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Widukind, Saxon Leader

WIDUKIND, SAXON LEADER, or WITTEKIND (d. c. 807), leader of the Saxons during the earlier part of their resistance to Charlemagne, belonged to a noble Westphalian family, and is first mentioned in 777 when his absence from an assembly of the Saxons held by the Prankish king of Paderborn was a matter for remark. It is inferred with considerable probability that he had taken a leading part in the attacks on two Prankish garrisons in 776, and possibly had shared in earlier fights against the Franks, and so feared to meet the king. In 778 he returned from exile in Denmark to lead a fresh rising, and in 782 the Saxons at his instigation drove out the Prankish priests, and plundered the border territories. It is uncertain whether Widukind shared in the Saxon victory at the Siintel mountains, or what part he took in the risings of 783 and 784. In 785 Charlemagne, leading an expedition towards the mouth of the Elbe, learned that Widukind was in the land of the Nordalbingians, on the right bank of the river. Negotiations were begun, and the Saxon chief, assured of his personal safety, appeared at the Prankish court at Attigny. There he was baptized, the king acting as his sponsor and loading him with gifts. The details of his later life are unknown. He probably returned to Saxony and occupied there an influential position, as in 922 the inheritance of the " old count or duke Widukind " is referred to. Many legends have gathered around his memory, and he was long regarded as a national hero by the Saxons. He is reported to have been duke of Engria, to have been a devoted Christian and a builder of churches, and to have fallen in battle in 807. Kingly and princely houses have sought to establish their descent from him, but except in the case of Matilda, wife of the German king, Henry I. the Fowler, without any success.

See W. Diekamp, Widukind der Sachsenfilhrer nach Geschichte und Sage (Munster, 1877); J. Dettmer, Der Sachsenfilhrer Widukind nach Geschichte und Sage (Wurzburg, 1879).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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