History Files


Anglo-Saxon Britain

Nothgyth Quest Supporting Notes

by David Slaughter, 3 February 2008

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7

Part 7: The later sub-kings of Kent and Sussex

All the sub-kings who ruled over the South Saxons during this period were kings of Kent, but under the overlordship of the kings of Wessex.

Apparently, they were considered as possessing the thrones of Kent and Sussex. They also governed Surrey. In short, after his decisive victory at Ellendune in 825, Ecgberht decided to create a large sub-kingdom of lesser kingdoms in the south-east which was to be held as a province of greater Wessex.

Going by the dynastic reconstruction in the Nothgyth Quest, Ecgberht's father, Eahmund of Kent, shared Cuthwulf Cuthwining as his patrilineal four-times-great grandfather with the South Saxon alderman, Aethelmund. This would have made them fifth cousins and kinsmen as understood by the Justinian Law of Succession.

Cuthwulf Cuthwining has already been contended, in this hypothesis, to have been the great grandson of Wine Cissing. It is argued here that when Ecgberht installed his eldest son, Aethelwulf, as king of Kent and Sussex, his candidate had good credentials for both tribal thrones. When Ecgberht died in 839, Aethelwulf became king of Wessex, appointing his eldest brother, Aethelstan as king of Kent and Sussex, more properly referred to as Aethelstan II in Sussex history.

Aethelstan II died in 851, and Aethelwulf appointed his eldest son, Aethelbald, to succeed. Aethelwulf was a deeply religious man and on his way home from a pilgrimage to Rome, with his youngest and favourite son, the future King Alfred, he was informed that Aethelbald had usurped the throne. It is thought that Aethelbald believed that his father intended to leave Wessex to the young favourite.

Aethelwulf did not contest his sons usurpation of the throne. Instead the deposed king acquiesced to the will of his eldest son and agreed to return to his former kingship over the sub-kingdom in the south-east.

Aethelwulf's second tenure as the king of Kent and Sussex with Surrey began in 856. He died in 858, and was buried in the church of St Cuthman at Steyning. The royal body was later transferred to Winchester, but the stone grave cover to Aethelwulf's original tomb still stands in the porch of the present Norman church, dedicated to St Andrew. The two crosses on the stone indicate a royal burial, which would appear to confirm the traditional history.

The former Saxon church, founded by the shepherd preacher, was pulled down by the Norman Lord of Bramber, William de Braose. Going by the Nothgyth Quest, and assuming the people of Steyning would have known if Aethelwulf had been a descendant of their great king, Cissa Aelling, this royal burial might have been of considerable significance in Sussex.

The last West Saxon sub-king in Sussex was Aethelberht II, the brother of the King Aethelbald who installed him. Aethelberht reigned from 858 to 860, when he inherited the kingdom of Wessex on the death of his brother. Another sub-king was not appointed and the early story of Sussex ends at this point.

The South Downs

A nineteenth century print showing Poynings church in the middle distance, set against a view of the South Downs. This area would have been heavily wooded in Saxon times, on the edge of the Low Weald. The Weald was called Anderida by Latin speakers, perhaps the name of a Celtic goddess, or from an ancestral Welsh form of (Coed) Ynn+deri+dân, (Forest of) ash, oak and deer.


General Bibliography and Other Sources

The main reference material employed for this hypothesis

A. Primary reading and reference (alphabetical)

Anglo-Saxon Chronicles - begun in circa AD 890

Anglo-Saxon Genealogical Tables

BBCh 2g2 - Anglo-Saxon Isle of Wight AD 400-900

Domesday book - Place-names of Sudsexe, 1086

Howard Wiseman - Vortigern Studies, Web site

Kelly, S E - Charters of Selsey, 1998

Kelly's Post Office Directory (Sussex), 1867

Lambert and Gray - Kings and Queens, 1991

Old English at the University of Calgary - Web site

Wendover, Roger of - Flowers of History, 1237

Wikipedia - Kings (and Aldermen) of Hwicce

B. Secondary reading and reference (in date order)

Aneirin, Y Gododdin, circa 595

Anonymous - Beowulf, circa 725

Bede - Ecclesiastical History of the English People, 731

Nennius - Hanes y Brythoniaid, 810

Cyfraith Hywel Dda (North European Tribal Law), completed in 949

Brut y Tywysogion (from 680), fourteenth century

Bosworth & Toller - Old English Dictionary, 1898/1921

Johnston, J B - The Place Names of England & Wales, 1915

Jervis, J H - A History of France, New & Revised Edition, Book 1
   (with additional chapters by W J N Griffith), 1926

Alcock, Lesley - Arthur's Britain, 1978

Regia Anglorum - the society's web site

C. Further reading and reference (in date order)

Grundy, G B (ed) - Murray's Classical Atlas for Schools, Second Edition reprint, 1963

Ohler, Norbert - The Medieval Traveller, 1995

Barraclough, Geoffrey (ed) - The Times Atlas of World History, Fourth Edition
   (edited by Geoffrey Parker), reprinted 1997

de la Bédoyèr, Guy - Roman Britain: A New History

D. Recommended reading in Welsh

Smith, J B - Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Wales University Press

About Llywelyn II, a powerful prince who established a recognised Welsh state, based on an alliance of princes. The book gives an insight into the kingdom-building abilities that must have been required of Saxon rulers like Ceawlin of Wessex, even if set in the thirteenth century rather than the sixth.

Anna Catherina Halfpenny, Pomet's History of Drugs

In 1793, Anna Catherina Halfpenny wrote out her own translation, from French, of Pomet's History of Drugs. This right hand page of the manuscript gives information on the astringent qualities of oak bark and leaves. The oak has been called the Sussex weed. Further west, the same tree has been called the Herefordshire weed, a county that was once under the Hwicce.



Images are free from copyright. Text copyright © David Slaughter, BA Hons, ATC (Sussex), Blue Robe Order of the Welsh Gorsedd, expanded from material first released on the Anglo-Saxon Kings of Sussex blogspot. An original feature for the History Files.