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Wulfhere of Mercia

Wulfhere (d. 675), king of the Mercians, was a younger son of King Penda, and was kept in concealment for some time after his father's defeat and death in 655.

In 658 or 659, however, the Mercians threw off the supremacy of Oswiu, king of Northumbria, and Wulfhere became their king. He took energetic measures to spread Christianity, and was greatly helped by his bishop, Jaruman, and afterwards by St Chad.

Outside Mercia he did something to induce the East and the South Saxons to accept Christianity, and is said to have founded one or two monasteries. He gained Lindsey from Northumbria in 657, and was successful against Wessex. He extended his borders in all directions, and was the founder of the passing greatness of Mercia, although he lost Lindsey just before his death.

Wulfhere's wife was Eormenhild, a daughter of Ercon-berht, king of Kent, and he was succeeded by his brother Æthelred. His only son Coenred became king in 704 in succession to Æthelred. His only daughter was St Werburga or Werburh, abbess of Ely.

See Bede, Historica ecclesiastica, ed. C. Plummer (Oxford, 1896); and JR Green, The Making of England (1897-1899).

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.