Part 2: A proposed timeline for the Wihtware
Although a timeline for the Meonware has already been set out, it would seem appropriate
now to suggest a time line for the insular Jutes of the Isle of Wight.
We are told that the consort of King Aethelwulf of Wessex, Queen
Osburgh, was a descendant of Wihtgar, the first Jutish ruler of the
island. To speculate, Wihtgar could have been born to Cerdic's
sister around 488, his father being a Jutish warrior. If this date
is assumed, then there would have been some twelve generations of
Wihtgar's descendents down to Oslac, the father of Osburh.
A timeline is proposed below, based on a conjectural reconstruction of the
aldermanic dynasty of Wihtgar. To achieve this, a notional life span
of sixty years has been used, with a notional onset of fatherhood at
the age of 24. It is also presumed that the insular Jutes would have
been more conservative in their outlook than their mainland cousins,
which would account for their late adherence to outmoded paganism
and, in all likelihood, the continuing use of their Jutish
tongue. Interestingly, in this regard, we know that there were still
monoglot Cornish speakers up to about 1680.
Wihtgare I, 530 - c.625 to 635, starting at the capture of the
Isle of Wight from the Britons and ending with the children of the
fourth generation of Wihtgar's descendents. The cluster of -stone place
names in the south-West may derive from a tribal group of extended
families, with a chieftain, that might have been the pattern for
early settlement. Sacred sites for pagan ritual would also have been
established during this period.
Wihtgare II, c.625 to 635 - 686. A period which brought
considerable change on the mainland and for the islanders, ending
with the death of King Arwald and the martyrdom of his sons. The
Jutish king was perhaps the four-times great-grandson of Wihtgare. The
island, arguably governed by local thingsteads and a small gathering
of senior chieftains at Carisbrooke (Wihtgaraesbyrg), became a
kingdom ruled by Arwald. Maybe appointed by Penda in 648, he was
killed fighting against Caedwalla's West Saxons.
Wihtgare III, 686 - c.740 to 750. A period covering the lifespan
of the last generation of islanders who would have had adult
memories of paganism, and ending with the children of the tenth
generation of Wihtgar's descendents. However, even with their
passing, it is likely that the Wihtgare would have remained
Jutlandic-spoken under Christianity. The new faith was probably consolidated
during the long episcopacy of Daniel, Bishop of Winchester from
around 705 until 744, and by the continuity of his spiritual
Wihtgare IV, c.740 to 750 - 825. This proposed period ends in
the year of Ecgberht's victory over the Mercians and the immediate
expansion of Wessex. The late eighth century saw the arrival of the
Vikings to raid the South Coast. They might have established a
colony at Bonchurch. Such uncertain times very likely served to
enhance the loyalty of the Wihtgare to their Jutish roots and their
Jutlandic speech, in the face of these newcomers. There was,
perhaps, a political motive for the union of King Ecgberht's heir,
Aethelwulf, with Osburh of the isle of Wight.
Wihtgare Integration, from 825. No defined ending date is
proposed here for this final stage. Under the pervading influence of
West Saxon power, there must have been an inevitable, if slow
decline in a distinctive Wihtgare culture. Perhaps this process
gathered some momentum when Osburh became queen of Wessex in 839.
Conceivably, a still Jutlandic-spoken island would have become Old
English-spoken by the reign of King Edgar. Nevertheless, like the Meonware, the Wihtgare would have remembered their ancestry.