Wessex (/ˈwɛsɪks/; Old English: Westseaxna rīce
[westsæɑksnɑ riːt͡ʃe], "kingdom of the West Saxons") was an
Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the south of Great Britain, from 519 until
England was unified by
Æthelstan in the early 10th century.
Anglo-Saxons believed that
Wessex was founded by Cerdic and
Cynric, but this may be a legend. The two main sources for the history
Wessex are the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the West Saxon
Genealogical Regnal List, which sometimes conflict.
Wessex became a
Christian kingdom after Cenwalh was baptised and was expanded under
Cædwalla later conquered Sussex,
Kent and the Isle of
Wight. His successor, Ine, issued one of the oldest surviving English
law codes and established a second West Saxon bishopric. The throne
subsequently passed to a series of kings with unknown genealogies.
During the 8th century, as the hegemony of
retained its independence. It was during this period that the system
of shires was established. Under Egbert, Surrey, Sussex, Kent, Essex,
and Mercia, along with parts of Dumnonia, were conquered. He also
obtained the overlordship of the Northumbrian king. However, Mercian
independence was restored in 830. During the reign of his successor,
Æthelwulf, a Danish army arrived in the
Thames estuary, but was
decisively defeated. When Æthelwulf's son, Æthelbald, usurped the
throne, the kingdom was divided to avoid war. Æthelwulf was succeeded
in turn by his four sons, the youngest being Alfred the Great.
Wessex was invaded by the Danes in 871, and Alfred was compelled to
pay them to leave. They returned in 876, but were forced to withdraw.
In 878 they forced Alfred to flee to the
Somerset Levels, but were
eventually defeated at the Battle of Edington. During his reign Alfred
issued a new law code, gathered scholars to his court and was able to
devote funds to building ships, organising an army and establishing a
system of burhs. Alfred's son, Edward, captured the eastern Midlands
East Anglia from the Danes and became ruler of
Mercia in 918 upon
the death of his sister, Æthelflæd. Edward's son, Æthelstan,
Northumbria in 927, and England became a unified kingdom for
the first time. Cnut the Great, who conquered England in 1016, created
the wealthy and powerful earldom of Wessex, but in 1066 Harold
Godwinson reunited the earldom with the crown and
Wessex ceased to
1.2 Saxon settlement
Wessex and the rise of Mercia
Wessex and the
1.5 Last English kingdom
1.6 Unification of England and the Earldom of Wessex
2 Contemporary use of the name
Wyvern or dragon
3.2 Attributed coat of arms
4 Cultural and political identity in modern times
5 See also
8 External links
Modern archaeologists use the term
Wessex culture for a Middle Bronze
Age culture in this area (c. 1600–1200 BC). A millennium before
that, in the Late Neolithic, the ceremonial sites of
Stonehenge were completed on Salisbury Plain; but the final phase of
Stonehenge was erected in the
Wessex culture phase, early in the
Bronze Age. This area has many other earthworks and erected stone
monuments from the Neolithic and Early Bronze periods, including the
Dorset Cursus, an earthwork 10 km (6 mi) long and 100 m
(110 yd) wide, which was oriented to the midwinter sunset.
Although agriculture and hunting were pursued during this long period,
there is little archaeological evidence of human settlements. From the
Neolithic onwards the chalk downland of
Wessex was traversed by the
Harrow Way, which can still be traced from
Cornwall to the
coast of the
English Channel near Dover, and was probably connected
with the ancient tin trade.
During the Roman occupation starting in the 1st century AD, numerous
country villas with attached farms were established across Wessex,
along with the important towns of Dorchester and
ending -chester comes from
Latin castra, "a military camp"). The
Romans, or rather the Romano-British, built another major road that
integrated Wessex, running eastwards from Exeter through Dorchester to
Silchester and on to London. The early 4th century was
a peaceful time in Roman Britain. However, following a previous
incursion in 360 that was stopped by Roman forces, the
Picts and Scots
Hadrian's Wall in the far north in 367 and defeated the
soldiers stationed along it. They devastated many parts of Britain and
laid siege to London. The Romans responded promptly, and Count
Theodosius had recovered the land up to the Wall by 368.
