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The Kingdom of Wessex ( /ˈwɛsɨks/) or Kingdom of the West Saxons (Old English: Westseaxna rīce) was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons in South West England, from the 6th century until the emergence of a united English state under the Wessex dynasty in the 10th century. HP Business Notebook NX8220 Battery

It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest of 1016, from 1020 to 1066. After the Norman Conquest there was a dissolution of the English earldoms and Wessex was split among the followers of William the Conqueror. HP Business Notebook NX8420 Battery

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ASC) Wessex was founded by Cerdic and Cynric, chieftains of a clan known as "Gewisse". They are said to have landed on the Hampshire coast and conquered the surrounding area, including the Isle of Wight. HP Business Notebook NX9420 Battery

However, the specific events given by the ASC are in some doubt; archæological evidence points instead to a considerable early Anglo-Saxon presence in the upper Thames valley and Cotswolds area, entered from The Wash alongIcknield Way.[2] HP Business Notebook NX9500 Battery

The centre of gravity of Wessex in the late sixth and early seventh century seems to have lain farther to the north than in later periods, following successful expansion to the south and west. Bede states that the Isle of Wight was settled not by Saxons but Jutes, HP Business Notebook TC4200 Battery

who also settled on the Hampshire coast (known as theMeonsæte) and that these areas were only acquired by Wessex in the later seventh century. It is therefore possible that the ASC account is a product of the circumstances of the eighth and ninth centuries being projected back into the past to create an origin story of the ruling kinship appropriate to the contemporary form of the kingdom.[3] HP Business Notebook TC4400 Battery

It may also be noted that the names of some of the early West Saxon leaders appear to be Brythonic in origin, including the dynastic founder Cerdic (being a form of Ceredic or Caradoc) and Cædwalla (from Cadwallon, a Welsh name derived from Caswalawn a Brythonic version of Cassivellaunus). HP Business NX9100 Battery

HP Business NX9600 Battery

These are interspersed with Old English names such as Ceolwulf, Coenberht and Aescwine. This variation might suggest the early rulers came from a hybrid Anglo-British dynasty or that the rule of early Wessex shifted between more than one royal clan, but this is conjecture. HP NC6110 Battery


The two main sources for the names and dates of the kings of Wessex are the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and an associated document known as the West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List. The Chronicle gives small genealogies in multiple places, HP NC6120 Battery

under the annals for different years. These sources, however, conflict in various ways and cannot be fully reconciled. A recent analysis byDavid Dumville that has produced a set of plausible dates for the West Saxon kings has been used by other scholars but cannot be regarded as definitive. HP NC6140 Battery

Dumville's dates are used in the historical outline below, with reference to the original sources to highlight some of the conflicts. The later genealogies may have been contrived with the intent of connecting all lineages to Cerdic, and this has introduced additional inconsistencies which cannot all be resolved. HP NX5100 Battery

HP NX6110 Battery

Though the Chronicle gives 495 as the date for Cerdic's arrival in Britain

"495. There came two eaorlmen to Britain, Cerdic and Cynric his son, with five ships, to a place called Cerdicesora, on the same day they fought the Welsh." HP NX6120 Battery

F. M. Stenton[4] gives evidence of doubled entries in the Chronicle, which suggests an early sixth-century date for the landing of the ancestor of the Wessex ruling kinship. HP NX6125 Battery

Most historians appear agreed that the location of Cerdicesora or "Cerdic's Shore" is somewhere on Southampton Water, perhaps Calshot. After making a beachheadand consolidating their position they next appear to have attacked the area around Southampton at the Battle of Natanleod. The location of this Natanleod has been placed at Netley Marsh. HP Omnibook 4100 Battery


"508. This year Cerdic and Cynric killed a British king named Natanleod, and five thousand men with him. After that the land was known as Natanleag up to Cerdicesford." HP Omnibook 6000 Battery

The location of Cerdicesford has been placed at various locations in southern Hampshire including Chandler's Ford. The historian Albany Major places the site atCharford at the crossing of the River Avon (Hampshire) close to the border with Wiltshire. HP Omnibook XE Battery


"514. The West-Saxons came to Briton with 3 ships to a place called Cerdicesora and in the same year they fought the Britons and put them to flight." HP Omnibook XE2 Battery

HP Omnibook XE3 Battery

"519. Cerdic and Cynric received the West-Saxon kingdom, and the same year they fought with the Britons, in a place now called Cerdicesford. The royal line of Wessex ruled from that day." HP Omnibook XT1000 Battery

Despite the repetition there is no reason to presume there were not multiple landings along a coast known to the Saxons as Cerdic's Shore. It is likely that both Winchester and Silchester would have fallen to the West Saxons between the years 508 and 514, HP Omnibook XT1500 Battery

but this transition is only suggested by the absence of these important towns in the later annals of the British scribes. A later thrust up the Hampshire Avon towards Old Sarum in 519 appears to have been checked by the Britons at Charford. HP Pavilion DV1000 Battery

Albany Major in Early Wars of Wessex makes the case that the borders of the traditional county of Hampshire probably match those of the first West Saxon kingdom established by Cerdic and his son. HP Pavilion DV2000 Battery

Evidence of this comes from the border between Hampshire and Berkshire which follows generally the line of the Roman road that ran east and west through Silchester but is deflected in the north in a rough semicircle, in such a way as to include the whole district around the town. HP Pavilion DV2100 Battery

He argues that the capture of Silchester, of which no record has been passed down to us, was not the work of Mercian Angles but of the West Saxons probably striking north from Winchester and possibly acting in concert with a separate force making its way up the Thames Valley towards Reading. HP Pavilion DV2200 Battery

Silchester was left desolate after its fall and it is most improbable that any regard would have been paid to its side of the border had the fixing of the county boundary been made at a later period.[5]HP Pavilion DV2300 Battery

The traditional border between Berkshire and Hampshire showing the buffer zone north of Silchester which is thought to be evidence that the county of Hampshire was created while Silchester was still inhabited by Britons, according to Albany F. Major (1912). HP Pavilion DV2400 Battery

Study of the borders between Hampshire and Wiltshire also seem to suggest the West Saxons' westward advance was checked by about 519AD. HP Pavilion DV2600 Battery

