Letter: Tour of Wessex

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The Independent Culture

Tour of Wessex

Sir: I feel I must take John Walsh to task over his comments about the title of Earl of Wessex ("Why not make him Duke of Borchester?", 21 June).

First, his careless remarks about Hardy's Wessex place names: Casterbridge was in fact Dorchester, while Sherton Abbas was his name for Sherborne and Salisbury was Melchester.

Second, the assertion that Wessex is merely a literary identity: Wessex was a kingdom in every way that Essex, Sussex and Anglia were kingdoms though, like Mercia and Northumbria, it was too large to have been converted in whole into a county by the Normans. When Wessex became part of a greater England, ruled by both English/Saxon and Danish kings, earldoms were created (not just "dreamt up" by King Canute) and there were real Earls of Wessex.

And of course there is one obvious connection between the new Earl of Wessex and King Alfred (the Great) of Wessex: Alfred was, arguably, the last Really Useful monarch in the British Isles.


Stalbridge, Dorset