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List of monarchs of Wessex

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This is a list of monarchs of the Kingdom of the West Saxons (Wessex) until 886 AD. For later monarchs, see the List of English monarchs. While the details of the later monarchs are confirmed by a number of sources, the earlier ones are in many cases obscure.

The names are given in modern English form followed by the names and titles (as far as is known) in contemporary Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and Latin, the prevalent languages of record at the time in England.

This was a period in which spellings varied widely, even within a document. A number of variations of the details below exist. Among these are the preference between the runic character thorn (Þ, lower-case þ, from the rune of the same name) and the letter eth (Ð or ð), both of which are equivalent to modern ⟨th⟩ and were interchangeable. They were used indiscriminately for voiced and unvoiced ⟨th⟩ sounds, unlike in modern Icelandic. Thorn tended to be more used in the south (Wessex) and eth in the North (Mercia and Northumbria). Separate letters th were preferred in the earliest period in Northern texts, and returned to dominate by the Middle English period onward.

The character ⁊ (Tironian et) was used as the ampersand (&) in contemporary Anglo-Saxon writings. The era pre-dates the emergence of some forms of writing accepted today; notably rare were lower case characters, and the letters W and U. W was occasionally rendered VV (later UU), but the runic character wynn (Ƿ or ƿ) was a common way of writing the /w/ sound. Again the West Saxons initially preferred the character derived from a rune, and the Angles/Engle preferred the Latin-derived lettering VV, consistent with the thorn versus eth usage pattern.

Except in manuscripts, runic letters were an Anglian phenomenon. The early Engle restricted the use of runes to monuments, whereas the Saxons adopted wynn and thorn for sounds which did not have a Latin equivalent. Otherwise they were not used in Wessex.


Reign Incumbent Notes
Kingdom of the Gewissae
Cerdicing dynasty
519 to 534 Cerdic Possibly Celtic, Brythonic, name. King of Wessex (King of the Gewissae)
534 to 560 Cynric Son, or according to some sources grandson, of Cerdic.
560 to 591 Ceawlin Son of Cynric. Possibly Celtic, Brythonic, name.
591 to 597 Ceol Nephew of Ceawlin, grandson of Cynric.
597 to 611 Ceolwulf Brother of Ceol, grandson of Cynric.
611 to 643 Cynegils Sources derive him from Cynric, but name different dynasty members as his father. Possibly Celtic, Brythonic, name
c. 626 to 636 Cwichelm Co-ruler with Cynegils, perhaps his son of this name.
643 to 645 Cenwalh Son of Cynegils. Possibly Celtic, Brythonic, name; Deposed
Mercian dynasty
645 to 648 Penda King of Mercia, expelled Cenwalh.
Cerdicing dynasty
648 to 672 Cenwalh Restored; reigned until his death in 672
672 to 674 Seaxburh Only queen regnant, ruled after her husband's death.
674 Cenfus (Disputed) Perhaps reigned between Seaxburh and his son Æscwine. Given a remote descent from Cynric.
674 to 676 Æscwine Son of Cenfus.
676 to 685 Centwine Traditionally son of Cynegils, but this is disputed. Deposed by Cædwalla
Kingdom of the West Saxons
Cerdicing dynasty
685 to 688 Cædwalla Perhaps descendant of Ceawlin. Usurper; abdicated, possibly of British origin.
688 to 726 Ine Descendant of Ceawlin. Abdicated
726 to 740 Æthelheard Perhaps brother-in-law of Ine.
740 to 756 Cuthred Relative, possibly brother, of Æthelheard.
756 to 757 Sigeberht Distant relative of Cuthred. Deposed (and killed?) by Cynewulf
757 to 786 Cynewulf Assassinated by Cyneheard, who was the brother of Sigeberht. Direct descendant of Cerdic.
786 to 802 Beorhtric Possible direct descendant of Cerdic. Son-in-law of Offa of Mercia.
802 to 839 Ecgberht Descendant of Ine's brother.
839 to 858 Æthelwulf Son of Ecgberht.
858 to 860 Æthelbald Son of Æthelwulf.
860 to 865 Æthelberht Son of Æthelwulf.
865 to 871 Æthelred I Son of Æthelwulf.
871 to 886 Alfred the Great Son of Æthelwulf. The only English monarch to be given the epithet "the Great".


