Cerdic of Wessex

Cerdic of Wessex (c. 467534), was the King of Wessex (519534), and was regarded as the ancestors to all subsequent Kings of Wessex.

Official life and career

He is first mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle when he landed in Hampshire in 495 and in 519 gained a great victory at Charford, "but Hengest and Adelle's men had touched hardly more than the coast, and the true conquest of Southern Great Britain was reserved for a fresh band of Saxons, a tribe known as the Gewissas, who landed under Cerdic and his son Cynric on the shores of the Southampton Water, and pushed in 495 to the great Downs of Gwent where Winchester offered so rich a prize. Nowhere was the strife fiercer than here; and it was not till 519 that a decisive victory at Charford ended the struggle for the "Gwent" and set the crown of the West-Saxons on the head of Cerdic." The West Saxons also fought a British king named Natanleod in Wiltshire and slew him. Under his leadership the West Saxons also advanced into Dorset and Somerset. The conquest of the Isle of Wight is also mentioned among his campaigns, and it was later given to his nephews, Stuf and Wihtgar (who brought many other Saxons with them).

In 530 he and his son gradually conquered the country from Sussex to the River Avon in Hampshire; they also passed the Thames and subdued the country as far as Bedford. They were called the West Saxons and the Kingdom of Cerdic was named Wessex. Cerdic died in 534 and was succeeded by his son Cynric.

Some scholars believe that Cerdic was the Saxon leader defeated by the British at the battle of Mount Badon, which was fought sometime between 490 and 516. However, others assign this battle to Ælle or another Saxon leader.


Curiously, the name Cerdic is thought to be British – a form of the name Ceretic – 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.

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 fairly junior rank. 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 dependant 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 defense. 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."

A lot of people would disagree with Myres as Cerdic is reported to have landed in Hampshire.

Cerdic is allegedly an ancestor to Egbert of Wessex, and therefore would be an ancestor of not only the modern British monarchy under Elizabeth II, but virtually every royal lineage in Europe.

Modern times

The name Cedric (as opposed to Cerdic) arose from a misspelling in the novel Ivanhoe.

In the 2004 film King Arthur, Cerdic and Cynric were depicted as Saxon invaders, and were killed, respectively, by Arthur and Lancelot at the Battle of Badon Hill (Mons Badonicus).

Preceded by:
King of Wessex Succeeded by:

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