The Romans temporarily ceased to rule Britain on the death of Magnus
Maximus in 388.
Stilicho attempted to restore Roman authority in the
late 390s, but in 401 he took Roman troops from Britain to fight the
Goths. Two subsequent Roman rulers of Britain, appointed by the
remaining troops, were murdered. Constantine III became ruler, but he
then left for
Gaul and withdrew more troops. The Britons then
requested assistance from Honorius, but when he replied in 410 he told
them to manage their own defenses. By this point, there were no longer
any Roman troops in Britain. Economical decline occurred after
these events; circulation of Roman coins ended and the importation of
items from the Roman Empire stopped.
In An Introduction to
Peter Hunter Blair divides
the traditions concerning the
Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain
Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain into
two categories: Welsh and English. De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae,
written by Gildas, contains the best preservation of the Welsh
tradition. In brief, it states that after the Romans left, the Britons
managed to continue for a time without any major disruptions. However,
when finally faced with northern invaders, a certain unnamed ruler in
Britain (called "a proud tyrant" by Gildas) requested assistance from
Saxons in exchange for land. There were no conflicts between the
British and the
Saxons for a time, but following "a dispute about the
supply of provisions" the
Saxons warred against the British and
severely damaged parts of the country. In time, however, some Saxon
troops left Britain; under Ambrosius Aurelianus, the British
subsequently defeated those who remained. A lengthy conflict ensued,
in which neither side gained any decisive advantage until the Britons
Saxons at the Battle of Mons Badonicus. After this, there
occurred a peaceful period for the Britons, under which
living at the time he wrote the De Excidio et Conqestu Britanniae.
One of the English traditions about the Saxon arrival is that of
Hengest and Horsa. When
Bede wrote his Ecclesiastical History of the
English People, he adapted Gildas's narrative and added details, such
as the names of those involved. To the "proud tyrant" he gave the name
Vortigern, and the Saxon commanders he named Hengest and Horsa.
Further details were added to the story in the Historia Brittonum,
which was partially written by Nennius. According to the Historia,
Hengest and Horsa
Hengest and Horsa fought the invaders of Britain under the condition
of gaining the island of Thanet. The daughter of Hengest, Rowena,
later arrived on a ship of reinforcements, and
Vortigern married her.
However, a war arose in
Kent due to a dispute between Hengest and
Vortigern's son. After losing several battles, the
defeated the British by treacherously attacking them once the two
parties had convened for a meeting. Some additional details of the
Hengest and Horsa
Hengest and Horsa legend are found in the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The
Chronicle then records subsequent Saxon arrivals, including that of
Cerdic, the founder of Wessex, in 495.
Imaginary depiction of Cerdic from John Speed's 1611 "Saxon Heptarchy"
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the primary written source for the founding
of Wessex, states that Cerdic and Cynric landed in Britain with
five ships in 495. Although the entry mentions Cynric as Cerdic's
son, a different source lists him as the son of Cerdic's son,
Creoda. Their place of landing is believed to be the southern
Hampshire coast (though
Bede recorded that
Wessex was inhabited by
Jutes and was only annexed by
Saxons in the late 7th century, under
Cædwalla, and there have been no definitive archaeological
findings considered especially "suggestive of early Anglo-Saxon
The Chronicle continues, stating that "Port, and his two sons Bieda
and Mægla", landed at
Portsmouth in 501 and killed a high-ranking
British nobleman. In 508, Cerdic and Cynric slew a British king
Natanleod and five thousand men with him, (though the
Natanleod has been disputed) and Cerdic became the
first king of
Wessex in 519. The
Saxons attacked Cerdicesford in
519, intending to cross the River Avon and block a road which
Old Sarum and Badbury Rings, a British stronghold. The
battle appears to have ended as a draw, and the expansion of Wessex
ended for about thirty years. This is likely due to losses suffered
during the battle and an apparent peace agreement with the Britons.
The battle of
Mons Badonicus is believed to have been fought around
Gildas states that the
Saxons were completely defeated in
the battle, in which
King Arthur participated according to Nennius.
