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Cookham’s Queen, Cynethryth

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The only Anglo-Saxon queen with coins issued in her own name, is she buried here?

Cynethryth was an Anglo-Saxon queen who lived in the 8th century AD. She was the wife of King Offa of Mercia, one of the most powerful rulers of his time. Cynethryth is notable for being the only Anglo-Saxon queen to have been depicted on a coin during her lifetime.

There are few surviving records of Cynethryth’s life, but what we do know suggests that she was a woman of great intelligence and political acumen. She was co-ruler of the kingdom of Mercia, signing laws and charters in her own name. This authority was unique for a woman in Early Medieval Europe. She played a key role in the establishment of the famous Offa’s Dyke, a defensive earthwork built along the border between England and Wales. She arranged dynastic marriages for her daughters, and ensured that her son was named as heir to the Mercian kingdom.

Despite her accomplishments, Cynethryth was not universally popular. Some chroniclers of the time portrayed her as a ruthless and domineering figure, and she was even accused of murdering her own son. However, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to Cynethryth’s life, and many of the stories about her may be exaggerations or outright fabrications.

After her husband’s death in 796, Cynethryth disappears from the historical record. It is not known what became of her, but her legacy as a powerful and influential queen of the Anglo-Saxon period has endured to this day.

Cynethryth coin image credit: