Nova Anglia – The Anglo Saxon refugees who built the original New England on the Black Sea.

Everyone knows about the New England colony that was established on the eastern coast of North America but much less known about and something I’ve long been interested in is that accounts of a creation of a New England on the shores of the Black Sea around 500 years earlier than the one in North America though just like there, many of the settlers named towns after their homes in the U.K.

It is thought that this settlement was necessitated by the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 which eventually occupied all of these islands.

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Kingdom of New England in Crimea

One of the best of these accounts is from the14th Century Iceland and the saga of Edward the Confessor which explains…

They left their estates and fled away from the land with a great host and were led by Siward, earl of Gloucester, and headed south to the Mediterranean, making a raid on Cueta, North Africa, and slaughtering there.  Afterwards, they made haste to Micklegarth, now known as Istanbul, where they had heard a siege was underway.

They defeated the enemy ships and the saga says that the emperor ‘took wonderfully well’ to the newcomers. According to the saga he offered the English positions in his personal bodyguard, the Varangians, so impressed was he by the warriors.  Rather astutely the Englishmen asked for land instead.

Rather than deprive his own aristocrats of their lands, the emperor advised the English of a region across the sea, which had once belonged to the Romans and that if they were able to defeat the barbarians that were living then then they could have the land. 

Extract from an Italian portolan atlas of 1553 of the Crimea, which names Susaco (Sussex) and Londina (London), believed to have been settlements in 'Nova Anglia'

Italian atlas of 1553 of the Crimea, which names Susaco (Sussex) and Londina (London), believed to have been settlements in ‘Nova Anglia

After countless battles, the saga says that they took the land and named it England.  It goes on to explain ‘To the towns that were in the land and to those which they built they gave the names of the towns in England. They called them both London and York, and by the names of other great towns in England.’

There is a problem with this tale and is that there is no recorded figure of a Siward, earl of Gloucester but there is other evidence.

It is well documented for instance that the emperor’s Varangian guard went from being largely made up of Scandinavians in the 10th and 11th centuries, to a predominantly English force and this would fit the timeline precisely.

A 12th-century depiction of the Varangian Guard, the bodyguyard of the Byzantine emperor, from the Madrid Skylitzes

A 12th-century depiction of the Varangian Guard, the bodyguyard of the Byzantine emperor, from the Madrid Skylitze

Nova Anglia appears to have been established by the late eleventh-century and their control of at least some land and cities here apparently persisted for several centuries, perhaps thus providing a regular supply of “English Varangians” to the Byzantine Empire that helps to explain why the “native tongue” of the Varangian Guard continued to be English as late as the mid-fourteenth century.’

For a post of a similar ilk you might enjoy…

When your biggest hope turns into your worst nightmare – The Legend of Prester John

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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3 Responses to Nova Anglia – The Anglo Saxon refugees who built the original New England on the Black Sea.

  1. Pete says:

    Fascinating. Never heard of this before

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Nova Anglia – The Anglo Saxon refugees who built the original New England on the Black Sea. — Stephen Liddell | Pete's Favourite Things

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