Alfred the GreatÆthelred I, King of WessexÆthelberht of WessexÆthelbald of WessexÆthelwulf, King of WessexEgbert of WessexBeorhtric of WessexCynewulf of WessexSigeberht of WessexCuthred of WessexÆthelheard of WessexIne of WessexCædwalla of WessexCentwine of WessexÆscwine of WessexCenfus of WessexSeaxburh of WessexCenwalh of WessexPenda of MerciaCenwalh of WessexCwichelm of WessexCynegils of WessexCeolwulf of WessexCeol of WessexCeawlin of WessexCynric of WessexCerdic of WessexIclingas

Family tree[edit]

The chart shows their (claimed) descent from the traditional first king of Wessex, Cerdic, down to the children of Alfred the Great. A continuation of the tree into the 10th and 11th centuries can be found at English monarchs family tree.

The tree is largely based on the late 9th-century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List (reproduced in several forms, including as a preface to the [B] manuscript of the Chronicle),[1] and Asser's Life of King Alfred. These sources are all closely related and were compiled at a similar date, and incorporate a desire in their writers to associate the royal household with the authority of being a continuation of a unified line of kingship descended from a single original founder.[2]

One apparently earlier pedigree survives, which traces the ancestry of King Ine back to Cerdic. This first appears in a 10th-century manuscript copy of the "Anglian collection" of Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies. The manuscript is thought to have been made at Glastonbury in the 930s during the reign of King Æthelstan [3] (whose family traced their own royal descent back to Cerdic via a brother of King Ine), but the material may well date back to the earliest reconstructable version of the collection, c. 796; and possibly still further back, to 725–726.[4] Compared to the later texts, this pedigree gives an ancestry for Ceolwald as son of Cuthwulf son of Cuthwine which in the later 9th-century texts sometimes seems confused; and it states Cynric as son of Creoda son of Cerdic, whereas the Chronicle annals go to some length to present Cerdic and Cynric as a father-and-son pair who land in and conquer the southern part of Wessex together (a narrative now considered spurious by historians).[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dumville, David N. (1985). "The West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List and the Chronology of Early Wessex". Peritia. 4: 21–66. doi:10.1484/J.Peri.3.96.
    Dumville, David N. (1986). "The West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List: Manuscripts and Texts". Anglia. 104: 1–32. doi:10.1515/angl.1986.1986.104.1.
  2. ^ A "political fiction", according to Kirby, D.P. (1992). The Earliest English Kings. London: Routledge. p. 49. ISBN 0-4150-9086-5.
  3. ^ Sisam, Kenneth (1953). "Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies". Proceedings of the British Academy. 39: 287–348.
    Dumville, David N. (1976). Clemoes (ed.). "The Anglian collection of royal genealogies and regnal lists". Anglo-Saxon England. 5: 23–50. doi:10.1017/S0263675100000764.
  4. ^ Dumville 1976, pp. 40, 42, 46. It is also possible that the material may first have been joined in with the collection in a copy made in Mercia c. 840.
  5. ^ Yorke, Barbara (1989). "The Jutes of Hampshire and Wight and the origins of Wessex". In Bassett, S.R. (ed.). The Origins of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms. Leicester University Press. pp. 84–96. ISBN 0-7185-1317-7.. Yorke's theory "has met with general acceptance (I cannot find any historian or archaeologist that disagrees with her conclusions)", according to Bush, Robin (28 August 2001). "Were the West Saxons guilty of ethnic cleansing?". Time Team Live 2001. Channel 4. Archived from the original on 19 February 2006.