Monthly Archives: February 2014

Judith of Flanders, two Kings and a Count in twenty years.

Judith and her 3rd husband Baldwin

Judith and her 3rd husband Baldwin

Judith of Flanders, (c 843 AD to c 870 AD) was the eldest daughter of the Frankish King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Bald and his wife Ermentrude of Orleans.  Through her marriages too two different Kings of Wessex (Aethelwulf and Aethelbald) she was Queen twice.  Her first two marriages were both childless.  Her third marriage to Baldwin, Count of Flanders made her the first Countess of Flanders.  One of her sons by Baldwin married Aelfthyth daughter of Aethelbald’s brother Alfred the Great.  She was also an ancestor of Matilda of Flanders the Queen consort to William the Conqueror and thus the later monarchs of England.  This places her quite highly as things stand in the history of both Wessex and England.

In 855 AD King Aethelwulf of Wessex, made a pilgrimage to Rome and on his way back in 856 AD he stayed at the court of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles the Bald.  In July of that year he became engaged to Charles’s daughter, Judith.  On 1st October 856 AD they wed at Verberie in northern France.  The marriage formed a diplomatic alliance between Wessex and the Holy Roman Empire.  Both kingdoms had been suffering from numerous Viking raids and an alliance between the two would make them stronger to repel the attacks.

The marriage itself gave Aethelwulf trouble at home, provoking a rebellion led by his eldest surviving son Aethelbald.  A compromise was reached between Aethelwulf and Aethelbald in where they split the kingdom between father and son.

Judith had no children with Aethelwulf, who died 13th January 858 AD.  He was succeeded by his son Aethelbald who married Judith.  Judith would have been only roughly 15 at the time.  It is believed that Aethelbald would of married Judith to enhance his own status and claim to the throne.  The marriage was condemned by Asser in the Life of Alfred the Great

One King Aethelwulf was dead.  Aethelbald his son, against God’s prohibition and Christian dignity and also contrary to the practice of all pagans, took over his father’s marriage bed and married Judith, daughter of Charles, king of the Franks, incurring great disgrace from all who heard of it.

Judith was still childless when Aethelbald died in 860 AD after a reign of only two and half years.

Following Aethelbald’s death Judith sold all her properties in Wessex and returned to France.  She was then sent by her father to the Monastery of Senlis.  Charles would have presumed due to her childless state that he would be able to rearrange another marriage of political alliance if he could prove she had kept her virtue.  However in 861 AD, around Christmas Judith eloped with Baldwin, the later Count of Flanders and it is believed the two were married at this time in the Monastery of Senlis.  This time Judith was not depicted as the victim bride but part of the plot, and with the consent of her brother Louis the Stammerer.  Maybe third time lucky she got to marry for love!

Judith’s problems did not stop there though.  Her father unsurprisingly was unhappy and ordered his Bishops to excommunicate the couple.  They couple fled to Judith’s cousin Lothair II of Lotharingia for protection before going to Pope Nicholas I to plead their case.  The Pope intervened for the couple and asked Judith’s father to accept the marriage and welcome the young couple to his court.  The couple returned to France and were officially married in Auxerre in 863 AD.

Baldwin was given the land south of Scheldt and the County of Flanders.  His main task was to ward off and deflect any Viking raids.  You would have to wonder with King Charles not liking Baldwin, whether there was an alternative motive behind making sure Baldwin took part in many battles.  This plan if it was in Charles thoughts didn’t work though.  Baldwin did well and quelled the Viking threat, increased his army and also his land holdings.  He became a very faithful supporter of Charles.

Judith and Charles had three children

  • Charles (born after 863 AD and died young.
  • Baldwin II (c 864 AD – 918 AD) succeeded his father as Count of Flanders and married Aelfthyth daughter of Alfred the Great
  • Raoul/Rodulf (c 869 AD – 896 AD) became the Count of Cambrai around 888 AD and was killed by Herbert I of Vermandois in 896 AD

Judith died in about 870 AD just a few years before her father became Holy Roman Emperor.

Father of the Great, Aethelwulf, King of Wessex.

