Mercia
Overview
Mercia
was one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 Heptarchy
Heptarchy
The Heptarchy is a collective name applied to the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of south, east, and central Great Britain during late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, conventionally identified as seven: Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Wessex...

. It was centred on the valley of the River Trent
River Trent
The River Trent is one of the major rivers of England. Its source is in Staffordshire on the southern edge of Biddulph Moor. It flows through the Midlands until it joins the River Ouse at Trent Falls to form the Humber Estuary, which empties into the North Sea below Hull and Immingham.The Trent...

 and its tributaries in the region now known as the English Midlands
English Midlands
The Midlands, or the English Midlands, is the traditional name for the area comprising central England that broadly corresponds to the early medieval Kingdom of Mercia. It borders Southern England, Northern England, East Anglia and Wales. Its largest city is Birmingham, and it was an important...

. The name is a Latinisation
Latinisation (literature)
Latinisation is the practice of rendering a non-Latin name in a Latin style. It is commonly met with for historical personal names, with toponyms, or for the standard binomial nomenclature of the life sciences. It goes further than Romanisation, which is the writing of a word in the Latin alphabet...

 of the Old English Mierce or Myrce, meaning "border people".

Mercia's neighbours included Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

, Powys, the kingdoms of southern Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

, Wessex
Wessex
The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty. It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest...

, Sussex
Kingdom of Sussex
The Kingdom of Sussex or Kingdom of the South Saxons was a Saxon colony and later independent kingdom of the Saxons, on the south coast of England. Its boundaries coincided in general with those of the earlier kingdom of the Regnenses and the later county of Sussex. A large part of its territory...

, Essex
Kingdom of Essex
The Kingdom of Essex or Kingdom of the East Saxons was one of the seven traditional kingdoms of the so-called Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. It was founded in the 6th century and covered the territory later occupied by the counties of Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and Kent. Kings of Essex were...

, and East Anglia
Kingdom of the East Angles
The Kingdom of East Anglia, also known as the Kingdom of the East Angles , 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 Fens...

.

The name Mercia is still in use today by a wide range of organisations, including military units, public, commercial and voluntary bodies.
Mercia's exact evolution from the Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 invasions is more obscure than that of Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

, Kent
History of Kent
Kent is a county in South East England with a long history of human occupation.-Prehistoric Kent:Kent has been occupied since the Lower Palaeolithic as finds from the quarries at Swanscombe attest...

, or even Wessex
Wessex
The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty. It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest...

.
Encyclopedia
Mercia
was one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 Heptarchy
Heptarchy
The Heptarchy is a collective name applied to the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of south, east, and central Great Britain during late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, conventionally identified as seven: Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Wessex...

. It was centred on the valley of the River Trent
River Trent
The River Trent is one of the major rivers of England. Its source is in Staffordshire on the southern edge of Biddulph Moor. It flows through the Midlands until it joins the River Ouse at Trent Falls to form the Humber Estuary, which empties into the North Sea below Hull and Immingham.The Trent...

 and its tributaries in the region now known as the English Midlands
English Midlands
The Midlands, or the English Midlands, is the traditional name for the area comprising central England that broadly corresponds to the early medieval Kingdom of Mercia. It borders Southern England, Northern England, East Anglia and Wales. Its largest city is Birmingham, and it was an important...

. The name is a Latinisation
Latinisation (literature)
Latinisation is the practice of rendering a non-Latin name in a Latin style. It is commonly met with for historical personal names, with toponyms, or for the standard binomial nomenclature of the life sciences. It goes further than Romanisation, which is the writing of a word in the Latin alphabet...

 of the Old English Mierce or Myrce, meaning "border people".

Mercia's neighbours included Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

, Powys, the kingdoms of southern Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

, Wessex
Wessex
The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty. It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest...

, Sussex
Kingdom of Sussex
The Kingdom of Sussex or Kingdom of the South Saxons was a Saxon colony and later independent kingdom of the Saxons, on the south coast of England. Its boundaries coincided in general with those of the earlier kingdom of the Regnenses and the later county of Sussex. A large part of its territory...

, Essex
Kingdom of Essex
The Kingdom of Essex or Kingdom of the East Saxons was one of the seven traditional kingdoms of the so-called Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. It was founded in the 6th century and covered the territory later occupied by the counties of Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and Kent. Kings of Essex were...

, and East Anglia
Kingdom of the East Angles
The Kingdom of East Anglia, also known as the Kingdom of the East Angles , 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 Fens...

.

The name Mercia is still in use today by a wide range of organisations, including military units, public, commercial and voluntary bodies.

Early history

Mercia's exact evolution from the Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 invasions is more obscure than that of Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

, Kent
History of Kent
Kent is a county in South East England with a long history of human occupation.-Prehistoric Kent:Kent has been occupied since the Lower Palaeolithic as finds from the quarries at Swanscombe attest...

, or even Wessex
Wessex
The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty. It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest...

. Also, Mercia developed an effective political structure and adopted Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 later than the other kingdoms. Archaeological surveys show that Angles
Angles
The Angles is a modern English term for a Germanic people who took their name from the ancestral cultural region of Angeln, a district located in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany...

 settled the lands north of the River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

 by the sixth century. The name Mercia is Old English for "boundary folk" (see Welsh Marches
Welsh Marches
The Welsh Marches is a term which, in modern usage, denotes an imprecisely defined area along and around the border between England and Wales in the United Kingdom. The precise meaning of the term has varied at different periods...

), and the traditional interpretation is that the kingdom originated along the frontier between the native Welsh
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 and the Anglo-Saxon invaders. However, P. Hunter Blair
Peter Hunter Blair
Peter Hunter Blair was an English academic and historian specializing in the Anglo-Saxon period. In 1969 he married Pauline Clarke. She edited his Anglo-Saxon Northumbria in 1984....

  argued an alternative interpretation: that they emerged along the frontier of Northumbria and the inhabitants of the Trent river valley
River Trent
The River Trent is one of the major rivers of England. Its source is in Staffordshire on the southern edge of Biddulph Moor. It flows through the Midlands until it joins the River Ouse at Trent Falls to form the Humber Estuary, which empties into the North Sea below Hull and Immingham.The Trent...

.

While its earliest boundaries will never be known, there is general agreement that the territory that was called "the first of the Mercians" in the Tribal Hidage
Tribal Hidage
Image:Tribal Hidage 2.svg|thumb|400px|alt=insert description of map here|The tribes of the Tribal Hidage. Where an appropriate article exists, it can be found by clicking on the name.rect 275 75 375 100 Elmetrect 375 100 450 150 Hatfield Chase...

 covered much of south Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Northern Warwickshire.

The earliest king of Mercia of whom any details are known is Creoda
Creoda of Mercia
Creoda was the first monarch of Mercia, reigning from 584 to 593.Creoda is recorded as having been the son of Cynewald, the grandson of Cnebba, and the great-grandson of Icel; consequently, members of the Mercian royal line were known as Iclingas...

, said to have been the great-grandson of Icel. Coming to power around 584, he built a fortress at Tamworth
Tamworth
Tamworth is a town and local government district in Staffordshire, England, located north-east of Birmingham city centre and north-west of London. The town takes its name from the River Tame, which flows through the town, as does the River Anker...

 which became the seat of Mercia's kings. His son Pybba succeeded him in 593. Cearl
Cearl of Mercia
Cearl was an early king of Mercia who ruled during the early part of the 7th century, perhaps from about 606 to about 626. He is the first Mercian king mentioned by Bede in his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum.Cearl's ancestry is unknown...

, a kinsman of Creoda, followed Pybba in 606; in 615, Cearl gave his daughter Cwenburga in marriage to Edwin
Edwin of Northumbria
Edwin , also known as Eadwine or Æduini, was the King of Deira and Bernicia – which later became known as Northumbria – from about 616 until his death. He converted to Christianity and was baptised in 627; after he fell at the Battle of Hatfield Chase, he was venerated as a saint.Edwin was the son...

, king of Deira whom he had sheltered while he was an exiled prince.

Penda and the Mercian Supremacy

The next Mercian king was Penda
Penda of Mercia
Penda was a 7th-century King of Mercia, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom in what is today the English Midlands. A pagan at a time when Christianity was taking hold in many of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, Penda took over the Severn Valley in 628 following the Battle of Cirencester before participating in the...

, who ruled from about 626 or 633 until 655. Some of what is known about Penda comes through the hostile account of Bede
Bede
Bede , also referred to as Saint Bede or the Venerable Bede , was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland, England, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow , both in the Kingdom of Northumbria...