The area north of Charford This would corroborate the date given in the Annales Cambriae for the crucial British victory at the Battle of Mons Badonicus in 517AD which is believed to have stopped further Anglo-Saxon encroachments in south-west and midland Britain for at least a generation. HP Pavilion DV2500 Battery

The length of Cerdic's reign is unclear but the throne passed to Cynric in about 554. Cynric is Cerdic's son according to some sources and Cerdic's grandson in others, which name Creoda, son of Cerdic, as Cynric's father. Cynric was in turn succeeded by Ceawlin, who was probably his son, in about 581. HP Pavilion DV2700 Battery

Ceawlin's reign is thought to be more reliably documented than those of the earlier kings, though the Chronicle's dates of 560 to 592 are substantially different from the revised chronology. He overcame pockets of Britons to the northeast in theChilterns and in Gloucestershire and Somerset the captures of Cirencester, HP Pavilion DV4 Battery

 Gloucester and Bath (577), after a long pause caused by the battle of Mons Badonicus, opened the way to the southwest. Ceawlin is one of the seven kings named in Bede'sEcclesiastical History of the English People as holding "imperium" over the southern English; the Chronicle later repeats this claim and refers to Ceawlin as a bretwalda, or "Britain-ruler".HP Pavilion DV4T Battery


Ceawlin was deposed, perhaps by his successor Ceol, and died the following year. Ceol was the son of Ceawlin's brother, Cutha. Six years later, in about 594, Ceol was succeeded by Ceolwulf, his own brother; and Ceolwulf was succeeded in his turn in about 617 by Cynegils. The genealogies are remarkably inconsistent on Cynegils' pedigree: his father is variously given as Ceola, Ceolwulf, Ceol, Cuthwine, Cutha, and Cuthwulf. HP Pavilion DV5 Battery

Christian Wessex and the rise of Mercia

It is in Cynegils' reign that the first event in West Saxon history that can be dated with reasonable certainty occurs: thebaptism of Cynegils by Birinus, which happened at the end of the 630s, perhaps in 640. Birinus was then established as bishop of the West Saxons, HP Pavilion DV5T Battery

with his seat at Dorchester-on-Thames. This was the first conversion to Christianity by a West Saxon king, but it was not accompanied by the immediate conversion of all the West Saxons: Cynegils' successor (and probably his son), Cenwealh, HP Pavilion DV7T Battery

who came to the throne in about 642, was a pagan at his accession. However, he too was baptised only a few years later and Wessex became firmly established as a Christian kingdom. Cynegils's godfather was King Oswald of Northumbria and his conversion may have been connected with an alliance against King Penda of Mercia, who had previously attacked Wessex. HP Pavilion DV4000 Battery

These attacks marked the beginning of sustained pressure from the expanding kingdom of Mercia. In time this would deprive Wessex of its territories north of the Thames and the Avon, encouraging the kingdom's reorientation southwards. HP Pavilion DV5000 Battery

Cenwealh married Penda's daughter, and when he repudiated her, Penda again invaded and drove him into exile for some time, perhaps three years. The dates are uncertain but it was probably in the late 640s or early 650s. He spent his exile in East Anglia, HP Pavilion DV6100 Battery

and was converted to Christianity there. After his return, Cenwealh faced further attacks from Penda's successorWulfhere, HP Pavilion DV6300 Battery

but was able to expand West Saxon territory in Somerset at the expense of the Britons. He established a second bishopric at Winchester, while the one at Dorchester was soon abandoned as Mercian power pushed southwards. Winchester would eventually develop into the effective capital of Wessex. HP Pavilion DV6500t Battery


After Cenwealh's death in 673, his widow, Seaxburh, held the throne for a year; she was followed by Aescwine, who was apparently descended from another brother of Ceawlin. This was one of several occasions on which the kingship of Wessex is said to have passed to a remote branch of the royal family with an unbroken male line of descent from Cerdic; HP Pavilion DV8000 Battery

these claims may be genuine, or may reflect the spurious assertion of descent from Cerdic to legitimise a new dynasty. Aescwine's reign only lasted two years, and in 676 the throne passed back to the immediate family of Cenwealh with the accession of his brother Centwine. Centwine is known to have fought and won battles against the Britons, but the details have not survived. HP Pavilion DV8002ea Battery


Centwine was succeeded by another supposed distant relative, Caedwalla, who claimed descent from Ceawlin. Caedwalla reigned for just two years, but achieved a dramatic expansion of the kingdom's power, conquering the kingdoms of Sussex,Kent and the Isle of Wight, HP Pavilion DV9000 Battery

although Kent regained its independence almost immediately and Sussex followed some years later. His reign ended in 688 when he went on pilgrimage to Rome, where he was baptised by the Pope and died soon afterwards. HP Pavilion DV9100 Battery

His successor was Ine, who also claimed to be a descendant of Cerdic through Ceawlin, but again through a long-separated line of descent. Ine was the most durable of the West Saxon kings, reigning for 38 years. He issued the oldest surviving English code of laws apart from those of the kingdom of Kent, and established a second West Saxon bishopric at Sherborne, HP Pavilion DV9500 Battery

covering the territories west of Selwood Forest. Near the end of his life he followed in Caedwalla's footsteps by abdicating and making a pilgrimage to Rome. The throne then passed to a series of other kings who claimed descent from Cerdic but whose supposed genealogies and relationship to one another are unknown. HP Pavilion DV9600 Battery

During the 8th century Wessex was overshadowed by Mercia, whose power was then at its height, and the West Saxon kings may at times have acknowledged Mercian overlordship. They were, however, able to avoid the more substantial control which Mercia exerted over smaller kingdoms. HP Pavilion N3200 Battery

During this period Wessex continued its gradual advance to the west, overwhelming the British kingdom of Dumnonia and absorbing Devon. As a result of the Mercian conquest of the northern portion of its early territories in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, HP Pavilion N5100 Battery

the Thames and the Avon now probably formed the northern boundary of Wessex, while its heartland lay in Hampshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Dorset and Somerset. The system of shires which was later to form the basis of local administration throughout England (and eventually, Ireland, Wales and Scotland as well) originated in Wessex, and had been established by the mid-eighth century. HP Pavilion N5200 Battery


