User:Dougweller/Ancestry of the kings of Britain

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Early kingdoms of Britain
A mancus or gold dinar of Offa, a copy of the dinars of the Abbasid Caliphate (774).
A modern version of the West Saxon flag

The Ancestry of the Kings of Anglo-Saxon England has long attracted interest because the kings and Queens of Britain trace their lineage from some of the ancient "Houses" of England.[1][2] The migrations and integration of British and Imperial Roman dynasties are widely accepted in ancestral studies.[3]

The study of English ancestry has long been a fixation of historians. Fascination with the ancestry of ancient dynasties is called "progonoplexia" and is not a recent phenomenon, often associated with an inclination towards entitlement. Horsa and Hengest were two semi-legendary chieftans suggested to have led a fifth century Anglo-Saxon conquest of England that Thomas Jefferson proposed placing on the Great Seal of the United States (pictured). It has been made popular in more recent times by the television series Who Do You Think You Are?" along with numerous websites and computer programs to build family trees. [4]


Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote a legendary chronology of the kings and legendary kings of Britain in his Historia Regum Britanniae written around 1136 CE.[5] Along with written histories, ancestries can also be studied through genealogies; lists of names in various manuscripts. Ancestries include the Ancestry of the kings of Wessex and the Ancestry of the kings of Mercia. Scholarly analysis suggests the early part of some versions are largely an invention of the 8th and 9th centuries. They provides lines of names stretching from Godulf Geoting,[6] (back further past Geata Taetwaing in Tiberius A Vi (and B. I))[7] presumably ruler of a kingdom before Woden to Eanfrith, Aldfrið or Pybba and onwards. They have variations in a number of Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies.[8][9][10]

Many American names can be traced from British ancestry, such as the founders of Yale University. Rodney Horace Yale said that their ancestry "was derived from the name of the district of Yale, in the lordship of Bromfield and Yale." The native Yales of Wales were descended from British, Italian and Norman lines, without any evidence of Saxon ancestry.[11]

Historical record[edit]

An early na|me on record outside of the legendary genealogies is called Creoda[12] mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry 519[13] and in the B, C, and D version,[14] although not listed as a king.[15] Creoda has been deleted from some of the genealogies. Cearl is the first king of Mercia recorded by Bede in his Ecclesiastical History.[16] Nicholas Brooks has suggested that a different Creoda (or Crida) was the founder and the first ruler of the House of Mercia. Paul de Rapin suggested Crida arrived around 584 CE "in Britain with a numerous army of Angles, and makes large conquests".[17] According to the Chronicle, Crida died along with Ceawlin and Cwichelmin 594 CE. They are never mentioned as kings but Barbara Yorke suggests "their names follow the 'C' alliteration favoured by West Saxon æthelings".[18]

Crida was succeeded by Pyba and Penda who were thought to have come from a family named the Iclingas, of which the legendary king Icel may have been a member, possibly living between 450 and 525 CE. The genealogy of the Iclingas details their family descent from Woden.[16]

Ancient geneaologies[edit]

The list of names in the different genealogies give the following pedigrees:

      Semi-Legendary or possible kings after Godulf Geoting
      Kings in the historical record

Vespasian B vi Mercia and Tiberius B v Vespasian B vi Lindsey Genealogia Lindisfarorum Ancestry of the kings of West Saxony Biographical notes
Geot Compare the Geats who are frequently mentioned in Beowulf's story.
Godulf Geoting Godulf
Finn Goduulfing Finn Ancient pedigree.
Frioðulf Finning Frioðulf
Frealaf Frioðulfing Frealaf
Woden Uuoden Frealafing Woden Compare Woden, the god (pictured).
Weothulgeot Uinta Wodning Winta - Compare Winteringham (the homestead of Winta's people).
Wihtlaeg Cretta Uinting Cretta Ancient pedigree.
Wermund Cueldgils Cretting Cuelgils
Offa Cædbæd Cueldgilsing Caedbaed
Angeltheow Bubba Cadbæding Bubba
Eomer Beda Bubbing Beda Different spelling in Anglian collection manuscripts.
Icel Biscop Beding Biscop
Cnebba Eanferð Biscoping Eanferð
Cynewald Eatta Eanferðing Eatta Cynegils
Creoda (or Crida)[19] Alfreið Eatting Ealdfrith Cwichelm
Pybba Cuthred

Another genealogy with semi-fictional sources is called the House of Icel:

Ruler Reign Biographical notes Died
Icel c.527 (or c.515)–? Son of Eomer, last King of the Angles in Angeln. Led his people across the North Sea to Britain. ?
Cnebba ? Son of Icel. ?
Cynewald ? Son of Cnebba. ?
Creoda c.584–c.593 Son of Cynewald. Probable founder of the Mercian royal fortress at Tamworth. c.593
Pybba c.593–c.606 Son of Creoda. Extended Mercian control into the western Midlands. c.606

Ancestry of the kings of Lindsey[edit]