, who disliked him both for being an enemy king to Bede's own Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

 and for being a pagan
Paganism
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

. However, Bede admits that it was Penda who freely allowed Christian
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

 missionaries
Missionary
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

 from Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne is a tidal island off the north-east coast of England. It is also known as Holy Island and constitutes a civil parish in Northumberland...

 into Mercia, and did not restrain them from preaching. Edwin, who had become ruler not only of the newly unified Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

, but bretwalda
Bretwalda
Bretwalda is an Old English word, the first record of which comes from the late 9th century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. It is given to some of the rulers of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms from the 5th century onwards who had achieved overlordship of some or all of the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms...

, or high king, over the southern kingdoms, was defeated and killed by Penda and his ally Cadwallon of Gwynedd
Cadwallon ap Cadfan
Cadwallon ap Cadfan was the King of Gwynedd from around 625 until his death in battle. The son and successor of Cadfan ap Iago, he is best remembered as the King of the Britons who invaded and conquered Northumbria, defeating and killing its king, Edwin, prior to his own death in battle against...

 in 633. When another Northumbrian king, Oswald
Oswald of Northumbria
Oswald was King of Northumbria from 634 until his death, and is now venerated as a Christian saint.Oswald was the son of Æthelfrith of Bernicia and came to rule after spending a period in exile; after defeating the British ruler Cadwallon ap Cadfan, Oswald brought the two Northumbrian kingdoms of...

, arose and again claimed overlordship of the south, he also was defeated and killed by Penda and his allies in 642 at the Battle of Maserfield
Battle of Maserfield
The Battle of Maserfield , Welsh: "Maes Cogwy", was fought on August 5, 641 or 642, between the Anglo-Saxon kings Oswald of Northumbria and Penda of Mercia, ending in Oswald's defeat, death, and dismemberment...

. In 655, after a period of confusion in Northumbria, Penda brought 30 sub-kings to fight the new Northumbrian king Oswiu
Oswiu of Northumbria
Oswiu , also known as Oswy or Oswig , was a King of Bernicia. His father, Æthelfrith of Bernicia, was killed in battle, fighting against Rædwald, King of the East Angles and Edwin of Deira at the River Idle in 616...

 at the Battle of Winwaed, in which Penda in turn lost the battle and his life.

The battle led to a temporary collapse of Mercian power. Penda was succeeded first by his son Peada (who converted to Christianity at Repton
Repton
Repton is a village and civil parish on the edge of the River Trent floodplain in South Derbyshire, about north of Swadlincote. Repton is close to the county boundary with neighbouring Staffordshire and about northeast of Burton upon Trent.-History:...

 in 653), and who was set up by Oswiu as an under king, but in the spring of 656 he was murdered and Oswiu assumed direct control of the whole of Mercia. A revolt in 658 threw off Northumbrian domination and resulted in the appearance of another son of Penda, Wulfhere
Wulfhere of Mercia
Wulfhere was King of Mercia from the end of the 650s until 675. He was the first Christian king of all of Mercia, though it is not known when or how he converted from Anglo-Saxon paganism. His accession marked the end of Oswiu of Northumbria's overlordship of southern England, and Wulfhere...

, who ruled Mercia as an independent kingdom (though he apparently continued to render tribute to Northumbria for a while) until his death in 675. Wulfhere was initially successful in restoring the power of Mercia, but the end of his reign saw a serious defeat by Northumbria. The next king, Æthelred defeated Northumbria in the Battle of the Trent
Battle of the Trent
The Battle of the Trent was a battle fought at an unspecified site near the River Trent within the Kingdom of Lindsey, in the ninth year of Ecgfrith's reign . The battle was fought between the Northumbrian army of King Ecgfrith and the Mercian army of Æthelred, king of Mercia. Æthelred defeated...

 in 679, settling once and for all the long disputed control of the former kingdom of Lindsey
Lindsey
Lindsey was a unit of local government until 1974 in Lincolnshire, England, covering the northern part of the county. The Isle of Axholme, which is on the west side of the River Trent, has normally formed part of it...

. Æthelred was succeeded by Cœnred
Cenred of Mercia
Coenred was king of Mercia, now part of England, from 704 to 709. He was a son of the Mercian king Wulfhere, whose brother Æthelred succeeded to the throne in 675 on Wulfhere's death...

 son of Wulfhere, and both these kings are better known for their religious activities than anything else, but the king who succeeded them (in 709), Ceolred
Ceolred of Mercia
-Mercia at the end of the 7th century:By the end of the 7th century, England was almost entirely divided into kingdoms ruled by the Anglo-Saxons, who had come to Britain two hundred years earlier. The kingdom of Mercia occupied what is now the English Midlands, bordered by Northumbria to the...

, is said in a letter of Saint Boniface
Saint Boniface
Saint Boniface , the Apostle of the Germans, born Winfrid, Wynfrith, or Wynfryth in the kingdom of Wessex, probably at Crediton , was a missionary who propagated Christianity in the Frankish Empire during the 8th century. He is the patron saint of Germany and the first archbishop of Mainz...

 to have been a dissolute youth who died insane. So ended the rule of the direct descendants of Penda.

At some point before the accession of Æthelbald
Ethelbald of Mercia
Æthelbald was the King of Mercia, in what is now the English Midlands, from 716 until 757. During his long reign, Mercia became the dominant kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons, and recovered the position of pre-eminence it had enjoyed during the seventh century under the strong Mercian kings Penda and...

, the Mercians conquered the region around Wroxeter
Wroxeter
Wroxeter is a village in Shropshire, England. It forms part of the civil parish of Wroxeter and Uppington and is located in the Severn Valley about south-east of Shrewsbury.-History:...

, known to the Welsh as Pengwern
Pengwern
Pengwern was a Brythonic settlement of sub-Roman Britain situated in what is now the English county of Shropshire, adjoining the modern Welsh border. It is generally regarded as being the early seat of the kings of Powys before its establishment at Mathrafal, further west, but the theory that it...

 or "The Paradise of Powys". Elegies written in the persona of its dispossessed rulers
Cynddylan
Cynddylan, or Cynddylan ap Cyndrwyn was a seventh century ruler associated with Pengwern. He is described in the poem Marwnad Cynddylan as a king of Dogfeiling, a sub-kingdom of Gwynedd near Rhuthun to the north of Powys, in modern-day Wales.-History:With the collapse of the Roman Empire and the...

 record the sorrow at this loss.

The next important king of Mercia was Æthelbald (716–757). For the first few years of his reign he had to face the obstacles of two strong rival kings, Wihtred of Kent
Wihtred of Kent
Wihtred was king of Kent from about 690 or 691 until his death. He was a son of Ecgberht I and a brother of Eadric. Wihtred acceded to the throne after a confused period in the 680s, which included a brief conquest of Kent by Cædwalla of Wessex and subsequent dynastic conflicts...

 and Ine of Wessex
Ine of Wessex
Ine was King of Wessex from 688 to 726. He was unable to retain the territorial gains of his predecessor, Cædwalla, who had brought much of southern England under his control and expanded West Saxon territory substantially...

. But when Wihtred died in 725, and Ine abdicated his throne the following year to become a monk
Monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

 in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, Æthelbald was free to establish Mercia's hegemony over the rest of the Anglo-Saxons south of the Humber
Humber
The Humber is a large tidal estuary on the east coast of Northern England. It is formed at Trent Falls, Faxfleet, by the confluence of the tidal River Ouse and the tidal River Trent. From here to the North Sea, it forms part of the boundary between the East Riding of Yorkshire on the north bank...

. Æthelbald suffered a setback in 752, when he was defeated by the West Saxons under Cuthred
Cuthred of Wessex
Cuthred or Cuþræd was the King of Wessex from 740 until 756. He succeeded Æthelheard, his relative and possibly his brother....

, but he seems to have restored his supremacy over Wessex by 757.

In July 2009, the Staffordshire hoard
Staffordshire Hoard
The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork . Discovered in a field near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, England on 5 July 2009, it consists of some 3,500 items that are nearly all martial in character...

 of Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 gold was discovered in a field near Lichfield
Lichfield
Lichfield is a cathedral city, civil parish and district in Staffordshire, England. One of eight civil parishes with city status in England, Lichfield is situated roughly north of Birmingham...

 in Staffordshire
Staffordshire
Staffordshire is a landlocked county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes, the county is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. Part of the National Forest lies within its borders...

. Lichfield was the religious centre of Mercia. The artefacts have tentatively been dated to around AD 600–800. Whether the hoard was deposited by Anglo-Saxon pagans or Christians
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 is debated, as is the purpose of the deposit.

Reign of Offa and rise of Wessex

Following the murder of Æthelbald by one of his bodyguards in 757, a civil war followed, which was concluded with the victory of Offa
Offa of Mercia
Offa was the King of Mercia from 757 until his death in July 796. The son of Thingfrith and a descendant of Eowa, Offa came to the throne after a period of civil war following the assassination of Æthelbald after defeating the other claimant Beornred. In the early years of Offa's reign it is likely...

