FROM DOT TO DOMESDAY Early Medieval The Birth of Nations: England
WESSEX
Wessex – the kingdom of the West Saxons – would seem to have its origins in the upper Thames valley. This group of Saxons were at first called the Gewisse, and apparently only became known as the West Saxons towards the end of 7th century, by which time they had made significant territorial gains in the south and southwest. West Saxon expansion north of the Thames and Avon, though, was thwarted by the powerful kingdom of Mercia. In 825, the West Saxon king Egbert won a resounding victory over the Mercians, that allowed him to combine Kent, Essex, Sussex and Surrey into a West Saxon sub-kingdom. By this time, however, the Vikings were making their presence felt. They eventually conquered Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia. It was Egbert's grandson, Alfred – the only English monarch that history has honoured with the epithet ‘the Great’ – who halted their advance. The kings of Wessex would become the kings of England.
The Alfred Jewel is about 2½ inches long, 1½ inches wide and ½ an inch thick. It was ploughed-up from a Somerset field in 1693, and is now on display in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
A teardrop-shaped rock-crystal protects a cloisonné enamel figure, the whole being encased in a gold frame. There is a decorative socket to allow the jewel to be mounted on a rod of some kind. The openwork lettering on the side of the frame reads: + AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN (Alfred ordered me to be made). There is little doubt that the Alfred in question is King Alfred the Great (r.871–899).
King Alfred personally translated a number of books from Latin into English. In a preface to his translation of ‘Pastoral Care’, by Pope Gregory I (590–604), Alfred writes: “I will send a copy to every bishopric in my kingdom; and in each there will be an æstel worth fifty mancuses. And I command in God's name that no man may take the æstel from the book or the book from the church”.  It is not certain what an æstel is, but since the word probably derives form the Latin hastula (a little spear), it is widely supposed that it was a rod used as a pointer or placemarker. Certainly those being presented by Alfred were very expensive items. Putting two and two together, it is popularly suggested that the Alfred jewel is the terminal from such an æstel. Stretching the conjecture a little further, is the proposal that it would be appropriate to interpret the enamel figure as a personification of ‘Sight’.
King of the West Saxons
519 ? – 534 ?  Cerdic
Son of Elesa.
534 ? – 560 ?  Cynric
Son of Cerdic or Creoda.
The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ records the founding of Wessex in the following entries*:
495 In this year came two chieftains to Britain, Cerdic and Cynric his son, with 5 ships, at the place which is called Cerdicesora; and on the same day fought against the Welsh [i.e. Britons].
The West Saxon king-list and genealogy of King Alfred (871–899), that serves as a preface to Manuscript A of the ‘Chronicle’ places the above event in 494, then adds:
[500] And 6 years after they landed they subdued the West Saxons' kingdom; and they were the first kings who conquered the West Saxons' land from the Welsh ...
A statement to the same effect is made by the late-10th century West Saxon chronicler Æthelweard.
501 In this year came Port to Britain, and his 2 sons, Bieda and Mægla, with 2 ships, at the place which is called Portesmutha [Portsmouth],^ and there slew a very noble young British man.
508 In this year Cerdic and Cynric slew a British king, whose name was Natanleod, and 5 thousand men with him; after that the land was named Natanleaga [Netley] as far as Cerdicesford [Charford].
514 In this year came the West Saxons to Britain, with 3 ships, at the place that is called Cerdicesora,  and Stuf and Wihtgar fought against the Britons and put them to flight.*
519 In this year Cerdic and Cynric assumed the kingdom^; and in the same year they fought against the Britons, where it is now named Cerdicesford [Charford]^.
527 In this year Cerdic and Cynric fought against the Britons at the place which is called Cerdicesleaga.
530 In this year Cerdic and Cynric took Wihte ealond [the Isle of Wight], and slew a few men at Wihtgarabyrg.*
534 In this year Cerdic died, and Cynric his son succeeded to the kingdom, and reigned on for 26 winters; and they gave Wihte ealond to their two nephews, Stuf and Wihtgar.
544 In this year Wihtgar died, and they buried him at Wihtgarabyrg.
552 In this year Cynric fought against the Britons at the place which is named Searobyrg [Old Sarum], and put the Britons to flight.
556 In this year Cynric and Ceawlin fought against the Britons at Beranbyrg [Barbury Castle].
560 In this year Ceawlin succeeded to the kingdom in Wessex ...
There are many problems with the story told by the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’. It implies that the Isle of Wight (Wihte ealond) and its stronghold, Wihtgarabyrg, are named from Wihtgar. They are, though, derived from the island's Latin name: Vectis (pronounced ‘Wectis’).* Like Wihtgar, Natanleod and Port are also mythological characters derived from place names, rather than the reverse.* Indeed, by the same token, it is possible that Cerdic himself, the purported founder of the West Saxon kingdom, is an invention.* However, the name Cerdic is apparently British – a form of Ceretic (modern: Caradog) – which would, perhaps, be a strange choice for the mythological founder of a Saxon kingdom. As for Cynric – whilst the ‘Chronicle’ is clear that he is Cerdic's son in the above annals, elsewhere Creoda, Cerdic's son, is said to be Cynric's father.
The arrival of Cerdic and Cynric is placed in 495, and, apparently, again in 514. Annal 527 may well duplicate the event recorded in 508. Similarly, the reference made in the preface to Manuscript A and by Æthelweard, dating the establishment of the West Saxon kingdom to 500, is repeated by annal 519. In short, the story is told twice – the second time nineteen years after the first.* This duplication has lengthened the timeframe, and accounts for the unlikely implication that Cerdic and Cynric spent twenty-four years battling against the British before their position was secure.
There are further chronological inconsistencies. The preface to Manuscript A of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ is one of a number of versions of a text that has been dubbed the ‘West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List’. It records the reigns of West Saxon kings (and one queen) from Cerdic to Alfred. Working backwards from the slightly firmer chronological ground of Cynegils' reign (611–642), the regnal lengths given by the ‘List’ suggest yet more possible dates for the kingdom's beginnings. One theory that seems to be gaining favour is that the purported foundation of the West Saxon kingdom and start of Cerdic's sixteen year reign should be located a further nineteen years later, i.e. in 538, and, consequently, Cynric's succession dated to 554.*
Be that as it may, the notion that Wessex was carved out from the Hampshire coast does not sit comfortably with the later, properly-historical, record, and archaeological evidence, which suggests that the original West Saxon homelands were in the upper Thames valley. Further, Bede says (‘HE’ I, 15) that the Isle of Wight, and the opposite mainland, was settled by Jutes, not Saxons. Bede also says (‘HE’ III, 7) that the West Saxons were originally called the Gewisse, and he tells (‘HE’ IV, 16) how: “After Cædwalla had obtained possession of the kingdom of the Gewisse [in 685/6], he took also the Isle of Wight ... and by merciless slaughter endeavoured to destroy all the inhabitants thereof, and to place in their stead people from his own province”.  Up to that time the island had had its own ruling dynasty, which Cædwalla ruthlessly crushed. Asser records that King Alfred's grandfather (his mother's father) was: “descended from the Goths and Jutes – of the seed, namely, of Stuf and Wihtgar” (§2).
560 ? – 591 ?  Ceawlin
Son of Cynric.
The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ places Ceawlin's accession to the West Saxon throne in 560, and indicates that he ruled for thirty-one years. In the ‘West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List’, however, his reign is given as seven or seventeen years (depending on manuscript).* Ceawlin's chronology is, therefore, very uncertain.
Ceawlin emerges as the victor in the first battle recorded between two English kingdoms. The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ states, s.a. 568: “Ceawlin and Cutha fought against Æthelberht, and drove him into Kent; and slew two ealdormen at Wibbandune”.
Manuscript F of the ‘Chronicle’ says that Cutha (which is possibly a nickname for anyone whose name begins ‘Cuth’) was “Ceawlin's brother”.  In a genealogy that appears s.a. 597 (Manuscripts A, B and C), a Cutha is featured as the son of Cynric, and Ceawlin is identified as the son of Cynric in the West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List, so Ceawlin evidently did have a brother known as Cutha. However, in a genealogy s.a. 685 (Manuscripts A, B and C), a son of Ceawlin is also called Cutha.
Although the traditional identification of Wibbandune with Wimbledon is no longer considered to be acceptable, it is likely that it was in that vicinity, and that Ceawlin's dispute with Æthelberht, king of Kent, was over the control of Surrey. According to the reign lengths given by the ‘List’, Ceawlin cannot have been king before 571, and his reign lasted no later than 589,* though the ‘Chronicle’ apparently places the end of his reign in 591. Exactly when Æthelberht began to reign is also uncertain, but there are indications that it may have been c.590. If that really is the case, then the battle between Ceawlin and Æthelberht should probably be placed at the start of Æthelberht's reign, c.590.  Ceawlin is second in a list of seven kings whom Bede says (‘HE’ II, 5) were recognized as overlord of all the English kingdoms south of the Humber (“the second, Cælin, king of the West Saxons, who, in their own language, is called Ceawlin”) and, consequently, also appears as the second Bretwalda listed by the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’. Ceawlin's successor to that honour was Æthelberht.
‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, s.a. 571: “In this year Cuthwulf fought against the Britons at Biedcanforda [unidentified], and took 4 towns; Liggeanburh [Limbury, Bedfordshire], and Æglesburh [Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire], Bensingtun [Benson, Oxfordshire], and Egonesham [Eynsham, Oxfordshire]; and the same year he died.”
In Manuscript E, the chieftain's name is given as Cutha, instead of Cuthwulf, and tagged onto the end of the annal is the sentence: “Cutha was Ceawlin's brother.”  Whether Cuthwulf was, indeed, Ceawlin's brother is far from certain – no one of that name appears in any genealogy as the son of Cynric. In fact, there is nothing in the unadulterated annal to positively associate the events recorded with Ceawlin at all.
The controversial aspect of annal 571 is the implication that there was still territory controlled by the British in that area at that time. In his ‘The English Settlements’ (1986, Chapter 6), J.N.L. Myres writes: “this annal seems to describe quite clearly a movement from Middle Anglia south-westwards through the vale of Aylesbury to the upper Thames. This is, in fact, exactly the movement which successive archaeologists from E.T. Leeds [d.1955] to the present day have proposed as the main source of the Saxon concentration in this area from the fifth century onwards. It would be therefore a natural conclusion from the archaeological evidence that this entry for 571 has simply been dated by the Chronicle's compilers a century, or a century and a half, too late. There is no reason to suppose that they had any firm basis for the date they attached to a saga story of this kind. If this emendation is accepted most of the difficulties felt by historians in its interpretation can disappear at once.”  Frank Stenton (‘Anglo-Saxon England’, Third Edition, 1971, Chapter 1) acknowledges the problem: “On geographical grounds, though by no means impossible, it is somewhat unlikely that at this late date a belt of unreduced British territory should have separated the Saxon settlements west of the middle Thames from those of Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire. It is not surprising that many scholars have been disposed to deny the historical character of this annal, or at least to regard it as a misplaced tradition of events which were already remote in the year 571.”  Professor Stenton, though, argues that “it is almost incredible that the battle of Bedcan ford ... should have been placed out of its proper sequence”, and proposes: “that the battle of 571 meant, not the conquest of lands which had always been British, but the recovery of territory won in the first energy of the Saxon invasion and lost after the defeat at Mons Badonicus. It can at least be said that on this view the two chief objections which have been brought against the annal disappear. It ceases to imply that the British occupation of the plain beneath the Chilterns was unbroken for a century and a half after the severance of Britain from the empire. And it no longer conflicts with the archaeological evidence for an early connection between the Saxons of Berkshire and the original settlers in the valleys of the Ouse and Cam.”
‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, s.a. 577: “In this year Cuthwine and Ceawlin fought against the Britons, and they slew 3 kings, Coinmail, and Condidan, and Farinmail, at the place which is called Deorham [Dyrham, Gloucestershire], and took 3 cities from them, Gloucester, and Cirencester, and Bath.”
In a genealogy that appears s.a. 688 (Manuscripts A, B and C), a Cuthwine is featured as the son of Ceawlin.
The significance of such a victory by the West Saxons would be that it effectively drives a wedge between the Britons of, what was to become, Wales and those in the south-western peninsula.
‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, s.a. 584: “In this year Ceawlin and Cutha fought against the Britons at the place which is named Fethanleag, and Cutha was there slain; and Ceawlin took many towns, and countless booty; and wrathful he thence returned to his own.+
As previously mentioned, Ceawlin had a brother called Cutha, and also a son called Cutha. In a genealogy s.a. 855 (Manuscripts A, B, C and D, but s.a. 856 in C), Ceawlin has a son called Cuthwine, who has a son called Cutha.
Fethanleag (which can be interpreted as ‘Battle wood’), on the strength of a 12th century reference to a wood named Fethelée, can probably be placed at Stoke Lyne, north-east Oxfordshire. Ceawlin is said to have returned home “wrathful”, which would seem to imply that his campaign was not actually a great success.
It seems that Ceawlin was overthrown in 591 – the ‘Chronicle’ simply records the beginning of the reign of Ceawlin's nephew, Ceol (the son of Cutha), in that year. Then, in 592: “there was a great slaughter in Britain at Woddesbeorge, and Ceawlin was driven out.”  Woddesbeorge (or Wodnesbeorge), i.e. ‘Woden's barrow’, is identified with a neolithic long barrow known as ‘Adam's Grave’, Wiltshire.  Finally, in 593: “Ceawlin, and Cwichelm, and Crida, perished”.*
591 ? – 597 ?  Ceol
Son of Cutha, Cutha of Cynric.
597 ? – 611  Ceolwulf
Son of Cutha, Cutha of Cynric.
The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ entry for 591 states: “Ceol reigned 5 years.”
This is the form the annal takes in Manuscripts B and C , and the form it originally took in Manuscript A. In Manuscript E, however, a scribal error has produced the name Ceolric, and his reign is given as 6 years. A later scribe, at Canterbury, changed Manuscript A to bring it into line with Manuscript E. In the ‘West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List’ Ceol is given a 5 or 6 year reign, depending on manuscript.*
Presumably Ceol was responsible for the overthrow of his uncle, Ceawlin. There is no record of his exploits.
The ‘Chronicle’ annal for 597 announces: “In this year Ceolwulf began to reign in Wessex, and he constantly fought and strove against either the Angle race [English], or against the Welsh [Britons], or against the Picts, or against the Scots [Irish].”
Manuscripts A, B and C follow the above notice with Ceolwulf's genealogy (tracing his line back to Woden) in which he appears as “the son of Cutha, Cutha of Cynric, Cynric of Cerdic”.  In the ‘West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List’ Ceolwulf is said to be Ceol's brother, but no connection is made between them and Cynric (though it does say: “their kin reaches to Cerdic.”)
And s.a. 607: “In this year Ceolwulf fought against the South Saxons.”
Ceolwulf would certainly seem to have been remembered as a considerable warrior, but, although clearly not impossible, it does seem unlikely that he had any dealings with the Picts or the Scots.  In 611, Ceolwulf's successor, Cynegils, is reported to have taken to the throne.
According to the ‘Chronicle’, Ceolwulf's reign lasted fourteen years, but in the ‘West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List’ all manuscripts credit him with a seventeen year reign. The numbers given by the ‘List’ would suggest that Ceolwulf ruled 594–611, and Ceol 588/9–594.
611 – 642  Cynegils
Son of Ceol or Ceolwulf.
The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ s.a. 611: “In this year Cynegils succeeded to the kingdom in Wessex, and held it 31 winters.”*
In 614: “Cynegils and Cwichelm fought at Beandune, and slew 2 thousand and 46 Welsh [Britons].”  Cwichelm was apparently Cynegils' son.*
The location of Beandune is not known with any degree of certainty. Although his is not the only theory, W.G. Hoskins, in his paper ‘The Westward Expansion of Wessex’ (1960), makes a persuasive argument for Bindon in east Devon. 
In what might have been a dispute over the control of Surrey, the three brothers who ruled the East Saxons marched, perhaps in 623, against the West Saxons. It is not recorded by the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, but it is mentioned by Bede. Something else not recorded by the ‘Chronicle’, but mentioned by Bede, is that the West Saxons were not as yet known as the West Saxons – they were actually called the Gewisse. At any rate: “marching out to battle against the nation of the Gewisse, they [the three East Saxon kings] were all slain with their army.” (‘HE’ II, 5).
It would appear that the early West Saxons (or, strictly speaking, the Gewisse) also employed a system of multiple kingship – the nominal king, e.g. Cynegils, sharing his rule with kinsmen, e.g. Cwichelm. Bede reports (‘HE’ II, 9) that, in 626, “the king of the West Saxons, whose name was Cwichelm” sent, for unspecified reasons, an assassin to kill Edwin of Northumbria (who, being Bretwalda, was also overlord of the West Saxons). The assassination attempt failed, but Edwin was wounded. Following his recovery, he: “raised an army and marched against the nation of the West Saxons; and engaging in war, either slew or received in surrender all those of whom he learned that they had conspired to murder him.”  Manuscript E of the ‘Chronicle’ notes, s.a. 626, that Edwin: “went against the West Saxons with an army, and there slew 5 kings, and many of the people.”  Edwin evidently failed to eliminate Cwichelm.
The ‘Chronicle’ reports that, in 628: “Cynegils and Cwichelm fought against Penda [king of Mercia] at Cirencester, and afterwards came to an agreement.”  It seems likely that Cynegils was obliged to cede Cirencester, and other territory along the Severn, to Penda.*  The threat posed by Penda, who killed Edwin in 633, probably prompted Cynegils to seek an alliance with Edwin's eventual successor, Oswald (who was Christian). Bede reports that: “the West Saxons, formerly called Gewisse, in the reign of Cynegils, received the faith of Christ, through the preaching of Bishop Birinus, who came into Britain by the counsel of Pope Honorius [625–638]; having promised in his presence that he would sow the seed of the holy faith in the farthest inland regions of the English, where no other teacher had been before him... but on his arrival in Britain, he first came to the nation of the Gewisse, and finding all in that place confirmed pagans, he thought it better to preach the Word there, than to proceed further to seek for other hearers of his preaching.  Now, as he was spreading the Gospel in the aforesaid province, it happened that when the king himself, having received instruction as a catechumen, was being baptized together with his people, Oswald, the most holy and victorious king of the Northumbrians, being present, received him as he came forth from baptism, and by an honourable alliance most acceptable to God, first adopted as his son, thus born again and dedicated to God, the man whose daughter he was about to receive in marriage. The two kings gave to the bishop the city called Dorcic [Dorchester-on-Thames], there to establish his episcopal see“ (‘HE’ III, 7).  Bede doesn't date this event, but the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ places it in 635: “Cynegils was baptized by Birinus the bishop at Dorchester”.  At some stage, Oswald was recognized as Bretwalda, but 635 was only a year after he had won his own kingdom,* and, though he probably witnessed Cynegils' grant to Birinus, it is highly unlikely that Oswald had the power to grant land in Cynegils' kingdom. Neither is there any suggestion that Oswald compelled Cynegils to adopt Christianity.
Under the year 636, the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ notes that: “Cwichelm was baptized at Dorchester, and in the same year died.”  And s.a. 639: “Birinus baptized Cuthred at Dorchester, and received him for son.”  Manuscripts B, C and F say “King Cuthred” (in fact, Manuscript F also titles Cwichelm ‘king’ in its version of annal 636). Cuthred was apparently Cwichelm's son.*
Cynegils died in 642, and was succeeded by his son, Cenwalh.
642 – 673  Cenwalh
Son of Cynegils.
The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ grants Cenwalh a reign of 31 years, but this isn't quite the case.
Bede: “When the king [Cynegils] died, his son Cenwalh succeeded him on the throne, but refused to receive the faith and the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom; and not long after he lost also the dominion of his earthly kingdom; for he put away the sister of Penda, king of the Mercians, whom he had married, and took another wife; whereupon a war ensuing, he was by him deprived of his kingdom, and withdrew to Anna, king of the East Angles, where he lived three years in banishment, and learned and received the true faith; for the king, with whom he lived in his banishment, was a good man, and happy in a good and saintly offspring” (‘HE’ III, 7).  The ‘Chronicle’ places Cenwalh's expulsion in 645, and his baptism in 646.*
 
645 – 648: No ruler is recorded for this period. Presumably the West Saxons were subject to Penda.
 
Cenwalh evidently regained the throne in 648. According to the anonymous, late-12th century, ‘Liber Eliensis’: “With King Anna's assistance, Cenwalh returned after a while to Wessex, and successfully wrested his father's kingdom from his enemies.” (I, 7).  During the same year, the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ notes that: “Cenwalh gave to Cuthred his kinsman 3 thousands of land by Ashdown [Berkshire Downs].+ Cuthred was the son of Cwichelm, Cwichelm of Cynegils.”*  It is possible that Cenwalh shared his rule with Cuthred.* Manuscript F's annal 648, though, reports that: “In this year was built the minster at Winchester, which King Cenwalh had caused to be made and hallowed in the name of St Peter.”
Bede (‘HE’ III, 7) records that: “when Cenwalh was restored to his kingdom, there came into that province out of Ireland, a certain bishop called Agilbert, a native of Gaul, but who had then lived a long time in Ireland, for the purpose of reading the Scriptures. He attached himself to the king, and voluntarily undertook the ministry of preaching.”  Birinus, bishop of the West Saxons, whose seat was at Dorchester-on-Thames, had died. Bede continues: “The king, observing his [Agilbert's] learning and industry, desired him to accept an episcopal see there and remain as the bishop of his people. Agilbert complied with the request. And presided over that nation as their bishop for many years.”  Agilbert became bishop of the West Saxons in 650.
