Athelwald of Deira

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Athelwald (also spelled Oethelwald or Œthelwald) was a King of Deira. He was the nephew of King Oswiu of Northumbria, his overlord, but he turned on his family to support the pagan Penda of Mercia. When Penda was killed, Athelwald lost his kingdom.

Early Career[change | change source]

He was the son of King Oswald of Northumbria, who was killed by Penda of Mercia at the Battle of Maserfield in 642.[1] At Oswald's death Northumbria was reduced back to the two kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira. Oswiu was the king of Bernicia and was acknowledge as overlord of Deira. Penda had placed Oswine of Deira[a] on the throne of Deira.[3] But Oswine did not get along with his overlord Oswiu. He raised an army against Oswiu but then realized his army wasn't large enough and he sent them home.[4] He was betrayed by one of his nobleman to Oswiu and was murdered in 651.[5]

King of Deira[change | change source]

After Oswine's death, Athelwald became king. It is uncertain whether Oswiu (who was Athelwald's uncle) installed him as king or whether Athelwald took the kingship in opposition to Oswiu.[6] At some point he allied himself with Oswiu's enemy, Penda of Mercia. He guided Penda during his invasion of Northumbria in 655. But, when the armies of Oswiu and Penda met on 15 November at the Battle of the Winwaed, Athelwald withdrew to safety.[7] Penda was defeated and killed. perhaps in part because of this desertion, and afterward Athelwald was not heard of again.[8]

King Athelwald gave St. Cedd the lands of Lastingham to build a monastery.[9]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. Bede praised Oswine as a fine example of a Christian king. He was kind to both noblemen and peasants alike. Bede tells of how Bishop Aidan of Lindisfarne predicted King Oswine would not live long for he was such a humble king.[2]

References[change | change source]

  1. Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1999), p. 281
  2. Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, trans. Leo Sherley Price, revsd. R. E. Latham (London; New York: Penguin, 1990), pp. 166-67
  3. N. J. Higham, The Kingdom of Northumbria AD 350–1100 (Dover, NH: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1993), p. 128
  4. Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, trans. Leo Sherley Price, revsd. R. E. Latham (London; New York: Penguin, 1990), p. 165
  5. N. J. Higham, The Kingdom of Northumbria AD 350–1100 (Dover, NH: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1993), p. 130
  6. D. P. Kirby, The Earliest English Kings, Second Edition (London; New York: Routledge, 2000), p. 78
  7. Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, trans. Leo Sherley Price, revsd. R. E. Latham (London; New York: Penguin, 1990), p. 183
  8. D. P. Kirby, The Earliest English Kings, Second Edition (London; New York: Routledge, 2000), p. 81
  9. Susan Wood, The Proprietary Church in the Medieval West (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 123