EBK Activity Sheets


The British slice up Britain

  • After the Roman army left Britain, strong or popular men managed to set themselves up as local rulers or kings. They ruled small regions, the size of modern counties. They might have an old Roman town at the centre.
  • Books written in the Dark Ages sometimes call these people 'tyrants'. A 'tyrant' is someone who is in charge, but who is a bully.
  • Writers thought that proper leaders were given authority by someone in Rome. They thought the new rulers had bullied people into putting them in charge. This may not have been true:
    • They might have been leaders on local town councils. These people were called 'decurions'.
    • They might have been respected people from important families.
    • They might have been army officers in the local militia or even officers from foreign mercenary units.
    • A few important Roman-British officials, like the Duke of Britain, did not return to Rome. They took charge in some areas.
  • At first these rulers did not call themselves Kings. An old gravestone shows that Vortepor of Dyfed called himself a Protector. St. Paulinus met a leader in Lincoln called a Prefect. St. Germanus met a leader in St. Albans called a Tribune.
  • The word 'King' was used when their position became 'hereditary'. This means that when a ruler died, his nearest relative became the next ruler. Women were not usually allowed to rule.
  • The Kings lived in big wooden palaces called Great Halls, either in towns or in old hillforts.
  • A High-King, like Vortigern or Arthur, may have tried to lead these local kings. So they are sometimes called sub-kings or under-kings.
  • Lots of different groups of Saxons settled in Britain. So it was natural for them to also set up small kingdom with local kings.

Find out: Where the Local Kings had their Kingdoms

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