Cynethryth (fl. 736–796)

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Cynethryth (fl. 736–796)

Queen of Mercia. Flourished 8th century; married Offa II, king of Mercia, around 756; children: at least three, including Eadburgh (c. 773–after 802) and possibly Etheldreda (d. around 840).

Born into an important Saxon family of Mercia (a kingdom of west England), Cynethryth was one of the most famous queens of the early Middle Ages. This does not mean, however, that she was popular; instead, Cynethryth had a terrible reputation for cruelty. She married King Offa II of Mercia around 756 and ruled with him until his death in 796. In those years, Cynethryth reigned with almost the same powers as a queen-regnant (one who inherits the crown herself), though she had only married into the royal house of Mercia. As queen, she oversaw many aspects of the kingdom's administration, passing edicts and legislation, and making foreign-policy decisions. Offa and Cynethryth even struck coinage bearing the queen's name and image, a highly unusual act. She had several children, including Eadburgh , who grew up to be as despised a queen as her mother. After Offa's death, Cynethryth became an abbess.

Laura York , Riverside, California