Battle of Hatfield Chase

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Battle of Hatfield Chase
Saint King Edwin of Northumbria.jpg
Depiction of Edwin at St Mary, Sledmere, Yorkshire.
Date 12 October 633 AD
Location Hatfield Chase, Yorkshire
Result Gwynedd-Mercian victory
Participants
Flag of Gwynedd.svgSaint Alban's cross.svg
Gwynedd, Mercia
Flag of Northumbria.svg
Northumbria
Commanders and leaders
Cadwallon ap Cadfan
Penda
Edwin 
Osfrith 
Eadfrith (captured)

The Battle of Hatfield Chase was fought on 12 October 633 at Hatfield Chase near Doncaster in present day Yorkshire. The pagan King Penda of Mercia and the Christian king of Gynedd, Cadwallon ap Cadfan joined forces to attack Northumbria. King Edwin met them in the southern part of his kingdom. In the battle Edwin was killed and his army was defeated. Cadwallon destroyed as much of Northumbria as he could. This led to the end of Northumbrian dominance over southern England for a short time.

Background[change | change source]

Edwin of Northumbria (ruled 616–633) was recognized as overlord over all of Britain.[1] In his wars he conquered the kingdom of Elmet (western Yorkshire). He then drove out its king, Cerdic. This gave him access all the way to the Irish sea.[2] Elmet was one of the last kingdoms of the Britons.[2] He next moved against Wales when he invaded the Welsh north and captured Anglesey. He drove Cadwallon to the far eastern part of the island and laid siege to him at Priestholme.[1] This caused Cadwallon, a Christian king, to ally himself with Penda, the pagan king of Mercia.[3] Cadwallon's motive was revenge on the powerful Northumbrian bretwalda who had invaded his kingdom.[4] Penda resented Northumbria's being Christianized by Kent. He also wanted Edwin's power over the other kingdoms.[4]

Outcome[change | change source]

The site of the battle suggests Edwin and his forces may have had to fight on ground not suited for defense.[5] He may have been trapped by the grassy wetlands to the north and the river Don to the east. The armies of Cadwallon and Penda came at him from the west.[5] In the battle one of Edwin's sons, Osfrid, was killed before his father.[6] Edwin was killed and his army scattered.[6] Another son, Eadfrith, was taken prisoner by Penda.[a][7] Edwin's queen escaped to Kent with two of her children, Osfrid's young son and Bishop Paulinus.[7]

Cadwallon and Penda began slaughtering the people of Northumbria. This included men, women and children.[6] Cadwallon, according to Bede although Christian was more barbarous than any pagan.[6] Northumbria fell apart and divided back into its two former kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia.[8] Oswald reunited Deira and Bernicia back into Northumbria. As King he restored Northumbria to the power it had under Edwin.[8]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. Penda brought Eadfrith back to Mercia as a prisoner possibly to set him up as a puppet ruler in Northumbria under Penda.[3] When that didn't happen Penda had him murdered a few years later.[3]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 80
  2. 2.0 2.1 Peter Hunter Blair, Roman Britain and Early England 55 B.C.–A.D 871 (New York; London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1963), p. 192
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1999), p. 251
  4. 4.0 4.1 John Marsden, Northanhymbre Saga; The History of the Anglo-Saxon Kings of Northumbria (London: Kyle Cathie Limited, 1992), p. 99
  5. 5.0 5.1 N. J. Higham, The Kingdom of Northumbria AD 350–1100 (Dover, NH: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1993), p. 124
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, trans. Leo Sherley Price, revsd. R. E. Latham (London; New York: Penguin, 1990), p. 140
  7. 7.0 7.1 D. P. Kirby, The Earliest English Kings, Revised Edition (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 69
  8. 8.0 8.1 Peter Hunter Blair, Roman Britain and Early England 55 B.C.–A.D 871 (New York; London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1963), p. 194