Aethelwulf 1

Aethelwulf, meaning noble wolf was King of Wessex from 839 AD until his death in 858 AD.  He was the father of one of the greatest if not the greatest Anglo-Saxon kings, Alfred the Great.  He was the only known child of King Egbert of Wessex.  He conquered the Kingdom of Kent on behalf of his father in 825, and was later made King of Kent as a sub-king to his father.  He succeeded his father as King of Wessex, on Egbert’s death I 839.  By this point the Kingdom stretched from Kent in the east to Devon in the west.  At the same time as Aethelwulf became King of Wessex his son Aethelstan became King of Wessex.

Historians have conflicting assessments of Aethelwulf.  Some state that Aethelwulf was intensely religious with little political sense.  He was an unambitious man who suffered greatly because of the inconvenience of rank.   Some historians state that he has been under-appreciated and lay the foundations for Alfred’s reign.  He managed to find new and adapt traditional answers and coped with the Scandinavian threat better than others in the same period.  It is also mentioned that he was the first to open channels of communications through the Frankish realms in Europe towards the Alps and Rome.

The most common source from the time the Anglo Saxon Chronicle refers to Aethelwulf’s presence at some important battles of the time.  In 840 AD he thought at Carhampton against 35 ship companies of Danes whose raids had increased greatly.  His most notable victory came in 851 AD in ‘Acleah’.  This could be possibly either Ockley in Surrey or Oakley in Berkshire.  Here Aethelwulf and his son thought against ‘the greatest slaughter of heathen host ever made.”  Around 853 AD Aethelwulf and his brother in law Burged, King of Mercia defeated Cyngen ap Cadell of Wales, and made the Welsh subject to him.  According to the Anglo Saxon Chronicle Aethelwulf fought more battles through the adjoining years mainly against different pirating bands and Danes.

This was an era when different European nations were being constantly raided and invaded by many different groups.  In the south this was by the Saracans, in the east the Maygars, in the west the Moors and in the north the Vikings.  Before Aethelwulf’s death raiders had wintered on the Isle of Sheppey and pillaged East Anglia which would then set precedence for his sons to be constantly harassed by different raiding parties.

As king Aethelwulf split the kingdom into two.  He gave the eastern part to his eldest son Aethelstan, this including the counties Kent, Sussex, Essex and Surrey.   Aethelwulf then kept the more ancient western half for himself, which included Hampshire, Wiltshire, Devon and Dorset.

Aethelwulf coin

Aethelwulf and his first wife Osburh had five sons and a daughter.  After Aethelstan came Aethelbald, Aethelbert, Aethelred and Alfred.  Each of his sons with the exception of Aethelstan succeeded to the throne.  Alfred the youngest has been praised as one of the greatest kings to ever reign in Britain.  Aethelwulf’s daughter Aethelswith was married as a child to King Burgred of Mercia.

Religion was always a great and important part in Aethelwulf’s life and this did rub off on his son Alfred.  As early as the first year of his reign he began planning a pilgrimage to Rome.  With the increase of raids he felt the need to appeal to the Christian god.  In 853 AD he sent his son Alfred to Rome.  Alfred was only four years old.  In 855 AD about a year after the death of his wife Osburga, Aethelwulf followed Alfred to Rome where he was generous with his wealth.  He disturbed gold to the church of St Peter.

On the return journey from Rome he married Judith of Flanders in 856 AD.  Judith was a Frankish princess and a great-granddaughter of Charlemagne.  She was about twelve at the time and her father was Charles the Bald, King of the West Franks.

Upon his return to England in 856 AD Aethelwulf was met with a rebellion.  His elder son Aethelbald (Aethelstan had since died) had devised a conspiracy with the Ealdorman of Somerset and the Bishop of Sherborne to oppose Aethelwulf ‘s resumption of kingship upon his return.  Although Aethelwulf had enough support to banish Aethelbald and his fellow conspirators he instead yealded the western half of Wessex to Aethelbald while keeping the central and eastern parts for his own rule.