The hegemony of Wessex and the Viking raids

In 802 the fortunes of Wessex were transformed by the accession of Egbert who came from a cadet branch of the ruling dynasty that claimed descent from Ine's brother Ingild. With his accession the throne became firmly established in the hands of a single lineage. HP Pavilion N5250 Battery

Early in his reign he conducted two campaigns against the "West Welsh", first in 813 and then again at "Gafulford" in 822. During the course of these campaigns he conquered the western Britons still in Devon and reduced those beyond the River Tamar, HP Pavilion N5290 Battery

now Cornwall, to the status of a vassal.[6] In 825 he overturned the political order of England by decisively defeating King Beornwulf of Mercia at Ellendun and seizing control of Surrey, Sussex, Kent and Essex from the Mercians, HP Pavilion N5300 Battery

while with his help East Anglia broke away from Mercian control. In 829 he conquered Mercia, driving its King Wiglaf into exile, HP Pavilion N5340 Battery

and secured acknowledgment of his overlordship from the king of Northumbria. He thereby became the Bretwalda, or high king of Britain. This position of dominance was short-lived, as Wiglaf returned and restored Mercian independence in 830, but the expansion of Wessex across south-eastern England proved permanent. HP Pavilion N5350 Battery


Egbert's later years saw the beginning of Danish Viking raids on Wessex, which occurred frequently from 835 onwards. In 851 a huge Danish army, said to have been carried on 350 ships, arrived in the Thames estuary. Having defeated King Beorhtwulf of Mercia in battle, HP Pavilion N5390 Battery

the Danes moved on to invade Wessex, but were decisively crushed by Egbert's son and successor King Aethelwulf in the exceptionally bloody Battle of Aclea. This victory postponed Danish conquests in England for fifteen years, but raids on Wessex continued. HP Pavilion N5400 Battery


In 855-6 Aethelwulf went on pilgrimage to Rome and his eldest surviving son Aethelbald took advantage of his absence to seize his father's throne. On his return, Aethelwulf agreed to divide the kingdom with his son to avoid bloodshed, HP Pavilion N5415 Battery

ruling the new territories in the east while Aethelbald held the old heartland in the west. Aethelwulf was succeeded by each of his four surviving sons ruling one after another: the rebellious Aethelbald, then Ethelbert, HP Pavilion N5420 Battery

who had previously inherited the eastern territories from his father and who reunited the kingdom on Aethelbald's death, then Aethelred, and finally Alfred the Great. This occurred because the first two brothers died in wars with the Danes without issue, while Aethelred's sons were too young to rule when their father died. HP Pavilion N5425 Battery

The last English kingdom

In 865 another enormous Danish army arrived in England. Over the following years this army overwhelmed the kingdoms of Northumbria and East Anglia. Wessex was invaded in 871, and although Aethelred and Alfred won some victories and succeeded in preventing the conquest of their kingdom, HP Pavilion N5430 Battery

a number of defeats, heavy losses of men and the arrival of a fresh Danish army in England compelled Alfred to pay the Danes to leave Wessex. The Danes spent the next few years subduingMercia and some of them settled in Northumbria, HP Pavilion N5435 Battery

but the rest returned to Wessex in 876. Alfred responded effectively and was able with little fighting to bring about their withdrawal in 877. A portion of the Danish army settled in Mercia, but at the beginning of 878 the remaining Danes mounted a winter invasion of Wessex, HP Pavilion N5440 Battery

taking Alfred by surprise and overrunning much of the kingdom. Alfred was reduced to taking refuge with a small band of followers in the marshes of theSomerset Levels, but after a few months he was able to gather an army and defeated the Danes at the Battle of Edington, bringing about their final withdrawal from Wessex to settle in East Anglia. HP Pavilion N5445 Battery


Over the following years Alfred carried out a dramatic reorganisation of the government and defences of Wessex, building warships, organising the army into two shifts which served alternately and establishing a system of fortified burhs across the kingdom. HP Pavilion N5455 Battery

This system is recorded in a 10th century document known as theBurghal Hidage, which details the location and garrisoning requirements of thirty-three forts, whose positioning ensured that no one in Wessex was more than a long day's ride from a place of safety.[7] In the 890s these reforms helped him to repulse the invasion of another huge Danish army – which was aided by the Danes settled in England – with minimal losses. HP Pavilion N5470 Battery

Alfred also reformed the administration of justice, issued a new law code and championed a revival of scholarship and education. He gathered scholars from around England and elsewhere in Europe to his court, and with their help translated a range of Latin texts into English, HP Pavilion N5490 Battery

doing much of the work in person, and orchestrated the composition of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. As a result of these literary efforts and the political dominance of Wessex, the West Saxon dialectof this period became the standard written form of Old English for the rest of the Anglo-Saxon period and beyond. HP Pavilion N6000 Battery


The Danish conquests had destroyed the kingdoms of Northumbria and East Anglia and divided Mercia in half, with the Danes settling in the north-east while the south-west was left to the English king Ceolwulf, allegedly a Danish puppet. HP Pavilion n6400 Battery

When Ceolwulf's rule came to an end he was succeeded as ruler of "English Mercia" not by another king but by a mere ealdorman named Aethelred, who acknowledged Alfred's overlordship and married his daughter Ethelfleda. The process by which this transformation of the status of Mercia took place is unknown, but it left Alfred as the only remaining English king. HP Pavilion N6490 Battery


The unification of England and the Earldom of Wessex

After the invasions of the 890s Wessex and English Mercia continued to be attacked by the Danish settlers in England and by small Danish raiding forces from overseas, but these incursions were usually defeated, while there were no further major invasions from the continent. HP Pavilion XF100 Battery

The balance of power tipped steadily in favour of the English. In 911 Ealdorman Aethelred died, leaving his widow, Alfred's daughter Aethelflaed, in charge of Mercia. Alfred's son and successor Edward the Elder, then annexed London, Oxford and the surrounding area, HP Pavilion XZ100 Battery

probably including Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, from Mercia to Wessex. Between 913 and 918 a series of English offensives overwhelmed the Danes of Mercia and East Anglia, bringing all of England south of the Humber under Edward's power. HP Pavilion N6195 Battery

