The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty.
This projects aims to provide an accurate lineage of the monarchs and their families from this period, from the earliest known founders to Edward the Elder and his children.
According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ASC), Wessex was founded by Cerdic and Cynric, chieftains of a clan known as "Gewisse". They are said to have landed on the Hampshire coast and conquered the surrounding area, including the Isle of Wight. However, the specific events given by the ASC are in some doubt. Archæological evidence points to a considerable early Anglo-Saxon presence in the upper Thames valley and Cotswolds area as well as in Hampshire, and the centre of gravity of Wessex in the late sixth and early seventh century seems to have lain further to the north than in later periods. Bede states that the Isle of Wight was settled not by Saxons but Jutes, who also settled on the Hampshire coast, known as the Meonsæte and that these areas were only acquired by Wessex in the later seventh century. It is therefore possible that the ASC account is a product of the circumstances of the eighth and ninth centuries being projected back into the past to create an origin story appropriate to the contemporary form of the kingdom. It may also be noted that the names of some of the early West Saxon leaders appear to be Brythonic in origin, including the dynastic founder Cerdic (being a form of Ceredic or Caradoc) and Cædwalla (from Cadwallon, a Welsh name derived from Caswalawn a Brythonic version of Cassivellaunus). These are interspersed with Old English names such as Ceolwulf, Coenberht and Aescwine. This variation might suggest the early rulers came from a hybrid Anglo-British dynasty or that the rule of early Wessex shifted between more than one royal clan, but this is conjecture.
The two main sources for the names and dates of the kings of Wessex are the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and an associated document known as the West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List. The Chronicle gives small genealogies in multiple places, under the annals for different years. These sources, however, conflict in various ways, and cannot be fully reconciled. A recent analysis by David Dumville has produced a set of plausible dates for the West Saxon kings; has been used by other scholars but cannot be regarded as definitive. Dumville's dates are used in the historical outline below, with reference to the original sources to highlight some of the conflicts. The later genealogies may have been contrived with the intent of connecting all lineages to Cerdic, and this has introduced additional inconsistencies which cannot all be resolved. (from Wikipedia)
from Medieval Lands
Bede names the three Germanic tribes which invaded Britain as "Saxonibus, Anglis, Iutis", adding that the Saxons were ancestors of "Orientales Saxones, Meridiani Saxones, Occidui Saxones" (people of Essex, Sussex and Wessex). In common with the founder kings of the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, Cerdic first king of the West Saxons is recorded as descended from Woden. This mythical descent is set out in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: "Woden/Bældæg/Brand/Frithugar/Freawine/Wig/Gewis/Esla/Elesa/Cerdic". Bede records that the kings of "Occidentalium Saxonum" were formally called "Geuissæ", after one of these mythical ancestors, although in later genealogies and histories this name was superseded.
The early history of Wessex is poorly documented, compared in particular with that of Kent and Northumbria. The influence of Christianity was limited. There is no reference to Wessex in the mid-6th century De Excidio Brittaniæ of Gildas or in Nennius´s Historia Brittonum. Bede´s Historia Ecclesiastica, compiled in the late 720s/early 730s, contains some isolated references to the kings of Wessex but these are insufficient to enable their genealogy to be reconstructed adequately. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and a West Saxon genealogical Regnal List produced in the late 9th century, are therefore the only sources which provide information on the family relationships of the early kings of Wessex. Both sources link all the kings into one family, with long descents traced through different parallel junior lines which include no information on the individuals concerned except their names, although the Chronicle and the Regnal List differ in some points of detail which cannot be reconciled into one definitive version. As noted in the Introduction to the present document, it appears that the compilers of these records were motivated more by a desire to demonstrate a linear succession of kings, in order to emphasise continuity, rather than by a quest for factual accuracy. Nevertheless, the Chronicle does include some genealogical information about the kings of Wessex which appears reliable. This comprises precise details of family relationships between individual kings, particularly between the mid-6th and mid-7th centuries, which do not form part of the lines of descent. For the purposes of the present chapter, such information has been treated as "core" around which some family reconstruction can be hazarded. Apart from that, the information in the extended lines of descent has been noted but has, for the most part, not been considered reliable enough to show precise relationships in this chapter.
The dating of events in all sources is suspect. This is exacerbated by the relatively infrequent inter-marriage or other contact between the kingdom of Wessex and the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, resulting in a relative absence of outside data points against which information about the West Saxon royal family can be verified.
- Name confusions and mix-ups
- The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
- The West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List
- Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica, compiled in the late 720s/early 730s
- Main Source Medieval Lands by Charles Cawley, with detailed references to primary sources
- List of monarchs from Wikipedia
- Wessex on Wikipedia