Also on returning to England Aethelwulf managed to change the laws regarding the future Kings Queens.  Previously the Queen was not called Queen but known only as ‘wife of the King’.  They were not allow the Queen to sit next to the King.  The restriction was lifted for Queen Judith and it is believed that the concessions were made because she was already a high-ranking European princess.

Aethelwulf died 134th January 858 AD and was buried at Steyning and later re-interred in the Old Minster at Winchester.  His bones now rest in one of several ‘mortuary chests’ at Winchester Cathedral.

The little known Kingdom of Alt Clut

Dumbarton Rock

Dumbarton Rock

Alt Clut was a Brythonic kingdom in the western part of Scotland that later became Strathclyde.  The Kingdom was ruled from Dumbarton Rock Alt Clut until around 870AD when the rock was captured and sacked by Norse-Gaels from the Kingdom of Dublin after a four month siege.  There after the centre of the kingdom moved to Govan.  Govan is now situated in modern Glasgow and had previously been a religious centre.  The kingdom later was known as Cumbria after 870 and may have ruled parts of modern day Cumbria in the 10th and 11th centuries AD.  In the 11th century AD the Kingdom of Alba conquered Stathclyde, but the area remained distinctive with different laws using the Cumbric language alongside Gaelic until the 12th Century AD.

Below is a synopsis of some of the early kings of Alt Clut.

Ceretic Guletic was king of Alt Clut in the 5th Century AD.  He was identified with Coroticus a Britonnic warrior mentioned on a letter by Saint Patrick.  One of the letters is addressed to the warband of the Coroticus people.  The letter mentions the enslavement of newly Christianised Irish and the sale of Christians

‘Soldiers whom I no longer call my fellow citizens or citizens of the Roman saints, but fellow citizens of the devils, in consequence of the evil deeds; who live in death after the hostile rite of the barbarians; associates of the Scots and Apostate Picts; desirous of glutting themselves with the blood of innocent Christians, multitudes of whom I have begotten in God and confirmed in Christ.’

In the letter Patrick announces that he has excommunicated Coroticus’ men.  The connection between Coroticus to Ceretic Guletic is based largely on the 8th Century AD gloss to Patrick’s letter.  It has been suggested that sending the letter provoked the trial Patrick mentions in the Confession.  The ‘Apostate’ Picts are the southern Picts that were converted by Saint Ninian and ministered to by Palladius who subsequently left Christianity.  The Northern Picts of Flortriu were later converted by Saint Columba in the 6th Century AD.  As they were not yet Christian they would not have been called Apostate.

From using the above you would be able to date Ceretic in the 5th Century AD.  Ceretic also appears in the Harleian genealogies of the rulers of Alt Clut.  This lists his father as Cynloyp, grandfather as Cinhil and great-grandfather as Cluim.  It is from this source we get the nickname Guletic which means land-holder.  In the Book of Armagh he is called ‘Coirthech rex Aloo’ or Ceretic, King of the Height (of the Clyde).

Cinuit, the Harleian genealogies indicate that Cinuit was the son of Ceretic Guletic .  He is more identified as the father of Dumnagual Hen an important but obscure ancestor figure of Welsh traditions.   Although in later genealogies such as the Bonedd Gwyr y Gogledd identify Dumnagual’s father as Idnyuet said to be the son of Maxen Wledic (the Roman usurper Magnus Maximus).

Dyfnwal Hen or Dumnagual Hen, Dumnagual the Old (Hen) is regarded as an important ancestor figure in many kingly lines of the Hen Ogledd (Old North).  According to the Harleian genealogies Dumnagual had at least three sons.

  • Clinoch, a successor as King of Alt Clut.
  • Guipno or Gwyddno, who fathered the later kings Neithon.
  •  Cynfelyn who was a later king of Din Eidyn, (Edinburgh).

The Bonedd Gwyr y Gogledd gives a more modified version of Dumnagual’s family tree.  Here he is a son of Idnyued and grandson of Maxen Wledig.  Although the Bonedd does agree with the Harleian stating that Dumnagual is the great-grandfather of Rhydderch Hael a later king of Alt Clut, but his later descendants are altered significantly.  Gwyddno is included but is listed as his great-grandson not his son and is also identified as Gwyddno Garanhir of the Taliesin legend.