This defeat is not recorded in the Chronicle. The thirty-year
period of peace was temporarily interrupted, when, according to
the Chronicle, the
Saxons conquered the
Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight in 530 at a
battle near Carisbrooke.
Cynric became the ruler of
Wessex after Cerdic died in 534, and
reigned for twenty-six years. It is presumed[by whom?] that
Ceawlin, who succeeded Cynric in about 581, was his son. Ceawlin's
reign is thought to be more reliably documented than those of his
predecessors, though the Chronicle's dates of 560 to 592 are different
from the revised chronology. Ceawlin overcame pockets of resisting
Britons to the northeast, in the Chilterns,
Somerset. The capture of Cirencester,
Gloucester and Bath in 577,
after the pause caused by the battle of Mons Badonicus, opened the way
to the southwest.
Ceawlin is one of the seven kings named in Bede's Ecclesiastical
History of the English People as holding "imperium" over the southern
English: the Chronicle later repeated this claim, referring to Ceawlin
as a bretwalda, or "Britain-ruler". Ceawlin was deposed, perhaps by
his successor, a nephew named Ceol, and died a year later. Six years
later, in about 594,
Ceol was succeeded by a brother, Ceolwulf, who
was succeeded in his turn in about 617 by Cynegils. The genealogies do
not agree on Cynegils' pedigree: his father is variously given as
Ceola, Ceolwulf, Ceol, Cuthwine, Cutha or Cuthwulf.
The tradition embodied in the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and in the
genealogies of the West Saxon dynasty, is open to considerable doubt.
This is largely because the founder of the dynasty and a number of his
alleged descendants had Brittonic Celtic, rather than Anglo-Saxon
Germanic, names. The name Cerdic is derived from the British name
*Caraticos. This may indicate that Cerdic was a native Briton,
and that his dynasty became anglicised over time. Other
members of the dynasty possessing Celtic names include Ceawlin and
Cædwalla. Cædwalla, who died as late as 689, was the last West Saxon
king to possess a Celtic name.
Wessex and the rise of Mercia
The Celtic and
Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in around 600
It is in Cynegils' reign that the first event in West Saxon history
that can be dated with reasonable certainty occurs: the baptism of
Cynegils by Birinus, which happened at the end of the 630s, perhaps in
Birinus was then established as bishop of the West Saxons, with
his seat at Dorchester-on-Thames. This was the first conversion to
Christianity by a West Saxon king, but it was not accompanied by the
immediate conversion of all the West Saxons: Cynegils' successor (and
probably his son), Cenwealh, who came to the throne in about 642, was
a pagan at his accession. However, he too was baptised only a few
years later and
Wessex became firmly established as a Christian
kingdom. Cynegils's godfather was King
Oswald of Northumbria
Oswald of Northumbria and his
conversion may have been connected with an alliance against King Penda
of Mercia, who had previously attacked Wessex.
These attacks marked the beginning of sustained pressure from the
expanding kingdom of Mercia. In time this would deprive
Wessex of its
territories north of the
Thames and the (Bristol) Avon, encouraging
the kingdom's reorientation southwards.
Cenwealh married Penda's
daughter, and when he repudiated her,
Penda again invaded and drove
him into exile for some time, perhaps three years. The dates are
uncertain but it was probably in the late 640s or early 650s. He spent
his exile in East Anglia, and was converted to
After his return,
Cenwealh faced further attacks from Penda's
successor Wulfhere, but was able to expand West Saxon territory in
Somerset at the expense of the Britons. He established a second
bishopric at Winchester, while the one at Dorchester was soon
abandoned as Mercian power pushed southwards.
eventually develop into the effective capital of Wessex.
After Cenwealh's death in 673, his widow, Seaxburh, held the throne
for a year; she was followed by Æscwine, who was apparently descended
from another brother of Ceawlin. This was one of several occasions on
which the kingship of
Wessex is said to have passed to a remote branch
of the royal family with an unbroken male line of descent from Cerdic;
these claims may be genuine, or may reflect the spurious assertion of
descent from Cerdic to legitimise a new dynasty. Æscwine's reign only
lasted two years, and in 676 the throne passed back to the immediate
Cenwealh with the accession of his brother Centwine.
