battles.

Frontispiece of Bede’s Life of St Cuthbert, showing King Æthelstan (924–39) presenting a copy of the book to the saint himself.
Attribution: See description, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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These and other cities were founded for various reasons, including trade and commerce, religious significance, and strategic military importance. They were established by various peoples, including the Romans, Vikings, and Anglo-Saxons, and played significant roles in the development and history of England.

The Viking invasions of the 9th century disrupted the balance of power between the English kingdoms and the native Anglo-Saxon way of life. The Vikings settled in various locations, including Orkney, the Hebrides, Shetland, and along Scotland’s north and northwest coast. They also founded cities such as Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and Waterford and attacked London several times.

In the 10th century, the English lands were unified in a reconquest completed by King Æthelstan in 927. On 12th July 927, the various Anglo-Saxon kings swore their allegiance to Æthelstan of Wessex, unifying most of modern England under a single king. King Æthelstan, who established the Kingdom of England, was the first ruler to be called “King of the English.”

In 1016, the kingdom became part of the North Sea Empire of Cnut the Great, a personal union between England, Denmark, and Norway.

The Norman conquest of England in 1066 led to the transfer of the English capital city and chief royal residence from the Anglo-Saxon one at Winchester to Westminster. The City of London quickly established itself as England’s largest and principal commercial centre.

The Roman Conquest

Proclaiming Claudius Emperor
Attribution: Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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The colonisation and Romanisation of Britain by the Romans covers the period from the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD to the withdrawal of Roman troops in the early 5th century, which preceded the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.

In AD 43, the Roman Empire, under the leadership of Emperor Claudius, invaded Britain. Over the following 45 years, the Roman army extended its control over much of present-day England and Wales and parts of Scotland. Eventually, they established the Roman province of Britannia, which was part of the empire until the early 5th century AD.

Before the Roman invasion, the islands of Britain had no single political or cultural identity. Many peoples lived in Britain, including large, independent tribal groups led by powerful kings and queens. These tribes each controlled their own extensive territories and resources, and they did not always live in peace with one another.

After the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the early 5th century, various kingdoms emerged in different parts of the island, including the Kingdom of Strathclyde, the Kingdom of Rheged, and the Kingdom of Dumnonia. These kingdoms emerged from the fusion of Romanised Britons, indigenous Celtic peoples, and incoming Germanic tribes. The kingdoms were not Anglo-Saxon but were established by native Britons, who were the indigenous people of the British Isles before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons and other Germanic tribes:

  • The Kingdom of Strathclyde was located in the present-day region of southern Scotland and northern England, with its capital in the city of Dumbarton. The kingdom emerged in the 5th century and lasted until the 11th century. The Strathclyde Britons had a mixed relationship with the neighbouring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, sometimes allying with them and at other times fighting against them, although they were descendants of the Celtic Britons who had inhabited the area since prehistoric times.
  • The Kingdom of Rheged was located in the present-day region of Cumbria in northwestern England, with its capital possibly at Carlisle. It emerged in the 6th century and was a significant regional power until the 8th century. The kingdom was known for its warrior culture and had close ties to the neighbouring kingdom of Northumbria. Like Strathclyde, Rheged was founded by native Britons and was influenced by Celtic culture.
  • The Kingdom of Dumnonia was located in the present-day region of Devon and Cornwall in southwestern England, with its capital at Exeter. It emerged in the 5th century and lasted until the 9th century. The kingdom had close trade connections with the Roman Empire and later with the Frankish kingdoms. The people of Dumnonia were descendants of the Celtic Britons who had inhabited the area before the arrival of the Romans.

These Romanised kingdoms had varying and complex relationships with each other and with the remaining Romanised population in Britain. Often, they formed alliances against common enemies but also fought amongst themselves. While some kingdoms maintained strong links with Rome and continued to use Latin in official documents and inscriptions, others developed distinct cultural and linguistic identities. The incoming Germanic tribes, such as the Anglo-Saxons, also had a significant impact on the language and culture of these post-Roman kingdoms.

