18 Facts About Wessex


Wessex became a Christian kingdom after Cenwalh was baptised and was expanded under his rule.

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Wessex was invaded by the Danes in 871, and Alfred was compelled to pay them to leave.

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The Romans, or rather the Romano-British, built another major road that integrated Wessex, running eastwards from Exeter through Dorchester to Winchester and Silchester and on to London.

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Wessex spent his exile in East Anglia, and was converted to Christianity there.

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Wessex established a second bishopric at Winchester, while the one at Dorchester was abandoned as Mercian power pushed southwards.

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Wessex's reign ended in 688 when he abdicated and went on pilgrimage to Rome where he was baptised by Pope Sergius I and died soon afterwards.

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Wessex's successor was Ine, who claimed to be a descendant of Cerdic through Ceawlin, but again through a long-separated line of descent.

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Wessex issued the oldest surviving English code of laws apart from those of the kingdom of Kent, and established a second West Saxon bishopric at Sherborne, covering the area west of Selwood Forest, which formed an important boundary between east and west Wessex.

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In 802 the fortunes of Wessex were transformed by the accession of Egbert who came from a cadet branch of the ruling dynasty that claimed descent from Ine's brother Ingild.

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Wessex thereby became the Bretwalda, or high king of Britain.

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Wessex gathered scholars from around England and elsewhere in Europe to his court, and with their help translated a range of Latin texts into English, doing much of the work personally, and orchestrated the composition of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

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The Kingdom of Wessex had thus been transformed into the Kingdom of England.

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Nevertheless, the association with Wessex was only popularised in the 19th century, most notably through the writings of E A Freeman.

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Two gold Wessex dragons were later granted as supporters to the arms of Dorset County Council in 1950.

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The Territorial Army Wessex Regiment continued to wear the Wessex Brigade badge until the late 1980s when its individual companies too readopted their parent regular regimental cap badges.

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When Sophie, Countess of Wessex was granted arms, the sinister supporter assigned was a blue wyvern, described by the College of Arms as "an heraldic beast which has long been associated with Wessex".

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Hardy's Wessex excluded Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, but the city of Oxford, which he called "Christminster", was visited as part of Wessex in Jude the Obscure.

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Wessex is the setting for Robert Harris's 2019 novel The Second Sleep, set in a quasi-medieval England after the collapse of modern technological society.

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