Kent in the late seventh century
The kingdoms of Britain in the late seventh-century
The dominant force in late-seventh-century politics south of the River Humber was Wulfhere of Mercia, who reigned from the late 650s to 675. The king of Kent for much of this time was Ecgberht, who died in 673. Ecgberht's sons, Eadric and Wihtred, were probably little more than infants, two or three years old, when their father died; Wulfhere was their uncle by virtue of his marriage to Eormenhild, Ecgberht's sister. Hlothhere, Ecgberht's brother, became king of Kent, but not until about a year later, in 674, and it may be that Wulfhere opposed the accession of Hlothhere and was the effective ruler of Kent during this year-long interregnum.
Eadric raised an army against his uncle and Hlothhere died of wounds sustained in battle in February 685 or possibly 686. Eadric died the following year, and according to Bede, whose Ecclesiastical History of the English People is one of the primary sources for this period, the kingdom fell apart into disorder. Cædwalla of Wessex invaded in 686 and established his brother Mul as king there; Cædwalla may have ruled Kent directly for a period when Mul was killed in 687. When Cædwalla departed for Rome in 688, Oswine, who was probably supported by Æthelred of Mercia, took the throne for a time. Oswine lost power in 690, but Swæfheard (son of Sebbi, the king of Essex), who had been a king in Kent for a year or two, remained. There is clear evidence that both Swæfheard and Oswine were kings at the same time, as each witnessed the other's charters. It seems that Oswine was king of east Kent, which was usually the position of the dominant king, while Swæfheard was king of west Kent.