The Romans had known about Britain long before they decided to invade. Julius Caesar gained knowledge of some British tribes during his wars in Gaul between 58 and 50 BC. In the century after Caesar, contact between Britons and Romans increased, and some British tribes developed political and trading relationships with Rome, adopting some Roman ways. However, other tribes remained wary or opposed.

Claudius may have used the expulsion from Britain of the pro-Roman king Verica of the Atrebates by the Catuvellauni as a pretext for invasion. Hostile to Roman influence, the Catuvellaunian brothers Caratacus and Togodumnus had been leading attacks on the Atrebates and extending their area of influence westwards from their homelands north of the Thames. This meant that a powerful anti-Roman party was gaining wider control of southern Britain.

The invasion of Britain by Claudius promised glory, popularity, and access to the considerable natural resources of Britain, including booty. However, Roman historical accounts of the invasion are few, brief, and not entirely reliable. None of these accounts is contemporary. What is known about the invasion comes from sketchy written sources and the chance survival of archaeological evidence.

The Anglo-Saxons
The Anglo-Saxons migrated to England from mainland northwestern Europe after the Roman Empire abandoned Britain at the beginning of the fifth century. Anglo-Saxon history thus begins during the period of sub-Roman Britain following the end of Roman control and traces the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the 5th and 6th centuries (conventionally identified as seven main kingdoms: Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex, and Wessex); their Christianisation during the 7th century; the threat of Viking invasions and Danish settlers; the gradual unification of England under the Wessex hegemony during the 9th and 10th centuries; and ending with the Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066. Anglo-Saxon identity survived beyond the Norman conquest,[3] came to be known as Englishry under Norman rule, and through social and cultural integration with Celts, Danes and Normans became the modern English people.[4]

The reasons for the Anglo-Saxon migration to Britain are not entirely clear. Some historians believe that it was a result of the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 4th and 5th centuries, which created a power vacuum in Britain that the Germanic tribes were able to exploit. Others suggest that the migration was driven by overpopulation and a search for new lands to settle.

The early Anglo-Saxon settlements were located primarily in the east and south of Britain, in areas that were relatively easy to access from the continent. The earliest Anglo-Saxon settlements were established along the east coast, in areas that are now part of modern-day Kent and Sussex. These settlements were located near natural harbours, which made it easier for the migrants to bring supplies and reinforcements from the continent. As the Anglo-Saxon migration continued, settlements were established further inland, in areas with fertile soil and access to water.

The eventual conquest and displacement of the Romano-British population was a gradual process over several centuries. The Anglo-Saxons gradually pushed the Romano-British population westward into what is now Wales, Cornwall, and Scotland. The displacement was not always violent, as there were some instances of peaceful coexistence and intermarriage between the two groups. However, the Anglo-Saxons were generally more successful in establishing their dominance over the native population, and they eventually came to control much of the land and resources in Britain. The Romano-British population, meanwhile, retreated into smaller enclaves and eventually became the Welsh, Cornish, and Scottish peoples we know today.

It is worth noting that the Anglo-Saxon migration to Britain is a complex historical event with varying theories and interpretations. Additionally, the displacement of the Romano-British population was not a uniform process and varied depending on location and time period.

Viking Raiders and Armies

Battles of the Great Heathen Army 865–878
Attribution: Hel-hama, CC BY-SA 3.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

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The Viking Age is generally defined as the period from the late 8th century to the early 11th century, during which the Vikings from Scandinavia, particularly Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, raided and settled in many parts of Europe. The Vikings were known for their seafaring skills and aggressive tactics, and they could travel long distances by sea, reaching as far as North America in the west and Central Asia in the east.

The first Viking raid on Anglo-Saxon England is thought to have occurred between 786 and 802 at Portland in the Kingdom of Wessex, when three Norse ships arrived – their men killed King Beorhtric‘s reeve. At the other end of the country, in the Kingdom of Northumbria, during the year 793, the holy island of Lindisfarne was raided.[5]

In England, the Viking invasions had a significant impact on the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, which had been established since the 5th century. The first Viking raid on England was recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 793 when a group of Vikings attacked the monastery at Lindisfarne, a holy site in Northumbria. Over the next few decades, the Viking raids intensified, with many of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, including Northumbria, Mercia, and East Anglia, being repeatedly attacked and eventually conquered.