Main article: Kingdom of Lindsey

Manuscripts including the Genealogia Lindisfarorum contain references to names from the Kingdom of Lindsey, a settlement in the northeast of Britain that rose to prominence in the early years of settlement by the Angles. Little is known of the Kingdom and the people are not recorded participating in the wars of the seventh and eighth centuries.[8] Frank Stenton suggested the Caedbaed may have ruled around 570 CE.[20] He suggests "the hint of early intercourse between Angles and Britons given by the name of King Caedbaed is strengthened by the fact that Lindsey itself is a British name". Cueldgils is another compound name in the list. The word Lindsey is formed from a Roman compound "Lindum Colonia" from which Lincoln, England derives it's name.[21]

Ancestry of the kings of Anglia[edit]

Main article: Kings of the Angles

The Kingdom of Lindsey was bounded to the southeast by Middle Anglia, a province connected to Mercia through early histories.[21]

Ancestry of the kings of Mercia[edit]

A map of England, Wales and southern Scotland.  The Britons are shown in the soutwest and northwest of England.  In the northeast are the Northumbrians, with the Bernicians to the north of the Deirians.  The Mercians are in the middle, with the Gainas, Lindisfaras, and Middle Angles to the east.  An number of smaller tribes are shown in the south.
A map showing the general locations of the Anglo-Saxon peoples around the year 600

The origins of the kings of Mercia have been connected with the foundation of Medeshamstede, which is modern Peterborough. Nottingham is another large, modern city that sits at the heart of the territory once known as Mercia.[19]

In early times, a shadowy overlord ruled in the area called Offa, a King who constructed the Offa's Dyke earthworks. Ann Dornier compiled a large collection of evidence available about the Mericans in a book called Mercian Studies in 1977, providing a wealth of information about the culture and history of the Kingdom. This has been expanded in recent years with exploration of issues such as the roles of women in ancient society by Paul Stafford. The Ancestry of the kings of Mercia suggests that the territory developed from "the accretion of other groups claiming a common ancestry". The Church has had an important role in compiling the records of these times, with dates claimed for the conversion to Christianity of Peada in around 653.[19]

Ancestry of the kings of Kent[edit]

Bede, in his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, completed in 731, includes pedigrees for the kings of Kent and of the East Angles, tracing the former back to the 5th century warlord Hengist and both back to the Germanic god Woden.[22] Vespasian B Vi contains a list that ends in the year 812. The Anglian collection provides pedigrees for Deira, Bernicia, Mercia, Lindsey, Kent and East Anglia, tracing all from Woden, made son of an otherwise unknown Frealaf.[22]

Ancestry of the kings of West Saxony[edit]

The ancestry of the West Saxon kings can be found in the Chronicle, Ecclesiastical History and other records showing titles of subregulus or rex. The main kings of West Saxony included a line from Cynegils to Baldred of Kent, Ceawlin and Cutha or Cuthwulf. Cuthwulf is also noted to have a son called Cuthwine. The son of Cynegils was called Cwichelm, who is known from the Chronicle to have died in the same year as Crida.[18] Henry of Huntingdon assumed that Crida and Creoda were the same person in Historia Anglorum, however the context of the Chronicle suggests he was a West Saxon.[19]

Two manuscripts (called CCCC 183 and Tiberius V, or simply C and T) include a listing for Ine that traces his ancestry from Cerdic, the suggested original dynast of the British monarchy. This addition suggest at the influence of West Saxony expanded under Ecgbert, whose family claimed descent from a relative of Ine. Pedigrees are also preserved in several regnal lists dating from the reign of Æthelwulf and later but seemingly based on a late-8th or early 9th century source or sources.[22] Barbara Yorke agrees that confusion exists regarding the lists, saying "not all sources agree that Cyrnic was his [Cerdic] son, for in the earliest recorded version of the West Saxon genealogy in the Anglian collection Cynric is given as the son of Creoda the son of Cerdic. Creoda is not mentioned at all in the annalistic version of the origns of Wessex or in the short genealogies included in the Chronicle."[18]

Individual Kings Reference[edit]


Esla appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as the son of Gewis and a descendant of Woden. He is also described as the father of Elesa, the father of Cerdic of Wessex who invaded Britain and founded the kingdom of Wessex. That an earlier pedigree of the kings of Bernicia is very similar, except that it has Bernic, eponymous ancestors of the Bernicians, in the same place as the later Wessex pedigree substitutes Gewis, eponymous ancestor of the Gewisse or West Saxons, has led to the suggestion that the later Wessex pedigree may have been modified from that of the Bernicians. Elsa is just a mythical, probably invented, name in a mythical pedigree, that doesn't even belong to the family that is supposedly supplying the notoriety (the original pedigree was hijacked from the Bernician kings).

Some Speculation there has been[edit]

There has been some speculation which connects Esla to the Gothic name Ansila and in late Welsh sources, a figure with the (possibly Gothic) name Osla, nicknamed Cyllellfawr "Big-Knife" in Welsh. Other scholars may have argued that the name is Brythonic.