The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ states that, in 652: “Cenwalh fought at Bradford by the Avon.”  And, in 658: “Cenwalh fought against the Welsh at Peonnum, and put them to flight as far as the Parret.”*  The ‘Chronicle’ fails to mention who Cenwalh's enemies were in the 652 battle. William of Malmesbury, however, writes that Cenwalh: “totally defeated in two actions the Britons, furious with the recollection of their ancient liberty, and in consequence perpetually meditating resistance; first at a place called Wirtgernesburg [meaning ‘Vortigern's fortress’], and then at a mountain named Pene” (‘GR’ I §19).  This seems to imply that Wirtgernesburg is synonymous with Bradford, and that the enemy was, therefore, the Britons. On the other hand, Æthelweard, in his rendition of the event, uses the phrase “civil war”, which presumably means that he believed the battle to be an internal dispute, or, at least, against other Anglo-Saxons.
The location of Peonnum is not known with any certainty. Penselwood, on the Somerset/Wiltshire border, has traditionally been favoured, however, W.G. Hoskins (‘The Westward Expansion of Wessex’, 1960) argues for Pinhoe to the north-east of Exeter.
In 655, Penda had been killed by, the Northumbrian king, Oswiu. For the three year period following Penda's death, Oswiu was at the height of his powers. He took direct control of Mercia, and was recognized as Bretwalda – overlord of the south-Humbrian English kingdoms. Cenwalh and his bishop, Agilbert, apparently enjoyed cordial relations with the Northumbrian court – particularly with Oswiu's son, Alhfrith, who ruled Deira on his father's behalf.
Alhfrith, like Cenwalh and Agilbert (and Birinus before him), was an adherent of the Catholic Church of Rome.* Eddius Stephanus, the author of a Latin ‘Life’ of St Wilfrid, says: “Alhfrith, who was reigning alongside his father Oswiu, got wind of Wilfrid's arrival [back in Britain from Gaul, c.658], and hearing that he was an adherent of the true Easter rule and an expert in the discipline of the Church of St Peter (to which the king himself was greatly devoted), on the advice of his faithful friend Cenwalh, king of the West Saxons, he ordered him to appear before him.” (Chapter 7).
Relations between Cenwalh and his bishop, however, deteriorated. Bede writes: “At length the king, who understood only the language of the Saxons, weary of his [Agilbert's] barbarous tongue, privately brought into the province another bishop, speaking his own language, by name Wine, who had also been ordained in Gaul; and dividing his province into two dioceses, appointed this last his episcopal see in the city of Venta, by the Saxons called Wintancæstir [Winchester]. Agilbert, being highly offended, that the king should do this without consulting him, returned into Gaul” (‘HE’ III, 7).  The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, s.a. 660: “In this year Bishop Agilbert withdrew from Cenwalh; and Wine held the bishopric for 3 years”.  It seems more likely, however, that Agilbert left Wessex in 663 and, in the first instance, travelled to Northumbria.
Bede says (‘HE’ III, 25) Agilbert was “a friend of King Alhfrith and of Abbot Wilfrid”, and that he had: “come into the province of the Northumbrians, and was staying some time among them”.  At the request of Alhfrith, the bishop ordained Wilfrid as Alhfrith's priest. Agilbert's presence seemingly acted as the catalyst for a synod, held at Whitby in 664, and presided over by Oswiu, to decide whether the ‘Celtic’ doctrine or the Catholic doctrine was “the truer tradition, that it might be followed by all in common”. Because of his inability to speak proper English, Agilbert nominated Wilfrid to argue the Catholic case, which he did successfully – the ‘Celtic’ clergy were obliged to either convert to Catholicism or to leave Northumbria. Alhfrith decided that Deira should have its own bishop, and, with his father's agreement, sent Wilfrid off to Gaul to be consecrated. Oswiu, however, despatched his own candidate, Chad, off to Canterbury to be consecrated. When he got to Canterbury, Chad found that Archbishop Deusdedit, who died in July 664 (probably of the devastating plague that swept through the British Isles in that year), had not been replaced. He traveled on to Wessex, where he was consecrated by Wine, who was the only Catholically ordained bishop in Britain at the time. Meanwhile, Agilbert withdrew to Gaul – he was one of a number of bishops who officiated at Wilfrid's consecration, which took place at Compiègne – and by 668 he had become bishop of Paris. Wilfrid returned to Northumbria in 666, only to find Chad occupying the see (York) that Alhfrith (now dead) had intended for him.*
In 658, the Mercians had rebelled against Oswiu, and installed Penda's son, Wulfhere, on the Mercian throne. The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ reports that, in 661: “Cenwalh fought at Easter at Posentesbyrig ....
It is generally assumed that this was a battle against the Britons, but the location of Posentesbyrig is again the subject of debate. The traditional identification of Pontesbury in Shropshire is rejected by W.G. Hoskins. He favours Posbury in mid-Devon, and he comments (§4): “it is noteworthy that the Chronicle does not claim it as a victory, and it may have resulted in an agreement between Britons and Saxons rather than a sweeping conquest”.
.... and Wulfhere, son of Penda, committed ravage as far as Ashdown. And Cuthred son of Cwichelm and King Cenberht died in one year.* And Wulfhere, son of Penda, committed ravage on Wight, and gave the people of Wight to Æthelwald, king of the South Saxons, because Wulfhere had received him at baptism. And Eoppa the mass-priest, by order of Wilfrid and King Wulfhere, first brought baptism to the people of Wight.”  Bede says (‘HE’ IV, 13) that when Æthelwalh (as he calls the South Saxon king) was baptized, Wulfhere, his godfather, actually gave him: “two provinces, to wit, the Isle of Wight [which still had its own king], and the province of the Meonware, in the country of the West Saxons.”*  This occurred, says Bede, “not long before” Bishop Wilfrid's arrival in Sussex. Wilfrid, having been exiled from Northumbria by Oswiu's successor, Ecgfrith, arrived in Sussex in 681. Bede's comment might suggest that this particular aspect of the above ‘Chronicle’ annal should be dated considerably later than 661 (though it would obviously have to be at some point before Wulfhere's death in 675). Presumably “Eoppa the mass-priest”, mentioned by the ‘Chronicle’, is the same priest that Bede calls Eappa, who worked in Sussex, but apparently not the Isle of Wight. According to Bede (‘HE’ IV, 16), Wilfrid entrusted the conversion of the inhabitants of the Isle of Wight to Beornwine, his nephew, and Hiddila, and that was after the deaths of both Wulfhere and Æthelwalh.
Bede: “Not many years after his [Agilbert's] departure out of Britain, Wine was also expelled from his bishopric by the same king, and took refuge with Wulfhere, king of the Mercians, of whom he purchased for money the see of the city of London, and remained bishop thereof till his death....
Neither Bede nor the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ date Wine's expulsion, but Florence of Worcester places it in 666, and this date does, indeed, make sense.
.... Thus the province of the West Saxons continued no small time without a bishop. During which time, the aforesaid king of that nation, sustaining repeatedly very great losses in his kingdom from his enemies, at length bethought himself, that as he had been before expelled from the throne for his unbelief, he had been restored when he acknowledged the faith of Christ; and he perceived that his kingdom, being deprived of a bishop, was justly deprived also of the Divine protection. He, therefore, sent messengers into Gaul to Agilbert, with humble apologies entreating him to return to the bishopric of his nation. But he excused himself, and protested that he could not go, because he was bound to the bishopric of his own city [Paris] and diocese; notwithstanding, in order to give him some help in answer to his earnest request, he sent thither in his stead the priest Leuthere, his nephew, to be ordained as his bishop, if he thought fit, saying that he thought him worthy of a bishopric. The king and the people received him honourably, and asked Theodore, then archbishop of Canterbury, to consecrate him as their bishop. He was accordingly consecrated in the same city, and many years diligently governed the whole bishopric of the Gewisse [i.e. of the West Saxons] by synodical authority.” (‘HE’ III, 7).  The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, s.a. 670: “Leuthere, the nephew of Bishop Agilbert, succeeded to the bishopric over the West Saxons, and held it 7 years”.  Whereas Birinus and Agilbert, the first two bishops of the West Saxons, were based at Dorchester-on-Thames, Wine and, now, Leuthere were based at Winchester. Mercian expansionism had placed Dorchester on the front-line. It was never the seat of a West Saxon bishop again, and in fact, about 679, it became, briefly, a Mercian see under Bishop Ætla.
Birinus' remains were moved from Dorchester to Winchester “when Hædde was bishop”, says Bede (‘HE’ III, 7).  The ‘Chronicle’ records that “Hædde succeeded to the bishopric” in 676, and in 703: “Bishop Hædde died; and he held the bishopric at Winchester 27 winters.”  According to Bede (‘HE’ V, 18), though, Hædde lived until 705.
In his ‘Historia Abbatum’ (History of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow), Bede says (Chapter 4) that, Northumbrian nobleman turned monk, Benedict Biscop, having returned to Britain after a journey to Rome: “determined to go to the court of Cenwalh, king of the West Saxons, whose friendship and services he had already more than once experienced. But Cenwalh died suddenly about this time, and he therefore directed his course to his native province.”  (Benedict then founded the monastery of Wearmouth, and a few years later, Jarrow.) The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ places Cenwalh's death s.a. 672, but the reign lengths attributed to Cenwalh and his successor indicate that it should be 673.
673 – 674  Seaxburh
Widow of Cenwalh.
674 – 676  Æscwine
Son of Cenfus.
676 – 685/6  Centwine
Son of Cynegils.
Bede notes (‘HE’ IV, 12) that, when Cenwalh died: “the sub-kings took upon them the government of the nation, and dividing it among themselves, held it for about 10 years”. The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ and the ‘West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List’,* however, present an orderly line of succession, starting with the one year rule of Cenwalh's widow: “Seaxburh his queen”. Neither source gives any detail about her or her brief reign.* “Then Æscwine succeeded to the kingdom”, states the ‘List’, “whose kin reaches to Cerdic, and held it 2 years.”  The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, s.a. 674: “In this year Æscwine succeeded to the kingdom in Wessex; he was son of Cenfus, Cenfus of Cenfrith, Cenfrith of Cuthgils, Cuthgils of Ceolwulf, Ceolwulf of Cynric, Cynric of Cerdic.”*
Though he isn't accorded the title Bretwalda, it seems that, by this time, Wulfhere, king of Mercia, was, indeed, overlord of the south-Humbrian English kingdoms. In 674 he “stirred up all the southern nations”, says Eddius Stephanus, which would of course include Wessex, with the intention of gaining the overlordship of Northumbria also. Wulfhere's forces, however, were roundly defeated: “Countless numbers were slaughtered, their king routed, and the Kingdom of Mercia itself put under tribute.”*  As a consequence, Mercia lost control of Lindsey (which covered much of modern-day Lincolnshire) to Northumbria, and Wulfhere's grip on the southern English kingdoms was loosened. The ‘Chronicle’ reports that in the following year, 675, Æscwine and Wulfhere, king of Mercia: “fought at Biedanheafde”.  The outcome is not mentioned, and the site of the battle is unidentified. Wulfhere died in the same year.*
The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, s.a. 676: “In this year Æscwine died ... and Centwine succeeded to the kingdom. And Centwine was son of Cynegils, Cynegils of Ceolwulf.”*  Centwine was, therefore, the brother of Cenwalh. The ‘West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List’ gives Centwine a seven or nine year rule depending on manuscript.
