After Bede’s death in 735, the narrative sources diminish. For Wessex there is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, though that is not contemporary until the end of the ninth century, and for Northumbria the annals added to Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica (the Continuations), and those which now form part of the Historia Regum, once attributed to Symeon of Durham.1 There is also a poem on the Church of York by the Northumbrian scholar Alcuin, which carries its story down to the death of Archbishop Ælberht (780).2 It is unfortunate that no Mercian religious house produced an historian to chronicle the deeds of its eighth-century kings, though the Life of St Guthlac, composed in the reign of King Ælfwald of East Anglia (713–49), contains some material on the early career of King Æthelbald (716–57).3 Much information can be gleaned from the correspondence of the West Saxon missionary saint, Boniface, and from that of Alcuin.4 There is an increasing number of royal charters, from Kent, Sussex, Wessex, Mercia and the kingdom of the Hwicce.5 Though much of the detail is inevitably lacking, it is still possible to gain a general idea of how the Mercian kings achieved and maintained their hold over much of southern England.
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