Possible Non-Existence[edit]

It is possible that Esla never existed. Kenneth Sisam makes a strong argument that Esla was simply invented to provide an alliterative couplet with Elesa, demanded when the intrusion of the heroic pair of Wig and Freawine into the borrowed Bernician pedigree set up a pattern of alliteratively-coupled names.

References and external links[edit]

Preceded by
Supposed Ancestor of the kings of Wessex Succeeded by


Gewis appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as the son of Wig and a descendant of Woden. He is described as the father of Esla and suuplies an explanation for the early name of the inhabitants of Wessex, the Gewissas.

References and external links[edit]

Preceded by
Ancestor of the kings of Wessex Succeeded by

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peter (of Ickham) (1885). The Genealogy of the Kings of Britain: From Brutus to the Death of Alfred, Tr. from a Norman-French Ms. in the Library If Trinity College, Cambridge. Priv. Print. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  2. ^ George Russell French (1841). The ancestry of ... queen Victoria, and of ... prince Albert. pp. 375–. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  3. ^ John Ashton Cannon; Ralph Alan Griffiths (November 1998). The Oxford illustrated history of the British monarchy, p. 268. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  4. ^ Eviatar Zerubavel (9 November 2011). Ancestors and Relatives:Genealogy, Identity, and Community: Genealogy, Identity, and Community. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-977395-4. Retrieved 22 November 2012. 
  5. ^ Geoffrey (of Monmouth, Bishop of St. Asaph); Michael D. Reeve; Neil Wright (2007). The History of the Kings of Britain: An Edition and Translation of De Gestis Britonum (Historia Regum Britanniae). Boydell & Brewer. pp. 68–. ISBN 978-1-84383-206-5. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  6. ^ Reginald Lane Poole (1969). Essays in history; presented to Reginald Lane Poole, p. 137. Clarendon Press. Retrieved 22 November 2012. 
  7. ^ Raymond Wilson Chambers; Charles Leslie Wrenn (1921). Beowulf: An Intoduction to the Study of the Poem with a Discussion of the Stories of Offa and Finn. pp. 199–. 
  8. ^ a b F. M. (Frank Merry), "Lindsey and its Kings", Essays presented to Reginald Lane Poole, 1927, pp. 136-150, reprinted in Preparatory to Anglo-Saxon England: Being the Collected Papers of Frank Merry Stenton : Edited by Doris Mary Stenton, Oxford, 1970, pp. 127-137.
  9. ^ Zaluckyj, Sarah & Feryok, Marge. Mercia: The Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Central England (2001) ISBN 1-873827-62-8
  10. ^ Robert Dennis Fulk; Robert E. Bjork; John D. Niles (5 April 2008). Klaeber's Beowulf: And the Fighting at Finnsburg. University of Toronto Press. pp. 292–. ISBN 978-0-8020-9567-1. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  11. ^ Rodney Horace Yale (1900). Yale genealogy and history of Wales: the British kings and princes, life of Owen Glyndwr, biographies of Governor Elihu Yale, for whom Yale University was named, Linus Yale, Sr. ... and other noted persons (1980 reprint ed.). D.R. Yale. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  12. ^ Thomas A. Bredehoft (2001). Textual Histories: Readings in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. University of Toronto Press. pp. 167–. ISBN 978-0-8020-4850-9. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  13. ^ Gordon J. Copley (1954). The conquest of Wessex in the sixth century. Phoenix House. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  14. ^ E. B. Fryde; D. E. Greenway; S. Porter; I. Roy (23 February 1996). Handbook of British Chronology. Cambridge University Press. pp. 21–. ISBN 978-0-521-56350-5. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  15. ^ Swanton, Michael (editor) (1996). Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Routledge. p. 66 footnote 2. 
  16. ^ a b Nicholas Brooks (2 August 2003). Anglo-Saxon Myths: State and Church, 400-1066: State and Church, 400-1066. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 67–. ISBN 978-1-85285-154-5. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  17. ^ Rapin de Thoyras (Paul, M.) (1747). The history of England. J. and P. Knapton. pp. 5–. Retrieved 22 November 2012. 
  18. ^ a b c Dr Barbara Yorke (1990). Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England, p. 143. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-0-415-16639-3. Retrieved 22 November 2012. 
  19. ^ a b c d Michelle P. Brown, Carol A. Farr; Carol Ann Farr (1 May 2005). Mercia: An Anglo-Saxon Kingdom In Europe. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8264-7765-1. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  20. ^ The Archaeological Journal, Volume 91, page 138, Published by British Archaeological Association, Royal Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 1935.
  21. ^ a b Frank Merry Stenton (1971). Anglo-Saxon England: Reissue with a New Cover, p. 49. Oxford University Press. pp. 49–. ISBN 978-0-19-280139-5. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  22. ^ a b c Kenneth Sisam (1955). "Anglo-saxon Royal Genealogies", Proceedings of the British Academy, 39 (1953), pp. 287–348. Cumberlege. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 

External links[edit]

Genealogia Lindisfarorum in Chronicon ex chronicis