Centwine is known to have fought and won battles against the Britons,
but the details have not survived.
Centwine was succeeded by another supposed distant relative,
Cædwalla, who claimed descent from Ceawlin.
Cædwalla reigned for
just two years, but achieved a dramatic expansion of the kingdom's
power, conquering the kingdoms of Sussex,
Kent and the Isle of Wight,
Kent regained its independence almost immediately and Sussex
followed some years later. His reign ended in 688 when he abdicated
and went on pilgrimage to
Rome where he was baptised by Pope Sergius I
and died soon afterwards.
His successor was Ine, who also claimed to be a descendant of Cerdic
through Ceawlin, but again through a long-separated line of descent.
Ine was the most durable of the West Saxon kings, reigning for 38
years. He issued the oldest surviving English code of laws apart from
those of the kingdom of Kent, and established a second West Saxon
bishopric at Sherborne, covering the territories west of Selwood
Forest. Near the end of his life he followed in Cædwalla's footsteps
by abdicating and making a pilgrimage to Rome. The throne then passed
to a series of other kings who claimed descent from Cerdic but whose
supposed genealogies and relationship to one another are unknown.
During the 8th century
Wessex was overshadowed by Mercia, whose power
was then at its height, and the West Saxon kings may at times have
acknowledged Mercian overlordship. They were, however, able to avoid
the more substantial control which
Mercia exerted over smaller
kingdoms. During this period
Wessex continued its gradual advance to
the west, overwhelming the British kingdom of
Dumnonia (Devon). At
Wessex took de facto control over much of Devon, although
Britons retained a degree of independence in
Devon until at least the
10th century. (
William of Malmesbury
William of Malmesbury claimed that the Britons and
Saxons inhabited Exeter "as equals" until 927.)</ref> As a
result of the Mercian conquest of the northern portion of its early
Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, the
Thames and the
Avon now probably formed the northern boundary of Wessex, while its
heartland lay in Hampshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire,
Dorset and Somerset.
The system of shires which was later to form the basis of local
administration throughout England (and eventually, Ireland,
Scotland as well) originated in Wessex, and had been established by
the mid-8th century.
Wessex and the
Viking coin weight, used for trading bullion and
hacksilver. The material is lead and it weighs 36 g
(1.3 oz). Embedded with an
Anglo-Saxon sceat (Series K type 32a)
dating to 720–750 and minted in Kent. It is edged in a dotted
triangle pattern. Its origin is the
Danelaw region and dates to
In 802 the fortunes of
Wessex were transformed by the accession of
Egbert who came from a cadet branch of the ruling dynasty that claimed
descent from Ine's brother Ingild. With his accession the throne
became firmly established in the hands of a single lineage. Early in
his reign he conducted two campaigns against the "West Welsh", first
in 813 and then again at
Gafulford in 825. During the course of these
campaigns he conquered the western Britons still in
Devon and reduced
those beyond the River Tamar, now Cornwall, to the status of a
vassal. In 825 or 826 he overturned the political order of England
by decisively defeating King Beornwulf of
seizing control of Surrey, Sussex,
Essex from the Mercians,
while with his help
East Anglia broke away from Mercian control. In
829 he conquered Mercia, driving its King Wiglaf into exile, and
secured acknowledgement of his overlordship from the king of
Northumbria. He thereby became the Bretwalda, or high king of Britain.
This position of dominance was short-lived, as Wiglaf returned and
restored Mercian independence in 830, but the expansion of Wessex
across south-eastern England proved permanent.
Egbert's later years saw the beginning of Danish
Viking raids on
Wessex, which occurred frequently from 835 onwards. In 851 a huge
Danish army, said to have been carried on 350 ships, arrived in the
Thames estuary. Having defeated King Beorhtwulf of
Mercia in battle,
the Danes moved on to invade Wessex, but were decisively crushed by
Egbert's son and successor King Æthelwulf in the exceptionally bloody
Battle of Aclea. This victory postponed Danish conquests in England
for fifteen years, but raids on
In 855–856 Æthelwulf went on pilgrimage to
Rome and his eldest
surviving son Æthelbald took advantage of his absence to seize his
father's throne. On his return, Æthelwulf agreed to divide the
kingdom with his son to avoid bloodshed, ruling the new territories in
the east while Æthelbald held the old heartland in the west.
