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Eanfrith of Bernicia

Eanfrith of Bernicia

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Eanfrith was briefly King of Bernicia from 633 to 634. He was the son of Æthelfrith
Æthelfrith of Northumbria
Æthelfrith was King of Bernicia from c. 593 until c. 616; he was also, beginning c. 604, the first Bernician king to also rule Deira, to the south of Bernicia. Since Deira and Bernicia were the two basic components of what would later be defined as Northumbria, Æthelfrith can be considered, in...

, a Bernicia
Bernicia was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom established by Anglian settlers of the 6th century in what is now southeastern Scotland and North East England....

n king who had also ruled Deira to the south before being killed in battle around 616 against Raedwald of East Anglia
Raedwald of East Anglia
Rædwald ; also Raedwald or Redwald, was a 7th century king of East Anglia, a long-lived Anglo-Saxon kingdom which today includes the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. He was the son of Tytila of East Anglia and a member of the Wuffingas dynasty , who were the first rulers of the East Angles...

, who had given refuge to Edwin
Edwin of Northumbria
Edwin , also known as Eadwine or Æduini, was the King of Deira and Bernicia – which later became 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...

, an exiled prince of Deira.

Edwin became king of Northumbria upon Æthelfrith's death, and Eanfrith, who was, according to Bede
Bede , also referred to as Saint Bede or the Venerable Bede , was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland, England, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow , both in the Kingdom of Northumbria...

, the eldest of Æthelfrith's sons, went into exile to the north. In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People
Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum
The Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum is a work in Latin by Bede on the history of the Christian Churches in England, and of England generally; its main focus is on the conflict between Roman and Celtic Christianity.It is considered to be one of the most important original references on...

, Bede writes that "For all the time that Edwin reigned, the sons of the aforesaid Etheifrid [Æthelfrith], who had reigned before him, with many of the nobility, lived in banishment among the Scots
Scottish people
The Scottish people , or Scots, are a nation and ethnic group native to Scotland. Historically they emerged from an amalgamation of the Picts and Gaels, incorporating neighbouring Britons to the south as well as invading Germanic peoples such as the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse.In modern use,...

 or Picts
The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age and Early Mediaeval people living in what is now eastern and northern Scotland. There is an association with the distribution of brochs, place names beginning 'Pit-', for instance Pitlochry, and Pictish stones. They are recorded from before the Roman conquest...

, and were there instructed according to the doctrine of the Scots, and received the grace of baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...


Eanfrith married a Pictish princess and had a son, Talorcan
Talorcan of the Picts
Talorcan mac Enfret was a King of the Picts . He was the son of Eanfrith of Bernicia, who had fled into exile among the Picts after his father, Æthelfrith of Northumbria, was killed around the year 616...

, who later became a king of the Picts (653–657). Edwin was killed by the army of Cadwallon ap Cadfan
Cadwallon ap Cadfan
Cadwallon ap Cadfan was the King of Gwynedd from around 625 until his death in battle. The son and successor of Cadfan ap Iago, he is best remembered as the King of the Britons who invaded and conquered Northumbria, defeating and killing its king, Edwin, prior to his own death in battle against...

 of Gwynedd
Kingdom of Gwynedd
Gwynedd was one petty kingdom of several Welsh successor states which emerged in 5th-century post-Roman Britain in the Early Middle Ages, and later evolved into a principality during the High Middle Ages. It was based on the former Brythonic tribal lands of the Ordovices, Gangani, and the...

 and Penda of Mercia
Penda of Mercia
Penda was a 7th-century King of Mercia, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom in what is today the English Midlands. A pagan at a time when Christianity was taking hold in many of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, Penda took over the Severn Valley in 628 following the Battle of Cirencester before participating in the...

 at the Battle of Hatfield Chase
Battle of Hatfield Chase
The Battle of Hatfield Chase was fought on October 12, 633 at Hatfield Chase near Doncaster, Yorkshire, in Anglo-Saxon England between the Northumbrians under Edwin and an alliance of the Welsh of Gwynedd under Cadwallon ap Cadfan and the Mercians under Penda. The site was a marshy area about 8...

 in October 633, and Eanfrith, taking the opportunity to return home, became king of Bernicia. He did not, however, rule Deira, which was held by a relative of Edwin, Osric
Osric of Deira
Osric was a King of Deira in northern England. He was a cousin of king Edwin of Northumbria, being the son of Edwin's uncle Aelfric...

. Bede tells us that as soon as Eanfrith became king, he "renounced and lost" his faith and returned to the "abominations" of his "former idols".

It is possible that Eanfrith was initially cooperative with Cadwallon. The historian D. P. Kirby, pointing to Eanfrith's evident ability to quickly exploit Edwin's death, has speculated that "a wide-ranging set of alliances" that included both Cadwallon and Eanfrith may have existed. If there was a friendly relationship between Eanfrith and Cadwallon at first, however, it must not have lasted, since Bede reports that Eanfrith went to Cadwallon "with only twelve chosen soldiers" in an attempt to negotiate peace, but Cadwallon had him killed.

The year in which he and Osric ruled was subsequently deemed so abhorrent because of their paganism that it was decided to add that year to the length of the reign of the Christian Oswald of Bernicia
Oswald of Northumbria
Oswald was King of Northumbria from 634 until his death, and is now venerated as a Christian saint.Oswald was the son of Æthelfrith of Bernicia and came to rule after spending a period in exile; after defeating the British ruler Cadwallon ap Cadfan, Oswald brought the two Northumbrian kingdoms of...

(Eanfrith's brother), who defeated Cadwallon and came to rule both Bernicia and Deira, so as to ignore the brief reigns of Eanfrith and Osric.