In 918 Aethelflaed died and Edward took over direct control of Mercia, extinguishing what remained of its independence and ensuring that thenceforth there would be only one Kingdom of the English. HP Pavilion ZD7900 Battery

In 927 Edward's successor Athelstan conquered Northumbria, bringing the whole of England under one ruler for the first time. The Kingdom of Wessex had thus been transformed into the Kingdom of England. HP Pavilion ZD7000 Battery

Although Wessex had now effectively been subsumed into the larger kingdom which its expansion had created, like the other former kingdoms it continued for a time to have a distinct identity which periodically found renewed political expression. HP Pavilion ZE2000 Battery

After the death of King Eadred in 955, England was divided between his two sons, with the elder Edwy ruling in Wessex while Mercia passed to his younger brother Edgar. However, in 959 Edwy died and the whole of England came under Edgar's control. HP Pavilion ZT1000 Battery


After the conquest of England by the Danish king Cnut in 1016, he established earldoms based on the former kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia, but initially administered Wessex personally. Within a few years, however, he had created an earldom of Wessex, HP Pavilion ZT1125 Battery

encompassing all of England south of the Thames, for his English henchman Godwin. For almost fifty years the vastly wealthy holders of this earldom, first Godwin and then his son Harold, were the most powerful men in English politics after the king. Finally, HP Pavilion ZT1130 Battery

on the death of Edward the Confessor in 1066, Harold became king, reuniting the earldom of Wessex with the crown. No new earl was appointed before the ensuing Norman Conquest of England, and as the Norman kings soon did away with the great earldoms of the late Anglo-Saxon period, 1066 marks the extinction of Wessex as a political unit. HP Pavilion ZT1145 Battery



Wessex is often symbolised by a wyvern or dragon.

Both Henry of Huntingdon and Matthew of Westminster talk of a golden dragon being raised at the Battle of Burford in AD 752 by the West Saxons. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts a fallen golden dragon, as well as a red/golden/white dragon at the death of King Harold II, HP Pavilion ZT1150 Battery

who was previously Earl of Wessex. However, dragon standards were in fairly wide use in Europe at the time, being derived from the ensign of the Roman cohort, and there is no evidence that it identified Wessex.[8]HP Pavilion ZT1155 Battery

A panel of 18th century stained glass at Exeter Cathedral indicates that the association of a dragon with the kingdom of Wessex pre-dates the Victorians. Nevertheless, the association was popularised in the 19th century, particularly in the writings of E A Freeman. HP Pavilion ZT1160 Battery

By the time of the grant of armorial bearings by the College of Arms to Somerset County Council in 1911, a (red) dragon had become the accepted heraldic emblem of the former kingdom.[9] This precedent was followed in 1937 when Wiltshire County Council was granted arms.[10] Two gold Wessex dragons were later granted as supporters to the arms ofDorset County Council in 1950.[11]HP Pavilion ZD7300 Battery


In the British Army the wyvern has been used to represent Wessex: The 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division adopted a formation sign consisting of a gold wyvern on a black background, and both the Wessex Brigade and Wessex Regiments used a cap badge featuring the heraldic beast. HP Pavilion ZT1170 Battery


When Sophie, Countess of Wessex was granted arms, the sinister supporter assigned was a blue wyvern, described by the College of Arms as "an heraldic beast which has long been associated with Wessex".[12]HP Pavilion ZT1175 Battery


The Wessex Society have promoted the use of a flag, designed by William Crampton, which features an heraldic golden wyvern on a red background. HP Pavilion ZT1180 Battery


A coat of arms was attributed by medieval heralds to the Kings of Wessex. These arms appear in a manuscript of the thirteenth century, and areblazoned as Azure, a cross patonce between four martlets Or.[13] HP Pavilion ZT1185 Battery

The assigning of arms to the West Saxon kings is prochronistic as heraldry did not develop until the twelfth century. These arms continued to be used to represent the kingdom for centuries after their invention.[14]HP Pavilion ZT1190 Battery

The English author Thomas Hardy used a fictionalised Wessex as a setting for many of his novels, adopting his friend William Barnes' term Wessex for their home county of Dorset and neighbouring counties in the South and West of England. HP Pavilion ZT1195 Battery

 His Wessex did not include Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire (although the city of Oxford, renamed "Christminster", is visited as part of Wessex in Jude the Obscure), along with Devon. He gave the counties the following fictionalised names: HP Pavilion ZT1200 Battery

Berkshire = North Wessex; Devon = Lower Wessex; Dorset = South Wessex; Hampshire (including the Isle of Wight) = Upper Wessex; Somerset = Outer Wessex; Wiltshire = Mid-Wessex. Neighbouring Cornwall was described as Off-Wessex or Lyonesse. HP Pavilion ZT1210 Battery

There is a movement in south-central England to create a regional cultural and political identity for Wessex. This consists of three distinct but interlinked organisations. The Wessex Regionalist Party is a registered political party which contests elections. HP Pavilion ZT1230 Battery

The Wessex Constitutional Convention is an all-party pressure group in which those sympathetic to Wessexdevolution who are not members of the Wessex Regionalist Party can also be represented. HP Pavilion ZT1250 Battery

The Wessex Society is a cultural society which promotes the distinctive identity of the region while remaining neutral on questions of politics, including the devolution espoused by the Wessex Constitutional Convention and the Wessex Regionalist Party. HP Pavilion ZT1260 Battery

The Wessex Constitutional Convention and the Wessex Regionalist Party do not believe that Cornwall should form part of the devolved Wessex Region, which they wish to see replace the South West region of England. HP Pavilion ZT1290 Battery


The boundaries of the proposed Wessex region remain unclear. The Wessex Constitutional Convention and Wessex Society added Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire to Hardy's list. Because it does not take a political position regarding devolution to a strictly defined territory, HP Pavilion ZT1270 Battery

the Society can afford to assume a relaxed position about where exactly the boundaries of cultural Wessex lie. The Wessex Regionalists had used Hardy's definition of Wessex for their political Wessex Region, but today the party also includes Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. HP Pavilion ZT3000 Battery

