Wiglaf of Mercia - Coinage and Charters

Coinage and Charters

Coins from Wiglaf's reign are very rare. They can be divided into portrait and non-portrait types; and of these, only the two non-portrait coins may be from Wiglaf's second reign. Other than these, there is no evidence of any Mercian coinage until the reign of Wiglaf's successor, Beorhtwulf, which began in about 840. This may show that Wiglaf remained subject to Egbert's overlordship after 830, though most historians consider Wiglaf to have recovered his independence at that time.

Charters survive from Wiglaf's reign; these were documents which granted land to followers or to churchmen, and were witnessed by the kings who had power to grant the land. One such charter of Wiglaf's, granting privileges to the monastery of Hanbury in 836, does not exempt the monks from the duty of constructing ramparts, indicating a concern for defence. Wessex charters do not begin to show such exemptions until 846. These clauses are explained by the increasing Viking presence throughout Britain: Viking raids had begun at least as early as 793, Viking armies were in Kent by 811, and from 835 Viking raids were a concern for the kings of Wessex.

The 836 charter also contains an early reference to the trimoda necessitas, the set of three obligations that kings of the era placed on their subjects. These duties were the building of royal residences, the obligation to pay feorm, or food-rent, to the king, and hospitality to the king's servants. The privileges granted came at a cost: Wiglaf and one ealdorman received life interests in estates, and another ealdorman was paid six hundred shillings in gold. It is perhaps notable that in common with many other Mercian charters of the 9th century, this grant is of privileges rather than land: the chronicler Bede had commented a century earlier that excessive grants of land to monasteries were leaving kings without land to grant to the nobility, and the Mercian kings may have been responding to this problem.

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