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Hwicce was one of the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon Britain. Its exact dimensions are unknown; they probably coincided with those of the old diocese of Worcester, the early bishops of which bore the title "Episcopus Hwicciorum." It would therefore include Worcestershire, Gloucestershire except the Forest of Dean, the southern half of Warwickshire, and the neighbourhood of Bath.

The name Hwicce survives in Wychwood in Oxfordshire, Whichford in Warwickshire and the Wychavon district of Worcestershire. These districts, or at least the southern portion of them, were originally conquered by the West Saxons under Ceawlin, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, s.a. 577. In later times, however, the kingdom of the Hwicce appears to have been always subject to Mercian supremacy, and possibly it was separated from Wessex in the time of Edwin.

The first kings of whom we read were two brothers, Eanhere and Eanfrith, probably contemporaries of Wulfhere. They were followed by a king named Osric, a contemporary of Æthelred of Mercia;, and he by a king Oshere. Oshere had three sons who reigned after him, Æthelheard, Æthelweard and Æthelric. The two last named appear to have been reigning in the year 706.

At the beginning of Offa's reign we again find the kingdom ruled by three brothers, named Eanberht, Uhtred and Aldred, the two latter of whom lived until about 780. After them the title of king seems to have been given up. Their successor Æthelmund, who was killed in a campaign against Wessex in 802, is described only as an earl.

The district remained in possession of the rulers of Mercia until the fall of that kingdom. Together with the rest of English Mercia it submitted to King Alfred about 877-883 under Earl Æthelred, who possibly himself belonged to the Hwicce. No genealogy or list of kings has been preserved, and we do not know whether the dynasty was connected with that of Wessex or Mercia.

See Bede, Historia eccles. (edited by C Plummer) iv. 13 (Oxford, 1896);W de G Birch, Cartularium Saxonicum, 43, 51, 76, 85, 116, 117, 122, 163, I87, 232, 233, 238 (Oxford, 1885-1889).

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

East Anglia | Essex | Kent | Mercia | Northumbria | Sussex | Wessex
Others: Lindsey, Hwicce