Part 1: Introduction
An explanatory note
This is a quest for the lineage of the South Saxon rulers. Bear in
mind that the bias of this article is hypothetical. All the entries
on individual noblemen begin as follows:
Aethelwalh, born early 620s?
The date of birth refers to a generation timescale, used here
as a theoretical scaffold, of 27 years divided into three-year
spans. The starting point is the assumption that Ælle was about 63
when he died, allegedly in AD 514.
Please note that quite apart from the genealogical theory of
this hypothesis, a certain amount of documented history and
remembered tradition has been modified by conjectural input as well.
This has been necessary to support the chain of events proposed
here. Wherever possible, without overburdening the text, the reader
has been alerted when this occurs.
1. The perspective
Firstly, the introduction is about the remembered tradition
concerning the first ninety years of Sussex that might be identified
as the Royal Legend of the South Saxons, although, with the
exception of Ælle, most historians give no credence to what little
Secondly, it is about how the aim has been pursued to
establish an hypothesis on the lineage of their Sussex-based rulers
who remain obscure, and, in so doing, offer a perspective other than
the familiar blank canvas of South Saxon history. Sadly, the early
story of Sussex lacks documentation, and even where the names of her
later princes are known, any understanding of the relationship
between them remains at best very limited. Establishing an
hypothesis, therefore, is an attempt to give an alternative
perspective by throwing a measure of conjectural light across the
It is hoped that this quest may be useful to some of those who
have an interest in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and their often forgotten formative
influence. For example, based on the hypothesis, a theoretical
timeline for Sussex or a genealogical table of her rulers could be
drawn up, or it might be employed for a qualified and phrased historical
comment, or as a basis for a more conclusive theory on why Sussex
was divided into the rapes, and to discuss the origin of these
ancient divisions of the old county.
2. The royal legend of the South Saxons
Tradition has held, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles have
recorded, that Ælle landed from Gaul at Cymen's Shore in 477, with
his three sons, Cymen, Wlencing and Cissa, and three keel-loads of
warriors. There was a battle between the Saxons and the Welsh (that
is, the "strangers" or Britons) at Mearcred's Burn (unidentified)
 in 485, and six years
later, in 491, Ælle conquered the coastal strip and captured the
Roman fort at Pevensey with the aid of his youngest son Cissa.
is an old local tradition that the Britons made their last stand on
Mount Cayburn which doubtless was once part of the legend. It was
told that Ælle was the first Bretwalda, and it was also claimed that
he was the first king of the South Saxons.
After Ælle's death in 514, his son Cissa followed him as king, making
Noviomagum Regnorum his royal centre, renaming the Roman town Cissan
There is a remnant of this tradition, which survived
locally, relating that his son Wincheling founded Winchelsea.
Tradition also held that Cissa was still king 72 years after his
reign began (perhaps referring originally to the death of an heir at
this point), and that he eventually died in 590, after reigning for
76 years. Presumably, in a later period, Cissa was believed to have
died at about the same age as the biblical Adam.