House of Wessex

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House of Wessex
House of the Gewisse
West Saxon dynasty
House of the West Saxons
Dissolutionc. 1125
Cadet branchesThe Ecgbertings and the Æthelwoldings.

The House of Wessex, also known as the House of Cerdic, the House of the West Saxons, the House of the Gewisse, the Cerdicings and the West Saxon dynasty, refers to the family, traditionally founded by

Cnut the Great and his sons ruled until 1042. The House of Wessex then briefly regained power under Æthelred's son Edward the Confessor, but lost it after the Confessor's reign, with the Norman Conquest in 1066. All kings of England since William II have been descended from the House of Wessex through William the Conqueror's wife Matilda of Flanders, who was a descendant of Alfred the Great through his daughter Ælfthryth. Additionally, kings since Henry II have been descended from English kings from the House of Wessex through Henry I's wife Matilda of Scotland
, who was a great-granddaughter of Edmund Ironside.


The House of Wessex became rulers of a unified English nation under the descendants of

Mersey and Humber, but this was not fully consolidated until after his nephew Edgar
succeeded to the throne.

Their rule was often contested, notably by the Danish king

Edgar the Ætheling, a grandson of Edmund Ironside who had originally been passed over in favour of Harold, were unsuccessful and William's descendants secured their rule. Chroniclers describe conflicting stories about Edgar's later years, including a supposed involvement in the First Crusade; he is presumed to have died around 1126. A Northumberland pipe roll mentions an "Edgar Adeling" in 1158, and 1167, by which time Edgar would have been over 100 years old.[1] Beyond this, there is no existing evidence that the male line of the Cerdicings continued beyond Edgar Ætheling. Edgar's niece Matilda of Scotland later married William's son Henry I to consilidate his claim to the throne, since his father, William the Conqueror already had a tenuous claim to the English throne, and he had an even more tenuous one, forming a link between the two dynasties. Henry II was a descendant of the House of Wessex in the female line, something that contemporary English commentators noted with approval.[2]

The House of Wessex predominantly ruled from

New Minster. The remains of many of these rulers and others were vandalized during the English Civil War; currently the bones rest jumbled in different mortuary chests in the current cathedral

Though London was already a prominent city in pre-Conquest England, only one king from the House of Wessex was buried there (



Edgar ÆthelingHarold GodwinsonEdward the ConfessorHarthacnutHarold HarefootCnut the GreatEdmund II IronsideÆthelred IISweyn ForkbeardÆthelred IIEdward the MartyrEdgar the PeacefulEadwigEadredEdmund IÆthelstanÆlfweard of WessexEdward the ElderAlfred the GreatÆthelred I, King of WessexÆthelberht of WessexÆthelbald of WessexÆthelwulf, King of WessexEgbert of WessexBeorhtric of WessexCynewulf of WessexSigeberht of WessexCuthred of WessexÆthelheard of WessexIne of WessexCædwalla of WessexCentwine of WessexÆscwine of WessexCenfus of WessexSeaxburh of WessexCenwalh of WessexPenda of MerciaCenwalh of WessexCwichelm of WessexCynegils of WessexCeolwulf of WessexCeol of WessexCeawlin of WessexCynric of WessexCerdic of WessexHouse of GodwinHouse of KnýtlingaIclingas


For a family tree of the House of Wessex from Cerdic down to the children of King Alfred the Great, see:

  • House of Wessex family tree

A continuation into the 10th and 11th centuries can be found at

  • English monarchs family tree

Attributed coat of arms

A coat of arms was attributed by medieval heralds to the Kings of Wessex. These arms appear in a manuscript of the thirteenth century, and are blazoned as Azure, a cross patonce (sometimes a cross fleury or cross moline) between five martlets Or.[3] The assigning of arms to the West Saxon kings is prochronistic, as heraldry did not develop in a form as we know it until the twelfth century. These arms continued to be used to represent the kingdom for centuries after their invention. They have been incorporated into heraldic charges of institutions that associate themselves with Wessex, especially Edward the Confessor, where they are used at Westminster Abbey and in the arms of the City of Westminster.[4] The arms attributed to Edward were probably based on the design of a type of coin minted during his reign. This silver penny, often called a 'cross/eagle' type, showed an equal-armed cross within a circle, with birds depicted in the spaces between the arms of the cross.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Freeman, Edward A. The History of the Norman Conquest of England (1869), Vol. III p.766 citing Hodgson, J., and Hinde, J. H. History of Northumberland (1820–1858), Part III, Vol. III, pp. 3, 11
  2. ^ Harper-Hill, C. and Vincent, N. (2007) Henry II: New Interpretations, Boydell Press, p. 382.
  3. ^ College of Arms MS L.14, dating from the reign of Henry III
  4. Winston Churchill
    , published in 1675, and Britannia Saxona by G W Collen, published in 1833.
  5. ^ Delmar, E. (1953) Observations on the Origin of the Arms of Edward the Confessor, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 95, No. 608 (Nov., 1953), pp. 358-363, Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd.


  • Stephen Friar and John Ferguson (1993), Basic Heraldry, W. W. Norton & Company,
  • Naismith, Rory (2011). "The Origins of the Line of Egbert, King of the West Saxons, 802–839". .
Royal house
House of Wessex
New title
England united under Wessex
Ruling house of England
Succeeded by
House of Denmark
Preceded by
House of Denmark
Ruling house of England
Ruling house of England
Succeeded by