. Offa was forced to build the hegemony over the southern English of his predecessor anew, which he did so successfully that he became the greatest king Mercia ever knew. Not only did he win battles and dominate southern England, he also took an active hand to administering the affairs of his kingdom by founding market town
Market town
Market town or market right is a legal term, originating in the medieval period, for a European settlement that has the right to host markets, distinguishing it from a village and city...

s and overseeing the first major issues of gold coin
Coin
A coin is a piece of hard material that is standardized in weight, is produced in large quantities in order to facilitate trade, and primarily can be used as a legal tender token for commerce in the designated country, region, or territory....

s in Britain, assumed a role in the administration of the Catholic Church in England (sponsoring the short-lived archbishopric of Lichfield), and even negotiated with Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

 as an equal. Offa is credited with the construction of Offa's Dyke
Offa's Dyke
Offa's Dyke is a massive linear earthwork, roughly followed by some of the current border between England and Wales. In places, it is up to wide and high. In the 8th century it formed some kind of delineation between the Anglian kingdom of Mercia and the Welsh kingdom of Powys...

, marking the border between Wales and Mercia.

Offa exerted himself to ensure that his son Ecgfrith of Mercia
Ecgfrith of Mercia
Ecgfrith was a King of Mercia who briefly ruled in the year 796. He was the son and heir of King Offa of Mercia and his wife Cynethryth. In 787, Offa had Ecgfrith crowned as co-ruler. He succeeded his father in July 796, but despite Offa's efforts to secure his son's succession, it is recorded...

 would succeed him, but after his death in July 796, Ecgfrith survived for only five more months, and the kingdom passed to a distant relative named Coenwulf
Coenwulf of Mercia
Coenwulf was King of Mercia from December 796 to 821. He was a descendant of a brother of King Penda, who had ruled Mercia in the middle of the 7th century. He succeeded Ecgfrith, the son of Offa; Ecgfrith only reigned for five months, with Coenwulf coming to the throne in the same year that Offa...

 in December 796. In 821, Coenwulf was succeeded by his brother Ceolwulf
Ceolwulf I of Mercia
Ceolwulf I was King of Mercia and Kent, from 821 to 823. He was the brother of Cœnwulf, his predecessor, and was deposed by Beornwulf.-External links:* http://www.anglo-saxons.net/hwaet/?do=seek&query=S+186...

, who demonstrated his military prowess by his attack on and destruction of the fortress of Deganwy
Deganwy
Deganwy is a village in Conwy County Borough in Wales with a population of 3,700. It is in a more English-speaking region of North Wales, with only 1 in 4 residents speaking Welsh as a first language...

 in Powys
Powys
Powys is a local-government county and preserved county in Wales.-Geography:Powys covers the historic counties of Montgomeryshire and Radnorshire, most of Brecknockshire , and a small part of Denbighshire — an area of 5,179 km², making it the largest county in Wales by land area.It is...

. The power of the West Saxons
Wessex
The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty. It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest...

 under Egbert
Egbert of Wessex
Egbert was King of Wessex from 802 until his death in 839. His father was Ealhmund of Kent...

 was rising during this period, however, and in 825 Egbert defeated the Mercian king Beornwulf
Beornwulf of Mercia
Beornwulf was King of Mercia from 823 to 825. His short reign saw the collapse of the Mercia's supremacy over the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy....

 (who had overthrown Ceolwulf in 823) at Ellendun.

The Battle of Ellendun proved decisive. Beornwulf was slain suppressing a revolt amongst the East Angles, and his successor, a former ealdorman
Ealdorman
An ealdorman is the term used for a high-ranking royal official and prior magistrate of an Anglo-Saxon shire or group of shires from about the ninth century to the time of King Cnut...

 named Ludeca
Ludeca of Mercia
Ludeca was King of Mercia, from 826 to 827. He became king after the death of Beornwulf in battle against the rebellious East Angles, but he too was killed in another failed attempt to subjugate them in the next year....

, met the same fate. Another ealdorman, Wiglaf
Wiglaf of Mercia
Wiglaf was King of Mercia from 827 to 829 and again from 830 until his death. His ancestry is uncertain: the 820s were a period of dynastic conflict within Mercia and the genealogy of several of the kings of this time is unknown...

, subsequently ruled for less than two years before being driven out of Mercia by Egbert. In 830, Wiglaf regained independence for Mercia, but by this time Wessex was clearly the dominant power in England. Wiglaf was succeeded by Beorhtwulf
Beorhtwulf of Mercia
Beorhtwulf was King of the Mercians from 839 or 840 to 852. His ancestry is unknown, though he may have been connected to Beornwulf, who ruled Mercia in the 820s...

.

Arrival of the Danes

In 852, Burgred came to the throne and with Ethelwulf of Wessex
Ethelwulf of Wessex
Æthelwulf, also spelled Aethelwulf or Ethelwulf; Old English: Æþelwulf, meaning 'Noble Wolf', was King of Wessex from 839 until his death in 858. He is the only son who can indisputably be accredited to King Egbert of Wessex. He conquered the kingdom of Kent on behalf of his father in 825, and was...

 subjugated North Wales
North Wales
North Wales is the northernmost unofficial region of Wales. It is bordered to the south by the counties of Ceredigion and Powys in Mid Wales and to the east by the counties of Shropshire in the West Midlands and Cheshire in North West England...

. In 868, Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

 invaders (from Denmark) occupied Nottingham
Nottingham
Nottingham is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands of England. It is located in the ceremonial county of Nottinghamshire and represents one of eight members of the English Core Cities Group...

. The Vikings drove Burgred from his kingdom in 874 and appointed Ceolwulf II
Ceolwulf II of Mercia
Ceolwulf II was the last king of the Mercians. He succeeded Burgred of Mercia who was deposed in 874.-Dynastic background:...

 in his place. In 877 the Vikings seized the eastern part of Mercia, which became part of the Danelaw
Danelaw
The Danelaw, as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle , is a historical name given to the part of England in which the laws of the "Danes" held sway and dominated those of the Anglo-Saxons. It is contrasted with "West Saxon law" and "Mercian law". The term has been extended by modern historians to...

. Ceolwulf, the last king of Mercia, was left with the western half, but he disappeared by 881. From 883 until 911 Earl Æthelred of Mercia
Earl Aethelred of Mercia
Ealdorman Æthelred was ruler of Mercia from about 883, when he submitted to King Alfred of Wessex. He married Alfred's daughter Æthelfleda between 882 and 887, and his title was "Lord of the Mercians". Although he had many attributes of a king, he was subject to the power of his close ally Wessex...

 ruled Mercia as an ealderman
Earl
An earl is a member of the nobility. The title is Anglo-Saxon, akin to the Scandinavian form jarl, and meant "chieftain", particularly a chieftain set to rule a territory in a king's stead. In Scandinavia, it became obsolete in the Middle Ages and was replaced with duke...

 under the king of Wessex, not a king himself. All coins struck in Mercia after the disappearance of Ceolwulf in c879 were in the name of the West Saxon king. Æthelred had married Æthelflæd, daughter of Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from 871 to 899.Alfred is noted for his defence of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of southern England against the Vikings, becoming the only English monarch still to be accorded the epithet "the Great". Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself...

 of Wessex. She gradually assumed power as her husband sickened after about 900, possibly as a result of his wounds gained at the decisive battle against the Vikings at Tettenhall
Tettenhall
Tettenhall is a historic part of the city of Wolverhampton, England. The name Tettenhall is probably derived from Teotta's Halh, Teotta being a person's name and Halh being a sheltered position...

 where the last large Viking army to ravage England suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the combined Mercian and Wessex army. After Æthelred's death Æthelflæd ruled alone as ‘Lady of the Mercians’ until her death in 918, when her brother, Edward the Elder
Edward the Elder
Edward the Elder was an English king. He became king in 899 upon the death of his father, Alfred the Great. His court was at Winchester, previously the capital of Wessex...

 of Wessex, became king over Mercia as well.
In 911, immediately after Æthelred’s death, Æthelflæd freely gave London and Oxford, with the lands belonging thereto, to her brother in Wessex as a token of loyalty. She then concentrated on fortifying Mercia's existing borders – east towards Nottingham, north to Chester, along the Welsh marches, and down to the Severn
River Severn
The River Severn is the longest river in Great Britain, at about , but the second longest on the British Isles, behind the River Shannon. It rises at an altitude of on Plynlimon, Ceredigion near Llanidloes, Powys, in the Cambrian Mountains of mid Wales...

 estuary. In 917 she expelled the Danes from Derby
Derby
Derby , is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands region of England. It lies upon the banks of the River Derwent and is located in the south of the ceremonial county of Derbyshire. In the 2001 census, the population of the city was 233,700, whilst that of the Derby Urban Area was 229,407...

