Discover King Offa of Mercia and the Englisc

King Offa was the most powerful ruler of Mercia from 757-796. He is best known for the vast defensive earthwork, Offa’s Dyke, which was built along the Welsh/English border. Self-proclaimed King of the English (Englisc), he defeated Kent, the East and West Saxons and the Welsh to become overlord of southern England.

Born 730
Parents Thingfrith son of Eanwulf (Father)
Married Cynethryth
Children 4, Ecgfrith, Eadburh, Aethelburh, Aelfflaed
Died 29 July 796 (66)

Reign 757 – 796 (39)
Crowned 757 (27)
Predecessor None
Successor Ecgfrith (lasted 5 months)
House Mercia

Events of King Offa’s Life

730
Offa is born to Thingfrith.

757
Offa seizes the Mercian throne during a civil war, following the murder of his cousin, Aethelbald.

760
Offa is defeated at Hereford by Welsh raiders.

764
Offa invades Kent and removes Sigered from power.

776
Offa probably loses the Battle of Otford against Kent rebels, as the rebel king survives for years after.

779
Offa defeats King Cynewulf of Wessex at the Battle of Bensington.

786
Offa oversees the placement of Beorhtric to the throne of Wessex, and becomes overlord. He banishes Egbert to Frankia.

789
Offa’s daughter, Eadburh, marries Beohtric of Wessex.

793
St Albans Abbey is founded by King Offa.

794
King Aethelbert of East Anglia is beheaded by fellow king Offa at Sutton Walls, near Hereford.

796
Offa dies, and is succeeded by his son Ecgfrith, who would go on to reign for just 5 months.
Offa’s Dyke is completed.

Interesting Facts About King Offa

Unification
Offa brought Southern England to near unification, more so than any predecessor.

Mercia’s Power
Offa maintained Mercian power by ruthlessly wiping out local pockets of resistance, creating a vastly powerful kingdom in central England.

Charlemagne
Offa initially formed a trade alliance with Charlemagne. But their relationship came to an end when Offa proposed (unsuccessfully) the marriage of his son, Ecgfrith to one of Charlemagne’s daughters. Offa believed he was an equal to Charlemagne, but that was not reciprocated.

Archbishopric
Offa was allied with Pope Adrian I, and managed to get permission to create his own Archbishopric in Lichfield, much to the dismay and outrage of the established Archbishopric of Canterbury. Kent, after all, was an enemy of Mercia.

Offa’s Dyke
The vast earthwork, which runs along 150 miles along the English/Welsh border, was created by Offa to hold back Welsh raiders, and was a success.

Coin
Offa created new coinage, bearing his name, which could be used for trade locally and abroad.

Overlord
Offa brought Kent, Sussex and Essex under his control, displacing the local kings.

Royal Murder
On the orders of Offa, the East Anglian King Aethelbert, was beheaded at Sutton Walls near Hereford. This execution of a vassal king by a fellow sovereign, was the only one in Anglo-Saxon history.

Crowned Heir
In an unprecedented move, Offa crowned his son, Ecgfrith as co-ruler of Mercia, which had never happened in a king’s lifetime before.

Longevity
Offa’s reign was the second longest in Mercian history. He lived to around 66 years old.

Battles Fought by King Offa

Skirmish at Hereford
In 760, defeat for Mercia against the Welsh raiders.

Skirmish at Kent
In 764, victory for Mercia as they conquer Kent.

Battle of Otford
In 776, probable defeat for Mercia against the Kent rebels.

Battle of Bensington
In 779, victory for Mercia over King Cynewulf of Wessex.

FAQs About King Offa

Who was King Offa?
He was the Anglo-Saxon King of Mercia from 757-796, and self-proclaimed ‘King of the Englisc’. He was one of the most powerful Anglo-Saxon kings.

How old was King Offa when he died?
Around 66 years old.

Where is King Offa buried?
He seems to have died in Offley, Hertfordshire. Then possibly buried near Bedford by the banks of the river Ouse at a chapel, which today could be St Paul’s church. Unfortunately, we do not know for sure.

Where did King Offa live?
His principal residence is Tamworth, Mercia.

Where was King Offa born?
In Mercia, although the exact location is unknown.

Related Video of the King

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