Edwin of Northumbria

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Edwin (Old English: Ēadwine; c. 586 – 12 October 632/633), also known as Eadwine or Aduini, was the King of Deira and Bernicia – which would later become known as Northumbria – from about 616 until his death. He converted to Christianity and was baptised in 627; after he fell at the Battle of Hatfield Chase, he was venerated as a saint.

Edwin was the son of Ælle king of Deira and seems to have had (at least) two siblings. His sister Acha was married to Æthelfrith, king of neighbouring Bernicia. An otherwise unknown sibling fathered Hereric, who in turn fathered Abbess Hilda of Whitby and Hereswith, wife to king Anna of East Anglia's brother Æthelric.[1]


Early life and exile

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports that on Ælle's death a certain "Æthelric" assumed power. The exact identity of Æthelric is uncertain. He may have been a brother of Ælle, an elder brother of Edwin, an otherwise unknown Deiran noble, or the father of Æthelfrith. Æthelfrith himself appears to have been king of "Northumbria"—both Deira and Bernicia—by no later than 604.[2] During the reign of Æthelfrith, Edwin was an exile. The location of his early exile as a child is not known, but late traditions, reported by Reginald of Durham and Geoffrey of Monmouth, place Edwin in the kingdom of Gwynedd, fostered by king Cadfan ap Iago, so allowing biblical parallels to be drawn from the struggle between Edwin and his supposed foster-brother Cadwallon. By the 610s he was certainly in Mercia, under the protection of king Cearl, whose daughter Cwenburg he married.[3]

By around 616, Edwin was in East Anglia, under the protection of king Raedwald. Bede reports that Æthelfrith tried to have Raedwald murder his unwanted rival, and that Raedwald was minded to do so, only being persuaded otherwise by his wife with Divine prompting.[4] Regardless of the exact course of events, Raedwald faced Æthelfrith in battle by the river Idle in 616, and Æthelfrith was killed, along with Raedwald's son Raegenhere.[5]

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