.

Loss of independence

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collection of annals in Old English chronicling the history of the Anglo-Saxons. The original manuscript of the Chronicle was created late in the 9th century, probably in Wessex, during the reign of Alfred the Great...

 describes the end of independent political direction in Mercia following the death of Æthelflæd in 918. Edward of Wessex took over the fortress at Tamworth and accepted the submission of all those settled in Mercia, both Danish and English. In late 918, Ælfwynn, the daughter of Æthelred, was deprived of all authority in Mercia and taken to Wessex.

References to Mercia and the Mercians continue through the annals recording the reigns of Æthelstan and his successors. In 975 King Edgar is described as “friend of the West Saxons and protector of the Mercians”.

A separate political existence from Wessex was briefly restored in 955–959, when Edgar became king of Mercia, and again in 1016, when the kingdom was divided between Cnut and Edmund Ironside
Edmund Ironside
Edmund Ironside or Edmund II was king of England from 23 April to 30 November 1016. His cognomen "Ironside" is not recorded until 1057, but may have been contemporary. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, it was given to him "because of his valour" in resisting the Danish invasion led by Cnut...

, Cnut taking Mercia.

The last reference to Mercia by name is in the annal for 1017, when Eadric Streona
Eadric Streona
Eadric Streona was an ealdorman of the English Mercians. His name a loose translation of the Anglo-Saxon "the Grasper." Streona is historically regarded as the greatest traitor of the Anglo-Saxon period in English history....

 was awarded the government of Mercia by Cnut. The later earls, Leofric
Leofric
Leofric may refer to:* Leofric , English religious leader* Leofric, Earl of Mercia , English noble and benefactor of churches...

, Ælfgar
Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia
Ælfgar was son of Leofric, Earl of Mercia,by his well-known wife Godgifu . He succeeded to his father's title and responsibilities on the latter's death in 1057....

 and Edwin
Edwin
The name Edwin means "rich friend". It comes from the Old English elements "ead" and "wine" . The original Anglo-Saxon form is Eadwine, which is also found for Anglo-Saxon figures.Edwin may refer to:People...

, ruled over a territory broadly corresponding to historic Mercia, but the Chronicle does not identify it by name. The Mercians as a people are last mentioned in the annal for 1049.

The Arden family
Arden family
The Arden family is, according to an article by James Lees-Milne in the 18th edition of Burke's Peerage/Burke's Landed Gentry, volume 1, one of only three families in England that can trace its lineage in the male line back to Anglo-Saxon times...

 claim descent from Leofric, Earl of Mercia
Leofric, Earl of Mercia
Leofric was the Earl of Mercia and founded monasteries at Coventry and Much Wenlock. Leofric is remembered as the husband of Lady Godiva.-Life and political influence:...

.

Mercian dialect

J.R.R. Tolkien is one of many scholars who have studied and promoted the Mercian dialect of Old English, and introduced various Mercian terms into his legendarium
Tolkien's legendarium
The phrase Tolkien's legendarium is used in the literary discipline of Tolkien studiesto refer to the part of J. R. R. Tolkien's high fantasy fiction being concerned with his Elven legends; that is, historic events that have become legendary from the perspective of the characters of The Lord of the...

 – especially in relation to the Kingdom of Rohan
Rohan
Rohan is a realm in J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy era of Middle-earth. It is a grassland which lies north of its ally Gondor and north-west of Mordor, the realm of Sauron, their enemy . It is inhabited by the Rohirrim, a people of herdsmen and farmers who are well-known for their horses and cavalry....

, otherwise known as the Mark (a name cognate with Mercia). Not only is the language of Rohan actually represented as the Mercian dialect of Old English, but a number of its kings are given the same names as monarchs who appear in the Mercian royal genealogy, e.g. Fréawine
Freawine
Freawine, Frowin or Frowinus figures as a governor of Schleswig in Gesta Danorum and in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as an ancestor of the kings of Wessex, but the latter source only tells that he was the son of Frithugar and the father of Wig....

, Fréaláf and Éomer
Éomer
Éomer is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. He appears in The Two Towers and The Return of the King, the second and third volumes of Tolkien's fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings....

 (see List of kings of the Angles).

The dialect thrived between the 8th and 13th centuries and was referred to by John Trevisa
John Trevisa
John Trevisa , was a Cornish writer and translator.Trevisa was born at Trevessa in the parish of St Enoder in mid-Cornwall, and was a native Cornish speaker...

, writing in 1387:

Mercian religion

The first kings of Mercia were pagans, and they resisted the encroachment of Christianity longer than other kingdoms in the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy.

Mercian rulers remained resolutely pagan until the reign of Peada in 656, although this did not prevent them joining coalitions with Christian Welsh rulers to resist Northumbria. The first appearance of Christianity in Mercia, however, had come at least thirty years earlier, following the Battle of Cirencester
Battle of Cirencester
The Battle of Cirencester was fought at Cirencester, Britain in 628. The conflict involved the armies of Mercia, under King Penda, and the Saxons of Wessex, under Kings Cynegils and Cwichelm...

 of 628, when Penda incorporated the formerly West Saxon territories of Hwicce into his kingdom.

The conversion of Mercia to Christianity occurred in the latter part of the 7th century, and by the time of Penda's defeat and death, Mercia was largely surrounded by Christian states. Diuma
Diuma
Diuma was a medieval Bishop of Mercia.Diuma was consecrated after 655 but his death date is unknown. He was an Irishman, and one of the four priests that were introduced into the kingdom of Mercia in 653 by Peada of Mercia son of Penda king of Mercia. Peada had become a Christian when he married...

, an Irish monk and one of Oswiu's missionaries was subsequently ordained a bishop - the first to operate in Mercia. Christianity finally gained a foothold in Mercia when Oswiu supported Peada as sub-king of the Middle Angles, requiring him to marry Oswiu's daughter, Alchflaed, and to accept her religion.

Decisive steps to Christianise Mercia were taken by Chad
Chad of Mercia
Chad was a prominent 7th century Anglo-Saxon churchman, who became abbot of several monasteries, Bishop of the Northumbrians and subsequently Bishop of the Mercians and Lindsey People. He was later canonized as a saint. He was the brother of Cedd, also a saint...

 (Latinised by Bede as Ceadda), the fifth bishop to operate in Mercia. This controversial figure was given land by King Wulfhere to build a monastery at Lichfield
Lichfield
Lichfield is a cathedral city, civil parish and district in Staffordshire, England. One of eight civil parishes with city status in England, Lichfield is situated roughly north of Birmingham...

. As in other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, the many small monasteries established by the Mercian kings allowed the political/military and ecclesiastical leadership to consolidate their unity through bonds of kinship.

Subdivisions of Mercia

For knowledge of the internal composition of the Kingdom of Mercia, we must rely on a document of uncertain age (possibly late 7th century), known as the Tribal Hidage
Tribal Hidage
Image:Tribal Hidage 2.svg|thumb|400px|alt=insert description of map here|The tribes of the Tribal Hidage. Where an appropriate article exists, it can be found by clicking on the name.rect 275 75 375 100 Elmetrect 375 100 450 150 Hatfield Chase...

– an assessment of the extent (but not the location) of land owned (reckoned in hides
Hide (unit)
The hide was originally an amount of land sufficient to support a household, but later in Anglo-Saxon England became a unit used in assessing land for liability to "geld", or land tax. The geld would be collected at a stated rate per hide...

), and therefore the military obligations and perhaps taxes due, by each of the Mercian tribes and subject kingdoms by name. This hidage exists in several manuscript versions, some as late as the 14th century. It lists a number of peoples, such as the Hwicce
Hwicce
The Hwicce were one of the peoples of Anglo-Saxon England. The exact boundaries of their kingdom are uncertain, though it is likely that they coincided with those of the old Diocese of Worcester, founded in 679–80, the early bishops of which bore the title Episcopus Hwicciorum...

, who have now vanished, except for reminders in various placenames (see map at the head of this article). The major subdivisions of Mercia were as follows:
  • South Mercians
The Mercians dwelling south of the River Trent. Folk groups within included the Tomsæte
Tomsaete
The Tomsaete or Tomsæte were a tribe or clan in Anglo-Saxon England living in the valley of the River Tame in the West Midlands of England from around 500 and remaining around Tamworth throughout the existence of the Kingdom of Mercia.An Anglo-Saxon charter of 849 describes an area of Cofton...

around Tamworth
Tamworth
Tamworth is a town and local government district in Staffordshire, England, located north-east of Birmingham city centre and north-west of London. The town takes its name from the River Tame, which flows through the town, as does the River Anker...

 and the Pencersæte
Pencersæte
The Pencersaete or Pencersæte were a tribe or clan in Anglo-Saxon England living in the valley of the River Penk in the West Midlands of England and remaining around Penkridge throughout the existence of the Kingdom of Mercia....

around Penkridge
Penkridge
Penkridge is a market town and ancient parish in Staffordshire, England with a population of 7,836 . Many locals refer to it as a village, although it has a long history as an ecclesiastical and commercial centre. Its main distinction in the Middle Ages was as the site of an important collegiate...

