Reconciling the discrepancy of dates between The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and its Genealogical Preface, which Charles Plummer claimed in 1899 “were impossible to harmonize,” has finally been emended a century later by Frank D. Reno, clarifying British history of the fifth century.
RECONCILING THE DISCREPANCY OF DATES
THE ANGLO-SAXON CHRONICLE
In order for this information to be properly digested, it’s important to recognize the distinction between The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and its overview, the document referred to as the Genealogical Preface. Any study of these two separate documents shows that there is sometimes a discrepancy of at least 30 years between the dates established by The Anglo Saxon Chronicle and its overview, the Genealogical Preface. Prior to the end of the nineteenth century, an antiquarian by the name of Charles Plummer, after a lifetime of studying The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and its Genealogical Preface, reached a conclusion that, notwithstanding the adjustments he had made, “It is impossible to harmonize the two [conflicting] series of dates [between the Chronicle and its Genealogical Preface.]”
Even though this reconciliation seems irrelevant to material concerning the historicity of King Arthur, it is crucial in establishing Arthur’s chronology during this era at the end of the fifth and the beginning of the sixth centuries. The word “Arthur” appears in neither The Anglo- Saxon Chronicle nor the Genealogical Preface, but several other ancient documents–namely The Historia Brittonum, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, and two ancient chronicles dating to the middle of the fifth century–link Arthur to the Saxones. By reconciling the discrepancies of dates in the Chronicle and its Preface, King Arthur’s chronology can be established to a precise and supportable time-frame. Arthur’s conflicts with Cerdic and Octha can be assigned surprisingly accurate dates, especially in reference to the Saxon Adventi and the Battle of Mount Badon.
After over a decade of study and contemplation, I was finally able to reconcile the differences between the two manuscripts. The capsulized resolution is reflected by looking at a comparison of the two tables below, one which is Plummer’s contrast of dates, and the second which is my reconciliation of those discrepancies. Plummer’s contrast is shown in the following table:
Cerdic: length of reign
Sexburg (a queen)
500 + 16 = 516 [16-year reign] 516 + 27 = 533 [17-year reign] [543 +31] = 574 [31-year reign] 574 + 6 = 580 [ 6-year reign] 580 + 17 = 597 [17-year reign] 597 + 31 = 628 [31-year reign] 628 + 31 = 659 [31-year reign] 659 + 1 = 670 [ 1-year reign] 660 + 2 = 662 [ 2-year reign]
519 to 534 = 15 years
534 to 560 = 26 years
560 to 591 = 31 years
591 to 597 = 6 years
597 to 611 = 6 years
611 to 643 = 32 years
643 to 672 = 29 years
672 to 673 = 1 year
674 to 676 = 2 years
Using Ceawlin as an example, the Genealogical Preface shows that his reign began in 543, whereas the Chronicle indicates that his reign began in 560. And similarly, according the the Preface, his reign ended in 574, while the Chronicle reports that his reign ended in 591. It was this discrepancy which Charles Plummer indicated was “impossible to reconcile.”
And yet, after a great deal of deliberation and research, I reconciled the discrepancies between the two manuscripts according to the following table.
500 + 16 = 516
517 + 17 = 534
534 = 36 = 560
560 + 25 = 585
585 + 6 = 591
591 + 17 = 608
608 + 31 = 639
639 + 31 = 670
670 + 1 = 671
671 + 2 = 673
34 years: 500 – 534
[Left out of the ASC genealogy] 26 years: 534 – 560
31 years: 560 – 591
[Combined in ASC with Ceawlin’s reign] 14 years: 597 – 611
31 years: 611 – 642
29 years: 643 – 670 [MSS A, B, C and E] 1 year: 670 – 671
2 years: 673 – 675
Amazingly, in my table of reconciliation, you can note that there is not more than a two-year discrepancy in the reigns of the Kings of the West-Saxon House, whereby if you look at the example of Ceawlin’s reign there was originally a 17-year discrepancy. There turns out to be, therefore, remarkable accuracy in the recordings between the Genealogical Preface and The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, showing, in my opinion, indisputable evidence of the accuracy and reliability in the chronology of the two documents.
Because of the cruciality of this revelation, I expect proper citation for any quotation of the above information. If you want the details of the process of this reconciliation, please refer to The Historic King Arthur, which is, of course, copyrighted, as is the information conveyed above.