Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia


Elmet was an independent kingdom in what is now West Yorkshire, England, during the early medieval period.

Elmet | History

Elmet likely had its origins as a Brittonic-speaking kingdom, inhabited by the native Celtic people known as the Britons. These Celtic communities were present in various parts of Britain before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons.

Elmet was one of the several small kingdoms that emerged in the post-Roman Britain after the Roman withdrawal in the fifth century AD. The historical records about Elmet are limited, but it is believed to have been one of the native Brittonic kingdoms, established by the Celtic Britons who remained in the region after the Roman occupation.

The exact boundaries and history of Elmet are not well-documented, but it is generally believed to have been centered around the River Aire and the surrounding areas in West Yorkshire. The kingdom of Elmet was situated between other early medieval British kingdoms such as Northumbria to the north and Mercia to the south.

Early Medieval Period | 5th – 7th centuries
During the early medieval period, Britain was characterized by the migration and settlement of various groups, including the Anglo-Saxons. Elmet was situated in a region where the influence of both Britons and Anglo-Saxons was significant.

Conflict with Northumbria
Elmet’s history is intertwined with conflicts with the neighboring Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a later historical source, mentions military engagements between Elmet and Northumbria in the seventh century. Northumbria exerted influence over the regions inhabited by the Britons. The expansion of Northumbrian power likely led to territorial encroachment and conflicts with Elmet.

Loss of Independence and Anglo-Saxon Rule
Despite its resistance, Elmet eventually fell to the expansion of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria in the early seventh century. The gradual encroachment and absorption into Northumbria marked the end of Elmet as a distinct political entity. It is believed that the last known king of Elmet was Ceretic (also known as Ceredig or Ceredic), who was forced to submit to the Northumbrian ruler Edwin around 616 AD. However, the memory of Elmet and its significance in early British history has been preserved in historical texts and regional folklore.

Limited Historical Records and Archaeological Evidence
Unfortunately, there are few contemporary written records detailing Elmet’s specific history. The limited information comes from later medieval texts, such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which provides glimpses into the conflicts between Elmet and Northumbria. Archaeological excavations in the region have uncovered evidence of early medieval settlements and fortifications, providing insights into the material culture of the people who lived in the area associated with Elmet.

See also
Celts | The Legend of King Arthur
The Roman Empire | The Legend of King Arthur