How old is English?
Dates and Vortigern
The modern system of dates, including a year, was not used by the Romans. Although they had a starting year (ab urbe condita = since the foundation of Rome) they preferred to refer to important persons in the past. The Catholic Church wanted a new starting year and eventually that year became the birth year of Christ. This was initially not accepted by all Christians. Some preferred the year of crucifixion. Anyhow, even the birth year of Christ was probably miscalculated. This adds to the confusion. This confusion was at its height during the 5th and 6th century, hence the difficulty to put an accurate year on the deeds of Vortigern.
Gildas never qualified this 'council' as a senate, most likely because in his eyes it lacked legality.
The Roman Character ‘V’ could be pronounced as ‘w’, ‘oo’, ‘v’ or even aphonically. The early and original pronunciation of the word ‘vinum’ was ‘winum’. In English it’s ‘wine’, in Dutch ‘wijn’ and in German ‘wein’. The northern people of Europe kept the original pronunciation. In the south, Latin and Brythonic speaking parts of the Empire, the ‘v’ pronunciation emerged gradually, and eventually replaced completely the ‘w’-sound.
Vitalinus has to be read like Witalin(us). Pronounce the ‘a’ aphonically, and you are pretty close to the original name Whittling. Vita means ‘life’ in Latin and can be understood as vital. The underlying message is: the family is alive (and kicking?) and vital for the country. At the same time, it was not prepared to adopt a full Latin translation, like Albanus, for it is proud of its eastern-British (people who spoke a different language than the West of Britain) origin. It is likely that the Welsh preserved longer the original pronunciation'.
 Several places in
claim to be the place where Vortigern died. This is
probably also the
place where he was born. See the best
Name = Title ?
Compare with Caesar: all
after Caius Julius Caesar were called 'Caesar'. Cardinal
adopted the name Benedictus when he became pope,
suggesting a certain
point of view, a program. This papal tradition dates
from the Roman
Empire. The choice of the name 'Vortigern' suggests
Ascension of Vortigern
Probably in 425 Vortigern was chosen ‘chairman’ or ‘upper lord’ of the council  in London. The French word is president .
He must have been at that moment around 39 years old. He was of course a member of a powerful family, probably the Vitalinus family. The ancestry of his family is documented in the Historia Britonum.
Around 407, he married Sevira, the second daughter of Maximus Magnus, who had been co-emperor for 5 years. The date of the marriage is derived from the birth date of Sevira: about 20 years earlier. The fact that Maximus had two very young daughters before his death in 388, is attested. I assume that young Vortigern and Sevira had a similar age. This suggests that he was born around 386. Most upper-class marriages at the time were arranged. It was about politics and money. Love was not important. They married during the years of Constantine III, co-emperor and alleged British usurper.
Vortigern remained the leader of the British senate for some 20 years (425 - about 445). He would die in (modern) Wales around 447-452 (a few years after the great rebellion) at an age of 61 to 68, probably in the neighbourhood of his birthplace.
The birth date and subsequent dates in
Vortigern's life are a reconstruction. They are partly
based upon the
mention on the (click) Pillar
Eliseg, of his marriage with Sevira.
There are many
reasons to believe that this message is genuine. The
pillar was erected
during the early 9th century. At that time a king was
a king solely
because of his male ancestors. Referring to
a female ancestor
(Sevira) was pointless. There are no indications that
Sevira ever had
become important. Maximus had daughters. Other sources
However, their names were nowhere mentioned but the
one on the pillar.
He also had a son, Flavius Victor. Referring to him
would have been
more in line with the tradition that only male
important. In reality Flavius Victor died too young,
but the question
is whether people knew that in the 9th century.
Strange enough, the
pillar was meant to honor the Welsh dynasty of Powys.
As Vortigern was
considered by Gildas and Bede to be a traitor to the
Welsh cause, his
name upon a Welsh pillar is rather surprising. Hence
my belief that the
text onto the pillar is authentic.
The name Vitalinus (a
reported by Nennius) is a strong indication that he
was a member of the
proto-English upper-class in Britain . In Welsh, the
name is written
Guithelin or similar, although the texts in Welsh
appeared later. We
can apply here the comparison with the first name
‘William’. William is
the modern version of Wilhelm. This name was
transformed in French into
Guillaume. The conversion of ‘wi’ into ‘gui’ in the
languages is something like a rule. Applying this rule
Guithelin gives us Whittlin(g) in its original
language. The colour refers to one’s hair. ‘–ling’
means ‘related to’ or ‘family’. One ancestor of this
family must have
had white hair, most probably when he was young. Names
like ‘De Witte’
or ‘Weissman’ are common in the Dutch language group
or in Germany.
Like most of the important families at the time, the Vitalinus family must have possessed vast agricultural estates all over Britain. Later events (it is known that Vortigern returned to Wales after his demise) let us believe that the family had land in south-Wales or neighbourhood, although the ancestral family propriety was probably situated somewhere in Wessex, modern Oxfordshire or Berkshire. This region was probably Welsh territory during the Bronze Age. Vortigern was probably born in this Greater-Wales or Proto-Wales region . It’s there that the young Vortigern grew up. As a member of a proto-English family he must have spoken proto-English with his parents, and as a young boy he must have picked up the proto-Welsh language from his local friends. At school he learned to read and write in Latin.
The picture emerging from the sources is
intelligent and well-educated man. He probably made an
carrier in the Brito-Roman administration and had been
that reason as the head of his family. This position
enabled him to
become some sort of ‘chairman’ of the council, not the
least because he
was and remained a partisan of a centralized
Vortigern got the difficult task to
trouble in the council. To summarize the problems:
The 'Anglo-Saxon rule' or housecarl system proved to be too successful. So much so that more and more 'Anglo-Saxons' were lured into Britain. None of this was officially organized or even legal, which eventually led to some sort of degradation of the quality of those soldiers. Too many young, untrained, inexperienced Germans presented themselves in eastern Britain. The local authorities noticed the trend and urged 'London' to take measures.
Vortigern would become famous as the ruler who 'invited' the ‘Anglo-Saxons’ into Britain.
During the 5th century the Roman way of ruling and organizing became gradually abandoned. In Britain is was all about 'devolution' and the Anglo-Saxon housecarls would greatly contribute to that.