 (approx. S. Staffs.
Staffordshire
Staffordshire is a landlocked county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes, the county is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. Part of the National Forest lies within its borders...

 & N. Warks.
Warwickshire
Warwickshire is a landlocked non-metropolitan county in the West Midlands region of England. The county town is Warwick, although the largest town is Nuneaton. The county is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare...

).
  • North Mercians
The Mercians dwelling north of the River Trent (approx. N. Staffs.
Staffordshire
Staffordshire is a landlocked county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes, the county is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. Part of the National Forest lies within its borders...

, S. Derbys.
Derbyshire
Derbyshire is a county in the East Midlands of England. A substantial portion of the Peak District National Park lies within Derbyshire. The northern part of Derbyshire overlaps with the Pennines, a famous chain of hills and mountains. The county contains within its boundary of approx...

 & Notts.
Nottinghamshire
Nottinghamshire is a county in the East Midlands of England, bordering South Yorkshire to the north-west, Lincolnshire to the east, Leicestershire to the south, and Derbyshire to the west...

).
  • Outer Mercia
An early phase of Mercian expansion, possibly 6th century (approx. S. Lincs.
Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...

, Leics.
Leicestershire
Leicestershire is a landlocked county in the English Midlands. It takes its name from the heavily populated City of Leicester, traditionally its administrative centre, although the City of Leicester unitary authority is today administered separately from the rest of Leicestershire...

, Rutland
Rutland
Rutland is a landlocked county in central England, bounded on the west and north by Leicestershire, northeast by Lincolnshire and southeast by Peterborough and Northamptonshire....

, Northants
Northamptonshire
Northamptonshire is a landlocked county in the English East Midlands, with a population of 629,676 as at the 2001 census. It has boundaries with the ceremonial counties of Warwickshire to the west, Leicestershire and Rutland to the north, Cambridgeshire to the east, Bedfordshire to the south-east,...

. & N. Oxon.
Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire is a county in the South East region of England, bordering on Warwickshire and Northamptonshire , Buckinghamshire , Berkshire , Wiltshire and Gloucestershire ....

).
  • Lindsey
    Kingdom of Lindsey
    Lindsey or Linnuis is the name of a petty Anglo-Saxon kingdom, absorbed into Northumbria in the 7th century.It lay between the Humber and the Wash, forming its inland boundaries from the course of the Witham and Trent rivers , and the Foss Dyke between...

Once a kingdom in its own right, disputed with Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

 in the 7th century before finally coming under Mercian control (approx. N. Lincs.
Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...

).
  • Middle Angles
    Middle Angles
    The Middle Angles were an important ethnic or cultural group within the larger kingdom of Mercia in England in the Anglo-Saxon period.-Origins and territory:...

A collection of many smaller folk groups under Mercian control from the 7th century, including the Spaldingas
Spaldingas
The Spaldingas were an Anglian tribe that settled in an area known as the spalda. This divided the fens and marshes of East Anglia in what is now the South Holland part of Lincolnshire...

around Spalding
Spalding, Lincolnshire
Spalding is a market town with a population of 30,000 on the River Welland in the South Holland district of Lincolnshire, England. Little London is a hamlet directly south of Spalding on the B1172 road....

, the Bilmingas and Wideringas near Stamford
Stamford, Lincolnshire
Stamford is a town and civil parish within the South Kesteven district of the county of Lincolnshire, England. It is approximately to the north of London, on the east side of the A1 road to York and Edinburgh and on the River Welland...

, the North Gyrwe and South Gyrwe near Peterborough
Peterborough
Peterborough is a cathedral city and unitary authority area in the East of England, with an estimated population of in June 2007. For ceremonial purposes it is in the county of Cambridgeshire. Situated north of London, the city stands on the River Nene which flows into the North Sea...

, the West Wixna, East Wixna, West Wille and East Wille near Ely
Ely, Cambridgeshire
Ely is a cathedral city in Cambridgeshire, England, 14 miles north-northeast of Cambridge and about by road from London. It is built on a Lower Greensand island, which at a maximum elevation of is the highest land in the Fens...

, the Sweordora, Hurstingas and Gifle near Bedford
Bedford
Bedford is the county town of Bedfordshire, in the East of England. It is a large town and the administrative centre for the wider Borough of Bedford. According to the former Bedfordshire County Council's estimates, the town had a population of 79,190 in mid 2005, with 19,720 in the adjacent town...

, the Hicce around Hitchin
Hitchin
Hitchin is a town in Hertfordshire, England, with an estimated population of 30,360.-History:Hitchin is first noted as the central place of the Hicce people mentioned in a 7th century document, the Tribal Hidage. The tribal name is Brittonic rather than Old English and derives from *siccā, meaning...

, the Cilternsæte
Cilternsæte
The Cilternsæte was an Anglian tribe that occupied the Chilterns, probably in the 6th century AD.The Tribal Hidage valued their territory at 4,000 hides. This assessment is relatively large compared with those of some other tribes or central England, being 4% of the whole of Wessex...

in the Chilterns and the Feppingas near Thame
Thame
Thame is a town and civil parish in Oxfordshire, about southwest of the Buckinghamshire town of Aylesbury. It derives its toponym from the River Thame which flows past the north side of the town....

 (approx. Cambs.
Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire is a county in England, bordering Lincolnshire to the north, Norfolk to the northeast, Suffolk to the east, Essex and Hertfordshire to the south, and Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire to the west...

, Hunts.
Huntingdonshire
Huntingdonshire is a local government district of Cambridgeshire, covering the area around Huntingdon. Traditionally it is a county in its own right...

, Beds.
Bedfordshire
Bedfordshire is a ceremonial county of historic origin in England that forms part of the East of England region.It borders Cambridgeshire to the north-east, Northamptonshire to the north, Buckinghamshire to the west and Hertfordshire to the south-east....

, Herts.
Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England. The county town is Hertford.The county is one of the Home Counties and lies inland, bordered by Greater London , Buckinghamshire , Bedfordshire , Cambridgeshire and...

, Bucks.
Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

 & S. Oxon.
Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire is a county in the South East region of England, bordering on Warwickshire and Northamptonshire , Buckinghamshire , Berkshire , Wiltshire and Gloucestershire ....

).
  • Hwicce
    Hwicce
    The Hwicce were one of the peoples of Anglo-Saxon England. The exact boundaries of their kingdom are uncertain, though it is likely that they coincided with those of the old Diocese of Worcester, founded in 679–80, the early bishops of which bore the title Episcopus Hwicciorum...

Once a kingdom in its own right, disputed with Wessex
Wessex
The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty. It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest...

 in the 7th century before finally coming under Mercian control. Smaller folk groups within included the Stoppingas
Stoppingas
The Stoppingas was a tribe or clan of Anglo-Saxon England, based around Wootton Wawen and the valley of the River Alne in modern-day Warwickshire...

around Warwick
Warwick
Warwick is the county town of Warwickshire, England. The town lies upon the River Avon, south of Coventry and just west of Leamington Spa and Whitnash with which it is conjoined. As of the 2001 United Kingdom census, it had a population of 23,350...

 and the Arosæte near Droitwich (approx. Gloucs.
Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean....

, Worcs.
Worcestershire
Worcestershire is a non-metropolitan county, established in antiquity, located in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes it is a NUTS 3 region and is one of three counties that comprise the "Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire" NUTS 2 region...

 & S. Warks.
Warwickshire
Warwickshire is a landlocked non-metropolitan county in the West Midlands region of England. The county town is Warwick, although the largest town is Nuneaton. The county is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare...

).
  • Magonsæte
A people of the Welsh border, also known as the Westerna, under Mercian control from the 7th century. Smaller folk groups within included the Temersæte near Hereford
Hereford
Hereford is a cathedral city, civil parish and county town of Herefordshire, England. It lies on the River Wye, approximately east of the border with Wales, southwest of Worcester, and northwest of Gloucester...

 and the Hahlsæte near Ludlow
Ludlow
Ludlow is a market town in Shropshire, England close to the Welsh border and in the Welsh Marches. It lies within a bend of the River Teme, on its eastern bank, forming an area of and centred on a small hill. Atop this hill is the site of Ludlow Castle and the market place...

 (approx. Herefs.
Herefordshire
Herefordshire is a historic and ceremonial county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes it is a NUTS 3 region and is one of three counties that comprise the "Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire" NUTS 2 region. It also forms a unitary district known as the...

