History Files


Anglo-Saxon Britain

The Nothgyth Quest Hypothesis

by David Slaughter, 3 February 2008

Part 5a: The (conjectured) censoring of South Saxon history

It would seem most unlikely that there are any missing pages of South Saxon history, but there might well have been a need for as much as possible of that history to be forgotten.

Perhaps, because of the threat of dynastic claims, little mention is made of Sussex in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. The suggestion proffered here is that the patrilineal lineage of Alderman Aethelmund of Sussex, as presumed in this hypothesis, matched that of King Ecgberht of Wessex, making the direct male descendants of both noblemen high-born Cerdicingas. Added to which, and on the same conjectural terms, the patrilineal lineage of Ealdberht Aethelberhting, and his direct male descendants, might have been the only line whose family could trace their patrilineal descent back to King Cynegils.

If, as this hypothesis has argued, Alfred the Great had an ancestor in Cissa Aelling, and that ancestry had been recorded, it could have raised the profile of the South Saxons in a way that was not favourable for Wessex. It would also have been expedient not to chronicle that the Cerdicingas had been affected by the decisive action of a Mercian ruler three times, in each case Sussex being involved. At least, that is, according to certain of the conjectures developed in pursuit of the Nothgyth Quest. Firstly, because of Penda and Aethelwalh, secondly, because of Wulfhere and Aethelwalh, and thirdly, because the Cerdicingas in Sussex had been deposed by another Mercian king, namely Offa, the great statesman who had been on terms with Charlemagne.

If the historical contention here is correct, then it would have been prudent to keep the royal history of the South Saxons suppressed and largely undocumented. The long passage of time between the death of Cissa in 567 and the appointment of Aethelwalh in 645, if this is what actually transpired, would have made this kind of censorship easier to implement. Besides which, the intermittent sub-kingdom of Sussex, between 825 and 860, had already been relegated to the past.

However, there is one further thought to complete the discussion here in support of this conjectured censoring of South Saxon history. It would have been imperative that there was no return to a tribal South Saxon kingdom caused by a Sussex claimant to royal power, and equally imperative to avoid the instability in the south-east that such an outcome might have brought about.

Part 5b: The Sussex list of kings and rulers and their regnal dates

The reader should keep in mind that much of the following regnal list is inevitably speculation.

The Ællean warlordship 477-514 (held by Ælle and his kindred)

Ælle 477-491, warlord

Ælle & Cissa 491-514, warlord and co-warlord

The Cissan kingdom 514-567 (held by the close kindred of Cissa)

Cissa 514-567, unitary king

Wine after 520-563, co-ruling royal alderman

The rule of the South Saxon chieftains, 567-645 (Wessex overlords)

Part 1: Intro
Part 2: Warlordship
Part 3: Ælle's Dynasty
Part 4: Aethelwalh Dynasty
Part 5: Censoring History
A view of Brighthelmstone in 1808

A view of Brighthelmstone in 1808. The first settlement was founded by a chieftain called 'Bright Helmet', probably in the fifth century. For generations its main industry was sea fishing, until it became the coastal resort of Brighton.

The re-established kingdom 645-772 (held by the Sussex Cerdicingas)

Aethelwalh 645-685, unitary king

Berhtun & Andhun 685-686, co-ruling royal aldermen

Ecgwald 686-688, Caedwalla's sub-king

Nothhelm & Watt 688-c.700, dominant and co-ruling king

Nothhelm & Aethelstan c.700-722, dominant and co-ruling king

Aethelberht & Aethelstan 722-725, dominant and co-ruling king

Aethelberht 725-758, unitary king

Osmund & Ealdwulf, 758-772, dominant king with Aelfwald & Oslac co-ruling kings

The dukes of the South Saxons

Under Offa of the Mercians who died in 796. It appears that after the death of each duke, Offa would appoint his successor.

Oswald, first duke (for life?)

Oslac, second duke (ditto)

Ealdwulf, third duke (ditto)

Rulers of Kent & the sub-kingdoms of Sussex and Surrey under Wessex

Aethelwulf 825-839

Aethelstan II 825-851

Aethelbald 851-856

Aethelwulf again 856-858

Aethelberht II 858-860


Thank you for taking the time to read this article.

If you wish to study the material employed in developing the Nothgyth Quest Hypothesis, please refer to the entries in Section A of the 'General Bibliography and Other Sources,' (below). These entries are for essential reference and they will help you to separate the conjecture here from the remembered tradition and recorded history used as a framework. It is hoped that you will find enough of interest in this article to make another visit.

Anglo-Saxon coins

Pre-Norman conquest coins. Most were minted in Sussex. One dates from the reign of Edward the Confessor, the last prince of Cerdic's dynasty to govern England. This hypothesis contends that the later kings of the South Saxons were Cerdicingas.


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 website

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 website

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.



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.