Location and Name
The Isle of Wight was an Anglo-Saxon Kingdom,
situated opposite the borders of the South Saxons and the Gewissae, being separated from it by a sea, three miles wide, which is called Solvente
according to the Venerable Bede
who, writing at the beginning of the eighth century also tells us that
From the Jutes originated the Cantwara and Wihtwara (that is, the people who hold the Isle of Wight) and that people who right up to the present day are called the nation of Jutes in the province of the West Saxons and are situated opposite the same Isle of Wight.
or the people of 'Wiht' or 'Wight' and an obvious anglicisation of the Brythonic
name for the island Weith
, which was known to the Romans
as Inis Vectis
Rulers and History
The Isle of Wight was very likely a Romano-British kingdom known under its Brythonic name of Ynys Weith during the fifth and sixth centuries although who ruled and how is not known. Neither is it known precisely when and what was the nature of the transfer of power to any 'Anglo-Saxon' successors. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle informs us that the kingdom of the Isle of Wight was founded by two gentlemen named Stuf and Wihtgar in the year 530, and as such their names often appear labelled as kings or rulers for the years 534 to 544. The name Wihtgar is however, obviously a back formation from Wihtwara itself, and like much of what is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the fifth and sixth centuries largely invented.
For the year 661 the Anglo Saxon Chronicle gives us the information that
Into the Isle of Wight also Wulfhere, the son of Penda,
penetrated, and transferred the inhabitants to Aethelwalh, king of
the South-Saxons, because Wulfere adopted him in baptism.
the Venerable Bede
conforms this, but neither source tells us quite who the inhabitants were transferred from, so quite what status the kingdom of the Isle of Wight enjoyed before that date is uncertain, but the implication is that it was subject to the rule of its own line of kings.
The only certain ruler we have for the kingdom is the name of Arwald who was in power in the years 685 to 686, and probably a sub-king subject to Sussex prior to the invasion of the island by Caedwalla, king of the Gewissae. Caedwalla killed Arwald and
by merciless slaughter endeavoured to destroy all the inhabitants thereof, and to place in their stead people from his own province;
did seek to destroy "all the inhabitants" is unlikely, the violence was probably directed at the ruling Jute
aristocracy. When two of Arwald's
brothers escaped to the mainland, but where later captured, Caedwalla
, like a true Christian
king, allowed them the luxury of converting before they too were executed.
Caedwalla's invasion marks the point at which Christianity arrived to the island, the last province of Britain to receive the faith.
It also marks the time when the island ceased to become subject to Sussex and became part of a new creation, the kingdom of the West Saxons or Wessex. From the eighth century onwards it appears to have became part of the core territories of this new Wessex and lost whatever traces of independent existence it once had.
Sourced from the Anglo Saxon Chronicle and the Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum.