Kingdom of Kent

Kingdom of the Kentish
Cantaware Rīce
Regnum Cantuariorum
  • Vassal of Mercia (764–769, 785–796, 798–825)
  • Vassal of Wessex (825–871)
c. 455–871
The Kingdom of Kent
LanguagesOld English, Latin
ReligionPaganism, Christianity
 • ?–488Hengist (first)
 • 866–871Æthelred (last)
Historical eraHeptarchy
 • Establishedc. 455
 • Disestablished871
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Sub-Roman Britain
Kingdom of Wessex

The Kingdom of the Kentish (Old English: Cantaware Rīce; Latin: Regnum Cantuariorum), today referred to as the Kingdom of Kent, was an early medieval kingdom in what is now South East England. It existed from either the fifth or the sixth century CE until it was fully absorbed into the Kingdom of England in the tenth century.

Under the preceding Romano-British administration the area of Kent faced repeated attacks from seafaring raiders during the fourth century CE. It is likely that Germanic-speaking foederati were invited to settle in the area as mercenaries. Following the end of Roman administration, in 410, further linguistically Germanic tribal groups moved into the area, as testified by both archaeological evidence and Late Anglo-Saxon textual sources. The primary ethnic group to settle in the area appears to have been the Jutes: they established their Kingdom in East Kent and may initially have been under the dominion of the Kingdom of Francia. It has been argued that an East Saxon community initially settled West Kent, but was conquered by the expanding kingdom of East Kent in the sixth century.

The earliest recorded King of Kent was Æthelberht, who, as Bretwalda, wielded significant influence over other Anglo-Saxon kings in the late sixth century. The Christianization of the Anglo-Saxons began in Kent during Æthelberht's reign with the arrival of the monk Augustine of Canterbury and his Gregorian mission in 597.

Kent was one of the seven kingdoms of the so-called Anglo-Saxon heptarchy, but it lost its independence in the 8th century when it became a sub-kingdom of Mercia. In the 9th century it became a sub-kingdom of Wessex, and in the 10th century it became part of the unified Kingdom of England that was created under the leadership of Wessex. Its name has been carried forward ever since as the county of Kent.

Knowledge of Anglo-Saxon Kent comes from scholarly study of Late Anglo-Saxon texts such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the Ecclesiastical History of the English People, as well as archaeological evidence such as that left by early medieval cemeteries and settlements, and toponymical (place-name) evidence.

Decline of Romano-British Kent

Roman fort wall at Regulbium

In the Romano-British period, the area of modern Kent that lay east of the River Medway was a civitas known as Cantiaca.[1] Its name had been taken from an older Common Brittonic place-name, Cantium ("corner of land" or "land on the edge") used in the preceding pre-Roman Iron Age, although the extent of this tribal area is unknown.[1]

During the late third and fourth centuries, Roman Britain had been raided repeatedly by Franks, Saxons, Picts, and Scots.[2] As the closest part of Britain to mainland Europe, it is likely that Kent would have experienced many attacks from seafaring raiders, resulting in the construction of four Saxon Shore Forts along the Kentish coast: Regulbium, Rutupiae, Dubris, and Portus Lemanis.[2] It is also likely that Germanic-speaking mercenaries from northern Gaul, known as foederati, would have been hired to supplement official Roman troops during this period, with land in Kent as payment.[3] These foederati would have assimilated into Romano-British culture, making it difficult to distinguish them archaeologically.[4]

There is evidence that over the fourth and early fifth centuries, rural villas were abandoned, suggesting that the Romano-British elite were moving to the comparative safety of fortified urban centres.[5] However, urban centres also witnessed decline; Canterbury evidenced a declining population and reduced activity from the late third century onward, while Dover was abandoned by the end of the fourth century.[6] In 407, the Roman legions left Britain in order to deal with incursions into the Empire's continental heartlands.[2] In 410, the Roman Emperor Honorius sent a letter to his British subjects announcing that they must thenceforth look after their own defence and could no longer rely on the imperial military to protect them.[2] According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, produced in late Anglo-Saxon England and not considered an accurate record of events in the fifth century, in 418 many Romans left Britain via Kent, taking much of their wealth with them. This may represent a memory of a genuine exodus of the Roman aristocracy.[7]

Other Languages
asturianu: Reinu de Kent
беларуская: Каралеўства Кент
български: Кент (кралство)
brezhoneg: Rouantelezh Kent
català: Regne de Kent
español: Reino de Kent
Esperanto: Kent (regno)
euskara: Kent Erresuma
français: Royaume de Kent
한국어: 켄트 왕국
hrvatski: Kraljevina Kent
italiano: Regno del Kent
עברית: ממלכת קנט
Mirandés: Reino de Kent
Nederlands: Koninkrijk Kent
日本語: ケント王国
Plattdüütsch: Königriek Kent
português: Reino de Kent
српски / srpski: Краљевина Кент
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Kraljevina Kent
українська: Королівство Кент
中文: 肯特王國