Cerdic of Wessex

Cerdic of Wessex
See also Ceretic (disambiguation) for two kings with a similar name.
Imaginary depiction of Cerdic from John Speed's 1611 "Saxon Heptarchy".
King of Wessex
Reign 519-534
Predecessor None
Successor Cynric
House House of Wessex
Died 534

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.


The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle provides a pedigree tracing Cerdic's ancestry back to Wōden and the antediluvian patriarchs. However, Kenneth Sisam has shown that this pedigree resulted from a process of elaboration upon a root pedigree borrowed from the kings of Bernicia, and hence prior to Cerdic himself it has no historical basis.[6]

Curiously, the name Cerdic is thought to be British – a form of the name Ceretic or Caradog (in Latin Caratacus) – rather than Germanic in origin. One explanation for this is the possibility that Cerdic's mother was British and that he was given a name used by his mother's people; if so, this would provide evidence for a degree of mixing, both cultural and biological, between the invaders and the native British. Alternatively, the use of a British name may indicate that Cerdic was a native Briton, and that his dynasty became Anglicised over time.[7] This view is supported by the non-Germanic names of some of his successors including Ceawlin, Cedda and Caedwalla. Also Cerdic's father, Elesa, has been identified by some scholars with the Romano-Briton Elasius, the "chief of the region", met by Germanus of Auxerre.[8] If this were the case then the records of Cerdic landing in Britain, which were written down many generations after the events they purport to portray, must be looked on as being in the realms of legend.[9]

J.N.L. Myres noted that when Cerdic and Cynric first appear in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 495 they are described as ealdormen, which at that point in time was a fairly junior rank.[10] Myres remarks that,

It is thus odd to find it used here to describe the leaders of what purports to be an independent band of invaders, who origins and authority are not otherwise specified. It looks very much as if a hint is being conveyed that Cerdic and his people owed their standing to having been already concerned with administrative affairs under Roman authority on this part of the Saxon Shore.

Furthermore, it is not until 519 that Cerdic and Cynric are recorded as "beginning to reign", suggesting that they ceased being dependent vassals or ealdormen and became independent kings in their own right.

Summing up, Myres believed that,

It is thus possible ... to think of Cerdic as the head of a partly British noble family with extensive territorial interests at the western end of the Litus Saxonicum. As such he may well have been entrusted in the last days of Roman, or sub-Roman authority with its defence. He would then be what in later Anglo-Saxon terminology could be described as an ealdorman. ... If such a dominant native family as that of Cerdic had already developed blood-relationships with existing Saxon and Jutish settlers at this end of the Saxon Shore, it could very well be tempted, once effective Roman authority had faded, to go further. It might have taken matters into its own hands and after eliminating any surviving pockets of resistance by competing British chieftains, such as the mysterious Natanleod of annal 508, it could 'begin to reign' without recognizing in future any superior authority.[11]

Some would disagree with Myres, as Cerdic is reported to have landed in Hampshire. Some also would say that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle proves that Cerdic was indeed a Saxon, however it does not prove that he had no Celtic blood. Some scholars believe it likely that his mother was a British Celt who left for the Continent, or perhaps a Continental Celt. Geoffrey Ashe postulates he may be a son of Riothamus.

Modern times

The name "Cedric" (in place of "Cerdic") arose from a misspelling in the novel Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott.

Cerdic is the main protagonist in the historical novel Conscience of the King (1951), by the English author Alfred Duggan.

Cerdic was the primary antagonist of the 2004 film King Arthur. He and Cynric were depicted as Saxon invaders, and were killed, respectively, by Arthur and Lancelot at the Battle of Badon Hill (Mons Badonicus). Cerdic was portrayed by Stellan Skarsgård.

Bernard Cornwell names him as a rival of Aelle of Sussex, in his Warlord Chronicles.

Rosemary Sutcliff makes him the half-British half-Saxon offspring of Hengest's daughter and the British king Vortigern in her Arthurian saga, an ally of Arthur's treacherous son and the unifier of the Saxons.

Cerdic's name may be commemorated in the name of the village of Chearsley, Buckinghamshire, which appears in the Domesday Book (1086) as Cerdeslai. This is assumed to be the place mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as Cerdicesleah, where King Cerdic and his son Cynric defeated the Britons in 527.