Æthelwulf was succeeded by each of his four surviving sons ruling one
after another: the rebellious Æthelbald, then Æthelbert, who had
previously inherited the eastern territories from his father and who
reunited the kingdom on Æthelbald's death, then Æthelred, and
finally Alfred the Great. This occurred because the first two brothers
died in wars with the Danes without issue, while Æthelred's sons were
too young to rule when their father died.
Last English kingdom
England in the late 9th century
In 865, several of the Danish commanders combined their respective
forces into one large army and landed in England. Over the following
years, what became known as the
Great Heathen Army
Great Heathen Army overwhelmed the
Northumbria and East Anglia. Then in 871, the Great Summer
Army arrived from Scandinavia, to reinforce the Great Heathen Army.
The reinforced army invaded
Wessex and, although Æthelred and Alfred
won some victories and succeeded in preventing the conquest of their
kingdom, a number of defeats and heavy losses of men compelled Alfred
to pay the Danes to leave Wessex. The Danes spent the next few
Mercia and some of them settled in Northumbria, but the
rest returned to
Wessex in 876. Alfred responded effectively and was
able with little fighting to bring about their withdrawal in 877. A
portion of the Danish army settled in Mercia, but at the beginning of
878 the remaining Danes mounted a winter invasion of Wessex, taking
Alfred by surprise and overrunning much of the kingdom. Alfred was
reduced to taking refuge with a small band of followers in the marshes
Somerset Levels, but after a few months he was able to gather
an army and defeated the Danes at the Battle of Edington, bringing
about their final withdrawal from
Wessex to settle in East Anglia.
Simultaneous Danish raids on the north coast of France and Brittany
occurred in the 870s – prior to the establishment of
Normandy in 911
– and recorded Danish alliances with both Bretons and Cornish may
have resulted in the suppression of Cornish autonomy with the death by
drowning of King
Donyarth in 875 as recorded by the Annales
Cambriae. No subsequent 'Kings' of
Cornwall are recorded after
this time, however
Cornwall as a separate kingdom from
Wessex in the 890s.
In 879 a
Viking fleet that had assembled in the
Thames estuary sailed
across the channel to start a new campaign on the continent. The
Viking army on the continent encouraged Alfred to protect
his Kingdom of Wessex. Over the following years Alfred carried out
a dramatic reorganisation of the government and defences of Wessex,
building warships, organising the army into two shifts which served
alternately and establishing a system of fortified burhs across the
kingdom. This system is recorded in a 10th-century document known as
the Burghal Hidage, which details the location and garrisoning
requirements of thirty-three forts, whose positioning ensured that no
Wessex was more than a long day's ride from a place of
safety. In the 890s these reforms helped him to repulse the
invasion of another huge Danish army – which was aided by the Danes
settled in England – with minimal losses.
Alfred also reformed the administration of justice, issued a new law
code and championed a revival of scholarship and education. He
gathered scholars from around England and elsewhere in Europe to his
court, and with their help translated a range of
Latin texts into
English, doing much of the work in person, and orchestrated the
composition of the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. As a result of these
literary efforts and the political dominance of Wessex, the West Saxon
dialect of this period became the standard written form of Old English
for the rest of the
Anglo-Saxon period and beyond.
Wessex and areas under its control in 871.
Wessex and areas under its control in 886.
Wessex and areas under its control in 897.
The Danish conquests had destroyed the kingdoms of
East Anglia and divided
Mercia in half, with the Danes settling in the
north-east while the south-west was left to the English king Ceolwulf,
allegedly a Danish puppet. When Ceolwulf's rule came to an end he was
succeeded as ruler of "English Mercia" not by another king but by a
mere ealdorman named Aethelred, who acknowledged Alfred's overlordship
and married his daughter Ethelfleda. The process by which this
transformation of the status of
Mercia took place is unknown, but it
left Alfred as the only remaining English king.