 & S. Shrops.
Shropshire
Shropshire is a county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes, the county is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. It borders Wales to the west...

).
  • Wreocansæte
A people of the Welsh border under Mercian control from the 7th century. Smaller folk groups within included the Rhiwsæte near Wroxeter
Wroxeter
Wroxeter is a village in Shropshire, England. It forms part of the civil parish of Wroxeter and Uppington and is located in the Severn Valley about south-east of Shrewsbury.-History:...

 and the Meresæte near Chester
Chester
Chester is a city in Cheshire, England. Lying on the River Dee, close to the border with Wales, it is home to 77,040 inhabitants, and is the largest and most populous settlement of the wider unitary authority area of Cheshire West and Chester, which had a population of 328,100 according to the...

 (approx. N. Shrops.
Shropshire
Shropshire is a county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes, the county is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. It borders Wales to the west...

, Flints.
Flintshire
Flintshire is a county in north-east Wales. It borders Denbighshire, Wrexham and the English county of Cheshire. It is named after the historic county of Flintshire, which had notably different borders...

 & Cheshire
Cheshire
Cheshire is a ceremonial county in North West England. Cheshire's county town is the city of Chester, although its largest town is Warrington. Other major towns include Widnes, Congleton, Crewe, Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Macclesfield, Winsford, Northwich, and Wilmslow...

).
  • Pecsæte
    Pecsaetan
    The Pecsætan, peaklanders or peakrills were an Anglo Saxon tribe who inhabited the central and northern parts of the Peak District area in England. The area was historically the home of the southern clan of the Brigantes, a Brythonic tribe, before the Anglo-Saxon invasion. The very early Derbyshire...

An isolated folk group of the Peak District
Peak District
The Peak District is an upland area in central and northern England, lying mainly in northern Derbyshire, but also covering parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire, and South and West Yorkshire....

, under Mercian control from the 7th century (approx. N. Derbys.
Derbyshire
Derbyshire is a county in the East Midlands of England. A substantial portion of the Peak District National Park lies within Derbyshire. The northern part of Derbyshire overlaps with the Pennines, a famous chain of hills and mountains. The county contains within its boundary of approx...

).
  • Land Between Ribble & Mersey
    Lancashire
    Lancashire is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in the North West of England. It takes its name from the city of Lancaster, and is sometimes known as the County of Lancaster. Although Lancaster is still considered to be the county town, Lancashire County Council is based in Preston...

A disorganised region under Mercian control from the 7th century (approx. S. Lancs.
Lancashire
Lancashire is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in the North West of England. It takes its name from the city of Lancaster, and is sometimes known as the County of Lancaster. Although Lancaster is still considered to be the county town, Lancashire County Council is based in Preston...

).
  • Middle Saxons
    Middlesex
    Middlesex is one of the historic counties of England and the second smallest by area. The low-lying county contained the wealthy and politically independent City of London on its southern boundary and was dominated by it from a very early time...

Taken over from Essex
Kingdom of Essex
The Kingdom of Essex or Kingdom of the East Saxons was one of the seven traditional kingdoms of the so-called Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. It was founded in the 6th century and covered the territory later occupied by the counties of Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and Kent. Kings of Essex were...

 in the 8th century, including London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 (approx. Middlesex
Middlesex
Middlesex is one of the historic counties of England and the second smallest by area. The low-lying county contained the wealthy and politically independent City of London on its southern boundary and was dominated by it from a very early time...

).


After Mercia was annexed by Wessex in the early 10th century, the West Saxon rulers divided it into shire
Shire
A shire is a traditional term for a division of land, found in the United Kingdom and in Australia. In parts of Australia, a shire is an administrative unit, but it is not synonymous with "county" there, which is a land registration unit. Individually, or as a suffix in Scotland and in the far...

s modelled after their own system, cutting across traditional Mercian divisions. These shires survived mostly intact until 1974, and even today still largely follow their original boundaries.

Mercian regional consciousness

The term ‘midlands’ is first recorded (as ‘mydlande’) in 1555. It is possible therefore that until then Mercia had remained the preferred term, as the quote from Trevisa above would indicate.

John Bateman, writing in 1876 or 1883, referred to contemporary Cheshire
Cheshire
Cheshire is a ceremonial county in North West England. Cheshire's county town is the city of Chester, although its largest town is Warrington. Other major towns include Widnes, Congleton, Crewe, Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Macclesfield, Winsford, Northwich, and Wilmslow...

 and Staffordshire
Staffordshire
Staffordshire is a landlocked county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes, the county is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. Part of the National Forest lies within its borders...

 landholdings as being in Mercia. The most credible source for the conceit of a contemporary Mercia is Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, OM was an English novelist and poet. While his works typically belong to the Naturalism movement, several poems display elements of the previous Romantic and Enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural.While he regarded himself primarily as a...

’s Wessex
Wessex
The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty. It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest...

 novels. The first of these appeared in 1874 and Hardy himself considered it the origin of the conceit of a contemporary Wessex. Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker
Abraham "Bram" Stoker was an Irish novelist and short story writer, best known today for his 1897 Gothic novel Dracula...

 set his 1911 novel, The Lair of the White Worm, in a contemporary Mercia that may have been influenced by Hardy, whose secretary was a friend of Stoker’s brother. Although ‘Edwardian Mercia’ never had the success of ‘Victorian Wessex’, it was an idea that appealed to the higher echelons of society. In 1908 Sir Oliver Lodge, Principal of Birmingham University, wrote to his counterpart at Bristol, welcoming a new university worthy of:

the great Province of Wessex whose higher educational needs it will supply. It will be no rival, but colleague and co-worker with this University, whose province is Mercia…. At this period, prior to World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, regional identities within England were being debated with the prospect of separate Home Rule parliaments being established.

The British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 has made use of regional identities in naming larger formations. After the Second World War, the infantry regiments of Cheshire, Staffordshire, and Worcestershire were organised in the Mercian Brigade
Mercian Brigade
The Mercian Brigade was an administrative formation of the British Army from 1948 to 1964. The Brigade administered the regular infantry from the area of England between the Trent, Mersey and Severn rivers that roughly corresponded to the ancient kingdom of Mercia.After the Second World War the...

 (1948–1968). Today "Mercia" appears in the titles of two regiments, the new Mercian Regiment
Mercian Regiment
The Mercian Regiment is an infantry regiment of the British Army, formed by the amalgamation of three existing regiments on 1 September 2007.The regiment has three regular army battalion's and one Territorial Army or reserve battalion...

 (which recruits in Cheshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire and parts of Greater Manchester and the West Midlands) and the Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry
Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry
The Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry is a yeomanry regiment of the United Kingdom's Territorial Army. It currently serves in the armoured replacement role, providing replacement tank crews for regular armoured regiments....

.

The West Mercia Constabulary
West Mercia Constabulary
West Mercia Police, formerly known as West Mercia Constabulary, is the territorial police force responsible for policing the counties of Shropshire , Herefordshire and Worcestershire in England. The force area covers making it the fourth largest police area in England and Wales...

 was created in 1967, combining the police forces of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire.

Telephone directories across the Midlands reveal a large number of commercial and voluntary organisations using ‘Mercia’ in their names. In the early 1980s, Mercia Television was an unsuccessful contender for the Midlands franchise, then owned by ATV
Associated TeleVision
Associated Television, often referred to as ATV, was a British television company, holder of various licences to broadcast on the ITV network from 24 September 1955 until 00:34 on 1 January 1982...

. It was won by Central Independent Television
Central Independent Television
Central Independent Television, more commonly known as Central is the Independent Television contractor for the Midlands, created following the restructuring of ATV and commencing broadcast on 1 January 1982. The station is owned and operated by ITV plc, under the licensee of ITV Broadcasting...

. Mercia (formerly Mercia FM
Mercia FM
Mercia is an Independent Local Radio station serving Coventry and Warwickshire. The station, owned and operated by Orion Media broadcasts from studios shared with BRMB at Broad Street in Birmingham.-History:...

) is a commercial radio station broadcasting from Coventry
Coventry
Coventry is a city and metropolitan borough in the county of West Midlands in England. Coventry is the 9th largest city in England and the 11th largest in the United Kingdom. It is also the second largest city in the English Midlands, after Birmingham, with a population of 300,848, although...

 founded in 1980 as Mercia Sound.

There are currently two main organisations campaigning for Mercian self-determination. Sovereign Mercia seeks independence for Mercia as a modern technological state, whereas the Acting Witan of Mercia advocates a return to an agrarian subsistence economy.

Symbols

>


The Kingdom of Mercia predated the emergence of heraldry, so there is no authentic Mercian heraldic device. However, later generations have ascribed a variety of devices to the rulers of Mercia or to the land itself.

