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Cerdic and his Ancestors

  • P. K. Johnstone

King Cerdic of Wessex (more accurately, of the Gewissae) is perhaps the most enigmatic figure in the whole of British history. He appears as a chieftain with an Anglian pedigree but an indubitably Welsh name, having Jutish kinsfolk, with whose aid he establishes a Saxon kingdom, which nevertheless seems to remain archaeologically British (i.e. non-Teutonic) for a half-century or more after the supposed date of his conquests. Such a series of anomalies may be treated either as evidence of Cerdic's mythical origin, or as the hallmarks of a reality which is under no obligation to be lucid and uncomplicated. In either case, he symbolizes a chapter of half-forgotten history, obscure but crucial.

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1 ‘Cerdic and the Cloven Way’, ANTIQUITY V, 441-58 ; ‘Southampton’ ANTIQUITY, XVI.

2 The Parker Preface is reprinted by Hodgkin, H. of the Anglo-Saxons, 1, 1251”. Ethelweard, Bk. 11, cap. IX (188 years from Ine (688) back to Cerdic), III, ii (350 years from Egbert (802) back to Cerdic. St. Augustine’s coming (597) is 96 years after Cerdic).

3 Cal. Pat. Rolls. Edw. III, p. 150. Roger de Audele, parson at Fordynggebrigge, complains that certain persons (eleven are named) have robbed his house atWulfedele, and (apparently later) assaulted his servant, Richard de Chardele, at Fordingbridge. For this information I am indebted to the Editor.

As a servant (serviens) it is most improbable that Richard took his surname from a place very distant from Fordingbridge. If the name survives, it has very probably been distorted by assimilation to the personal name ‘Charlie’.

4 Ethelweard, A.530, says they were Britons.

5 See J. W. Jeudwine, The First Twelve Centuries of British Story (? 1911), pp. 28ff. The references in Welsh tradition to the Dumnonian kings, Geraint and Mark, as ‘fleet-commanders’, and to Arthur’s famous ship, Prydwen, are not without significance. Jordanes (De Or. Get, cap. 45) shows a British war-fleet active in West Gaul in 469.

6 Does the bardic lament for Geraint son of Erbin and his ‘brave men from the borders of Devon’ who fell at Llongborth—‘and ere they were slain, they slew’—refer to this campaign ? (Black Book of Caermarthen, XXII, Red Book of Hergest XIV). One would be glad to have the opinions of Prof. Ifor Williams or Mr Kenneth Jackson on this poem.

7 Discussed in my’ Mons Badonicus and ‘Cerdic of Wessex‘, ANTIQUITY, XIII, 92-5, 1939.

8 Crudansceat near Bentley, and Creodanhyl near Alton, Hants. Perhaps also Crydanbricg (Curbridge) near Witney, Oxon. Kemble, Cod. Dip., 1093, 1035, 1070, 1201.

9 See (Collingwood &) Myres, Roman Britain and the English Settlements, pp. 364-6, 397-405. Additional evidence may be found in the place-name Canterton (Cantwara-tum), about 2 miles south of the Cloven Way.

10 Nennius, Historia Brittonum, cap. 37.

11 (a) CYNIIIE-CYNLLIB-CEREDIG WLEDIG (Coroticus)-CYNWYD- Dyfnwal- CYNFELYN- CLINOG (b) CUNEDDA-CEREDIG CEREDIGION-CORUN-CARANNOG. (C) COEI.-CENEU. See the genealogies in Gould & Fisher, Lives of the British Saints, vol. 1, and E. W. B. Nicholson, ‘The Dynasty of Cunedag’ Y Cymmrodor, XXII.

12 It also occurs among the Mercian rulers (ICCI-CNEBBA-CYNEWALD-CREODA) but only after their settlement in Britain.

13 H.B., cap. 56.

14 H.R.B., VI, 13, ‘Octa, Ebissa and Cherdìch’. Note the resemblance of this form (which iooks very Breton) to the Cheldric(h) who fights at Badon, later on. It is also possible that for Ebissa vve should read Elissa, Elesa.

15 H.B., cap. 57, D. Haigh, The Conquest of Britain by the Saxons (1861), p. 132. H.M. Chad wick, Origin of the English Nation.

16 H.B., cap. 37.

17 H.B., cap. 38. Geoffrey of Monmouth spells it Ebissa.

18 Discussed by Crawford, ANTIQUITY IX, 284, 1935, Collingwood and Myres, op. cit. p. 412.

19 The Annals of Ulster, A.D. 471 (the date may be too late) note a ‘second’ Saxon raid on Ireland (the first was in 434) which may be connected with Octa’s voyage.

20 Peniarth MS, 118.

21 Icklingham, on the river Lark, suggests that Icel’s family settled first on the eastern fringe of the Fens.

22 H.E., II, 3.

23 ibid, III, 23.

24 Book of Taliessin XLVI. Hengwrt MS, 536.

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  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
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