In the 2010 UK General Election the Wessex Regionalists contested the West Oxfordshire parliamentary seat of Witney. Most definitions exclude Cornwall. In addition there are some (e.g. within Devon) who would identify with a Dumnonian regional identity that is not so geographically broad, HP Pavilion ZT4000 Battery

and would include Cornwall. An eight county definition of Wessex has been criticised from a number of quarters. Some people regard Hardy's definition as correct on the grounds that the counties north of the Thames, along with Berkshire and north-east Somerset, HP Pavilion ZV5000 Battery

were part of Mercia for much of the Anglo-Saxon period. Others would argue that such references to the Dark Ages are not relevant to a modern region defined by its geography. HP Pavilion ZV5200 Battery

The Wessex regionalist organisations justify their eight-shire definition of Wessex in terms both of modern regional geography and (less convincingly) early English history. They point to the impossibility of pleasing everyone as an argument against change to their definition of Wessex at the present time, though they do not rule out the possibility of change in the future if the popular will demands it. HP Pavilion ZV6000 Battery

Movement characteristics

Scouting is taught using the Scout method, which incorporates an informal educational system that emphasizes practical activities in the outdoors. Programs exist for Scouts ranging in age from 6 to 25 (though age limits vary slightly by country), and program specifics target Scouts in a manner appropriate to their age.[44][45]HP Pavilion ZX5000 Battery

The Scout method is the principal method by which the Scouting organizations, boy and girl, operate their units. WOSM describes Scouting as "...a voluntary nonpolitical educational movement for young people open to all without distinction of origin, race or creed, in accordance with the purpose, principles and method conceived by the Founder..."[44] Sony vaio VPCCW2S1E/B Battery

t is the goal of Scouting "to contribute to the development of young people in achieving their full physical, intellectual, social and spiritual potentials as individuals, as responsible citizens and as members of their local, national and international communities."[44]Sony vaio VPCCW2S1E/L Battery


The principles of Scouting describe a code of behavior for all members, and characterize the movement. The Scout method is a progressive system designed to achieve these goals, comprising seven elements: law and promise, Sony vaio VPCCW2S1E/P Battery

learning by doing, team system, symbolic framework, personal progression, nature, and adult support.[46] While community service is a major element of both the WOSM and WAGGGS programs, WAGGGS includes it as an extra element of the Scout method: service in the community.[47]Sony vaio VPCCW2S1E/R Battery


The Scout Law and Promise embody the joint values of the Scouting movement worldwide, and bind all Scouting associations together. The emphasis on "learning by doing" provides experiences and hands-on orientation as a practical method of learning and building self-confidence. Small groups build unity, Sony vaio VPCCW2S1E/W Battery

camaraderie, and a close-knit fraternal atmosphere. These experiences, along with an emphasis on trustworthiness and personal honor, help to develop responsibility, character, self-reliance, self-confidence, reliability, and readiness; HP Pavilion ZX5200 Battery

 which eventually lead to collaboration and leadership. A program with a variety of progressive and attractive activities expands a Scout's horizon and bonds the Scout even more to the group. Activities and games provide an enjoyable way to develop skills such as dexterity. In an outdoor setting, they also provide contact with the natural environment.[45]Sony VPCB11V9E/B Battery


Since the birth of Scouting in 1907, Scouts worldwide have taken a Scout Promise to live up to ideals of the movement, and subscribe to the Scout Law. The form of the promise and laws have varied slightly by country and over time, but must fulfil the requirements of the WOSM to qualify a National Scout Association for membership.[44]Sony VPCB11X9E/B Battery


The Scout Motto, 'Be Prepared', has been used in various languages by millions of Scouts since 1907. Less well-known is the Scout Slogan, 'Do a good turn daily'.[48]Sony VPCF11C4E/B Battery

Common ways to implement the Scout method include having Scouts spending time together in small groups with shared experiences, rituals, and activities, and emphasizing good citizenship and decision-making by young people in an age-appropriate manner. Sony VPCF11C5E Battery

Weekly meetings often take place in local centres known as Scout dens. Cultivating a love and appreciation of the outdoors and outdoor activities is a key element. Primary activities include camping, woodcraft, aquatics,hiking, backpacking, and sports.[49][50]Sony VPCF11D4E Battery


Camping is most often arranged at the unit level, such as one Scout troop, but there are periodic camps (known in the US as "camporees") and "jamborees". Camps occur a few times a year and may involve several groups from a local area or region camping together for a weekend. Sony vaio VPCF11M1E/H battery

The events usually have a theme, such as pioneering. World Scout Moots are gatherings, originally for Rover Scouts, but mainly focused on Scout Leaders. Jamborees are large national or international events held every four years, Sony vaio VPCF12F4E/H battery

during which thousands of Scouts camp together for one or two weeks. Activities at these events will include games, scoutcraft competitions, badge, pin or patch trading, aquatics, woodcarving, archery and activities related to the theme of the event.[51]Sony vaio VPCF12M1E/H battery


In some countries a highlight of the year for Scouts is spending at least a week in the summer engaging in an outdoor activity. This can be a camping, hiking, sailing, or other trip with the unit, or a summer camp with broader participation (at the council, state, or provincial level). Sony vaio VPCF12S1E/B battery

Scouts attending a summer camp work on merit badges, advancement, and perfecting scoutcraft skills. Summer camps can operate specialty programs for older Scouts, such as sailing, backpacking, canoeing and whitewater, caving, and fishing.[52][53]Sony vaio VPCF12Z1E/BI battery

At an international level Scouting perceives one of its roles as the promotion of international harmony and peace.[54] Various initiatives are in train towards achieving this aim including the development of activities that benefit the wider community, Sony vaio VPCF13E4E battery

challenge prejudice and encourage tolerance of diversity. Such programs include co-operation with non-scouting organisations including various NGOs, the United Nations and religious institutions as set out in The Marrakech Charter.[55]Sony vaio VPCF13E8E/H battery