The eagle

The silver double-headed eagle surmounted by a golden three-pronged Saxon crown has been used by several units of the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 as a heraldic device for Mercia since 1958. It is derived from the attributed arms
Attributed arms
Attributed arms are coats of arms given to legendary figures, or to notable persons from times before the rise of heraldry. Beginning in the 12th century, imaginary arms were assigned to the knights of the Round Table, and soon arms were given to biblical figures, to Roman and Greek heroes, and to...

 of Leofric
Leofric, Earl of Mercia
Leofric was the Earl of Mercia and founded monasteries at Coventry and Much Wenlock. Leofric is remembered as the husband of Lady Godiva.-Life and political influence:...

, Earl of Mercia in the 11th century. It is worth noting, however, that Leofric is sometimes attributed a black, single-headed eagle instead.) The examples on the left are the official devices of the Mercian Regiment
Mercian Regiment
The Mercian Regiment is an infantry regiment of the British Army, formed by the amalgamation of three existing regiments on 1 September 2007.The regiment has three regular army battalion's and one Territorial Army or reserve battalion...

 and the Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry
Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry
The Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry is a yeomanry regiment of the United Kingdom's Territorial Army. It currently serves in the armoured replacement role, providing replacement tank crews for regular armoured regiments....

 respectively. The latter, being a merged unit, also sports the Lancastrian red rose and crown.

The saltire

By the thirteenth century, this latter device had become the attributed arms
Attributed arms
Attributed arms are coats of arms given to legendary figures, or to notable persons from times before the rise of heraldry. Beginning in the 12th century, imaginary arms were assigned to the knights of the Round Table, and soon arms were given to biblical figures, to Roman and Greek heroes, and to...

 of the Kingdom of Mercia. The arms
Coat of arms
A coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on a shield or escutcheon or on a surcoat or tabard used to cover and protect armour and to identify the wearer. Thus the term is often stated as "coat-armour", because it was anciently displayed on the front of a coat of cloth...

 are blazon
Blazon
In heraldry and heraldic vexillology, a blazon is a formal description of a coat of arms, flag or similar emblem, from which the reader can reconstruct the appropriate image...

ed Azure, a saltire Or, meaning a gold (or yellow) saltire on a blue field. The arms were subsequently used by the Abbey of St Albans
St Albans Cathedral
St Albans Cathedral is a Church of England cathedral church at St Albans, England. At , its nave is the longest of any cathedral in England...

, founded by King Offa of Mercia. With the dissolution of the Abbey and the incorporation of the borough of St Albans
St Albans
St Albans is a city in southern Hertfordshire, England, around north of central London, which forms the main urban area of the City and District of St Albans. It is a historic market town, and is now a sought-after dormitory town within the London commuter belt...

 the device was used on the town's corporate seal and was officially recorded as the arms of the town at an heraldic visitation
Heraldic visitation
Heraldic Visitations were tours of inspection undertaken by Kings of Arms in England, Wales and Ireland in order to regulate and register the coats of arms of nobility and gentry and boroughs, and to record pedigrees...

 in 1634.

As a flag, the Cross of St Alban is flown from Tamworth Castle
Tamworth Castle
Tamworth Castle, a Grade I listed building, is a Norman castle, located next to the River Tame, in the town of Tamworth in Staffordshire, England....

, the ancient seat of the Mercian kings, to this day. It was also flown outside Birmingham Council House
Council House, Birmingham
Birmingham City Council House in Birmingham, England is the home of Birmingham City Council. It provides office accommodation for both employed council officers, including the Chief Executive, and elected council members, plus the council chamber, Lord Mayor's Suite, committee rooms and a large and...

 during 2009 while the Staffordshire Hoard
Staffordshire Hoard
The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork . Discovered in a field near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, England on 5 July 2009, it consists of some 3,500 items that are nearly all martial in character...

 was on display in the city before being taken to the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 in London. The cross has been incorporated into a number of coats of arms
Coat of arms
A coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on a shield or escutcheon or on a surcoat or tabard used to cover and protect armour and to identify the wearer. Thus the term is often stated as "coat-armour", because it was anciently displayed on the front of a coat of cloth...

 of Mercian towns, such as Tamworth
Tamworth
Tamworth is a town and local government district in Staffordshire, England, located north-east of Birmingham city centre and north-west of London. The town takes its name from the River Tame, which flows through the town, as does the River Anker...

, Leek
Leek, Staffordshire
Leek is a market town in the county of Staffordshire, England, on the River Churnet. It is an ancient borough and was granted its royal charter in 1214.It is the administrative centre for the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council...

 and Blaby
Blaby
Blaby is a village in central Leicestershire, England, some five miles south of Leicester city centre. It has population of around 6,240 , and its proximity to the city causes it to form part of the Leicester Urban Area....

.

The wyvern

A wyvern
Wyvern
A wyvern or wivern is a legendary winged reptilian creature with a dragon's head, two legs , and a barbed tail. The wyvern is found in heraldry. There exists a purely sea-dwelling variant, termed the Sea-Wyvern which has a fish tail in place of a barbed dragon's tail...

 is a dragon
European dragon
European dragons are legendary creatures in folklore and mythology among the overlapping cultures of Europe.In European folklore, a dragon is a serpentine legendary creature. The Latin word draco, as in constellation Draco, comes directly from Greek δράκων,...

 with two legs, and since its adoption as an emblem by the Midland Railway in the mid-19th century it has been associated with Mercia.

The Leicester and Swannington Railway
Leicester and Swannington Railway
The Leicester and Swannington Railway was one of England's first railways, being opened on 17 July 1832 to bring coal from collieries in west Leicestershire to Leicester.-Overview:...

, which opened in 1832, adopted as a badge the silver (white) wyvern that forms the crest of the Borough of Leicester as recorded at the heraldic visitation
Heraldic visitation
Heraldic Visitations were tours of inspection undertaken by Kings of Arms in England, Wales and Ireland in order to regulate and register the coats of arms of nobility and gentry and boroughs, and to record pedigrees...

 of Leicestershire in 1619: a wyvern sans legs argent strewed with wounds gules, wings expanded ermine (the term sans legs does not imply that the wyvern was legless; rather, that its legs are not depicted, being hidden or folded under). This was inherited by the Midland Railway
Midland Railway
The Midland Railway was a railway company in the United Kingdom from 1844 to 1922, when it became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway....

 in 1845, where it became the crest of its unofficial coat of arms
Coat of arms
A coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on a shield or escutcheon or on a surcoat or tabard used to cover and protect armour and to identify the wearer. Thus the term is often stated as "coat-armour", because it was anciently displayed on the front of a coat of cloth...

. The company asserted that the "wyvern was the standard of the Kingdom of Mercia", and that it was a "a quartering in the town arms of Leicester". However, in 1897 the Railway Magazine noted that there appeared "to be no foundation that the wyvern was associated with the Kingdom of Mercia".

The wyvern in Leicester's crest was derived from that of Thomas of Lancaster, second Lancastrian Earl of Leicester. The seal of Thomas, who was executed in 1327, included a wyvern.

A similar theme was later taken up by Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker
Abraham "Bram" Stoker was an Irish novelist and short story writer, best known today for his 1897 Gothic novel Dracula...

 in his 1911 novel, The Lair of the White Worm, which was explicitly set in Mercia (see above). The word "worm", derived from Old English wyrm, originally referred to a dragon or serpent. "Wyvern" is derived from Old Saxon
Old Saxon
Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German, is the earliest recorded form of Low German, documented from the 8th century until the 12th century, when it evolved into Middle Low German. It was spoken on the north-west coast of Germany and in the Netherlands by Saxon peoples...

 wivere, also meaning serpent (and etymologically related to viper
Viperidae
The Viperidae are a family of venomous snakes found all over the world, except in Antarctica, Australia, Ireland, Madagascar, Hawaii, various other isolated islands, and above the Arctic Circle. All have relatively long, hinged fangs that permit deep penetration and injection of venom. Four...

).

The ultimate source for the symbolism of white dragons in England would appear to be Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth was a cleric and one of the major figures in the development of British historiography and the popularity of tales of King Arthur...

’s fictional History of the Kings of Britain (c. 1136), where an incident occurs in the life of Merlin in which a red dragon is seen fighting a white dragon which it overcomes. The red dragon was taken to represent the Welsh and their eventual victory over the Anglo-Saxon invaders, symbolised by the white dragon. However, there is no archaeological or artefactual evidence that the early Anglo-Saxons used a white dragon to represent themselves.

The cap badge of the 2nd Mercian Battalion of the Territorial Army in the 1980s was a wyvern.