As a result of the Viking invasions, new kingdoms emerged in England, including Northumbria, Jorvik, and Danelaw. Northumbria, which had been one of the most powerful Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, was split into two parts: Bernicia in the north and Deira in the south. Jorvik, also known as the Kingdom of York, was established by the Vikings in the 9th century, and it became one of the most important Viking settlements in England. Danelaw (see below), meanwhile, was a region of England where Viking influence was strongest, and it covered a large part of what is now northern and eastern England.

The Vikings who settled in England brought with them their own customs, culture, and language, which had a significant impact on the Anglo-Saxon culture and language. Old Norse words and expressions became integrated into the English language, and many place names in England have Viking origins. The Vikings also introduced new technologies, such as the longship, which had a major impact on seafaring and warfare.

In the 9th century, Viking raiders and armies repeatedly invaded England, causing widespread destruction and destabilisation. The Vikings, who originated from Scandinavia, established a region of England where their influence was strongest, known as the Danelaw. This area covered much of what is now northern and eastern England, including modern-day Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, and parts of Lancashire and Northumberland. In the north of Britain, the Vikings settled in Orkney, the Hebrides and Shetland, and all along Scotland’s north and northwest coast.

The Vikings moved west and took over the Isle of Man and went on to found Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford. In 842 AD, London was attacked by the Vikings and again in 851.[6]

The Viking invasions of the 9th century upset the balance of power between the English kingdoms and disrupted native Anglo-Saxon life. King Alfred of Wessex defeated a large Viking army at the Battle of Edington[7] in 878 and subsequently negotiated a treaty with the Viking leader Guthrum to establish the boundaries of the Danelaw. Alfred also oversaw the construction of a series of fortified towns (known as burhs) to protect against future Viking attacks.

In the 10th century, the English lands were unified in a reconquest completed by King Æthelstan in 927. However, the peace was short-lived, and England was once again plunged into conflict when the Danish king Sweyn Forkbeard invaded in the late 10th century and briefly conquered the country in 1013. After King Sweyn died in 1014, his son Cnut became king of England and established a North Sea Empire that included Denmark, Norway, and parts of Sweden.

Following Cnut’s death in 1035, England was ruled by a series of Anglo-Saxon and Danish kings, and there were frequent conflicts between the two groups.

Danelaw was an area of England under Viking control from the late 9th century to the late 10th century. The Vikings, who hailed from modern-day Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, gradually established their own communities in the region and intermingled with the local Anglo-Saxon population.

Under the Danelaw, the Vikings established their own courts and legal system, and the law was based on the customs and traditions of the Vikings. They also introduced new place names, many of which are still in use today, and had a significant impact on the local dialects and languages.

The name “Danelaw” itself comes from the Old English word “Dena lagu,” which means “Danes’ law.” The Danelaw came about through a series of agreements between Viking leaders and Anglo-Saxon rulers.

The Danelaw ended in the late 10th century when the Anglo-Saxon king, Edward the Confessor, regained control of the region. However, the Vikings’ influence on the region and on European culture as a whole continued to be felt for many centuries afterwards.

The Norman Conquest
In 1066, the Norman Duke, William the Conqueror, invaded England and defeated the Anglo-Saxon king Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings, thus beginning the Norman Conquest of England. The Battle of Hastings marked the beginning of Norman rule in England and the end of Anglo-Saxon rule. It also saw the development of the English language, including the standardisation of Old English and the beginnings of Middle English.

During the late 11th century, London grew in importance as a commercial centre and as the location of the royal court. The city’s population increased dramatically, becoming the largest city in England by the end of the 12th century.

The Viking Age in England ended with the Norman Conquest in 1066, when William the Conqueror, a Norman duke, invaded England and defeated the Anglo-Saxon king Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings. The Normans brought their own culture, language, and customs to England, which had a significant impact on English history and culture. However, the Viking legacy in England can still be seen today in the place names, language, and culture of many parts of the country.

