West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List

In the article The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Arthur’s death it was stated Dumville derived the same date for the start of Cerdic’s reign. The following table illustrates the derivation.

WSGRL Reign Start ASC entries Discrepancy
Cerdic 16 538 519 19
Cynric 27 554 534 20
Ceawlin 7 581 560 21
Ceol 6 588 591 -3
Ceolwulf 17 594 597 -3
Cynegils 31 611 611 0
Cenwalh 31 642 643 -1
Seaxburh 1 673 672 1
Æscwine 2 674 674 0
Centwine 9 (10) 676 676 0
Cædwalla 3 (2) 685 685 0
Ine 38 688 688 0
Æthelheard 14 726 728 -2
Cuthred 16 740 741 -1
Sigebert 1 756 754 2
Cynewulf 29 757 755 2
Beorhtric 16 786 784 2
Egbert 37 802 800 2
Æthelwulf 16 (19) 839 836 3
Æthelbald 5 855 855 0
Æthelbert 6 860 860 0
Æthelred 5 866 866 0
Alfred 28 871 871 0

It can be seen from the discrepancy column that the only significant differences arise in the dating of the start of the reigns of Cerdic, Cynric and Ceawlin providing evidence that these dates were shifted earlier by one Metonic cycle in order to hide a period of Saxon defeats.

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The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the British victories

That the ASC makes no mention of Baddon is not surprising as the policy was clearly not to mention their defeats. A further example of this are the battles mentioned in the AC and also referred to in the ByT, dated to the year 721:

And the battle of Heilin, with Rhodri Molwynog, took place in Cornwall; and the action of Garthmaelog, and the fight of Pencoed in South Wales. And in those three battles the Britons were victorious.[1]

Moreover, although the ASC is reasonably accurate, it is clear that in the Arthurian age the information has been manipulated. The entries for the years 495 and 508 look similar to those of 514 and 527 respectively, seperated by 19 years, the Metonic cycle. It would appear that, by the use of repetition, the chronicle blanked out a disastrous period for the Saxons.

[1] Williams, J., 1860, 5

Dating Baddon

The AC A-text indicates the battle of Baddon occurred 63 years after Pope Leo’s dating of Easter which occurred in the year 455. This points to a date for Baddon of 518.
The AC B-text describes the occurrence of an eclipse thus:

Anus dies tenebrosa sicut nox.

This is likely to be that which occurred on 23 December 447 and would have been visible over Britain. The document shows Baddon as occurring 71 years later. This too indicates Baddon took place in the year 518.

Further confirmation of this date is given by the ASC and DE as can be seen in the post entitled The Adventus Saxonum.

Dating the Arthurian age

If we are to place Arthur in a historical context the first task needs be to identify the period in which he lived. This is given in the AC by the dates of his two most significant battles: the victory at Badon in the year 518 and the defeat at Camlan in 539.

Is it possible to verify this time period? The chronicle of his enemy, the ASC, makes no mention of these battles. This is not surprising as far as Badon is concerned since the Saxons would have preferred their defeats to be forgotten but it is surprising that Camlan is not mentioned, unless this was an internecine battle between the Britons.

Nennius, in his HB provides a clue for the dating of Badon:

“Hengist having died, however, his son Octha crossed from the northern part of Britain to the kingdom of Kent and from him are descended the kings of Kent. Then Arthur along with the kings of Britain fought against them in those days, but Arthur himself was the military commander [“dux bellorum”].”[1]

After the above quote Nennius lists Arthur’s 12 battles, culminating in Badon, and following that the reign of Ida. The ASC states Aesc succeeded Hengist in 488 and so Arthur’s battles occurred sometime after that date. Gildas speaks of a period of relative peace after Badon and says that the interval was of such length that the generation that had known the turmoils had passed away. The ASC indicates after 547, the start of Ida’s reign, there was no state of peace. If we now deduct 30 years, an approximate length of one generation, from the start of Ida’s reign we arrive at a date close to that given by the AC for Badon, namely 518.

Bede in his HE when giving Ethelbert’s genealogy indicates Octa was a son of Oisc and a grandson of Hengist. This contradiction with the HB may be explained by an earlier reference in that document which says that Hengist sends for his son Octa and Octa’s brother Ebissa. I believe the latter person may have been Oisc who was in reality, as Bede states, Octa’s father.

The GRA gives additional information concerning Oisc that he reigned for 24 years. We may, therefore, conclude Octa succeeded him in the year 512. It follows that Arthur’s 12 battles occurred between the years 512 and 518. The Saxons’ catastrophic defeat in the latter year may explain Octa’s absence from the ASC.

[1] Halsall, P., 1998.