Unification of England and the Earldom of Wessex
Unification of England and Defeat of the
Danelaw in the 10th century
After the invasions of the 890s,
Wessex and English
to be attacked by the Danish settlers in England, and by small Danish
raiding forces from overseas, but these incursions were usually
defeated, while there were no further major invasions from the
continent. The balance of power tipped steadily in favour of the
English. In 911
Ealdorman Æthelred died, leaving his widow, Alfred's
daughter Æthelflæd, in charge of Mercia. Alfred's son and successor
Edward the Elder, then annexed London,
Oxford and the surrounding
area, probably including Middlesex, Hertfordshire,
Mercia to Wessex. Between 913 and 918 a series of
English offensives overwhelmed the Danes of
Mercia and East Anglia,
bringing all of England south of the
Humber under Edward's power. In
Æthelflæd died and Edward took over direct control of Mercia,
extinguishing what remained of its independence and ensuring that
henceforth there would be only one Kingdom of the English. In 927
Edward's successor Athelstan conquered Northumbria, bringing the whole
of England under one ruler for the first time. The Kingdom of Wessex
had thus been transformed into the Kingdom of England.
Wessex had now effectively been subsumed into the larger
kingdom which its expansion had created, like the other former
kingdoms, it continued for a time to have a distinct identity which
periodically found renewed political expression. After the death of
King Eadred in 955, who had no legitimate heirs, the rule of England
passed to his nephew, Edwig. Edwig's unpopularity with the nobility
and the church led the thanes of
Northumbria to declare
their allegiance to his younger brother, Edgar, in October 957, though
Edwy continued to rule in Wessex. In 959, Edwy died and the whole of
England came under Edgar's control.
After the conquest of England by the Danish king Cnut in 1016, he
established earldoms based on the former kingdoms of Northumbria,
Mercia and East Anglia, but initially administered
Within a few years, however, he had created an earldom of Wessex,
encompassing all of England south of the Thames, for his English
henchman Godwin. For almost fifty years the vastly wealthy holders of
this earldom, first Godwin and then his son Harold, were the most
powerful men in English politics after the king. Finally, on the death
Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor in 1066, Harold became king, reuniting the
Wessex with the crown. No new earl was appointed before the
ensuing Norman Conquest of England, and as the Norman kings soon did
away with the great earldoms of the late
Anglo-Saxon period, 1066
marks the extinction of
Wessex as a political unit.
Contemporary use of the name
From the second edition (1989) of the
Oxford English Dictionary:
(ˈwɛsɪks) [OE. West Seaxe West Saxons.] (This entry suggests that
the name was first used in 1868, modelled on the county names Essex,
East Seaxe East Saxons, and Sussex, Suth Seaxe South Saxons)
1. The name of a kingdom in south-west England in
Thomas Hardy as the name of the county in which his stories
are set (corresponding approximately to Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire,
and Wiltshire) and since used as a name for south-west England or this
part of it.
1868 W. Barnes Poems of Rural Life in Common Eng. Pref., As I think
that some people, beyond the bounds of Wessex, would allow me the
pleasure of believing that they have deemed‥my homely poems in our
Dorset mother-speech to be worthy of their reading, I have written a
few of a like kind, in common English. 1874 Hardy in Cornh. Mag. Nov.
624 Greenhill was the Nijnii Novgorod of Wessex; and the busiest‥day
of the whole statute number was the day of the sheep-fair. 1876
Examiner 15 July 794/1 The
Wessex man knows that these passages have
in them the real ring, all equally true to life and scenery. 1938
Proc. Prehistoric Soc. IV. 52 The work‥was‥undertaken with a view
to examining the cultures of the geographical area usually comprised
in the term 'Wessex' in the period immediately following the Beaker
phase. 1979 N. & Q. June 193/2 All [volumes] share a chronology of
the life and works, Hardy's General Preface to the
Wessex Edition, and
Wyvern or dragon
Wessex flag designed by
William Crampton in the 1970s
Wessex is often symbolised by a wyvern or dragon.