The events leading up to the Battle of Hastings began with the death of King Edward the Confessor in January 1066. Edward had no children, and several candidates claimed the throne, including Harold Godwinson, the powerful Earl of Wessex, and William, Duke of Normandy. Harold Godwinson (aka Harold II) was ultimately crowned King of England in January 1066, but his reign was soon challenged.

In September 1066, William of Normandy led an invasion of England, known as the Norman Conquest. He landed at Pevensey, in Sussex, and defeated Harold’s army at the Battle of Hastings on 14th October 1066. This battle is often regarded as a turning point in English history, marking the end of Anglo-Saxon rule in England and the beginning of Norman rule.

The Battle of Hastings was a significant event in English history. It was fought between the army of Harold Godwinson and the invading Norman army led by William, Duke of Normandy. After a day of fierce fighting, the Normans gained the upper hand, and Harold was killed. William then claimed the English throne and was crowned King of England on Christmas Day, 1066.

Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry depicting mounted Norman soldiers attacking Anglo-Saxons who are fighting on foot in a shield wall.
Attribution: 11th century unknown, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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William’s victory at the Battle of Hastings marked the beginning of the Norman Conquest and the establishment of Norman rule in England. The Normans brought with them a new style of feudalism, a system of government in which the king owned all the land, and lords and knights held land in exchange for military service. This system helped to centralise power under the monarchy and create a new class of Norman nobility.

Norman rule in England from 1066 to the late 12th century
Norman rule in England brought about significant political and social changes. The feudal system, which the Normans had introduced, helped to centralise power under the monarchy, as the king owned all the land in England. This also created a new class of Norman nobility, who were granted land in exchange for military service.

The Normans also brought with them a new legal system, which was based on the continental system of civil law. This legal system helped to establish the king as the ultimate authority in England and gave rise to the common law, which is still used in England and many other countries today.

The Impact of the Norman Rule on the English Language, Culture, and Identity
The impact of Norman rule on the English language, culture, and identity was significant. The Normans brought their own language and customs, which influenced the development of Middle English and the formation of the English language as we know it today. They also introduced new forms of art, architecture, and literature, which blended with Anglo-Saxon traditions to create a unique cultural identity. The feudal system and the centralisation of power under the monarchy brought about significant changes to English society, with the establishment of a powerful Norman nobility and a highly stratified social hierarchy. The legacy of the Norman Conquest can still be seen in many aspects of English life today, from the country’s legal system to its architectural heritage.

The Angevin Empire

Richard The Lionheart Outside Parliament.
Richard The Lionheart Outside Parliament” by Loz Flowers is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Angevins were a dynasty of French kings who ruled over a vast territory that included England, Normandy, Anjou, and parts of France. The dynasty was founded by Henry II of England (aka Henry Curtmantle (French: Court-manteau), Henry FitzEmpress, and Henry Plantagenet). The Plantagenet name comes from the broom flower (planta genista) that Henry’s father, Geoffrey of Anjou, wore on his helmet.

The Angevin kings, particularly Henry II and Richard the Lionheart (Richard 1 of England), were known for their military and political achievements. Henry II established a strong central government and legal system in England, which included the development of the common law. He also expanded his territory into Wales and Ireland. Richard the Lionheart was a renowned military leader who fought in the Crusades and gained territories in the Middle East. He also strengthened English control over the French territories.

Apart from Henry II, Richard the Lionheart, and King John, John’s son, Henry III, also ruled over England and parts of France.

The Angevin Empire had a significant impact on English history. The strong central government and legal system established by Henry II laid the foundation for modern English law and government. The expansion of English territories into Wales and Ireland helped to establish English dominance over these regions. The military successes of Richard the Lionheart and the Plantagenet dynasty helped to establish England as a major European power. However, the Angevin kings also faced challenges, including conflicts with the Church and rebellions from the nobility, which would eventually lead to the Magna Carta and the emergence of parliamentary government in England.

