Friday, 14 August 2009

Ethelwald and Alhfrith

Œthelwald was a King of Deira (651–c. 655). He was the son of King Oswald of Northumbria, who was killed at the Battle of Maserfield in 642.
After Oswine of Deira was killed by Oswiu of Bernicia in 651, Œthelwald became king; it is uncertain whether Oswiu (who was Œthelwald's uncle) installed him as king or whether Œthelwald took the kingship in opposition to Oswiu. He subsequently allied himself with Oswiu's enemy, Penda of Mercia, and assisted Penda during his invasion of Northumbria in 655. However, when the armies of Oswiu and Penda met on 15 November at the Battle of the Winwaed, Œthelwald withdrew his forces. Penda was defeated and killed, perhaps in part because of this desertion, and afterward Œthelwald seems to have lost Deira to Alchfrith, who was installed there by the victorious Oswiu.
Œthelwald's fate is unknown, as nothing is formally recorded of him after the battle. Local tradition, however, held that he became a hermit in Kirkdale, North Yorkshire.
Although he allied himself with the pagan Penda, Œthelwald was a pious Christian and was remembered for his generosity towards St. Chad, to whom he granted land for a monastery.
Alhfrith or Ealhfrith was a son of King Oswiu of Northumbria and Rieinmelth of Rheged.
In around 655 Alhfrith was appointed by his father as sub-king of Deira, the southern part of the Northumbrian kingdom. He replaced his cousin Æthelwold, who had supported Oswiu's enemy Penda of Mercia in the campaign leading up to the Battle of the Winwaed. Alhfrith was married to Penda's daughter Cyneburh; Cyneburh's brother Peada was doubly Alhfrith's brother-in-law as he later married Alhfrith's sister Ealhflæd.
At the Synod of Whitby in 664, Alhfrith was the chief supporter of Wilfrid. Bede, in the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (Book III, chapter 14), states that Alhfrith attacked his father. No further details are known. Bede's Lives of the Abbots states that Alhfrith asked his father for permission to accompany Benedict Biscop on a pilgrimage to Rome, but the dating of this request is unclear. With this, Alhfrith disappears from the record.
While generally presumed to be the son of Aldfrith, a half-brother of Alhfrith, the possibility is admitted that Osric may have been a son of Alhfrith and Cyneburh.

References
Kirby, D.P., The Earliest English Kings. London: Unwin Hyman, 1991. ISBN 0-04-445691-3 Yorke, Barbara, Kings and Kingdoms in Early Anglo-Saxon England. London: Seaby, 1990. ISBN 1-85264-027-8
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/bede-jarrow.html

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