Florence of Worcester, in a collection of various lists and genealogies prefixed to his ‘Chronicon ex Chronicis’, presents a different line of succession: “his [Cenwalh's] wife Seaxburh reigned one year after him. Then Cenfus reigned two years, as King Alfred states, but, according to the English Chronicle, his son Æscwine reigned nearly three years. He was succeeded by Centwine, son of King Cynegils, who died in the 8th year of his reign.”  The work attributed to Alfred, cited by Florence, is no longer extant, and Florence is now the only source to aver that Cenfus reigned after Seaxburh.
Mercia was enjoying a revival in its fortunes under Wulfhere's successor, Æthelred. In 679 he defeated Ecgfrith, the Northumbrian king who had defeated Wulfhere in 674, and recovered Lindsey. Florence of Worcester, in the miscellany preceding his Chronicle proper, associates a reorganization of the bishoprics in Mercian territories with the recovery of Lindsey. The result seems to have been that Dorchester-on-Thames, erstwhile seat of the bishop of the West Saxons, became the seat of one of Mercia's bishops.* Æthelred also pushed his area of authority into, what is now, northern Wiltshire, at the expense of the West Saxons – he features in charters dated 681 (S71, S73), granting land to Aldhelm , abbot of Malmesbury – and, in 685, one Berhtwald granted land to Abbot Aldhelm (S1169) as Æthelred's sub-king. There is, though, no evidence to suggest that Æthelred was Centwine's overlord.
According to Eddius Stephanus, Bishop Wilfrid, who had been exiled by Ecgfrith, was (in 681) refused permission to stay in Wessex because Centwine was married to Ecgfrith's sister-in-law. Wilfrid moved on to Sussex.*
The annal for 682, in the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, is famously enigmatic: “In this year Centwine drove the Britons as far as the sea.”
In his paper ‘The Westward Expansion of Wessex’ (1960), W.G. Hoskins writes (§5): “The battle of 682 was fought in a place which will never be identified, but the phrase about driving the Britons as far as the sea becomes clear and unequivocal if we locate this unnamed battle somewhere west of the Taw and north of Dartmoor. As a result of a crushing defeat, the British were pushed westwards to the very coast of the Atlantic, into what is now north-east Cornwall... With the battle of 682 the West Saxons virtually completed their conquest of the eastern half of Dumnonia, the part that later became the county of Devon.* ... It is probable that north Devon remained loosely in British hands for another generation, for it was largely moorland and poorish land, with little that was worth fighting for except around the Taw-Torridge estuary.”  St Boniface, known as the ‘Apostle of Germany’, was a West Saxon whose given name was Wynfrith. He was born round about 675 (later tradition says in Crediton, Devon), and entered a monastery at Exeter, which was ruled by an English abbot, whilst still a boy.
The battle of 682 is the only reference the ‘Chronicle’ makes to Centwine's military prowess, but Aldhelm (abbot of Malmesbury, then, from 705 until his death in 709, bishop of Sherborne), a contemporary of Centwine, in a poem written for the dedication of a church built by a daughter of Centwine, says that he was victorious in three battles, although his opponents are not named. Aldhelm indicates that Centwine abdicated and entered a monastery. The ‘Chronicle’ annal for 685 announces that: “Cædwalla began to strive for the kingdom.”
685/6 – 688  Cædwalla
Son of Cenberht.
In 681, Wilfrid, the exiled erstwhile bishop of York, arrived in Sussex, and under the patronage of the South Saxon king, Æthelwalh, set about converting the, hitherto pagan, South Saxon populace to Christianity. Wilfrid's biographer, Eddius Stephanus, writes: “In those days when through our bishop's efforts the Church of God was wonderfully increasing day by day and his own fame was most gloriously shining forth, an exile of noble birth came to him from the desert places of Chiltern and the Weald. His name was Cædwalla. He earnestly sought our father's friendship, vowing that if Wilfrid would be his spiritual father and loyal helper he in turn would be an obedient son. This compact, which they called God to witness, was faithfully fulfilled.” (Chapter 42).  In fact, although he was seemingly drawn towards Christianity, Cædwalla had not yet been baptized. Bede (‘HE’ IV, 15) calls him “a young man of great vigour, of the royal race of the Gewisse”, and the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ provides his pedigree: “Cædwalla was son of Cenberht, Cenberht of Cadda, Cadda of Cutha, Cutha of Ceawlin, Ceawlin of Cynric, Cynric of Cerdic.”*  His father, Cenberht, had, until his death in the 660s, apparently ruled as a sub-king during Cenwalh's reign. Cædwalla (which is actually an Anglicized form of, the British name, Cadwallon) had evidently gathered a considerable following during his wanderings in the “desert places”.  At some time between 681 and 685: “Cædwalla ... an exile from his country, came with an army, slew Æthelwalh, and wasted that province [i.e. Sussex] with cruel slaughter and devastation; but he was soon expelled by Berhthun and Andhun, the king's ealdormen, who afterwards held the government of the province. The first of them was afterwards killed by the same Cædwalla, when he was king of the Gewisse, and the province was reduced to more grievous slavery.” (‘HE’ IV, 15).
How Cædwalla succeeded in establishing himself as king of the West Saxons (or, strictly speaking, the Gewisse) is not recorded. It is known that his predecessor, Centwine, abdicated to enter a monastery, and the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ comments, rather vaguely, that, in 685: “Cædwalla began to strive for the kingdom.”  Bede (‘HE’ IV, 12) maintains that: “the sub-kings were subdued and removed, and Cædwalla took upon himself the supreme authority.”  Eddius Stephanus, who makes no mention of the slaughter of Wilfrid's former patron, says that: “Our holy bishop helped and supported Cædwalla in all kinds of ways through his many difficulties until at last he was in a strong enough position to quell his enemies and establish his sway over the whole area of the West Saxons. Wilfrid was then converting the heathens of the South Saxons and glorifying the name of God by his labours. Cædwalla sent for him immediately, humbly summoning to his side the man he venerated as a father and loved above all others, and at once made him supreme counsellor over the whole kingdom” (Chapter 42).
In 686: “Cædwalla and Mul, his brother,+ ravaged Kent and Wight”, reports the ‘Chronicle’. Perhaps the second attack on Sussex mentioned by Bede, when Ealdorman Berhthun was killed and the South Saxons were brought under Cædwalla's control, also belongs to this time. The Jutish provinces of the Isle of Wight and of the Meonware (the Meon valley, in what is now Hampshire, opposite the Isle of Wight) had been gifted to Æthelwalh by Wulfhere, king of Mercia. Presumably Cædwalla had already wrested control of the Meonware from the South Saxons when he launched his assault on the Isle of Wight. Bede writes: “After Cædwalla had obtained possession of the kingdom of the Gewisse, he took also the Isle of Wight, which till then was entirely given over to idolatry, and by merciless slaughter endeavoured to destroy all the inhabitants thereof, and to place in their stead people from his own province; binding himself by a vow, though it is said that he was not yet regenerated in Christ, to give the fourth part of the land and of the spoil to the Lord, if he took the island. He fulfilled this vow by giving the same for the service of the Lord to Bishop Wilfrid, who happened at the time to have come thither from his own people. The measure of that island, according to the computation of the English, is of twelve hundred families, wherefore an estate of three hundred families was given to the Bishop. The part which he received, he committed to one of his clerks called Beornwine, who was his sister's son, assigning to him a priest, whose name was Hiddila, to administer the Word and laver of life to all that would be saved.  Here I think it ought not to be omitted that, as the first fruits of those of that island who believed and were saved, two royal boys, brothers to Arwald, king of the island, were crowned with the special grace of God. For when the enemy approached, they made their escape out of the island, and crossed over into the neighbouring province of the Jutes. Coming to the place called Ad Lapidem [perhaps Stone, Hampshire], they thought to be concealed from the victorious king, but they were betrayed and ordered to be killed. This being made known to a certain abbot and priest, whose name was Cyneberht, who had a monastery not far from there, at a place called Hreutford, that is, the Ford of Reeds [Redbridge], he came to the king, who then lay in concealment in those parts to be cured of the wounds which he had received whilst he was fighting in the Isle of Wight, and begged of him, that if the boys must needs be killed, he might be allowed first to instruct them in the mysteries of the Christian faith. The king consented, and the bishop having taught them the Word of truth, and cleansed them in the font of salvation, assured to them their entrance into the kingdom of Heaven. Then the executioner came, and they joyfully underwent the temporal death, through which they did not doubt they were to pass to the life of the soul, which is everlasting. Thus, after this manner, when all the provinces of Britain had received the faith of Christ, the Isle of Wight also received the same; yet because it was suffering under the affliction of foreign subjection, no man there received the office or see of a bishop, before Daniel, who is now bishop of the West Saxons.  The island is situated opposite the borders of the South Saxons and the Gewisse, being separated from it by a sea, three miles wide, which is called Solvente [the Solent]. In this sea, the two tides of the ocean, which break upon Britain all round its coasts from the boundless northern ocean, daily meet in conflict beyond the mouth of the river Homelea [Hamble], which runs into the aforesaid sea, through the lands of the Jutes, belonging to the country of the Gewisse; and after this struggle of the tides, they fall back and return into the ocean whence they come.” (‘HE’ IV, 16).  In 686/7, Wilfrid was recalled to Northumbria.*
Bede knows nothing of Cædwalla's brother, Mul, mentioned by the ‘Chronicle’. Following their invasion of Kent, Cædwalla apparently installed Mul as king there – a later Kentish charter (S10) refers to his reign. Cædwalla secured control of Surrey.* He granted land for the foundation of a minster at Farnham (S235), and he granted an estate in Battersea to the monastery of Barking (S1246) – which tends to suggest that he was overlord of Essex too. This is also indicated by a grant (S1171) made to Barking by a kinsman of, the co-king of the East Saxons, Sæbbi, which has West Saxon witnesses. A charter (S233), recording a grant of land at Hoo in Kent to an Abbot Ecgbald, made by Cædwalla, suggests that the West Saxons had East Saxon assistance in their takeover of Kent – the East Saxon king Sigehere, Sæbbi's co-ruler, is featured in the witness-list, and within the body of the document there is a reference to Sigehere's conquest of Kent. Perhaps Mul shared the rule of Kent with Sigehere.
