Unlike the Saxon kingdoms of Essex and Sussex which survived as English counties until the present day, Wessex has not existed in any political or administrative sense since the Norman Conquest, if not earlier. Perhaps because of its preeminence among the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms it came to be so closely identified with England that the distinction ceased to be made - much as modern England itself has a nebulous identity within the United Kingdom, the two often being considered synonymous, usually to the annoyance of the Scots and Welsh.

It was this non-existence that enabled Thomas Hardy to create his fictional county of Wessex, modelled on his native Dorset and neighbouring counties, in which so many of his famous novels are set.

Wessex made a surprising resurgence in 1999 when Prince Edward, youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II, was created Earl of Wessex: what's that all aboout then, Ted?