Also sometimes Dumnagual is listed as an ancestor to the Aedan mac Gabrain family, a 6th Century AD ruler of the Kingdom of Dal Riata.

Clinoch, not much is known about Clinoch, except that he was the son of Dumnagual as with the Harleian genealogies.  He had a son who followed him as king of Alt Clut  called Tutagual.

Tutagual, is belived to have ruled during the middle of the 6th Century AD.  Much is evidenced that Tutagual was the father of the better known Rhydderch Hael.  Tutagual may be identified as the tyrannical ruler mentioned in Saint Ninian’s 8th Century AD poem Miracula Nyniae Episcopi and Ailred of Rievaulx’s 12th Century AD Vita Sancti Niniani.  The Miracula calls the king Tuduael and Thuuahel, while Ailred gives him the name Tudwaldus and Tuduvallius.  Although it may be that this contradicts the suggested dates for Ninian’s life.

Rhydderch Hael, is the first King of Alt Clut that we know a little more about.  He is believed to have died c.614 AD.  He appears frequently in later medieval works in both Welsh and Latin.

In the a preserved tale from  the 12th Century AD, Welsh law code known as the Black Book of Chirk.  The tale tells of how Rhydderch accompanies rulers from the north on a military expedition to the Kingdom of Gwynedd in North Wales.  Elidir Mwynfawr, another prince of the north had been killed at Arfon in Gwynedd.  In response Rhydderch joined Clydno Eiddin, Nudd Hael and Modaf Hael to seek vengeance on King Rhun Hir ap Maelgwn of Gwynedd.  They travelled by sea and ravaged Arfon but were expelled by Rhun’s forces.  Rhun then attacked Alt Clut and pushed as far north as the River Forth.

Some people say that the events at Arfon may not have taken place and that Welsh propagandists made up the tale to try and glorify their own Kings.  They would of used Rhun as the ancestor and a great warlord who would wage war far beyond his own territories and against figures famed and already rich with Welsh tradition.

Welsh tradition also places Rhydderch as one of the northern British kings who fought against the Anglo-Saxon realm of Berncia.  The Historia Brittonum depicts him as an enemy of several Bernician kings of the late 6th Century AD.  It is said he joined with Urien of Rheged and Morcant Bulc in their ill-fated alliance.

The below is taken from Chapter 63 fo the Historia Brittonum,

Four Kings fought against them, Urien and Rhydderch (Hael) and Gwallawg and Morcant.  Theodoric fought vigorously against Urien and his sons.  During that time, sometimes the enemy sometimes the Cymry were victorious and Urien blockaded them for three days and three nights in the island of Ynys Metcaut.  But during this campaign, Urien was assassinated on the instigation of Morcant from jealousy, because him military skill and generalship surpassed that of all the other kings.

The war with Bernicia is only two military campaigns in which Rhydderch is said to have been involved.   The other was a raid on the Alt Clut court by Aeden mac Gabrain king of Dal Riata and a fellow-contemporary of Saint Columba which is recorded in the Three Unrestrained Ravagings of the Island of Britain in the Welsh Triads.

When Aeden the Wily came to the court of Rhydderch the Generous of Alt Clut; he left neither food nor drink nor beast alive.

Apart from this work there are no other supporting texts to prove their accuracy.  Although with Dal Riata and Alt Clut being neighbours and the mindset during the post Roman period and Dark Ages in northern Britain it is easy to believe that they would have warred at different points.  Dal Riata at the time was new to British politics but the Gaels or Scots of Dal Riata were commonly known to raid along the coast since the time of Vortigern.  Furthermore Aeden mac Gabrain is also known to be a belligerent warlord raiding as far as Northumbria and Pictavia.

Clochoderick Rocking stone in Renfrewshire, Scotland. This stone is said to mark the burial place of Rhydderch

Clochoderick Rocking stone in Renfrewshire, Scotland. This stone is said to mark the burial place of Rhydderch

Aside from the Welsh sources the other main source of information regarding Rhydderch is the Latin hagiography surrounding Kentigern the patron Saint of Glasgow whose Life was written in the 12th Century AD by Joceline of Furness, in Cumbria on behalf of the Bishop of Glasagow.  It is believed that 7th and 8th Century AD traditions were used and Rhydderch appears as King Rederech and is portrayed as Kentigern’s royal patron and benefactor.

Rhyddrech’s exact date of death is unknown, although the Life of Kentigern places his death as the same year as the Welsh saint which according to the Welsh Annals occurred in 612. This is adjusted by historians to 614 AD.  The date is supported by Adomnan who refers to Rhyddrech as a contemporary of Saint Columba who died in 597 AD.  Welsh collections name Rhydderch’s sword as one of the so-called Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain.  It is said that Dyrnwyn (the sword) when drawn by a worthy or well born man the entire blade would blaze with fire.

Hastings or Haestingas?


Hastings must be one of the most known places in England.  Known as the place that William the Conqueror in 1066 defeated Harold and the Normans took control of England.  The history though of Hastings doesn’t start there.  The Haestingas were one of the tribes that settled in the south eastern tip of England sometime before the end of the 8th Century.  Not much is known about the tribe but let’s look at what is.

The foundation legend of South Saxons is given in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle.  The Chronicle states that in the year 477 AD, Aella arrived at a place called Cymenshore in three ships with his three sons.   Cymenshore traditionally is thought to be located around the Selsey area in the south west of Sussex.  However archaeological evidence based on the number of Anglo Saxon cemeteries indicate that around the 5th Century the South Saxons mainly settled the lower Ouse and Cuckmere rivers in East Sussex.

To the east of Pevensey, beyond the Saxon Shore Fort of Anderitum on the other side of the estuary were a group of people that settled and were called the Haestingas.  They gave their name to the town Hastings.  They were believed to a separate group of people than the South Saxons, although there is no archaeological evidence to support the occupation of the area between the 5th and 8th Century AD.  Medieval sources suggest with place name evidence that there were people living there by the late 8th Century AD.

Some of the Anglo Saxon charters from the Kingdom of Sussex do such that there may have been two separate dynasties and people.  The charters of King Northelm who ruled in Sussex in the late 7th Century and early 8th Century AD mention a second King by the name of Watt (or Wattus).  It is suggested that Watt could have been the ruler of the Haestingas.  This is because around the Hastings area there are place names with Watt or What as part of them, but there are no places like this in West Sussex.

Simon of Durham who was a 11th Century monk, records the defeat of the gens Hestingorum (the people of Hastings) by Offa of Mercia in 771.  Mercian overlordship was ended when they were defeated in 825 AD, by Egbert of Wessex at the Battle of Ellandum.  Egbert annexed the territories of Essex, Kent, Surrey and Sussex.  This suggests that by this time the Haestingas had fused together with the South Saxons of Sussex.  Although in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle it states that the Haestingas were harried by the Danes in 1011.  This would mean that they would of maybe kept an unique identity within Sussex, then Wessex and in England as a whole.

The 19th Century AD writer Grant Allen, suggest that the Hastings area was separated to that of Sussex and Kent, only later to join Sussex.  He stated that it was isolated separated from the rest of Sussex and England by the marshland of the Pevensey Levels lying to the west and the forest of Weald in the North.  It was separated from Kent by the Romney Marsh in the east.  He stated that the Kingdom of the Haestingas went on to join Sussex and to become one of traditional ‘rape’ sub-regions of the county.

The actual origin of the Haestingas people is also up for debate.  It is suggested that they may be of Frankish origin and that Watt was a sub-king to the South Saxons.  It may be that the name also gave name to Watten in north east France supporting this claim.  However some say that they may have been of Jutish origin from Kent.  Kent was one of the first places to be converted to Christianity at the beginning of the 7th Century AD, and the simple Christian burial was introduced.  As there is little archaeological evidence of the Saxon Haestingas it could have been they were already converted to Christianity before they moved to the area around Hastings.

Whether they were Saxon or Jutes, it is clear that the people of Haesta (ingas being the Old English for people of) gave the name to Hastings and with that a significant name at a major turning point in England’s history that will be remembered for ever.