In 687, says the ‘Chronicle’: “Mul was burnt in Kent, and 12 other men with him; and in that year Cædwalla again ravaged Kent.”  Perhaps he received further wounds, or maybe he was seriously ill – for whatever reason, Cædwalla seems to have realized his death was approaching. The next year, 688: “Cædwalla, king of the West Saxons, having most vigorously governed his nation for two years, quitted his crown for the sake of the Lord and an everlasting kingdom, and went to Rome, being desirous to obtain the peculiar honour of being cleansed in the baptismal font at the threshold of the blessed Apostles, for he had learned that in Baptism alone the entrance into the heavenly life is opened to mankind; and he hoped at the same time, that being made clean by Baptism, he should soon be freed from the bonds of the flesh and pass to the eternal joys of Heaven; both which things, by the help of the Lord, came to pass according as he had conceived in his mind. For coming to Rome, at the time that Sergius was pope, he was baptized on the Holy Saturday before Easter Day, in the year of our Lord 689, and being still in his white garments, he fell sick, and was set free from the bonds of the flesh on the 12th of the Kalends of May [i.e. 20th April], and obtained an entrance into the kingdom of the blessed in Heaven. At his baptism, the aforesaid pope had given him the name of Peter, to the end that he might be also united in name to the most blessed chief of the Apostles, to whose most holy body his pious love had led him from the utmost bounds of the earth. He was likewise buried in his church, and by the pope's command an epitaph was written on his tomb, wherein the memory of his devotion might be preserved for ever, and the readers or hearers thereof might be stirred up to give themselves to religion by the example of what he had done.” (‘HE’ V, 7).  Bede proceeds to quote the epitaph which is, in effect, a rendition in verse of what Bede has just said in prose. The inscription concluded (Cædwalla's tombstone is no longer in existence): “Here was buried Cædwalla, called also Peter, king of the Saxons, on the 12th of the Kalends of May, in the 2nd indiction, aged about 30 years, in the reign of our most pious lord, the Emperor Justinian, in the 4th year of his consulship, in the 2nd year of the pontificate of our Apostolic lord, Pope Sergius.”*
688 – 726  Ine
Son of Cenred.
“When Cædwalla went to Rome, Ine succeeded to the kingdom, being of the blood royal”, states Bede (‘HE’ V, 7).  The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, s.a. 688, provides a genealogy: “Now Ine was son of Cenred, Cenred of Ceolwald, Ceolwald was brother of Cynegils; and they were the sons of Cuthwine, son of Ceawlin, Ceawlin of Cynric, Cynric of Cerdic.”*
Ine's father, Cenred, was alive when Ine succeeded to the throne. Ine is the first West Saxon king known to have issued a code of laws – the earliest surviving specimen of Anglo-Saxon legislation outside of Kent – and, in the preamble, “Cenred, my father” is the first of those he credits with assisting in its compilation. Cenred appears to have ruled as a sub-king under his son – Æthelweard (III, 3) calls him “King Cenred”, and, in a South Saxon charter of 692 (S45) he consents, with the title rex Westsaxonum, to a land-grant being made by a South Saxon king (rex Sussaxonum) named Nunna (also called Nothhelm). Ine had inherited control of Sussex from Cædwalla, indeed, Bede says (‘HE’ IV, 15) that Ine “oppressed” the South Saxons, in the same harsh way as his predecessor “for many years”.  The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ reports that, in 710: “Ine and Nunna his kinsman fought against Geraint, king of the Welsh [i.e. the Britons of Dumnonia]”.  The ‘Chronicle’ doesn't mention the outcome, but Florence of Worcester maintains that Ine and Nunna: “defeated him [Geraint] and put him to flight.”
Cædwalla's brother, Mul, who was ruling in Kent, had been killed in 687. Cædwalla had subsequently “ravaged Kent”, but West Saxon authority there evidently did not outlast his abdication the next year. Influence in Essex was also lost, and it may be that Mercian/East Saxon collusion had broken the West Saxon hold on Kent.* However, the ‘Chronicle’ records that, in 694: “the Kentish people” paid compensation to Ine: “because they had formerly burned Mul.”*  Ine did, apparently, retain control of Surrey – Eorcenwald, bishop of London (whose diocese included Surrey, and whose death was probably in 693) is referred to as “my bishop” by Ine (as is Hædde, bishop of the West Saxons) in the acknowledgements that precede his law-code. But in 693 Æthelred, king of the Mercians, who had authority in the western part of East Saxon territory (i.e. London and the Middle Saxons) was in a position to confirm a grant of land in Battersea, originally made by Cædwalla, to Barking (S1248). In 704, Æthelred abdicated to become a monk. His successor, Cenred, inherited the overlordship of London and the Middle Saxons. A letter from Wealdhere, bishop of London, to Berhtwald, archbishop of Canterbury, written in 704 or 5, tells of disputes between Ine and “the rulers of our country”, a phrase which could include Cenred as well the East Saxon kings (there was shared rule at the time). It seems possible, perhaps likely, that the cause of the disputes was the control of Surrey. A peace treaty had been arranged – the East Saxons agreed not to shelter West Saxon exiles, Ine agreed not to carry out his threats – and Wealdhere was keen to attend a council at Brentford to settle the matter. Wealdhere apparently had to seek the archbishop's leave to attend because the West Saxons were being blackballed for not complying with an edict concerning “the ordination of bishops”, which is generally seen as meaning that the archbishop's instruction to divide up the, unwieldy, West Saxon diocese had not been carried out. At any rate, when Hædde, bishop of the West Saxons, died, in 705, his diocese was divided – Daniel was appointed to Winchester (Hædde's erstwhile see), and Aldhelm, abbot of Malmesbury, was appointed to the new see of Sherborne. Subsequently, Surrey was transferred from the bishop of London's jurisdiction to the bishop of Winchester's.*
Bede writes: “Hædde, bishop of the West Saxons, departed to the heavenly life; for he was a good man and a just, and his life and doctrine as a bishop were guided rather by his innate love of virtue, than by what he had gained from books... Upon his death, the bishopric of that province was divided into two dioceses. One of them was given to Daniel, which he governs to this day; the other to Aldhelm, wherein he presided most vigorously 4 years; both of them were fully instructed, as well in matters touching the Church as in the knowledge of the Scriptures. Aldhelm, when he was as yet only a priest and abbot of the monastery which is called the city of Maildufus [i.e. Malmesbury], by order of a synod of his own nation, wrote a notable book against the error of the Britons, in not celebrating Easter at the due time, and in doing divers other things contrary to the purity of doctrine and the peace of the church; and through the reading of this book many of the Britons, who were subject to the West Saxons, were led by him to adopt the Catholic celebration of our Lord's Paschal Feast.* He likewise wrote a famous book on Virginity, which, after the example of Sedulius, he composed in twofold form, in hexameters and in prose. He wrote some other books, being a man most instructed in all respects, for he had a polished style, and was, as I have said, of marvellous learning both in liberal and ecclesiastical studies. On his death, Forthhere was made bishop in his stead, and is living at this time, being likewise a man very learned in the Holy Scriptures. Whilst they administered the bishopric [presumably Daniel and Aldhelm are meant here], it was determined by a synodal decree, that the province of the South Saxons, which till that time belonged to the diocese of the city of Winchester, where Daniel then presided, should itself have an episcopal see, and a bishop of its own. Eadberht, at that time abbot of the monastery of Bishop Wilfrid, of blessed memory, called Selaeseu [Selsey], was consecrated their first bishop. On his death, Eolla succeeded to the office of bishop. He also died some years ago, and the bishopric has been vacant to this day.” (‘HE’ V, 18).
St Boniface, the ‘Apostle of Germany’, was a West Saxon, originally called Wynfrith. According to his biographer, Willibald, who wrote soon after the saint's death, Boniface got his break when he was assigned to act as Ine's envoy: “there arose a sudden crisis during the reign of Ine, king of the West Saxons, occasioned by the outbreak of a rebellion. On the advice of the king the heads of the churches immediately summoned a council of the servants of God, and as soon as they were all assembled a discussion, satisfactory from every point of view, took place among the priests. They adopted the prudent measure of sending trustworthy legates to Berhtwald, the archbishop of Canterbury, fearing that if they made any decision without the advice of the archbishop they would be accused of presumption and temerity. At the conclusion of the discussion, when the entire gathering had reached an agreement, the king addressed all the servants of Christ, asking them whom they would choose to deliver their message. Without hesitation Wynberht, the senior abbot present, who ruled over the monastery of Nursling; Wintra, the abbot of Tisbury; Beorwald, the abbot of Glastonbury, and many others who professed the monastic life summoned the saint and led him into the presence of the king. The king entrusted the message and the principal responsibilities of the embassy to him and, after giving him companions, sent him on his way in peace. In accordance with the commands of his superiors he set out with the message and, after a prosperous journey, came to Kent, where he skilfully made known to the archbishop all the matters, from first to last, that the king had told him. On receiving an immediate reply, he returned home after a few days and delivered the archbishop's answer to the king as he sat with the servants of God, bringing great joy to them all. Thus by the wonderful dispensation of God his good name was made known on all sides, and his reputation was high both among the lay nobility and the clergy. From that moment his influence increased by leaps and bounds, so that he became a regular member of their synodal assemblies.” (Chapter 4).  These events would appear to have happened in the vicinity of 705–12. (Eventually, in 754, having resigned the Archdiocese of Mainz, Boniface was killed by pagans whilst on missionary work in Frisia.)
In 715 Wessex would appear to have been invaded by the Mercians since the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ states: “Ine and Ceolred fought at Woddesbeorge.”  Woddesbeorge (or Wodnesbeorge), i.e. ‘Woden's barrow’, is identified with a neolithic long barrow known as ‘Adam's Grave’, Wiltshire. Who won the battle is, though, not recorded.*
Under the year 718, the ‘Chronicle’ announces the death of Ine's brother, Ingeld. The annal goes on to say that they had two sisters: Cwenburh and Cuthburh. Cuthburh had been married to Aldfrith, king of Northumbria, but they parted (“for the love of God”, says Florence of Worcester), and she became founding abbess of Wimborne, Dorset.*
The ‘Annales Cambriae’ indicate it was in 722 that there occurred: “the battle of Hehil among the Cornish ... and the Britons were the victors”.  Hehil has not been convincingly identified, but presumably it was Ine's forces that were defeated.
