When Cerdic of Wessex died it is presumed he passed the throne to Cynric. Except there is a king featured in some King’s lists between the two – one Creoda of Wessex.
Did Creoda actually reign as a King of Wessex? Who was he? What do we know about Creoda?
This article explores the mysterious King Creoda of Wessex.
Record Keeping in Saxon Times
Before we begin uncovering Creoda and finding out who he was, it is important to understand the Saxons weren’t great with record keeping. Or, at the very least, records from Saxon sources we have discovered are few and far between.
What’s more, the Saxon records we do have were often written many centuries after the events they purport to report on. This means we have to rely on the oral traditions being passed down to these scribes as being accurate.
What Do the Records Tell Us about King Creoda of Wessex?
Surprisingly, for a mystery king, there are two sources for Creoda reigning between Cerdic and Cynric. These include:
- The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (dated to 600AD at earliest),
- The Life of King Alfred (a lost document which we have later copies of).
Given these are the foremost Saxon sources we have today, we shouldn’t disregard the possibility Creoda did in fact rule Wessex.
The complication occurs with both sources where other parts of text omit Creoda. Omittance in King’s lists from around the world is common – and more so in Ancient Times.
The reasons for leaving a king out of an official kings list are frequently:
- A mistake (hand copying one document to another),
- Because the reign is disputed,
- Because the reign was unpopular.
It is very rare to have an individual named as a king and never have reigned as one. In this respect, we should assume Creoda was king.
What Do We Know About King Creoda of Wessex?
Very little, which gives rise to speculation and wild theories about who he was and the nature of his reign.
Both sources mentioned above mention Creoda as the son of Cerdic. We shouldn’t accept that at face value because there is a discrepancy with the given ages of both individuals (more on this later). History is one of those subjects that can change over time and it might become apparent Creoda was Cerdic’s son with future archaeological finds.
For now, we will assume he is the brother of Cerdic. Probably the father of Cynric.
The Reign of King Creoda of Wessex
Creoda’s reign was extremely short, possibly a few months but not more than a year.
That is all we can say with a high degree of certainty. We can speculate about his reign a little though.
We know Cerdic established leadership of Wessex in what later became known as kingship. When Cerdic died after a long and we assume stable reign as no battles were recorded during his reign, it probably came as a shock to the people of Wessex.
If he knew he was ill at the time of his death he would have nominated Creoda to rule after him and this might have put the people’s minds at rest. Creoda however was either usurped or died shortly after Cerdic.
Why Creoda Must Have Been Cerdic’s Brother
The estimated year of birth from the sources for Creoda is 493. With his only regnal year listed being 534, that gives us an age of 41.
We know Cerdic himself was around the age of 46 at the time of his death. Unless Cerdic conceived Creoda aged 3, it is impossible for Cerdic to be Creoda’s father.
With that in mind, we can speculate Cerdic died without a son or an unlikely possibility, his own son was too young to rule. It is unlikely Cynric was too young to rule as he took the throne of Wessex immediately after Creoda (and would have been the same age had he inherited the throne from Cerdic).
With this in mind, Cynric is likely the son of Creoda. In fact the Life of King Alfred source does state Cynric is the son of Creoda, but mistakes Creoda as the son of Cerdic. This might have been for political reasons – it is much better to have a direct line of kingship rather than the line moving across to brothers and their descendants.
Was King Creoda of Wessex Usurped?
This is unlikely. By the standards of the time, Creoda was an old man at 41 and probably died of old age. The average age of a man in Saxon times is estimated to be 30 year’s old.
There is no evidence of disruption between kings either and the crown seemed to pass smoothly between brother and son in this case.
The lack of other evidence about Creoda’s life is likely because his short reign didn’t seem important to later chroniclers and therefore, he as a person was unimportant.
The truth is, Creoda was probably crucial in securing the House of Wessex and continuing the bloodline – so it is a shame later writers didn’t do a better job at recording information. Given they were writing at least 100 years after Creoda reigned, they might not have known themselves how important he was.
King Creoda of Wessex – An Important King Lost to Time
It is only with the benefit of hindsight and a bit of rational thinking we can speculate to his importance and certainly, other modern theories don’t add up because of Creoda’s age.
Cynric took the throne after Creoda and will be the focus of my next article in my Saxon Kings series.