Henry of Huntingdon and
Matthew of Westminster talk of a golden
dragon being raised at the Battle of
Burford in 752 by the West
Bayeux Tapestry depicts a fallen golden dragon, as well as
a red/golden/white dragon at the death of King Harold II, who was
previously Earl of Wessex.
Dragon standards were in fairly wide use in
Europe at the time, being derived from the draco standard employed by
the later Roman army , and there is no evidence that it explicitly
A panel of 18th century stained glass at
Exeter Cathedral indicates
that an association with an image of a dragon in south west Britain
pre-dated the Victorians. Nevertheless, the association with Wessex
was only popularised in the 19th century, most notably through the
writings of E. A. Freeman. By the time of the grant of armorial
bearings by the
College of Arms
College of Arms to
Somerset County Council in 1911, a
(red) dragon had become the accepted heraldic emblem of the former
kingdom. This precedent was followed in 1937 when
Council was granted arms. Two gold
Wessex dragons were later
granted as supporters to the arms of
Dorset County Council in
British Army the wyvern has been used to represent Wessex: the
43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division, and postwar regional 43 (Wessex)
Brigade adopted a formation sign consisting of a gold wyvern on a
black or dark blue background. The regular
Wessex Brigade of the 1960s
adopted a cap badge featuring the heraldic beast, until the regiments
took back up individual regimental badges in the late 1960s. The
Wessex Regiment continued to wear the
badge until the late 1980s when its individual companies too readopted
their parent regular regimental cap badges. The now disbanded West
Somerset Yeomanry adopted a
Wyvern rampant as the centre piece
for its cap badge, and the current
Royal Wessex Yeomanry
Royal Wessex Yeomanry adopted a
similar device in 2014 when the Regiment moved from wearing individual
squadron county yeomanry cap badges to a unified single Regimental cap
Sophie, Countess of Wessex
Sophie, Countess of Wessex was granted arms, the sinister
supporter assigned was a blue wyvern, described by the College of Arms
as "an heraldic beast which has long been associated with Wessex".
In the 1970s William Crampton, the founder of the British Flag
Institute, designed a flag for the
Wessex region which depicts a gold
wyvern on a red field.
Attributed coat of arms
A coat of arms was attributed by medieval heralds to the Kings of
Wessex. These arms appear in a manuscript of the 13th century, and are
blazoned as Azure, a cross patonce (alternatively a cross fleury or
cross moline) between four martlets Or.
Penny of King Edward
The attributed arms of
Wessex are also known as the "Arms of Edward
the Confessor", and the design is based on an emblem historically used
Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor on the reverse side of pennies minted by
him. The heraldic design continued to represent both
Wessex and Edward
in classical heraldry and is found on a number of church windows
in derived shields such as the Arms of the Collegiate Church of St
Peter at Westminster (Westminster Abbey, which was founded by the
Cultural and political identity in modern times
Further information: Thomas Hardy's Wessex
At its greatest extent
Wessex encompassed the modern areas of
Hampshire, Isle of Wight,
Dorset and Wiltshire, as well as the western
Berkshire and the eastern hilly flank of Somerset. This covers
an area of about 11,500 km2 (4,400 sq mi).
The English author
Thomas Hardy used a fictionalised
Wessex as a
setting for many of his novels, adopting his friend William Barnes'
Wessex for their home county of
Dorset and its neighbouring
counties in the south and west of England. Hardy's
Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, but the city of Oxford, which he
called "Christminster", was visited as part of
Wessex in Jude the
Obscure. He gave each of his
Wessex counties a fictionalised name,
such as with Berkshire, which is known in the novels as "North
Shakespeare in Love
Shakespeare in Love included a character called "Lord Wessex"
– a title which did not exist in Elizabethan times.
The ITV television series
Broadchurch takes place in
Wessex and its
characters are seen attending South
Wessex Secondary School.
Anglo-Saxon England portal
Earl of Wessex
List of monarchs of Wessex
Wessex Constitutional Convention
Wessex Regionalist Party
Peter Hunter Blair (17 July 2003). An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon
England. Cambridge University Press. p. 2.
