Cerdic of Wessex

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Cerdic (from the early British name represented by modern Welsh Caradog) was probably the first King of Anglo-Saxon Wessex from 519 to 534, cited by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as the founder of the kingdom of Wessex and ancestor of all its subsequent kings. (See House of Wessex family tree).


Life and career

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Cerdic landed in Hampshire in 495 with his son Cynric in three keels (ships). He is said to have fought a British king named Natanleod at Netley Marsh in Hampshire and killed him thirteen years later (in 508) and to have fought at Cerdicesleag (Charford, Cerdic's Ford[1]) in 519, after which he became first king of Wessex. The conquest of the Isle of Wight is also mentioned among his campaigns, and it was later given to his kinsmen, Stuf and Wihtgar (who had supposedly arrived with the West Saxons in 514). Cerdic is said to have died in 534 and was succeeded by his son Cynric.

The early history of Wessex in the Chronicle is clearly muddled [2] and enters duplicate reports of events. David Dumville has suggested that Cerdic's true regnal dates are 538-554. Some scholars suggest that Cerdic was the Saxon leader defeated by the British at the Battle of Mount Badon, which was probably fought sometime between 490 and 518. This cannot be the case if Dumville is correct, and others assign this battle to Ælle or another Saxon leader.

While Cerdic's area of operation was, according to the Chronicle, in the area north of Southampton, there is also stronger archaeological evidence of early Anglo-Saxon activity in the area around Dorchester-on-Thames. This is the later location of the first West Saxon bishopric, in the first half of the seventh century, so it appears likely that the origins of the kingdom of Wessex are more complex than the version provided by the surviving traditions.[3]

Some scholars have gone so far as to suggest that Cerdic is purely a legendary figure, and had no actual existence, but this is a minority view. However, the earliest source for Cerdic, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, was put together in the late ninth century; though it probably does record the extant tradition of the founding of Wessex, the intervening four hundred years mean that the account cannot be assumed to be accurate.[4][5]

Descent from Cerdic became a necessary criterion for later kings of Wessex, and Egbert of Wessex, progenitor of the English royal house and subsequent rulers of England and Britain, claimed him as an ancestor.

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