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
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
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.