The Scout uniform is a widely recognized characteristic of Scouting. In the words of Baden-Powell at the 1937 World Jamboree, it "hides all differences of social standing in a country and makes for equality; but, more important still, Sony vaio VPCF13J0E/H battery

it covers differences of country and race and creed, and makes all feel that they are members with one another of the one great brotherhood".[56] The original uniform, still widely recognized, consisted of a khaki button-up shirt, shorts, Sony vaio VPCF13L8E/H battery

and a broad-brimmed campaign hat. Baden-Powell also wore shorts, because he believed that being dressed like a Scout helped to reduce the age-imposed distance between adult and youth. Uniform shirts are now frequently blue, orange, red or green and shorts are frequently replaced by long trousers all year or only in winter. Sony vaio VPCF13M1E/B battery

While designed for smartness and equality, the Scout uniform is also practical. Shirts traditionally have thick seams to make them ideal for use in makeshift stretchers—Scouts were trained to use them in this way with their staves, a traditional but deprecated item. Sony vaio VPCF13M1E/H battery

The leather straps and toggles of the campaign hats or Leaders' Wood Badges could be used as emergency tourniquets, or anywhere that string was needed in a hurry. Neckerchiefs were chosen as they could easily be used as a sling or triangular bandage by a Scout in need. Scouts were encouraged to use their garters for shock cord where necessary.[56]Sony vaio VPCF13S1E/B battery

Distinctive insignia for all are Scout uniforms, recognized and worn the world over, include the Wood Badge and the World Membership Badge. Scouting has two internationally known symbols: the trefoil is used by members of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and the fleur-de-lis by member organizations of the WOSM and most other Scouting organizations.[57][58]Sony vaio VPCF13S8E battery


The swastika was used as an early symbol by the British Boy Scouts and others. Its earliest use in Scouting was on the Thanks Badge introduced in 1911.[59] Lord Baden-Powell's 1922 design for the Medal of Merit added a swastika to the Scout fleur-de-lis to symbolize good luck for the recipient. Sony vaio VPCF13S8E/B battery

Like Rudyard Kipling, he would have come across this symbol in India. In 1934, Scouters requested a change to the design because of the later use of the swastika by the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (Nazi Party). A new British Medal of Merit was issued in 1935.[59]Sony vaio VPCF13V5002B battery


Age groups and sections

Scouting and Guiding movements are generally divided into sections by age or school grade, allowing activities to be tailored to the maturity of the group's members. These age divisions have varied over time as they adapt to the local culture and environment.[60]Sony vaio VPCF13Z1E/B battery


Scouting was originally developed for adolescents—youths between the ages of 11 and 17. In most member organizations, this age group composes the Scout or Guide section. Programs were developed to meet the needs of young children (generally ages 6 to 10) and young adults (originally 18 and older, and later up to 25). Sony vaio VPCF13Z8E/BI battery

Scouts and Guides were later split into "junior" and "senior" sections in many member organizations, and some organizations dropped the young adults' section. The exact age ranges for programs vary by country and association.[61][62][63]Sony vaio VPCF21Z1E battery


The national programs for younger children include Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouts, Brownies, Daisies, Rainbow Guides, Beaver Scouts, Joey Scouts, Keas, and Teddies. Programs for post-adolescents and young adults include the Senior Section,[64] Sony vaio VPCF21Z1E/BI battery

Rover Scouts, Senior Scouts, Venture Scouts, Explorer Scouts, and the Scout Network. Many organizations also have a program for members with special needs. This is usually known as Extension Scouting, but sometimes has other names, such as Scoutlink. The Scout Method has been adapted to specific programs such as Air Scouts, Sea Scouts, Rider Guides and Scoutingbands .[65]Sony vaio VPCF22J1E battery


In many countries, Scouting is organized into neighborhood Scout Groups, or Districts, which contain one or more sections. Under the umbrella of the Scout Group, sections are divided according to age, each having their own terminology and leadership structure.[66]Sony vaio VPCF22L1E battery

Adults and leadership

Adults interested in Scouting or Guiding, including former Scouts and Guides, often join organizations such as the International Scout and Guide Fellowship. In the United States and the Philippines, Sony vaio VPCF22M1E battery

university students might join the co-ed service fraternityAlpha Phi Omega. In the United Kingdom, university students might join the Student Scout and Guide Organisation, and after graduation, the Scout and Guide Graduate Association. Sony vaio VPCF22S1E battery


Scout units are usually operated by adult volunteers, such as parents and carers, former Scouts, students, and community leaders, including teachers and religious leaders. Scout Leadership positions are often divided into 'uniform' and 'lay' positions. Sony vaio VPCF22S8E battery

Uniformed leaders have received formal training, such as the Wood Badge, and have received a warrant for a rank within the organization. Lay members commonly hold part-time roles such as meeting helpers, committee members and advisors, though there are a small number of full-time lay professionals.[67]Sony vaio VPCF23A9E battery


A unit has uniformed positions—such as the Scoutmaster and assistants—whose titles vary among countries. In some countries, units are supported by lay members, who range from acting as meeting helpers to being members of the unit's committee. In some Scout associations, the committee members may also wear uniforms and be registered Scout leaders.[68]Sony vaio VPCF23M1E battery


Above the unit are further uniformed positions, called Commissioners, at levels such as district, county, council or province, depending on the structure of the national organization. Commissioners work with lay teams and professionals. Training teams and related functions are often formed at these levels. In the UK and in other countries, the national Scout organization appoints the Chief Scout, the most senior uniformed member.[69][70][71]Sony vaio VPCF23Q1E battery


Around the world

Following its foundation in the United Kingdom, Scouting spread around the globe. The first association outside the British Empire was opened in Chile, was founded after a visit to Baden Powell and the founding date is May 21, 1909[72].Sony vaio VPCF23S1E battery

 In most countries of the world, there is now at least one Scouting (or Guiding) organization. Each is independent, but international cooperation continues to be seen as part of the Scout Movement. Sony vaio VPCF23S1E battery

In 1922 the WOSM started as the governing body on policy for the national Scouting organizations (then male only). In addition to being the governing policy body, it organizes the World Scout Jamboree every four years.[73]Sony vaio VPCF24M1E battery


