The Saxon Heptarchy - The Kingdom Of Northumbria (Nord Angelnen) Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

The Saxon Heptarchy - The Kingdom Of Northumbria (Nord Angelnen)

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The shield of the History, Philosophy and Spirituality faculty of the h2g2 University.The Saxon Heptarchy - Overview
Kingdom Of Mercia (Mittel Angeln) | Kingdom Of Wessex | Kingdom Of East Anglia (Ost Angeln) | Kingdom Of Northumbria (Nord Angeln)
Kingdom Of Sussex | Kingdom Of Kent | Kingdom Of Essex (East Seaxe)

To see how the Kingdom of Northumbria (Nord Angeln) related to the other kingdoms of the Heptarchy, please read the introduction to the Saxon Heptarchy.

Principal Towns and Boundaries

The principal towns in the kingdom were:

  • Edinburgh
  • Durham
  • Whitby
  • York
  • Godmandingham
  • Jarrow

The Kingdom covered the counties of:

  • Yorkshire - Home of the Elmetsaete peoples
  • Northumberland - Home of the Northumbrians peoples
  • Durham and Lancashire - Home of the Bernician peoples
  • Berwickshire - And the eastern parts of the following counties were all territory of the Al Clunt peoples
  • Selkirkshire
  • West Lothian
  • East Lothian
  • Mid Lothian
  • Roxboroughshire
  • Sub-Kingdoms Bernicia and Deira

The Saxon peoples that were part of the Northumbrian kingdom included the Deirans.

The kingdom was bounded by:

  • To the north, Scotland
  • To the south, the Kingdom of Mercia
  • To the East, the North Sea
  • To the West, the Kingdom of Strathclyde

A Brief History

Originally two separate kingdoms, Deria and Bernicia, Northumbria was brought together by the Bernicia king Aethelfrith (593 - 616) in 604, when he defeated the Derians. Aethelfrith was killed fighting the East Anglian King at the battle of the River Idle in Nottinghamshire in 616. The east Anglians put Edwin on the throne of Northumbria. At this time (655 - 658), Northumbria also held the kingdom of Mercia. In 658 there was a revolt led by Wulfhere, a son of King Penda, and Northumbria lost control of Mercia.

In 664, the kingdom was host to the synod of Whitby, where the calculation of the date of Easter was settled between the Celtic Church and the Church of Rome. The Celtic Church adopted the Roman practice. The synod also saw the end of the Celtic tonsure1 with the adoption of the Roman style of shaving just the top of the head.

The kingdom was further weakened in 685, when King Ecgfrith was killed at the battle of Nechtansmere and the Picts started to dominate the north of the kingdom. The power of the kingdom in the north declined considerably as a result.

In 878 Northumbria became the northern part of the lands known as the Danelaw. The area was conquered by Halfdan Ragnarsson and Ivar the Boneless; they put a king, Ecgberht, on the throne of Northumbria. The Viking rule brought trade to Northumbria. The city of York was renamed and became an important trading center.

After the Viking defeat at the Battle of Edington in 878, the boundaries of the Danelaw was formalised in the Treaty of Wedmore between King Alfred the Great and the Viking leader Guthrum. This led to a period of peace between the Vikings and the English.

After the collapse of the Danelaw the kingdom of Wessex expanded into the territory of the Danelaw. In the north the Scots' invasions had shrunken the former lands of Northumbria to the area from the Humber to the Tweed. It became an earldom of the English Crown.

The Kings of Northumbria

  • Oswiu (654 - 670)
  • Ecgfrith (670 - 685) - He was killed by the Picts at the battle of Nechtansmere.
  • Aldfrith (685 - 704)
  • Eadwulf (704 - 705)
  • Osred I (705 - 716) - He was killed in battle.
  • Coenred (716 - 718)
  • Osric (718 - 729)
  • Ceolwulf (729 - 731) - He was deposed and entered the church. He became St Ceolwulf. From 731 he took the throne again until he left to become a monk in 737/8.
  • Eadberht (737 - 758) - He left the throne to become a monk.
  • Oswulf (758-759) - Murdered by his bodyguards.
  • Ethelwald Moll (759 - 765) - He was deposed by the Witenagemot2 and became a monk.
  • Alhred (765 - 774) - He was deposed by the Witenagemot and exiled.
  • Ethelred I (774 - 779) - He was deposed and exiled.
  • Elfwald I (779 - 23 September, 788) - He was murdered.
  • Osred II (788 - 790) - He was deposed and exiled.
  • Ethelred I (790 - 18 April, 796) - He was restored by the Witenagemot.
  • Osbald (796) - He lasted only 27 days before being exiled.
  • Eardwulf (796 - 806/8) - He was deposed and exiled.
  • Elfwald II (806/8) - He was deposed and fled north to the Picts.
  • Eardwulf (808 - 810) - He was restored by the Witenagemot.
  • Eanred (810 - 841) - A strong King establishing a period of stability in the kingdom.
  • Ethelred II (840/1 - 844) - He was deposed and exiled.
  • Rædwulf (844) - He was killed fighting Viking raiders.
  • Ethelred II (844 - 848/9) - He was restored after Rædwulf's death.
  • Osberht (848/9 - 862/3) - Deposed.
  • Ælle II (862/3 - 21 March, 867) - A usurper, killed by Vikings with Ælle II
  • Osberht (867 - 21 March, 867) - Restored and was killed by Vikings with Ælle II.

Sub-kingdom of York

  • Ecgberht I (867 - 872) - A king appointed and controlled by the Viking rulers of York. He was forced off the throne.
  • Ricsige (872 - 876) - A king appointed and controlled by the Viking rulers of York. Northumbria was now reduced to the original kingdom of Bernicia.
  • Ecgberht II (876 - 878) - The last King appointed by the Viking rulers of York.

Northumbria Becomes Part of the Kingdom of York as Ealdorman of Bernicia

  • Eadwulf (878 - 913) - The first Ealdorman of Bernicia. A friend of King Alfred of Wessex.
1The practice of shaving the whole front of the head from ear to ear, leaving hair at the back of the head.2A council that met to advise the king

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