^ Blair 2003, pp. 2–3
^ Blair 2003, p. 3
^ Yorke 1995, p. 11
^ Blair 2003, pp. 13–14
^ Blair 2003, pp. 14–16
^ Yorke, Barbara (1 November 2002). Kings and Kingdoms of Early
Anglo-Saxon England. Routledge. pp. 130–131.
^ Giles, John Allen (translator) (1914). The
Anglo-Saxon chronicle. G.
Bell and Sons, LTD. p. 9. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
^ Yorke 2002, pp. 130–131
^ Yorke 2002, p. 130–131
^ Yorke, p. 131
^ Loyn, H. R. (1991).
Anglo-Saxon England and the Norman Conquest (2
ed.). p. 34.
^ a b c d Giles, p. 9
^ Yorke 2002, p. 4
^ "Cerdicesford" is known with certainty to be Charford. (Major, p.
^ Major, Albany F. Early Wars of
Wessex (1912), pp. 11–20
^ Major, p. 19
^ Jackson, Kenneth (1953), Language and History in Early Britain.
Edinburgh. pp. 554, 557, 613 and 680.
^ Parsons, D. (1997) British *Caraticos,
Old English Cerdic, Cambrian
Medieval Celtic Studies, 33, pp, 1–8.
^ Koch, J.T., (2006) Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia,
ABC-CLIO, ISBN 1-85109-440-7, pp. 394–395.
^ Koch, J.T., (2006) Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia,
ABC-CLIO, ISBN 1-85109-440-7, pp. 392–393.
^ Yorke 1995, pp. 190–191
^ Myres, J.N.L. (1989) The English Settlements.
Press, pp. 146–147
^ Yorke, B. (1990), Kings and Kingdoms of Early
London: Seaby, ISBN 1-85264-027-8 pp. 138–139
^ Major, Albany F. Early Wars of Wessex, p.105
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great (849 AD – 899 AD)".
^ Hooper, Nicholas Hooper; Bennett, Matthew (1996). The Cambridge
Illustrated Atlas of Warfare: the Middle Ages. Cambridge University
Press. pp. 22–23. ISBN 0-521-44049-1.
^ "Celtic Kingdoms of the British Isles: Dumnonii". The History Files.
Retrieved 27 December 2015.
^ Albert S. Cook, Asser's life of King Alfred, 1906
^ Sawyer, Peter (2001). The
Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings
(3rd ed.). Oxford: OUP. p. 57. ISBN 0-19-285434-8.
^ The Burghal Hidage: Alfred's Towns,
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great website
^ J. S. P. Tatlock, The Dragons of
Wales in Speculum, Vol.
8, No. 2. (Apr., 1933), pp. 223–235.
^ "The Coat of Arms".
Somerset County Council. Retrieved 14 January
2008. [dead link]
^ "Civic Heraldry of England and
Wiltshire County Council". Civicheraldry.co.uk. Retrieved 6 August
^ "Civic Heraldry of England and
Dorset County Council". Civicheraldry.co.uk. Retrieved 6 August
^ "The Arms of the Countess of Wessex". Royal Insight. Royal.gov.uk.
28 October 2010. Archived from the original on 22 February 2008.
Retrieved 28 November 2010.
^ The Flag Institute: Wessex. Retrieved 26 August 2015
College of Arms
College of Arms MS L.14, dating from the reign of Henry III
^ For example in Divi Britannici by Winston Churchill, published in
1675 and Britannia Saxona by G W Collen published in 1833
Blair, Peter Hunter (17 July 2003). An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon
England (Third ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Yorke, Barbara (1995).
Wessex in the Early Middle Ages. A&C Black.
The Burghal Hidage
Thomas Hardy's Wessex
Thomas Hardy's Wessex Research site by Dr Birgit Plietzsch
The History Files: Kings of the West Saxons
Wessex Law Academy
Kingdoms and subdivisions of
tribes and fiefs
Nox-gaga and Oht-gaga
Coordinates: 51°12′N 2°00′W / 51.2°N