Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Eadbert Præn

EADBERT or EADBRYHT PRÆN (fl. 796), king of Kent, a member of the kingly line, and related to Ealhmund, under-king of Kent, the father of Ecgberht of Wessex, had received the tonsure, which was probably forced upon him in order to disqualify him for the kingship, but nevertheless headed the resistance offered by the Kentish nobles to Mercian domination, which seems to have actually broken out before the death of Offa (Eccles. Documents, iii. 495–6). This caused great trouble to Archbishop Æthelheard, who was devoted to the Mercian cause, and Alcuin wrote to him, telling him that he had urged Offa to help him. On the death of Offa, in 796, Eadbert Præn was made king of Kent, and was upheld by the nobles of the kingdom. Æthelheard was forced to flee from Canterbury, and wrote to Leo III, asking him to condemn the ‘apostate clerk,’ which the pope accordingly did in a letter to Cenwulf of Mercia (ib. 524). In 798 Cenwulf invaded Kent, took Eadbert Præn prisoner, carried him to Mercia, and there caused his eyes to be torn out and his hands to be cut off. The independent existence of Kent was brought to an end, and Cenwulf handed it over to be ruled by Cuthred as under-king. Eadbert survived his mutilation, for William of Malmesbury records that at the dedication of Winchcombe Abbey in Gloucestershire, in 811, Cenwulf manumitted before the high altar a Kentish king whom he had taken captive. Some silver coins of Eadbert Præn are extant.

[Anglo-Saxon Chron. sub ann. 794, 796; Florence of Worcester, i. 63, confuses Eadbert Præn with Eadbert, son of Wihtred (d. 748), comp. i. 260 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Haddan and Stubbs's Councils and Eccles. Docs. iii. 495–6, 524; Henry of Huntingdon, 733, Mon. Hist. Brit.; Symeon of Durham, 670, Mon. Hist. Brit.; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontificum, 294 (Rolls Ser.); Dugdale's Monasticon, ii. 296, 301; Hawkins's Silver Coins of England, ed. Kenyon, p. 32; Dict. of Christian Biog. art. ‘Eadbert Præn’ by Bishop Stubbs.]

W. H.