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The ealdormen of Mercia, Northumbria and, at a later date, Wessex enjoyed considerable administrative authority in the territories which they controlled.In the cases of Mercia and Northumbria, the primary sources suggest that the local ealdorman acted as the king's regent.Before the late 8th century, very few names of Anglo-Saxon noblemen, who were unrelated to the royal families, emerge from the primary sources.The earliest grant of property (land in Worcestershire) which is recorded in a surviving charter to an Anglo-Saxon nobleman was made in 736 by Ethelbald King of Mercia to "Cyneberht comes", but otherwise has not yet been identified.However, the extent to which the appointment was hereditary within the same family is unclear.In the case of Northumbria, the ealdormanship settled in the family of Waltheof from the mid-10th century until after the Norman conquest, although it is possible that each appointment was confirmed by the king after the death of each office-holder.
The Editors have insisted that the articles should contain the latest and most accurate information to be obtained from the standard works on each subject.
Even the writings of the best intentioned authors are at times disfigured by serious errors on Catholic subjects, which are for the most part due, not to ill-will, but to lack of knowledge.
It would be fatuous to hope to call into immediate existence a Catholic English literature adequate to supply this knowledge and correct errors.
As for Catholics, their duty as members of the Church impels them to learn more and more fully its principles; while among Protestants the desire for a more intimate and accurate knowledge of things Catholic increases in proportion to the growth of the Church in numbers and in importance.
The Catholic clergy are naturally expected to direct inquirers to sources of the needed information; yet they find only too often that the proper answers to the questions proposed are not to be met with in English literature.The Editors take occasion on the appearance of this first volume to express their gratitude to all who have taken part with them in this enterprise; in particular to the hierarchy for their cordial endorsement; to Catholic publishers and to the editors of the Catholic press for their frequent courtesies; to the contributors for their ready co-operation; to the original subscribers for their generous support; to the directors of the Company organized specially to produce the work, and to many non-Catholics for their kindly encouragement.