In 1928 the WAGGGS started as the equivalent to WOSM for the then female-only national Scouting/Guiding organizations. It is also responsible for its four international centres: Our Cabaña in Mexico, Our Chalet in Switzerland, Pax Lodge in the United Kingdom, and Sangam in India.[74]Sony vaio VPCF24Q1E battery

  Today at the international level, the two largest umbrella organizations are:


There have been different approaches to co-educational Scouting. Countries such as the United States have maintained separate Scouting organizations for boys and girls.[75] In other countries, especially within Europe, Scouting and Guiding have merged, and there is a single organization for boys and girls, which is a member of both the WOSM and the WAGGGS.[76][7Sony VPCCA2S1E Battery

7] In others, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, the national Scout association has opted to admit both boys and girls, but is only a member of the WOSM, Sony VPCCA2S1E/D.G4 Battery

while the national Guide association has remained as a separate movement and member of the WAGGGS. In some countries like Greece, Slovenia and Spain there are separate associations of Scouts (members of WOSM) and guides (members of WAGGGS), both admitting boys and girls.[78]Sony VPCCA2S1E/L Battery


The Scout Association in the United Kingdom has been co-educational at all levels since 1991, but this has been optional for groups, and currently 52% of groups have at least one female youth member. Since 2000 new sections have been required to accept girls. Sony VPCCA2S1E/R Battery

The Scout Association has decided that all Scout groups and sections will become co-educational by January 2007, the year of Scouting's centenary.[79] The traditional Baden-Powell Scouts' Association has been co-educational since its formation in 1970. Sony VPCCA3S1E Battery


In the United States, the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs of the BSA are for boys only; however, for youths age 14 and older, Venturing is co-educational. TheGirl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) is an independent organization for girls and young women only. Adult leadership positions in the BSA and GSUSA are open to both men and women.[80][81]Sony VPCCB2S1E Battery


In 2006, of the 155 WOSM member National Scout Organizations (representing 155 countries), 122 belonged only to WOSM, and 34 belonged to both WOSM and WAGGGS. Of the 122 which belonged only to WOSM, 95 were open to boys and girls in some or all program sections, and 20 were only for boys. All 34 that belonged to both WOSM and WAGGGS were open to boys and girls.[82]Sony VPCCB2S1E/B Battery


WAGGGS had 144 Member Organizations in 2007 and 110 of them belonged only to WAGGGS. Of these 110, 17 were coeducational and 93 admitted only girls.[83][84][85]Sony VPCCB2S1E/W Battery



Fifteen years passed between the first publication of Scouting for Boys and the creation of the current largest supranational Scout organization, WOSM, and millions of copies had been sold in dozens of languages. By that point, Scouting was the purview of the world's youth, and several Scout associations had already formed in many countries. Sony VPCCB3S1E Battery

Alternative groups have formed since the original formation of the Scouting "Boy Patrols". They can be a result of groups or individuals who maintain that the WOSM and WAGGGS are currently more political and less youth-based than envisioned by Lord Baden-Powell. Sony VPCCB3S1E/B Battery

They believe that Scouting in general has moved away from its original intent because of political machinations that happen to longstanding organizations, and want to return to the earliest, simplest methods.[92][93] Others do not want to follow all the original ideals of Scouting but still desire to participate in Scout-like activities.[94]Sony VPCCB3S1E/W Batt



In 2008, there were at least 539 independent Scouting organizations around the world,[84] 367 of them were a member of either WAGGGS or WOSM. About half of the remaining 172 Scouting organizations are only local or national orientated. Sony VPCCB4Z1E Battery

About 90 national or regional Scouting associations have felt the need to create alternative international Scouting organizations to set standards for Scouting and to coordinate activities among member associations. Those are served by four international Scouting organizations:[84]Sony VPCCB4Z1E/B Battery

Since the inception of Scouting in the early 1900s, the movement has sometimes been entangled in social controversies such as the civil rights struggle in theAmerican South and in nationalist resistance movements in India. Sony VPCCB4Z1E/W Battery

Scouting was introduced to Africa by British officials as a way to strengthen their rule, but turned to challenge the legitimacy of the British Empire, as African Scouts used the Scout Law's principle that a Scout is a brother to all other Scouts to collectively claim full imperial citizenship.[95][96]Sony VPCCB4Z1E/W.G4 Battery

More recently, the Scout Movement has been a focus of criticism in the USA for not allowing the participation of atheists, agnostics, or homosexuals.[97][98] In the United Kingdom the organisation has been criticised for its insistence on the use of a religious oath.[99]Sony vaio VPCY11S1E battery

Due to Scouting's strong anti-authoritarian stance[100] and reinforcing of individuality values, authoritarian regimes have either absorbed it into government-controlled organizations, and/or banned it. Sony vaio VPCY11S1E/S battery

In film and the arts

Scouting has been a facet of culture during most of the 20th century in many countries; numerous films and artwork focus on the subject.[101] It is especially prevalent in the United States, where Scouting is tied closely to the ideal of Americana. Sony vaio VPCY21S1E/G battery

critic Roger Ebert mentioned the scene in which the young Boy Scout, Indiana Jones, discovers the Cross of Coronado in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as "when he discovers his life mission."[102]Sony vaio VPCY21S1E/L battery

The works of painters Norman Rockwell, Pierre Joubert and Joseph Csatari and the 1966 film Follow Me, Boys! are prime examples of this idealized ethos. Scouting is often dealt with in a humorous manner, as in the 1989 film Troop Beverly Hills, Sony vaio VPCY21S1E/SI battery

the 2005 film Down and Derby, and the film Scout Camp and is often fictionalized so that the audience knows the topic is Scouting without any mention of Scouting by name. In 1980, Scottish singer and songwriter Gerry Rafferty recorded I was a Boy Scout as part of his Snakes and Ladders album.[103]Sony vaio VPCY22Z5008B battery

The Boy Scouts of America are quite particular about how and when the Scout uniforms and insignia may be used in film and other portrayals, however, and for that reason, most films and television productions made in the U.S. utilize "ersatz" Scouting organizations. Sony vaio VPCYA1V9E/B battery

