Vortimer was the eldest son of Vortigern, King of the Britons of the island of Britain and his mother was believed to be Sevira, daughter of the Roman Emperor Magnus Maximus, or Macsen Wledig as carved on the Pillar of Elise. He had watched with growing concern as his father had brought in Germanic mercenaries to fight in the defense of his realm against Pict and Irish enemies. These mercenaries were pagan Angles, Saxons and Jutes and were led by two Hengist and his brother Horsa. The fighting skills of the pagan mercenaries was formidable and Vortigern brought in more and more under the persuasion of the wily Hengist to defend the realm. However, the British nobles who were staunchly Christian, became increasingly concerned at their growing numbers power and raised objection to Vortigern’s policy of using mercenaries.
Vortigern saw Hengist and Horsa and their warriors as valuable assets in defending his kingdom and also himself and had served him faithfully in his eyes but the Saxon warlords had secret plans to take over the kingdom. The first part of their plan was to impress Vortigern with their military skills and the second part was to control Vortigern. To do this Hengist brought over his beautiful daughter, Rowena.
As soon as Vortigern set eyes upon her he fell in love with her and begged Hengist for her hand in marriage. Hengist agreed but drove a hard bargain and asked for the British province of Kent as dowry for her. Vortigern readily agreed and married Rowena while Hengist received Kent which would make an invaluable foothold for him to expand Saxon presence and influence throughout Britain.
The marriage if a pagan princess to a Christian King was seen as strictly taboo by the British nobles, but the increasing Germanic presence and their King’s favouring if them caused increasing alarm and resentment. They went to him expressing their concerns but he would not listen and the scene was set for open rebellion.
The Battles of Vortimer
Therefore, as Vortigern would not listen to his nobles and war leaders they made his son Vortimer the King of Britain and deposed Vortigern. Vortimer with the backing of the British nobility began to attack the Saxons with great success. He fought four great battles against them and was victorious in each.
The first battle was fought upon the banks of the river Darent. The second battle was fought upon the ford of Aylesford where Vortimer brother, Catigurn and Horsa fought together man to man each killing the other. The third battle took place on the sea shore where Vortimer drove them to their ships forcing them to seek refuge on the isle of Thanet.
Finally, Vortimer then besieged them on the isle of Thanet with his fleet continuously harrying them and in control of the seas. Hengist knew he was trapped and faced slow starvation therefore he sent Vortigern who had remained with them, to talk to his son to sue for peace, but while the meeting was still ongoing they boarded their long ships and returned to Germany leaving the women and children behind and alone to face the Britons.
After these successes Vortimer set about restoring the possessions of his subjects that had been given to the Saxons and at the instigation of St. Germanus to restore the churches many of which had been robbed and ruined by the pagans. Although he showed his great respect and affection to his people and they returned this, there were those who were not happy with the banishment of the Saxons and one of those was his stepmother Rowena who was still much loved by his father.
Rowena the Poisoner
Above everything else Rowena was loyal to her own father, Hengist and her people. She was believed to have and she now went and consulted with poisoners and arranged for Vortimer to be poisoned in such a way that it looked like he had been taken by some quick and severe illness.
As the poison took effect Vortimer called his men to him showing them he was near death. Though they were devastated at the loss of their king and great captain in war he distributed his treasure to them and in a bid to comfort them told them it was just the way of the flesh. He asked of his followers that when he was dead a pyramid should be built in the port looking out to sea where the Saxons had been accustomed to land and to place his body on top so that the sight of him and his tomb might deter any future incursions by them. He told them that as the Saxons had feared to face him while alive so they would fear him in death. Sadly, and to their folly, the Britons ignored them King’s wishes and he was buried in London.
© 13/06/2108 zteve t evans
References, Attributions and Further Reading
Copyright June 6th, 2018 zteve t evans
- Vortimer, son of Vortigern – Vortigern Studies
- Vortimer – Wikipedia
- Sevira, daughter of Magnus Maximus and wife of Vortigern
- Sevira daughter of Maximus – Wikipedia
- Pillar of Eliseg – Wikipedia
- Vortigern and the Pillar of Elise – Vortigern Studies
- Vortigern’s Rule: Rowena’s Poison
- British Legends: Treachery, Murder, Lust and Rowena – The Rule of Vortigern
- Magnus Maximus – Wikipedia
- British Legends: The Mabinogion – The Dream of Macsen Wledig
- File:A Chronicle of England – Page 306 – The Relief of Calais (bw).jpg [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons