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The title Earl of Wessex has been created twice in British history, once in the pre-Conquest Anglo-Saxon nobility of England and once in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. The region of Wessexmarker (the "West Saxons'), in the south and southwest of England, had been one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, whose expansion in the tenth century created a united Kingdom of England.

First creation

Wessex was one of the four earldoms of Anglo Danish England.In this period the earldom of Wessex covered the lands of the old kingdom of Wessexmarker, covering the counties of the south of England, including Cornwallmarker, and extending west to the Welsh border.During the reign of King Canutethe earldom was conferred on Godwine at some time after 1020. Thereafter Godwine rose to be, in King Edward's time, the most powerful man in the kingdom.

On his death in 1053 the earldom passed to Godwin's son, who later became King Harold II and died at the Battle of Hastingsmarker in 1066.

Following the Norman conquest in the winter of 1066 the earldom was bestowed on William fitzOsbern, King William’s most trusted companion.FitzOsbern continued to help William consolidate his new realm, until his death in Normandy in 1071.

Following this the earldom was reduced in power and regional jurisdiction, and passed to fitzOsbern's son, Roger, as the earldom of Hereford.

Second creation (current)

In 1999, Queen Elizabeth II's youngest son, Prince Edward, married Sophie Rhys-Jones. Younger sons of the monarch are normally given dukedoms at the time of their marriage, and experts had suggested the former royal dukedoms of Cambridge and Sussex as the most likely to be granted to Prince Edward, but he was instead created Earl of Wessex. When the earldom was created, the Palace announced that the Earl of Wessex would be created Duke of Edinburgh after the death of his father, Prince Phillip, and his mother, Elizabeth II, when that title reverts back to the Crown.[49503]

The Earldom has the subsidiary title Viscount Severn, which is used as a courtesy title by the Earl's son who was born on 17 December 2007.

Heir Apparent: James, Viscount Severn (born 2007)


The 1998 film Shakespeare in Love featured an entirely fictional, villainous Earl of Wessex, played by Colin Firth.

There is also a fictional Earl of Wessex in Geoffrey Trease's novel Bows Against the Barons.


  1. Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1007: "In this year also was Edric appointed alderman over all the kingdom of the Mercians.", 1017: "This year also was Alderman Edric slain at London".
  2. Mason p33
  3. Crouch p100
  4. Crouch p108


  • David Crouch, The Normans (2002) ISBN 1 85285 387 5
  • Emma Mason The House of Godwine (2004) ISBN 1 85285 389 1

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