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The rise of the Anglo-Saxons

 

The rebellion (1)

 

The Anglo-Saxons never conquered Britain. They remained loyal servants, instruments to serve the local political interests of their lords. The Anglo-Saxons in the 'reserve force' were loyal to the British senate. They would continue to be so.

Between 428 and 441 dissidence in the London council grew.

The northwest of Britain (Lancashire and Cheshire region), a part of Proto-Wales, hesitated in joining the southwest Welsh dissidents. They lived under different conditions than their southern colleagues and shared the same problems (raids) as their eastern counterparts. They probably remained more or less loyal to London. For their security they also acquired a Saxon guard. Something similar happened in the south. Caedwalla was for instance king of Wessex in 685 and a member of a local Anglo-Saxon dynasty. But Caedwalla is clearly a Welsh name. This can be the proof that at least some Welsh families adopted the 'Anglo-Saxon system'. Other Welsh names in the 'Anglo-Saxon' nobility are: Ceadda, Cedd, Cealwin, Cerdic, Cumbra.

In 441 a widespread rebellion broke out in Britain. At that time, most Anglo-Saxons were people of the second generation. Sons of the Germans who came 20-30 years earlier. Most of them wouldn't even understand the Saxon (Fries, Anglian, etc.) language.

The main production base in Britain was agriculture, and typical is that not every year results in a good harvest. It is probable that the landlords had the age-old habit to ‘share’ poor crops with everybody under their responsibility. Bad times were bad times for everybody! In such a year the lords simply noticed the soldiers, who had to defend the local estate, that their payment was ‘delayed’. Of course, the local Anglo-Saxon captain would not agree with that measure. Without the ability to pay his subordinates he would loose control over them. According to the morality of the Anglo-Saxons, their oath of loyalty towards their lord was off, when that lord could not fulfil his part of the deal (wages). Especially the low ranking, local Britons who possibly had a tradition of resentments against rich lords, must have ‘come out in strike’. Their reaction is typical for an unpaid workforce. This ‘strike’ did not come without serious warnings. It is possible that some landlords were in the impossibility to pay. The result was a revolt and plundering of main production facilities like farms. The villa of the landlord was of course not neglected. Although some Anglo-Saxons must have taken part in the action, it is unlikely that the revolt was lead by Anglo-Saxons. They nevertheless had the responsibility. That’s why the blame for the event was put upon their shoulders. The revolt never resulted into a take-over by Anglo-Saxons. Anglo-Saxons were people who had chosen to be professional soldiers and officers, not managers of farms. Sources tell us that the insurgents even raided Ireland. This could be a serious indication that some local Britons took advantage of the events to retaliate against the Irish raiders.

The rebellion is crucial if one wants to understand how and why Anglo-Saxons became important.
The rebellion must have shocked the complete British upper-class, the Anglo-Saxons must have been even more shocked than the native British lords. It must have been clear for them that the rebellion was driven by misery and famine, and that the rebels simply were desperate people who were pushed to the brink. The rebellion had made apparent the weak link in the whole security system in Britain. All depended upon the good will of the local lords to provide enough accommodation and wages for the local security forces. Some had neglected completely this duty. Once the Anglo-Saxons had crushed the local rebellion, many of them must have sworn that ‘this would never happen again’. It was necessary to secure the accommodation and wages for the security forces. Restoring law and order was the first condition to assure better living conditions. Stability of the countryside was primordial. In some cases, this was done by taking over power in the local estates. Some dreadful injustices were immediately undone. By doing so, the Anglo-Saxons must have almost immediately acquired the sympathy of the local churls. The banished eastern British lords must have joined the Welsh forces in an attempt to regain power. They brought dreadful stories with them, blaming the treacherous Anglo-Saxons for all their woes.

Most proto-English lords simply used their Anglo-Saxon guard to restore law and order (and Vortigern was probably amongst them). In some regions, very little happened. In others, it was complete anarchy. On top of that, some Anglo-Saxons must have turned into ‘black knights’, looting the country. Loyal Anglo-Saxons were intially overwhelmed by the events. But gradually they gained control.