Ælle was the first king recorded by the 8th century chronicler Bede to have held “imperium”, or overlordship, over other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, thus the first King of England.
A tenacious and violent Saxon warlord he conquered what is now Sussex, the borders of which, became his Kingdom. A Wodenist he fought a war of destruction against the Romano-Brythonic people with little pity. Possibly destroyed the Roman Palace at Fishbourne in Sussex.
Other Saxon war chiefs helped or followed him. Wurtha and Hæsta were two of them (Worthing and Hastings are named after them).
There are two early sources that mention Ælle by name. The earliest is The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, a history of the English church written in 731 by Bede, a Northumbrian monk. Bede mentions Ælle as one of the Anglo-Saxon kings who exercised what he calls “imperium” over “all the provinces south of the river Humber”; “imperium” is usually translated as “overlordship”. Bede gives a list of seven kings who held “imperium“, and Ælle is the first of them.
Bede also tells us that Ælle was not a Christian.
The second source is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a collection of annals assembled in the Kingdom of Wessex in 890 AD, during the reign of Alfred the Great. The Chronicle has three entries for Ælle, from 477 to 491, as follows:
- 477: Ælle and his 3 sons, Cymen and Wlencing and Cissa, came to the land of Britain with 3 ships at the place which is named Cymen’s shore, and there killed many Welsh and drove some to flight into the wood called Andredes leag.
- 485: Here Ælle fought against the Welsh near the margin of Mearcred’s Burn.
- 491: Here Ælle and Cissa besieged Andredes cester, and killed all who lived in there; there was not even one Briton left there.
Aelle died around 514 AD
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "Ælle of Sussex" https://englishhistory.net/middle-ages/aelle-of-sussex/, March 4, 2022