Sunday, 20 September 2009

Character in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Series: Osric

Osric (died 633 or 634) was a King of Deira (632–633 or 633–634) in northern England. He was a cousin of king Edwin of Northumbria, being the son of Edwin's uncle Aelfric. Osric was also the father of Oswine.
After Edwin was killed in battle against Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd and Penda of Mercia, Northumbria fell into disarray, with Eanfrith taking power in the sub-kingdom of Bernicia and Osric taking power in Deira. According to Bede, Osric was, like Eanfrith, a Christian who reverted to paganism upon coming to power.
Cadwallon continued his ruinous invasion of Northumbria, however. Bede says that Osric besieged Cadwallon "in a strong town", but Cadwallon successfully "sallied out on a sudden with all his forces, by surprise, and destroyed him [Osric] and all his army."
The year in which he and Eanfrith ruled was subsequently deemed so abhorrent because of their paganism that it was decided to add that year to the reign of the Christian Oswald of Bernicia, who defeated Cadwallon and came to rule both Bernicia and Deira, so as to ignore the brief reigns of Osric and Eanfrith.

Osric was king of Northumbria from the death of Coenred in 718 until his death on the 9th of May, 729. Symeon of Durham calls him a son of Aldfrith of Northumbria, which would make him a brother, or perhaps a half-brother, of Osred. Alternatively, he may have been a son of King Eahlfrith of Deira, and thus a first cousin of Osred.
Bede reports little of Osric's reign, but records that comets were seen at his death, a sign of ill omen. William of Malmesbury praises Osric for his decision to adopt Ceolwulf, brother of Coenred, as his heir.

Further reading

Higham, N.J., The Kingdom of Northumbria AD 350-1100. Stroud: Sutton, 1993. ISBN 0-86299-730-5

Marsden, J., Northanhymbre Saga: The History of the Anglo-Saxon Kings of Northumbria. London: Cathie, 1992. ISBN 1-85626-055-0

Osric was possibly a King of Sussex, reigning jointly with Noðhelm.
There is an undated charter of Noðhelm that is witnessed by Osric, as Osricus, without indication of rank or territory, but listed before, and therefore ranked higher than, Eadberht, Bishop of Selsey, whose rank and see are also omitted. The charter can be approximately dated to some point between about 705 and 717.

Osric was a king of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the Hwicce, perhaps reigning jointly with his presumed brother Oshere.

Osric was probably a son of Eanhere, a previous King of the Hwicce, by Osthryth, daughter of Oswiu of Northumbria. The only marriage recorded for Osthryth is that to Æthelred of Mercia, but an earlier marriage to Eanhere would explain why Osric and his brother Oswald are described as Æthelred's nepotes — usually translated as nephews or grandsons, but here probably meaning stepsons.

Osric is the middle figure

Osric is claimed as the founder of two monastic houses, one at Bath (now Bath Abbey) and the other at Gloucester (now Gloucester Cathedral). In 676 Osric granted lands to Abbess Bertana to found a convent at Bath. The charter attesting this grant S51 has been queried on several grounds, but probably has an authentic basis.
The foundation charter of Gloucester Abbey survives in a medieval register of the abbey S70. It is not straightforward, but again is considered to have an authentic basis. The charter was apparently issued in the 670s by Æthelred, king of Mercia, and records his grant of lands at Gloucester and Pershore to two of his thegns, noblemen of the Hwicce, Osric and his brother Oswald. Osric's share was at Gloucester and he sought permission from Æthelred to found a monastery there.
The story of the abbey's foundation continues in the register with the claim that Osric granted the land for the abbey to his sister Kyneburge (Cyneburh), the first abbess. Finberg however speculates that the Cyneburh in question was the widow of Oswald of Northumbria. Oswald was the elder brother of Oswiu and therefore the uncle of Queen Osthryth, who is said to have encouraged her aunt Cyneburh to enter a nunnery many years after Oswald's death. Cyneburgh would therefore be the great-aunt of Osric, rather than his sister.
Though the charter of Gloucester treats Osric as a subordinate of Æthelred, the charter of Bath describes him as king of the Hwicce. He is also so described by Bede.
He may possibly be the Osric who witnessed S 1165, a doubtful charter of Frithuwold, King of Surrey, dated 675.
Osric was buried at Gloucester Abbey beside Cyneburh, before the altar of St Petronilla; his remains now lie in a medieval tomb in the cathedral.
He seems to have been survived by his brother Oshere, and succeeded by a possible son Æthelmod (mentioned in charter S 1167

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