Examples of this include the "Order of the Straight Arrow," portrayed in the King of the Hill cartoon series, and the "Indian Guides" depicted in the 1995 Chevy Chase film Man of the House. A notable exception to this policy, is the final scene of The Sopranos television show, Sony vaio VPCYB1S1E/S battery

where Tony Soprano (apparently about to be murdered) sits down to dinner in a restaurant. At another table, several Bear-rank Cub Scouts, in full uniform, are seated. Sony PCG-81111T battery


The Boy Scout movement swiftly established itself throughout the British Empire soon after the publication of Scouting for Boys. The first recognized overseas unit was chartered in Gibraltar in 1908, followed quickly by a unit in Malta. Sony vaio VPCYA15FH/R battery

Canada became the first overseas dominion with a sanctioned Boy Scout program, followed by Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Chile was the first country outside the British dominions to have a recognized Scouting program.  Sony vaio VPCS13L8E/B battery

The first Scout rally, held in 1909 at The Crystal Palace in London, attracted 10,000 boys and a number of girls. By 1910, Argentina, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India,Malaya, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States had Boy Scouts.[28][29] Sony PCG-5J1L battery

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The program initially focused on boys aged 11 to 18, but as the movement grew, the need became apparent for leader training and programs for younger boys, older boys, and girls. The first Cub Scout and Rover Scout programs were in place by the late 1910s. Sony PCG-5L1L battery

They operated independently until they obtained official recognition from their home country's Scouting organization. In the United States, attempts at Cub programs began as early as 1911, but official recognition was not obtained until 1930.[29][30][31]HP ProBook 4515s battery

Girls wanted to become part of the movement almost as soon as it began. Baden-Powell and his sister Agnes Baden-Powell introduced the Girl Guides in 1910, a parallel movement for girls, sometimes named Girl Scouts. Agnes Baden-Powell became the first president of the Girl Guides when it was formed in 1910, Sony VGN-CR42Z/R battery

at the request of the girls who attended the Crystal Palace Rally. In 1914, she started Rosebuds—later renamed Brownies—for younger girls. She stepped down as president of the Girl Guides in 1920 in favor of Robert's wife Olave Baden-Powell, Sony VPCB11V9E/B Battery

who was named Chief Guide (for England) in 1918 and World Chief Guide in 1930. At that time, girls were expected to remain separate from boys because of societal standards, though co-educational youth groups did exist. By the 1990s, two thirds of the Scout organizations belonging to WOSM had become co-educational.[32]Sony VPCB11X9E/B Battery

Baden-Powell could not single-handedly advise all groups who requested his assistance. Early Scoutmaster training camps were held in London in 1910 and inYorkshire in 1911. Baden-Powell wanted the training to be as practical as possible to encourage other adults to take leadership roles, Sony VPCF11C4E/B Battery

so the Wood Badge course was developed to recognize adult leadership training. The development of the training was delayed by World War I, so the first Wood Badge course was not held until 1919.[33] Wood Badge is used by Boy Scout associations and combined Boy Scout and Girl Guide associations in many countries. Sony VPCF11C5E Battery

Gilwell Park near London was purchased in 1919 on behalf of The Scout Association as an adult training site and Scouting campsite.[34] Baden-Powell wrote a book, Aids to Scoutmastership, to help Scouting Leaders, and wrote other handbooks for the use of the new Scouting sections, Sony VPCF11D4E Battery

such as Cub Scouts and Girl Guides. One of these was Rovering to Success, written for Rover Scouts in 1922. A wide range of leader training exists in 2007, from basic to program-specific, including the Wood Badge training. Sony vaio VPCF11M1E/H battery


Important elements of traditional Scouting have their origins in Baden-Powell's experiences in education and military training. He was a 50-year-old retired army general when he founded Scouting, and his revolutionary ideas inspired thousands of young people, Sony vaio VPCF12F4E/H battery

from all parts of society, to get involved in activities that most had never contemplated. Comparable organizations in the English-speaking world are the Boys' Brigade and the non-militaristic Woodcraft Folk; however, they never matched the development and growth of Scouting.[35]Sony vaio VPCF12M1E/H battery

Aspects of Scouting practice have been criticized as too militaristic.[36] Military-style uniforms, badges of rank, flagceremonies, and brass bands were commonly accepted in the early years because they were a part of normal society, but since then have diminished or been abandoned in both Scouting and society. Sony vaio VPCF12S1E battery

Local influences have also been a strong part of Scouting. By adopting and modifying local ideologies, Scouting has been able to find acceptance in a wide variety of cultures. In the United States, Scouting uses images drawn from the U.S. frontier experience. Sony vaio VPCF12S1E/B battery

This includes not only its selection of animal badges for Cub Scouts, but the underlying assumption that American native peoples are more closely connected with nature and therefore have special wilderness survival skills which can be used as part of the training program. Sony vaio VPCF12Z1E/BI battery

By contrast, British Scouting makes use of imagery drawn from the Indian subcontinent, because that region was a significant focus in the early years of Scouting. Baden-Powell's personal experiences in India led him to adopt Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book as a major influence for the Cub Scouts; Sony vaio VPCF13E4E battery

for example, the name used for the Cub Scout leader, Akela(whose name was also appropriated for the Webelos), is that of the leader of the wolf pack in the book.[37]Sony vaio VPCF13E8E/H battery

The name "Scouting" seems to have been inspired by the important and romantic role played by military scouts performing reconnaissance in the wars of the time. Sony vaio VPCF13J0E/H battery

The book's popularity with young boys surprised him. As he adapted the book as Scouting for Boys, it seems natural that the movement adopted the names Scouting andBoy Scouts.[38]Sony vaio VPCF13L8E/H battery

"Duty to God" is a principle of Scouting, though it is applied differently in various countries.[39][40] The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) take a strong position, excluding atheists.[41] The Scout Association in the United Kingdom permits variations to its Promise, in order to accommodate different religious obligations,[42]. Sony vaio VPCF13M1E/B battery

 Scouts Canada defines Duty to God broadly in terms of "adherence to spiritual principles" and leaves it to the individual member or leader whether they can follow a Scout Promise that includes Duty to God.[43]Sony vaio VPCF13M1E/H battery

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