Part 5: The Agnatic Witenagemot 645-825
The idea that Aethelwalh, king of the South Saxons, was the
third son of Cynegils and that Penda might have appointed him as the
king in Sussex, gave birth to the Nothgyth Quest Hypothesis.
It is now to be conjectured how a South Saxon Witenagemot of
hereditary nobles might have operated during the later monarchy in
Sussex (which is known to have existed), on the scant evidence
For instance, there may be undocumented evidence that the
leading chieftains east of the Adur might have retained considerable
independence of action, until Offa's conquest of Sussex in 772. This
assumption could explain why Aethelwalh, in spite of his having
married a Christian princess (and probably having allowed his
children by her to be baptised), and in spite of his receiving
baptism in 675, had to bide his time before getting his South Saxon
people converted to the new faith. As is recorded, the exiled
Wilfrid began this mission in 681.
Further, Lesley suggests that it remains questionable how far to
the east Caedwalla was able to press his intended conquest of the
South Saxons, although Bede implies that they were utterly beaten.
Certainly, to judge by the evidence of the extant Selsey Charters,
it might not have been till the reign of Osmund, and beyond, that
royal land grants were usual east of the Adur.
Going by the two dynasties postulated in the main text, it would
seem that until, the 760s the South Saxon Witenagemot favoured the
House of Aethelwalh, originally installed by Penda. Bearing in mind
the conjectured members of the two royal families already discussed,
Nothhelm probably had at least one brother. Yet it appears that King
Ine, recorded as a kinsman of Nothhelm, was persuaded to install
Watt, and then Aethelstan as Nothhelm's co-rulers, and, as has
already been contended, to promote Aethelberht to kingship after the
death of Nothhelm.