  1. ^ British History Online, Victoria County History, North Charford with South Charford
  2. ^ Sir Charles Oman (Oman, England Before the Conquest, 1910:244) found the Wessex annals in the Chronicle "meagre and inexplicable", "confused and suspicious"; Oman's speculation that events in the annals had been duplicated was taken up in detail by Kenneth Harrison (Harrison, "Early Wessex Annals in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" The English Historical Review 86 No. 340 (July 1971:527-533).
  3. ^ Fletcher, Richard (1989). Who's Who in Roman Britain and Anglo-Saxon England. Shepheard-Walwyn. pp. 22–23. ISBN 0-85683-089-5. 
  4. ^ Hunter Blair, Peter (1960). An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England. Cambridge University Press. pp. 34–35. 
  5. ^ Campbell, John; John, Eric & Wormald, Patrick (1991). The Anglo-Saxons. Penguin Books. pp. 26. ISBN 0-14-014395-5. 
  6. ^ Sisam, Kenneth, "Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies", Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. 39, pp. 287-348 (1953)
  7. ^ Koch, J.T., (2006) Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 1851094407, pp. 392-393.
  8. ^ Grosjean, P., Analecta Bollandiana, 1957. Hagiographie Celtique pp. 158-226.
  9. ^ Howorth, H.H., "The Beginnings of Wessex", The English Historical Review, Vol. 13, No. 52 (Oct., 1898), pp. 667-671
  10. ^ Myres, J.N.L. (1989) The English Settlements. Oxford University Press, pp. 146-147
  11. ^ Myres, Chapter 6 - for all preceeding comment.

External links

Regnal titles
New title
Saxons arrive in southern Britain
King of Wessex
Succeeded by

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cerdic De Wessex — Cerdic du Wessex ( vers 470 534), roi du Wessex de 519 à 534, fut le premier roi du Wessex. Il est considéré comme l’ancêtre d’Egbert de Wessex et, de par celui ci, de la maison de Windsor. Sommaire 1 Vie et carrière 2 Problèmes avec le… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Cerdic de wessex — Cerdic du Wessex ( vers 470 534), roi du Wessex de 519 à 534, fut le premier roi du Wessex. Il est considéré comme l’ancêtre d’Egbert de Wessex et, de par celui ci, de la maison de Windsor. Sommaire 1 Vie et carrière 2 Problèmes avec le… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Cerdic de Wessex — Cerdic du Wessex ( vers 470 534), roi du Wessex de 519 à 534, fut le premier roi du Wessex. Il est considéré comme l’ancêtre d’Egbert de Wessex et, de par celui ci, des différentes dynasties royales anglaises puis britanniques jusqu à la maison… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Cerdic de Wessex — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Cerdic de Wessex Cerdic de Wessex (c. 467–534) fue rey del reino anglosajón de Wessex (519–534) y es considerado como el ancestro de todos los reyes subsecuentes de Wessex …   Wikipedia Español

  • Cerdic — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Le nom Cerdic, d’origine bretonne, est assez répandu dans les familles royales galloises du haut Moyen Âge. C’est une forme du nom Ceretic qui lui même… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Cerdic — (auch Ceartic, Certic; † 534/554[1]) war im frühen 6. Jahrhundert König der Gewissæ, einer Volksgruppe die im 7. Jahrhundert als „Westsachsen“ das angelsächsische Königreich Wessex bildete.[2] Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Quellenlage 1.1 Famili …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Wessex — Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre …   Wikipedia Español

  • Cerdic — Cerdic, Sachsenfürst, zog 495 n. Chr. nach Britannien, um die Sachsen gegen die Briten zu unterstützen; er wurde nach mehreren Siegen 519 Gründerdes Reiches Wessex in England u. regierte bis 534, s.u. England (Gesch.). Er kommt in den Gedichten… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Cerdic —   [englisch tʃeədɪtʃ, səːdɪk], angelsächsischer Landnahmeführer, ✝ 534; gilt der Tradition nach als Begründer der Dynastie von Wessex (»Gewisse«) …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Wessex — (spr. Uësseks, Reich der Gewissi, angelsächsisch West seaxas), eins der Angelsächsischen Reiche in England, gestiftet 519 von Cerdic, s. England S. 708. Es begriff die jetzigen Grafschaften Cornwall, Devonshire, Somersetshire, Dorsetshire,… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”