Regional government

With more restricted boundaries than the Kingdom of Mercia at its greatest extent and the traditional area known as the Midlands
English Midlands
The Midlands, or the English Midlands, is the traditional name for the area comprising central England that broadly corresponds to the early medieval Kingdom of Mercia. It borders Southern England, Northern England, East Anglia and Wales. Its largest city is Birmingham, and it was an important...

, two former Government Office Regions
Regions of England
In England, the region is the highest tier of sub-national division used by central Government. Between 1994 and 2011, the nine regions had an administrative role in the implementation of UK Government policy, and as the areas covered by elected bodies...

 together cover the latter: West Midlands
West Midlands (region)
The West Midlands is an official region of England, covering the western half of the area traditionally known as the Midlands. It contains the second most populous British city, Birmingham, and the larger West Midlands conurbation, which includes the city of Wolverhampton and large towns of Dudley,...

 and East Midlands
East Midlands
The East Midlands is one of the regions of England, consisting of most of the eastern half of the traditional region of the Midlands. It encompasses the combined area of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Northamptonshire and most of Lincolnshire...

. These are also constituencies
European Parliament constituency
Members of the European Parliament are elected by the population of the member states of the European Union , divided into constituencies....

 of the European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

.

The West Midlands comprises the shire counties of (1) Staffordshire
Staffordshire
Staffordshire is a landlocked county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes, the county is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. Part of the National Forest lies within its borders...

, (2) Warwickshire
Warwickshire
Warwickshire is a landlocked non-metropolitan county in the West Midlands region of England. The county town is Warwick, although the largest town is Nuneaton. The county is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare...

 and (3) Worcestershire
Worcestershire
Worcestershire is a non-metropolitan county, established in antiquity, located in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes it is a NUTS 3 region and is one of three counties that comprise the "Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire" NUTS 2 region...

 (with their respective districts), the unitary counties of (4) Herefordshire
Herefordshire
Herefordshire is a historic and ceremonial county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes it is a NUTS 3 region and is one of three counties that comprise the "Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire" NUTS 2 region. It also forms a unitary district known as the...

 and (5) Shropshire
Shropshire
Shropshire is a county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes, the county is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. It borders Wales to the west...

, the metropolitan boroughs of (6) Birmingham
Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

, (7) Coventry
Coventry
Coventry is a city and metropolitan borough in the county of West Midlands in England. Coventry is the 9th largest city in England and the 11th largest in the United Kingdom. It is also the second largest city in the English Midlands, after Birmingham, with a population of 300,848, although...

, (8) Dudley
Metropolitan Borough of Dudley
The Metropolitan Borough of Dudley is a metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It was created in 1974, and is made up of the towns of Dudley , Stourbridge , Halesowen, Brierley Hill, Amblecote, Sedgley and Coseley...

, (9) Sandwell
Sandwell
Sandwell is a metropolitan borough of the West Midlands with a population of around 289,100, and an area of . The borough is named after Sandwell Priory, and spans a densely populated part of both the Black Country, and the West Midlands conurbation, encompassing the urban towns of Blackheath,...

, (10) Solihull
Metropolitan Borough of Solihull
The Metropolitan Borough of Solihull is a metropolitan borough of the West Midlands, in west-central England. It is named after its largest town, Solihull, from which Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council is based. For Eurostat purposes it is a NUTS 3 region and is one of five boroughs or unitary...

, (11) Walsall
Metropolitan Borough of Walsall
The Metropolitan Borough of Walsall is a local government district in the Black Country part of the West Midlands, England, with the status of a metropolitan borough. It is named after its largest settlement, Walsall, but covers a larger area which also includes the towns of Aldridge, Brownhills,...

 and (12) Wolverhampton
Wolverhampton
Wolverhampton is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands, England. For Eurostat purposes Walsall and Wolverhampton is a NUTS 3 region and is one of five boroughs or unitary districts that comprise the "West Midlands" NUTS 2 region...

, and the unitary boroughs of (13) Stoke-on-Trent
Stoke-on-Trent
Stoke-on-Trent , also called The Potteries is a city in Staffordshire, England, which forms a linear conurbation almost 12 miles long, with an area of . Together with the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme Stoke forms The Potteries Urban Area...

 and (14) Telford and Wrekin
Telford and Wrekin
Telford and Wrekin is a unitary district with borough status in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes it is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. The district was created in 1974 as The...

. The East Midlands comprises the shire counties of (15) Derbyshire
Derbyshire
Derbyshire is a county in the East Midlands of England. A substantial portion of the Peak District National Park lies within Derbyshire. The northern part of Derbyshire overlaps with the Pennines, a famous chain of hills and mountains. The county contains within its boundary of approx...

, (16) Leicestershire
Leicestershire
Leicestershire is a landlocked county in the English Midlands. It takes its name from the heavily populated City of Leicester, traditionally its administrative centre, although the City of Leicester unitary authority is today administered separately from the rest of Leicestershire...

, (17) Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...

, (18) Northamptonshire
Northamptonshire
Northamptonshire is a landlocked county in the English East Midlands, with a population of 629,676 as at the 2001 census. It has boundaries with the ceremonial counties of Warwickshire to the west, Leicestershire and Rutland to the north, Cambridgeshire to the east, Bedfordshire to the south-east,...

 and (19) Nottinghamshire
Nottinghamshire
Nottinghamshire is a county in the East Midlands of England, bordering South Yorkshire to the north-west, Lincolnshire to the east, Leicestershire to the south, and Derbyshire to the west...

 (with their respective districts), the unitary county of (20) Rutland
Rutland
Rutland is a landlocked county in central England, bounded on the west and north by Leicestershire, northeast by Lincolnshire and southeast by Peterborough and Northamptonshire....

, and the unitary boroughs of (21) Derby
Derby
Derby , is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands region of England. It lies upon the banks of the River Derwent and is located in the south of the ceremonial county of Derbyshire. In the 2001 census, the population of the city was 233,700, whilst that of the Derby Urban Area was 229,407...

, (22) Leicester
Leicester
Leicester is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands of England, and the county town of Leicestershire. The city lies on the River Soar and at the edge of the National Forest...

 and (23) Nottingham
Nottingham
Nottingham is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands of England. It is located in the ceremonial county of Nottinghamshire and represents one of eight members of the English Core Cities Group...

. The two regions have a combined population of 9,439,516 (2001 census), and an area of 11053 sq mi (28,627.1 km²).

See also

  • Lichfield
    Lichfield
    Lichfield is a cathedral city, civil parish and district in Staffordshire, England. One of eight civil parishes with city status in England, Lichfield is situated roughly north of Birmingham...

  • List of monarchs of Mercia
  • Mercian – Anglo-Saxon dialect
  • Mercian Trail
    Mercian Trail
    The Mercian Trail is the name given to a group of museums and historical sites in the West Midlands of England that will be used to display objects from the Staffordshire Hoard...

  • Old English
    Old English language
    Old English or Anglo-Saxon is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons and their descendants in parts of what are now England and southeastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century...

  • Repton
    Repton
    Repton is a village and civil parish on the edge of the River Trent floodplain in South Derbyshire, about north of Swadlincote. Repton is close to the county boundary with neighbouring Staffordshire and about northeast of Burton upon Trent.-History:...

  • Staffordshire Hoard
    Staffordshire Hoard
    The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork . Discovered in a field near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, England on 5 July 2009, it consists of some 3,500 items that are nearly all martial in character...

  • Tamworth
    Tamworth
    Tamworth is a town and local government district in Staffordshire, England, located north-east of Birmingham city centre and north-west of London. The town takes its name from the River Tame, which flows through the town, as does the River Anker...

  • J. R. R. Tolkien
    J. R. R. Tolkien
    John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College,...

  • Wessex
    Wessex
    The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty. It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest...


Further reading

  • Ian W. Walker. Mercia and the Making of England (2000) ISBN 0-7509-2131-5 (also published as Mercia and the Origins of England (2000) ISBN 0-7509-2131-5)
  • Sarah Zaluckyj & Marge Feryok. Mercia: The Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Central England (2001) ISBN 1-873827-62-8
  • Michelle Brown & Carol Farr (eds). Mercia: An Anglo-Saxon Kingdom in Europe (2005) ISBN 0-8264-7765-8
  • Margaret Gelling. 'The Early History of Western Mercia'. (p. 184–201; In: The Origins of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms. S. Bassett. 1989) (Western Mercia and the upper Trent
    River Trent
    The River Trent is one of the major rivers of England. Its source is in Staffordshire on the southern edge of Biddulph Moor. It flows through the Midlands until it joins the River Ouse at Trent Falls to form the Humber Estuary, which empties into the North Sea below Hull and Immingham.The Trent...

    being the probable cradle of early Mercia).
  • Simon Schama. A History of Britain: At the Edge of the World? – 3000 BC–AD 1603 Vol 1 BBC Books 2003

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