Becoming the United Kingdom
Friday, 1st May 1707, marks the date of the political union between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland, which resulted in the creation of the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Act of Union 1707, passed by the Parliaments of England and Scotland, united the two kingdoms into a single political entity with a single parliament located in London.

The evolution of the states of the British Isles. Those states evolved from the conquests and mergers of earlier states.
Attribution: Dank · Jay, CC BY-SA 2.5 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

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On Wednesday, 31st December 1800, the Kingdom of Great Britain ended, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was born. The Acts of Union 1800, which united the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland, came into effect on 1st January 1801, creating a single political entity known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and was officially known as such from 1801 to 1922. However, in 1922, the Anglo-Irish Treaty led to the creation of the Irish Free State, except for Northern Ireland, which remained part of the United Kingdom. The country’s official name was then changed to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to reflect this.

The Government of Ireland Act 1920 established two separate territories on the island of Ireland: Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, on 23rd December 1920. On 3rd June 1921, the two sides signed a treaty to end the War of Independence, which established the Irish Free State. The Anglo-Irish Treaty was ratified and signed by the British Parliament on 6th December 1921. However, negotiations continued over the exact nature of the Irish Free State’s relationship with the United Kingdom.

On 6th December 1922, the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act 1922 was passed, formally recognising the Irish Free State as a fully independent member of the British Commonwealth. Six counties in the north of Ireland, now known as Northern Ireland, opted out of the Irish Free State and remained part of the United Kingdom. This Act came into force on 6th December 1922. Hence that date is often cited as the date the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was established.

Reflections and Closing Words
The Kingdom of England (Latin: Regnum Anglorum, lit. ’Kingdom of the English’ or ‘Kingdom of the Angles‘) was a sovereign state on the island of Great Britain from 12th July 927, when it emerged from various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until 1st May 1707, when it united with Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. On 12th July 927, the various Anglo-Saxon kings swore their allegiance to Æthelstan of Wessex (r. 924–939), unifying most of modern England under a single king.[8] In 1016, the kingdom became part of the North Sea Empire of Cnut the Great, a personal union between England, Denmark and Norway. The Norman conquest of England in 1066 led to the transfer of the English capital city and chief royal residence from the Anglo-Saxon one at Winchester to Westminster, and the City of London quickly established itself as England’s largest and principal commercial centre.[9]

The following events and developments have significantly impacted the political, cultural, and religious landscape of England since Roman times:

  • The reign of Alfred the Great in the late 9th century, who successfully defended Wessex against Viking invasions and established a legal code.
  • The reign of Æthelred the Unready in the late 10th and early 11th centuries, who struggled to defend England against Viking invasions and suffered from internal conflicts and corruption.
  • The Battle of Hastings in 1066, at Pevensey, where William the Conqueror defeated King Harold Godwinson and established Norman rule in England.
  • The construction of castles and cathedrals throughout England during the 11th century, including the Tower of London, Durham Cathedral, and Westminster Abbey.
  • The development of the English language and literature, including the epic poem Beowulf and the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare.
  • The influence of Christianity and the growth of the Church in England, including the appointment of archbishops and bishops. The Anglo-Saxons converted to Christianity in the 7th century, and a network of monasteries and convents was built across England.
  • After the Norman conquest, Norman clergy dominated the Church, and monasteries and churches were constructed in the new Romanesque or Norman style of architecture. King William’s survey of England, the Domesday Book (1086), recorded a land governed by feudal ties.

The kingdoms of England emerged as a result of the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain. After the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the 5th century, Germanic tribes such as the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes migrated to the island and established their own kingdoms. These kingdoms were often formed through conquest, alliances, and marriages among the various tribes.

The relationships between the kingdoms varied over time. Some kingdoms were allies, while others were rivals or enemies. Wars and alliances were common, and the balance of power between the kingdoms shifted frequently. The kingdoms also had cultural and linguistic differences, which contributed to their distinct identities and sometimes led to conflicts.

