By Simon Keynes
Paper given at the Staffordshire Hoard Symposium, held at the British Museum, March, 2010
Introduction: In the early 12th century, William of Malmesbury remarked that almost all historical record had been buried with Bede, meaning that, in the 500 years which had passed since Bede’s death, no-one had risen to the challenge of building upon the foundations he had laid in giving shape and significance to the past. It had thus fallen to those of William’s own age to construct an Anglo-Saxon past for their own purposes.
As they saw it, inspired by their own reading of Bede and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, by collections of royal genealogies and episcopal lists, and by the legends of saints, it was a past which could be resolved into a tale of seven major kingdoms. Their respective ruling dynasties traced their ancestry back through Woden to Adam, and were complemented by neat patterns of episcopal succession, to generate in combination a semblance of order stretching from creation to conquest.