Battle of Maserfield

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The Battle of Maserfield (Welsh: Cogwy) was fought on 5 August 642. It was mainly between the armies of the Christian king Oswald of Northumbria and the pagan King Penda of Mercia. The battle ended in Oswald's death and his army's defeat. The site of the battle is reported to be at Oswestry in Shropshire.

Background[change | change source]

King Oswald's uncle, King Edwin of Northumbria, was killed at the Battle of Hatfield Chase in 633 by Penda and his ally Cadwallon ap Cadfan.[1] After the battle Cadwallon and Penda began slaughtering the people of Northumbria. This included men, women and children.[2] Northumbria fell apart and was divided into its two former kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia.[3] Oswald defeated and killed Cadwallon ap Cadfan at the Battle of Heavenfield in 634. After that Oswald reunited Northumbria into a single kingdom.[4] Oswald was considered a bretwalda by Bede, the fourth such overlord over the other Anglo-Saxon kings.[5] Penda remained a constant threat but was kept busy fighting the East Angles and making new alliances with the Welsh.[6] Oswald also created several similar alliances in an effort to contain Penda.[7] About 638 he won a battle against Owen Map Bili, the king of Strathclyde near Edinburgh.[7] In 640 Oswald recovered the kingdom of Lindsey from Penda.

The battle[change | change source]

There is no record of what led to this battle or why this place.[8] As a pagan, Penda would not have been happy over Oswald bringing monks from Iona to Lindisfarne, further expanding Christianity in the north.[9] The conquest of the Gododdin at Din Eidyn (Edinburgh) in 638 removed the last stronghold of the Britons in the north. Domnall Brecc, King of Dal Riata defeated them and was a close ally of Oswald.[9] Northumbrians may have been there also.[9] It would have angered the Welsh, Britons themselves, against Oswald.[10] In 642 the armies of Northumbria and Mercia (with his Welsh allies) met at a place called Maserfield (probably in Shropshire).[11] Oswald was killed in the battle.[a][12] For a year after the battle his head and hands were fastened to stakes.[12] Oswald's brother Oswiu finally recovered Oswald's body.[7] Oswiu succeeded Oswald as king of Northumbria.[13]

Outcome[change | change source]

The battle of Maserfield left Penda "the most formidable king in England."[14] Following the battle, Deira, in the southern part of Northumbria, chose a king of its own, Oswine. Bernicia in the north was ruled by Oswald's brother Oswiu.[14] The immediate effect of the battle was to weaken and divide Northumbria. The long term effect was that Oswiu restored Northumbrian power over the next 13 years. He finally defeated and killed Penda at the Battle of Winwaed in 655.[15]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. Penda's brother and co-king was also killed at Maserfield.[6]

References[change | change source]

  1. John Davies, A History of Wales (London: Penguin Books, 1994), p. 63
  2. Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, trans. Leo Sherley Price, revsd. R. E. Latham (London; New York: Penguin, 1990), p. 140
  3. Peter Hunter Blair, Roman Britain and Early England 55 B.C.–A.D 871 (New York; London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1963), p. 194
  4. Rudolf Abraham, St Oswald's Way and St Cuthbert's Way (Milnthorpe, Cumbria: Cicerone, 2013), p. 26
  5. Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 34
  6. 6.0 6.1 Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1999), p. 251
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1999), p. 280
  8. Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 82
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 John Marsden, Northanhymbre Saga; the History of the Anglo-Saxon Kings of Northumbria (London: Kyle Cathie Limited, 1992), p. 129
  10. Peter Hunter Blair, Roman Britain and Early England 55 B.C.–A.D 871 (New York; London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1963), p. 195
  11. Peter Hume Brown, History of Scotland: to the present time, Volume 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 17
  12. 12.0 12.1 John Marsden, Northanhymbre Saga; the History of the Anglo-Saxon Kings of Northumbria (London: Kyle Cathie Limited, 1992), p. 130
  13. Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1999), p. 281
  14. 14.0 14.1 Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 83
  15. Peter Hunter Blair, Roman Britain and Early England; 55 B.C.–A.D. 871 (New York; London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1966), p. 196

Other websites[change | change source]