The Kings of Northumbria (1) : Out of a restless alliance between two 6th century kingdoms came a civilisation that defined Englishness.
The Kings of Northumbria
Part one

Northumbria was a kingdom in northeast England, from the seventh century to the ninth. More than any other of the seven kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England, Northumbria shaped the political, social and religious identity of a united Kingdom of the English in the 10th century.

THE kingdoms of Bernicia to the north of the River Tees, with its capital at Bamburgh, and Deira to the south, seated in York, were first brought into an uneasy union by King Ethelfrith of Bernicia, son-in-law of Ella of Deira, in 604.

Ella’s son Edwin, Northumbria’s first Christian king, followed in 616, governing a realm that now stretched to the Isle of Man and west Wales.

His defeat at the hands of pagan King Penda of Mercia at Hatfield Chase in 633 was overturned the following year at the Battle of Heavenfield, by Ethelfrith’s son Oswald.

The new King formed a close bond with Aidan, a monk from Iona, who founded a monastery at Lindisfarne that became the beating heart of Oswald’s realm.

Penda slew Oswald in battle in 642, but seven years later Oswald was avenged by his brother Oswy at the Battle of the Winwæd, near Leeds, and Christian Northumbria suddenly found itself preeminent among the seven kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England.

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Picture: © Alfie Tait, Geograph. Licence: CC-BY-SA 2.0. View original
Bamburgh (bam-bra) Castle as it is today. The town was one of the seats of the Kings of Northumbria in the 7th century, as the capital of the constituent kingdom of Bernicia. Edwin, as King of both Bernicia and Deira from 616, settled his capital at York, chief city of Deira, where his father Ella had been King.

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