During the late years of his reign, Ine's authority appears to have been challenged by rival princes. The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ records that, in 721: “Ine slew Cynewulf the ætheling.+”  The entry for 722 says: “In this year Queen Æthelburh destroyed Taunton, which Ine had previously built; And Ealdberht the exile withdrew into Surrey and Sussex; and Ine fought against the South Saxons.+”  Then, for 725: “Ine fought against the South-Saxons, and there slew Ealdberht the ætheling, whom he had before driven out.+
Frank Stenton (‘Anglo-Saxon England’, Third Edition, 1971, Chapter 2) calls the above comment about Æthelburh's destruction of Taunton: “remarkable but by no means luminous”, and warns: “There is a real danger of treating as fact the fiction with which medieval writers embroidered statements like these, and thus giving to Ine's history a colour and substance for which there is no ancient authority.”  Medieval writer Henry of Huntingdon: “Ine, in the 36th year of his reign,* marched his army into Sussex, and fought against the South Saxons with vigour and success. In this battle he slew Ealdberht, whom he had before compelled to flee from a castle called Taunton, which Ine had built. This same Ealdberht, the Ætheling, who was the king's enemy, had got possession of the castle, but Ine's Queen Æthelburh stormed and razed it to the ground, compelling Ealdberht to escape into Surrey.” (‘HA’ IV, 9).
The following year, 726, Ine abdicated. Bede writes: “When Cædwalla went to Rome, Ine succeeded to the kingdom, being of the blood royal; and having reigned 37 years over that nation, he in like manner left his kingdom and committed it to younger men, and went away to the threshold of the blessed Apostles, at the time when Gregory was pope [Gregory II, 715–731], being desirous to spend some part of his pilgrimage upon earth in the neighbourhood of the holy places, that he might obtain to be more readily received into the fellowship of the saints in heaven. This same thing, about that time, was wont to be done most zealously by many of the English nation, nobles and commons, laity and clergy, men and women.” (‘HE’ V, 7).
William of Malmesbury: “after his triumphal spoils in war, after many successive degrees in virtue, he [Ine] aspired to the highest perfection, and went to Rome ... There, not to make the glory of his conversion public, he was shorn in secret, and, clad in homely garb, that he might be acceptable in the sight of God alone, grew old in privacy. Nor did his queen, the author of this noble deed, desert him, but as she had before incited him to undertake it, so, afterwards, she made it her constant care to soothe his sorrows by her conversation, to stimulate him when wavering by her example; in short, to omit nothing that could be conducive to his salvation. Thus united in mutual affection, in due time they trod the common path of all mankind. This was attended, as we have heard, with singular miracles, such as God often deigns to bestow on the virtues of happy couples.” (‘GR’ I §37).
Roger of Wendover (s.a. 727): “On his arrival [in Rome], with the consent and approbation of Pope Gregory, he [Ine] built a house in the city, which he called ‘the English School’ [Schola Anglorum]; to the end that, when the kings of England and the royal family, with the bishops, presbyters, and clergy, came hither to be instructed in the catholic faith and doctrine, nothing heterodox, or contrary to catholic unity, might be taught in the English church, and that so they might return home confirmed in the faith... He built, moreover, nigh to the aforesaid house, a church in honour of the blessed virgin Mary, wherein the divine mysteries might be celebrated for the English who came to Rome, and in which they might be buried, if any of them chanced to die at Rome. And to give strength and perpetuity to all this, it was ordered by a general decree, throughout the entire kingdom of the West Saxons, in which the aforesaid Ine reigned, that every year, one penny, which in English is called ‘Romescot’, should be sent from every family for the blessed Peter and the Roman church, that the English who sojourned there might from thence be furnished with necessary subsistence.”*
The first Anglo-Saxon coins produced in silver (superseding earlier gold issues) are known as ‘sceattas’.* The above, ‘secondary phase’ (c.710–c.760) coin of the sceatta type (12 mm diameter, 0.97 g), features a mustachioed head on the obverse, whilst the reverse shows a walking bird. As usual for sceattas, there is no inscription to indicate its provenance. Findspots of this particular style of coin, however, are typically in and around Hamwic, which is almost certainly where they were minted. According to Helena Hamerow: “the highly restricted distribution of so-called ‘H’ sceattas [as above] which were minted at Hamwic suggests that it may have been a coin-using enclave within a non-coin-using hinterland”.
Helena Hamerow, in ‘British Archaeology’ (Issue 66, August 2002), writes: “For much of the 20th century, historians and archaeologists believed that the 7th and 8th centuries AD were economically disastrous for Britain and North-West Europe... Anglo-Saxon Southampton – or Hamwic as it was then known – has, more than any other site, helped to reshape our thinking about the fate of long-distance trade and the origins of towns in England during this critical period. It has long been known from written sources that Hamwic was a port and market during the 8th and early 9th centuries. Indeed, we now know that, far from being a ‘dark age’, this period saw an economic resurgence in Anglo-Saxon England... Hamwic (also known as Hamtun) must have possessed considerable administrative importance, as by the middle of the 8th century it had given its name to the shire – Hamtunscire, that is, Hampshire... Because occupation had shifted by the 10th century to the site of the medieval town of Southampton, mid-Saxon Hamwic, which lay on the west bank of the River Itchen, has remained relatively well preserved... In 1978, the site at Six Dials in the northern part of the settlement provided ... the most informative window yet opened onto Hamwic. Over 60 mid-Saxon buildings were uncovered as well as large numbers of pits containing datable assemblages of finds and animal bones. Six Dials showed conclusively that Hamwic possessed, from the outset, a planned system of well-maintained, gravelled streets as well as defined plots and properties. This was crucial evidence for it implied that the settlement had been created by a centralized authority – presumably the king of Wessex, maybe Ine.  As a result of Six Dials and over 50 other excavations within Hamwic, we now know that the wic was founded in about 700, and possibly somewhat earlier, it occupied at least 100 acres (42 ha), and is likely to have had a population of 2,000–3,000. This new type of settlement – so different in size, appearance and function from the farms and monasteries of the period – must have been perceived by contemporaries as a radical innovation, although whether its founder thought he was establishing a ‘town’ remains a moot point... The evidence which Hamwic yielded for long-distance and regional trade also set it apart. Its wide-ranging trade contacts with the Continent as well as other parts of England are reflected by the provenance of the many coins found there, and by imported goods. Most prominent among these are quernstones from the Rhineland, Frankish glass and pottery. Some 18 per cent of the excavated pottery had been imported from abroad, especially from northern France, the Rhineland and the Low Countries, although some was almost certainly brought by the traders for their own use... it is difficult to define Hamwic's trade connections with any precision, particularly as most of the exports known from written sources to have left England in this period – such as hunting dogs, wool, cloth, hides and slaves – have left no archaeological trace.  Many different crafts were practiced at Hamwic, including metalworking, textile production, bone and antler working, and glass working. We can perhaps assume that much of this production served the needs of the local community. Some items, however, must have been marketed more widely. Hamwic was certainly well connected by road and river to its hinterland and, of course, to Winchester... The archaeology indicates that by the mid-9th century, like other English wics, Hamwic was in severe decline, almost certainly caused by the disruptive impact of Viking raiding on long-distance trade and the vulnerability of an undefended riverside site. By the 10th century, Hamwic had been largely abandoned in favour of a site a short distance to the south-west, where a defended settlement was established... Work at Hamwic continues. The most recent excavations on the site of Southampton Football Club's new stadium have uncovered richly-furnished 7th century burials containing weaponry and gold jewellery (BA August 2000) possibly associated with a royal ‘vill’ or settlement at the north-eastern edge of the wic. These suggest that the date of the founding of Hamwic may need to be pushed back to before 700, thus corresponding more closely with the founding of the wics at London [Lundenwic] and Ipswich [Gypeswic].”
Wessex continued    
Translations:
‘Liber Eliensis’ by Janet Fairweather
Asser ‘Vita Alfredi’ by Albert S. Cook
Bede ‘Historia Abbatum’ by J.A. Giles
‘Annales Cambriae’ by James Ingram
Willibald ‘Vita Bonifatii’ by C.H. Talbot
Eddius Stephanus ‘Vita Sancti Wilfridi’ by J.F. Webb
Roger of Wendover ‘Flores Historiarum’ by J.A. Giles
‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ by Benjamin Thorpe (adapted)
Bede ‘Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum’ by A.M. Sellar
Henry of Huntingdon ‘Historia Anglorum’ by Thomas Forester
Florence of Worcester ‘Chronicon ex Chronicis’ by Thomas Forester
William of Malmesbury ‘Gesta Regum Anglorum’ by John Sharpe, revised by Joseph Stevenson
In the interests of clarity, the spelling of personal names, most of which are found in several forms, has been standardized. Those names which have survived into modern times are given their familiar spelling.
This group of annals appears, with small differences, in all manuscripts of the ‘Chronicle’ (except Manuscript D, which has no entries for the period 190–692).
The ‘Chronicle’ calls them “ealdormen”, but at this stage the word can hardly have the later connotation of territorial jurisdiction.
and forthwith seized the land,
Manuscript E adds the highlighted phrase at this point.
In Manuscript F the annal ends here.
Manuscript A originally had: +  A later scribe altered it to give the same reading as the other manuscripts. In its original phraseology, Manuscript A presents Stuf and Wihtgar as the Saxons who arrived with three ships in 514, whereas, in the phraseology of the other manuscripts, it is possible for that not to be the case.
Whilst Manuscripts B and C have “a few” (fea) men killed at Wihtgarabyrg, Manuscript E has “many” (feala) men. Manuscript A originally had “a few”, but a later scribe has changed it to “many”. (The killings at Wihtgarabyrg are not mentioned by Manuscript F.)
of the West Saxons
The highlighted phrase is found at this point in Manuscript E. It was not in Manuscript A originally, but has been inserted by a later scribe.
; and the royal offspring of the West Saxons reigned from that day onwards
The highlighted section is found at this point in Manuscript E. It was not in Manuscript A originally, but has been added by a later scribe.
The scribe of Manuscript E has, in error (presumably misreading from the previous annal), written ‘ford’, not ‘leaga’. (Cerdicesleaga, incidentally, means ‘Cerdic's wood’.) Manuscript F has no entry for the year 527.
Bede (‘HE’ III, 7): “the West Saxons, formerly called Gewisse”.  The derivation of the name is uncertain, and it is never used by the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ (which has its origins in the Wessex of King Alfred). In genealogies appearing s.a. 552, 597 and 855/6, though, the ‘Chronicle’ does present a Gewis as the great-grandfather of Cerdic, the purported founder of Wessex. Asser begins his biography of King Alfred with a genealogy. He misses out a generation, showing Gewis as the grandfather of Cerdic, but he notes: “Gewis, from whom the Welsh name all that people Gewisse”.  It is likely that, in fact, it was the other way around – Gewis was a mythical character invented to justify the ancient tribal name, and enable the claimed descent of West Saxon kings to be traced to the tribe's father-figure (and thence, via Woden, to Adam).
Bede mentions the Gewisse in five chapters of his ‘Ecclesiastical History’. An English adaptation of the work was produced around the time of King Alfred's reign, but, interestingly, it does not include any references to the Gewisse.
26 (xxvi) in Manuscripts A and E, but 27 (xxvii) in B, C and F.
For instance, in the entries for 855 in Manuscripts B, C (s.a. 856) and D. (Actually, it is a peculiarity of Manuscript B that after 652 the year-number is generally omitted. Such is the case here.)
Barbara Yorke notes: “features which are likely to have derived from an oral story-telling tradition are people invented from existing place-names. These include the mythical British king Natanleod who was supposedly defeated at Natanleaga (Netley: ‘the wet wood’), Port who landed in 501 at Portsmouth (from Latin portus) and Wihtgar whose name derives ultimately from the Latin name of the Isle of Wight which he allegedly ruled.”  (‘Wessex in the Early Middle Ages’, 1995.)
Frank Stenton, though, is not inclined to be quite so dogmatic. He writes about the ‘Chronicle’ entry for 501: “This annal has often been dismissed as a fabrication based on the place-name Portsmouth. It is a plausible view, but it does not explain the appearance of the names Bieda and Mægla, it takes no account of the other evidence for Port as an Old English personal name, and it offers no reason for the invention of the annal.”  (‘Anglo-Saxon England’, Third Edition, 1971, Chapter 1 footnote.)
Wihtgarabyrg was probably ‘stronghold of the Wight-dwellers’, not ‘Wihtgar's stronghold’. It does not appear in history again, and its location is not known (though Carisbrooke is popularly suggested).
The word used is nefa, which can mean grandson or nephew. Asser says (§2) that Stuf and Wihtgar received the Isle of Wight “from their uncle, King Cerdic, and his son Cynric their cousin”.
Proposed by David Dumville, ‘The West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List and the Chronology of Early Wessex’, published in ‘Peritia’ Vol. 4 (1985).
The reign of Cynric's successor, Ceawlin, presents something of a problem. It is given as seven or seventeen years in different manuscripts of the ‘List’ (in the ‘Chronicle’ his reign seems to last thirty-one years). In order to arrive at 538 for the start of Cerdic's reign it is necessary to accept that Ceawlin ruled for seven years.
A difference of nineteen years may be significant. Kenneth Harrison: “How, then. did this duplication arise? The Dionysiac tables [see: Anno Domini] used in England from about 600 onwards comprised a 95-year term, in five separate cycles of nineteen years, each cycle being written down as a unit ... When forming a chronicle it was not necessary, or even desirable, to work out a complete Easter table. The simplest approach, when dealing with dates as far away as 450 or earlier, would be to extrapolate backwards, arranging the Anni Domini in separate units of nineteen years to avoid confusion – a hope, in the event, not to be realised altogether. It will be observed that since a 19-year cycle runs from 494 to 512, and the next from 513 to 531 (both inclusive), the paired dates 495=514, 500=519 and 508=527 fall as a block into one cycle or the other. This arrangement is surely beyond coincidence. What has happened, it would seem, is that a version of virtually the same story, told in different words, has been transferred to the wrong Dionysiac cycle.”  (‘The Framework of Anglo-Saxon History to A.D.900’, 1976, Chapter 7.)
Frank Stenton: “The name Cerdic, which is both rare and obscure, has sometimes been regarded as a mere figment derived from the place-names Cerdices ora, Cerdices ford, and Cerdices leaga, which occur in the traditions of the West Saxon invasion. This theory involves the improbable assumption that three separate place-names, each containing the same anomalous personal name, existed before these traditions were written down, in the small area to which they relate. But the most serious objection to any view which would regard Cerdic as a fiction founded on place-names is his position in the genealogy of the West Saxon kings. He was undoubtedly regarded as the founder of the West Saxon dynasty in an age when a claim to rule in Wessex rested on descent from the original head of the West Saxon royal house. The assumption that the poets who first recited the West Saxon royal genealogy evolved an ancestor for their patrons out of three obscure place-names conflicts with all that is known of the attitude of a Germanic aristocracy towards matters of descent.”  (‘Anglo-Saxon England’, Third Edition, 1971, Chapter 1.)
The identification of Biedcanforda (Manuscripts B, C and E) or Bedcanforda (Manuscript A) with Bedford is no longer considered acceptable.
Working backwards from the relative safety of the start of Cynegils reign, 611: Ceolwulf 17 years, Ceol 5 or 6, Ceawlin 7 or 17.
“The Middle Angles, that is, the Angles of the Midland country”, says Bede (‘HE’ III, 21). See: Tribal Hidage.
Mons Badonicus, i.e. Mount Badon. See: Dark Ages.
The highlighted phrase is not in Manuscript E.
Cwichelm and Crida are not otherwise known.
In Manuscripts B and C, a short genealogy follows, tracing Cynegils' line back to his great-grandfather, Cynric. In this, Cynegils' father is given as Ceola. It is possible that Ceola is a contracted form of Ceolwulf. In Manuscript A, the genealogy has been erased, but restoring it from the text of Manuscript G gives Ceol, the name of Ceolwulf's brother, as Cynegils' father. Florence of Worcester also has Ceol. Further, the ‘West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List’ refers to Cynegils as “Ceolwulf's brother's son”. However, a genealogy found s.a. 676 in Manuscripts A, B and C, states that Cynegils was the son of Ceolwulf.
45 (xlv), in Manuscripts B and C. 65 (lxv), in Manuscript E. In Manuscript A, 65 (lxv) has been written over an erasure – presumably it was originally 46 (xlvi), as it appears in the text of Manuscript G. Florence of Worcester has “forty-six”.
The name Surrey (Sudergeona) means ‘southern district’, so presumably it originated as an adjunct of the Middle Saxons, to its north, across the Thames. It seems likely that by about 600 the East Saxons had absorbed the Middle Saxons. Then as now, Surrey was a desirable piece of real estate, and its ownership was disputed. At different times in the 7th century it is found under Kentish, Mercian and West Saxon control.
As already noted, the ‘Chronicle’ indicates that Cynegils and Cwichelm were father and son. William of Malmesbury, however, presents them as brothers and co-rulers. He conjures up (from his imagination of course) a charming picture of fraternal harmony: “both active, both contending with each other only in mutual offices of kindness, insomuch that, to their contemporaries, they were a miracle of concord very unusual amongst princes, and to posterity an example worthy of imitation. It is difficult to say whether their courage or their moderation exceeded, in the numberless contests in which they engaged both against the Britons, and against Penda, king of the Mercians, a man ... wonderfully expert in the subtleties of war, and who, overpassing the limits of his own territory, in an attempt to add Cirencester to his possessions, being unable to withstand the power of these united kings, escaped with a few followers.” (‘GR’ I §18).  In fact, it would appear that Penda was successful in gaining control of Cirencester and other territory along the Severn that the West Saxons had, not very long before (in 577, according to the ‘Chronicle’), captured from the British. It is possible that the Mercian sub-kingdom of the Hwicce (roughly, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and western Warwickshire) was founded by Penda following this acquisition. Frank Stenton writes: “there is every reason to believe that it was he [Penda] who first brought the Angles and Saxons of the middle and lower Severn under a single lordship, and that the under-kingdom of the Hwicce which is known to have existed within a generation of his death was in fact his creation.” (‘Anglo-Saxon England’, Third Edition, 1971, Chapter 2).
In ‘The Earliest English Kings’ (Second Edition, 2000, Chapter 3), D.P. Kirby opines: “Since Oswald was still securing himself as king over the northern Angles in the mid-630s, his presence in the Thames valley before the late 630s seems unlikely; the baptism of Cynegils, therefore, should probably be dated to the late 630s, possibly c.640.”
‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ (s.a. 648 Manuscript A, s.a. 647 Manuscripts B and C): “Cuthred was son of Cwichelm, Cwichelm of Cynegils”.
Manuscript A places Cynegils' death (actually, it is the succession of Cenwalh that is recorded) in 643, Manuscript F in 642, and the other manuscripts in 641. All manuscripts, except Manuscript A, record the death of Oswald (he was killed by Penda), in the same annal. Manuscript A places Oswald's death in 642, but would appear to have advanced a year in error to place the succession of Cenwalh. Oswald's death is dated to 5th August 642 by Bede. Further, all manuscripts agreed, s.a. 611, that Cynegils ruled for 31 years, which also points to his reign ending in 642.
(Manuscript D has no entries for the period 190–692. Manuscript F has no annal 611.)
31 (xxxi) in Manuscripts A, B and C (and in the West Saxon king-list and genealogy of King Alfred that serves as a preface to Manuscript A), but Manuscript E, clearly in error, has 21 (xxi).
Manuscripts B, C and E are one year behind on these dates.
This annal is dated 648 in Manuscripts A and E, but in Manuscripts B and C, one year behind, 647. In Manuscript E, the genealogy is not present and Cuthred is called ‘Eadred’.
Manuscripts B and C have “3,000 hides”.
Manuscripts B, C and F grant a Cuthred the title ‘king’, on the occasion of his baptism, in 639.
650 in Manuscripts A and F of the ‘Chronicle’, 649 in Manuscripts B, C and E. Whilst Manuscripts A, B, C and E report only that Agilbert succeeded Birinus in that year, Manuscript F states explicitly that Birinus had died in the same year.
Annal 652 is in Manuscripts A, B and C only. Annal 658 is in A, B, C and E. There are no dating variations between the different manuscripts.
“The Welsh” in question are the British inhabitants of south-western England, not of Wales.
The native Churches of Britain and Ireland had operated independently for many years. There were doctrinal differences – the main one concerning the proper way to calculate Easter – between these indigenous Churches, frequently lumped together under the umbrella-term ‘Celtic Church’, and the Catholic Church of Rome, the representatives of which, Pope Gregory the Great's mission, had landed in Kent in 597 (see: King Æthelberht). The ‘Celtic’ and Catholic doctrines coexisted in the Northumbrian court. King Oswiu followed the (‘Celtic’) teachings of the monks of Lindisfarne (who had arrived from Iona by the invitation of Oswiu's predecessor, and brother, Oswald), whilst his wife, Eanflæd (who was the granddaughter of King Æthelberht of Kent), followed the teachings of the Church of Rome: “Thus it is said to have sometimes happened in those times that Easter was twice celebrated in one year; and that when the king, having ended his fast, was keeping Easter, the queen and her followers were still fasting, and celebrating Palm Sunday.” (‘HE’ III, 25).
This wording in Manuscript A. Manuscripts B, C and E simply say that Wulfhere “committed ravage on Ashdown” – Ashdown being the whole Berkshire Downs.
See: ‘The Life and Death of Bishop Wilfrid’.
The Meonware occupied the Meon valley, in what is now Hampshire, opposite the Isle of Wight. According to Bede: “From the Jutes are descended the people of Kent, and of the Isle of Wight, including those in the province of the West Saxons who are to this day called Jutes, seated opposite to the Isle of Wight.” (‘HE’ I, 15).
Evidently Cenberht ruled as a sub-king under Cenwalh, as, indeed, Cuthred seems to have done. A Cenberht, presumably the same, appears as Cædwalla's father, in the latter's genealogy, s.a. 685 (Manuscripts A, B and C). Cenwalh was Cuthred's uncle, and their line of descent, according to the ‘Chronicle’, is from Cynric (purported founder of the West Saxon kingdom) via his son Cutha. Cædwalla and Cenberht's line is from Cynric via his son Ceawlin.
xxvii (27) – except Manuscripts B and C, which, clearly in error, have xxxvii (37).
Genealogy not in Manuscripts E and F. (Manuscript D has no entries for the period 190–692.)
Genealogy not in Manuscripts E and F. Centwine's grandfather, Ceolwulf, in this genealogy, is the grandson of Cynric, whereas Æscwine's great-great-grandfather, Ceolwulf, in the genealogy s.a. 674, is the son of Cynric.
Henry of Huntingdon spices-up the meagre report provided by the ‘Chronicle’ with some imaginative flourishes: “he [Æscwine] had a terrible battle with Wulfhere, king of the Mercians. Inheriting the valour of his father and his grandfather, the Mercian king had rather the better of it in the conflict, though both armies were severely handled, and on either side many thousand soldiers were sent to the shades below. We are led to reflect how worthless are human achievements, how perishable the warlike triumphs of kings and nobles, when we find that, of the two kings, who, for the sake of vain pomp and empty glory, inflicted such grievous sufferings on their country, the one, Wulfhere, died from disease the same year, the other the year following.” (‘HA’ II, 37).
William of Malmesbury maintains that: “she levied new forces, preserved the old in their duty; ruled her subjects with moderation, and overawed her enemies: in short, she conducted all things in such a manner, that no difference was discoverable except that of sex: but breathing more than female spirit, she died , having scarcely reigned a year.” (‘GR’ I §32).  On the other hand, Roger of Wendover alleges (s.a. 672) that Seaxburh: “was expelled the kingdom by the indignant nobles, who would not go to war under the conduct of a woman.”
683 in Manuscript C.
‘Vita Sancti Wilfridi’, Chapter 20.  Eddius Stephanus is the main source for this event – Bede mentions it only in passing. Neither of them provides a date. Peter Hunter Blair, in his paper ‘The Moore Memoranda on Northumbrian History’ (first published in 1950), argued that the date was 674, and this is now generally accepted.
In a list of five monks from the Northumbrian monastery of Whitby who went on to become bishops, Bede notes about one of them, Ætla: “it may be briefly stated that he was appointed bishop of Dorchester.” (‘HE’ IV, 23).  Ætla is not known to have had a successor, and there is no evidence to indicate that the bishopric existed for long.
The British kingdom of Dumnonia originally comprised Cornwall, Devon, and possibly parts of Dorset and Somerset. W.G. Hoskins suggests (§1) its eastern frontier: “probably made use of three great natural features which, with little interruption, linked the sea to the north with that to the south: the Parrett estuary and the wide swamps of its middle course, then the massive escarpment of the Blackdown Hills which dominates the western horizon as one comes across the Somerset levels, and finally the broad flood-plain of the Axe valley”.
Under the year 685 (not Manuscripts E and F). (Manuscript D has no entries for the period 190–692.)
Whilst the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ presents an orderly line of succession between the reigns of Cenwalh and Cædwalla (the period 673–685/6), Bede says (‘HE’ IV, 12): “the sub-kings took upon them the government of the nation [i.e. Wessex], and dividing it among themselves, held it for about 10 years”.
Not a fake as such, S233 appears to be a composite document, compiled from a number of charters.
See: Anno Domini.
This phrase is only in Manuscript E.
S1165 indicates that Surrey had been under the control of Egbert, king of Kent, in, probably, 666 (when the monastery of Chertsey was founded), and had been ruled by a sub-king on behalf of Wulfhere, king of Mercia, round about 673.
The British Kingdom of Dumnonia originally comprised Cornwall, Devon, and possibly parts of Dorset and Somerset. By this time, however, British rule was probably confined to Cornwall.
See: Kings of doubtful title, or of foreign origin.
The compensation paid to Ine is variously recorded by the ‘Chronicle’ manuscripts. A, D and E say it was thirty thousand, but don't say thirty thousand what. B and F say it was thirty thousand pounds. C says it was thirty pounds, whilst G says thirty men. It was probably thirty thousand of the silver coins – forerunners of the penny, called ‘sceattas’ by numismatists – which were being produced by this time.*
Henry of Huntingdon claims (‘HA’ IV, 6) that: “King Ine marched a formidable and well-arrayed army into Kent to obtain satisfaction for the burning of his kinsman Mul. King Wihtred, however, advanced to meet him not with fierce arrogance, but with peaceful supplication, not with angry threats, but with the honeyed phrases of a persuasive eloquence; and by these he prevailed on the incensed king to lay aside his arms and receive from the people of Kent a large sum of money as a compensation for the murder of the young prince. Thus the controversy was ended, and the peace now concluded was lasting.”
Between 708 and 715, Pope Constantine issued a privilege to the monasteries of Bermondsey and Woking. These establishments, both in Surrey, are said to be “in the province of the West Saxons”.
Maildufus is a Latinized form of the Irish name Maeldubh. According to William of Malmesbury (‘Gesta Pontificum Anglorum’ V, §189), Maeldubh was a learned Irish monk who settled at what would become Malmesbury to live the life of a hermit. He found it necessary, however, to take fee paying pupils in order to buy food. In the fullness of time, his pupils followed his example and became monks, and Malmesbury Abbey was founded.
The native Churches of Britain and Ireland had operated independently for many years. There were doctrinal differences – the main one concerning the proper way to calculate Easter – between these indigenous Churches, frequently lumped together under the umbrella-term ‘Celtic Church’, and the Catholic Church of Rome, the representatives of which, Pope Gregory the Great's mission, had landed in Kent in 597: “to preach the Word of God to the English nation” (‘HE’ I, 23).  The error of the ‘Celtic’ churchmen in their calculation of Easter is a favourite subject of Bede's. It was a long process for the various regions of the British Isles to adopt the Catholic Easter – the Britons of Wales did not fall into line until 768.
The text of a letter written by Aldhelm, before he became bishop of Sherborne, to Geraint, king of Dumnonia, pressing the case for Catholicism, survives. It is addressed: “To the most glorious Lord, wielding the sceptre of the Western Kingdom, whom I, as the discerner of the heart is my witness, embrace in fraternal charity, to King Geruntius [Geraint], and also to all the Priests of God dwelling throughout the Domnonian realm, Aldhelm, unworthily exercising the office of Abbat, a greeting in the Lord.”
Bede: “Daniel, the most reverend bishop of the West Saxons, who is still living, communicated to me in writing some things relating to the Ecclesiastical History of that province, and the next adjoining to it of the South Saxons, as also of the Isle of Wight.” (‘HE’ Preface).
Henry of Huntingdon asserts (‘HA’ IV, 9) that: “the slaughter was so great on both sides, that it is difficult to say who sustained the severest loss.”
Aldfrith had another connection with Wessex. A surviving text by Aldhelm (the abbot of Malmesbury who became bishop of Sherborne in 705 and died in 709), comprises an essay on the number seven, two treatises on Latin metrics, and a collection of one hundred riddles, the whole being addressed to one Acircius (the text is called ‘Epistola ad Acircium’). Acircius is evidently Aldhelm's nickname for Aldfrith (it means ‘someone from the region of the northwest’ – presumably an allusion to Aldfrith's time on Iona before he became king). At any rate, it is clear that the two men had been comrades at least twenty years previously – Aldhelm is a little cryptic, but it seems as though he stood as sponsor to Aldfrith at his confirmation. Aldhelm makes no mention of where they were at the time – Iona (it is not inconceivable that Aldhelm studied at Iona) and Wessex both have their advocates.
The highlighted phrase is in Manuscripts D and E only.
Ætheling: a male of royal blood; an eligible candidate for the throne. (Æthel, meaning ‘noble’, features as an element of many Anglo-Saxon names.)
Highlighted section not in Manuscripts D and E.
The highlighted phrase is in Manuscripts D and E only.
The whole entry is missing from Manuscripts B and C.
According to the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, Ine succeeded to the West Saxon throne in 688, and his reign ended in 726 (728 in Manuscript A). In the ‘Chronicle’, and in the king-list that precedes Manuscript A, Ine is allotted a reign of 37 years (though Manuscript E, plainly in error, has 27 years).
Later, s.a. 793, Roger tells how Offa, the powerful Mercian king, visited Rome: “going to the English School, which flourished at Rome at that time, he made a grant to it for ever for the support of such of his kingdom as shall come there, of a penny from every family that had possessions in lands to the value of thirty pence ... the king granted the blessed Peter's penny, as has been said before, which the English call “Romescot.”
In 855, the West Saxon king Æthelwulf made a pilgrimage to Rome. William of Malmesbury (‘GR’ II §109) writes: “he went to Rome, and there offered St Peter that tribute which England pays to this day ... Continuing there one whole year, he nobly repaired the English School, which, according to report, was first founded by Offa, king of the Mercians, and had been burnt down some time back.”
There is no evidence that Offa ever travelled to Rome.
See: Shillings and Pence.
Highlighted phrase in Manuscripts E and F only.
Manuscripts A, B and C mention that Mul was Cædwalla's brother in their annal 685, which Manuscripts E and F do not.
Charter evidence suggests that Beorwald, abbot of Glastonbury, flourished around this period.
It seems that the mancus was a unit of weight applying to gold, but it could also be a name used for a gold coin. Since the late-7th century, however, the production of English coins in gold had been, as indicated by the dearth of surviving examples, a very rare event. The standard unit of coinage in Alfred's day was the silver penny (see: Shillings and Pence). Ælfric ’the Grammarian’ (c.955–c.1010) says that thirty pennies were worth a mancus. In the law-code of Alfred's grandson, Athelstan (r.924–939), an ox is valued at one mancus.
‘Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum’ (Ecclesiastical History of the English People).
The ‘Liber Eliensis’ (Book of Ely) is a history of the monastery of Ely, from its 7th century beginnings – it was founded by King Anna's daughter, Æthelthryth – to the 12th century.
s.a. = sub anno = ‘under the year’.
The ‘West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List’ records the reigns of West Saxon kings (and one queen) from Cerdic to Alfred (during whose reign, 871–899, it was composed). The text survives in a number of manuscripts (in his paper on the ‘Manuscripts and Texts’, of 1986, David Dumville describes seven, two of which are fragmentary) dating from around the last quarter of the 9th century to the first quarter of the 12th century.
‘Gesta Regum Anglorum’ (Deeds of the Kings of England).
Henry of Huntingdon first produced his ‘Historia Anglorum’ (History of the English) around 1130. He then revisited the work – revising and extending – several times before his death. The final version concludes with the accession of Henry II in 1154.
Charters are referred to by their number in Sawyer's catalogue.
Available online: The Electronic Sawyer.
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