After his victory at Otford, King Egbert of Kent was able to enjoy the independence of his kingdom for the rest of his life. His successors were not so lucky.
By 785 King Elmund of Kent had been persuaded, presumably by the threat of Mercian military might, to acknowledge King Offa as his overlord. Offa soon tightened his grip. He began to insist that the King of Kent could not enact any law nor grant any land unless the King of Mercia agreed first.
In the spring of 796 Kent gained a new king in the shape of King Edbrit Praen. Quite how he was related to Elmund, Egbert or the previous kings is unknown as the contemporary chroniclers do not bother to record this detail. There is some indication, however, that he was not the legitimate heir. Perhaps the true heir was a babe in arms, in exile or otherwise unavailable to sit on the throne.
Wherever he came from, Edbrit Praen was clearly not a man to laze about. Within weeks of coming to the throne he heard that King Offa of Mercia was on his deathbed. Praen decided to match the example of Egbert. He declared Kent to be fully independent of Mercia and refused entry to Offa’s men. When Offa died he was succeeded by his son Egferth, who promptly fell ill and died a few months later. It was Praen’s misfortune that another death that year was that of Archbishop Janbert. This supporter of Kentish independence also passed away to be replaced by Archbishop Athelhard, a Mercian.
With Egferth dying, the Mercians were too busy deciding on a new king to take much notice of events in Kent. But by the spring of 798 the new ruler, King Cenwulf, was securely on the throne and determined to prove his power. That meant subduing Kent. Unlike Offa in 776, Cenwulf was marching to Kent himself with the full might of Mercia marching with him.
from Battlefield Walks in Kent and Sussex by Rupert Matthews
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