The kingdoms were run by kings and their court officials, who were responsible for collecting taxes and maintaining law and order. The kings relied on their nobles and bishops for support and governance, and the church played a significant role in the administration of the kingdoms. The economy of the kingdoms was largely based on agriculture, and taxes were collected in the form of food, livestock, and labour. Some kingdoms also had a system of coinage, which was used for trade and commerce. The kings and their officials had to balance the demands of the economy with the need to fund their armies and maintain their power.

In conclusion, the history of the kingdoms of England is a rich and complex tapestry woven from the threads of conquest, alliance, culture, language, religion, and politics. From the earliest Anglo-Saxon settlements to the establishment of the Kingdom of England in 927 AD to the Norman Conquest of 1066 and the subsequent Angevin Empire, the kingdoms of England have undergone significant transformations and left lasting legacies. The diverse and dynamic nature of the kingdoms, their rulers, and their people have shaped the identity and character of England as a nation and influenced the course of European history. By continuing to study and appreciate the history of the kingdoms of England, one can gain a deeper understanding of the human experience and the power of resilience, creativity, and adaptation in the face of adversity.

Sources and Further Reading


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The Union Jack Flag
The Union Jack Flag” by Defence Images is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.[10]

End Notes and Explanations

  1. Source: Source: Compiled from research using information at the sources stated throughout the text, together with information provided by machine-generated artificial intelligence at: [chat] and
  2. Explanation: The Heptarchy were the seven petty kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England that flourished from the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain in the 5th century until they were consolidated in the 8th century into the four kingdoms of Mercia, Northumbria, Wessex and East Anglia. The term ‘Heptarchy’ is used because of the traditional belief that there had been seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, usually described as East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Mercia, Northumbria, Sussex, and Wessex. The first known written reference to the historiographical traditional belief that there were these ‘seven kingdoms’ was in Henry of Huntingdon’s 12th century work, Historia Anglorum;[4] the term Heptarchy is not known to have been used to describe them until the 16th century. By convention, the Heptarchy period lasted from the end of Roman rule in Britain in the 5th century, until most of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms came under the overlordship of Egbert of Wessex in 829. This approximately 400-year period of European history is often referred to as the Early Middle Ages or, more controversially, as the Dark Ages. Although heptarchy suggests the existence of seven kingdoms, the term is just used as a label of convenience and does not imply the existence of a clear-cut or stable group of seven kingdoms. The number of kingdoms and sub-kingdoms fluctuated rapidly during this period as competing kings contended for supremacy.
  3. Source: Higham, Nicholas J., and Martin J. Ryan. The Anglo-Saxon World. Yale University Press, 2013. pp. 7–19. Cited at:
  4. Source:
  5. Source: Sawyer, Illustrated History of Vikings, pp. 50-51. Cited at:
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  7. Explanation: At the Battle of Edington, an army of the kingdom of Wessex under Alfred the Great defeated the Great Heathen Army led by the Dane Guthrum on a date between 6th and 12th May 878, resulting in the Treaty of Wedmore later the same year. Primary sources locate the battle at “Eðandun“. Until a scholarly consensus linked the battle site with the present-day village of Edington in Wiltshire, it was known as the Battle of Ethandun. This name continues to be used.
  8. Sources:  Stenton, Frank (2001). Anglo-Saxon England (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 340ISBN 9780192801395.; Reuter, Timothy, ed. (1995). The New Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. 3. Oxford University Press. p. 496ISBN 9780521364478. His charters indicate that he was regarded henceforth as rex Anglorum (‘king of the English’); Fryde, E.B.; Greenway, D.E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I., eds. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (3rd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 25ISBN 9780521563505. Cited at:
  9. Source:  Brooke, Christopher; Keir, Gillian (1975). London, 800–1216: The Shaping of a City. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520026865. …rivalry between City and government, between a commercial capital in the City and the political capital of quite a different empire in Westminster. Cited at:
  10. Explanation: The Union Jack, or Union Flag, is the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom. Although no law has been passed making the Union Flag the official national flag of the United Kingdom, it has effectively become such through precedent.


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