Reign and Wars of Penda

Book 2, Chapter 2, 597 AD to 827 AD – Ethelbert of Kent – Continued

Like many of the nominal converts of that time, however, Edwin retained all his Old Saxon fierceness and savage love of war, and presently became involved in strife with Cadwallon of Wales, whom he chased into Ireland, and whose country he cruelly ravaged. After a few years Cadwallon, the Briton, united with Penda, the Saxon king of Mere and the confederates fought a battle, A.D. 633, at Hatfield Chase, in Yorkshire, in which Edwin fell, with the bulk of his troops, Britons and Saxons alike exercising without mercy the license of victory.

Often, in subsequent years, was the spectacle seen of the alliance of one party of Saxons with the Welsh, in order to overcome another party of Saxons, and the record largely consists of treachery, assassinations, and battles. Penda, king of Mercia, who had overthrown Edwin, nine years after, conquered his successor, Oswald, whose dead body, found on the battle-field, was Mutilated and dismembered, and exposed on stakes. During his brief reign, Oswald had sent for a Scottish priest from Icolmkill to instruct his rude subjects, who were nothing better than baptized pagans, holding only the name of Christians, and from what little information of him is extant, this king appears to have been somewhat better than his fellows, although it is a difficult matter to accept the standard of goodness and piety set up by the monkish chroniclers of after ages, who generally estimated a man’s religious Excellency by the extent of contributions made by him to the church.

Penda, though upwards of seventy years of age, after this directed his arms against Oswy, the brother and successor of Oswald, designing utterly to subdue Northumbria. Penda was a remarkable man, possessing great force and energy of character, and much military ability. Under happier circumstances, and in a time not so utterly lawless, he would have proved a real benefactor to his race.

Towards the close of his long and warlike career, he is said to have allowed the new faith to be preached in his dominions, and to have allowed all who chose to embrace it without molestation. His last campaign proved unsuccessful, for he was defeated by Oswy, and perished in the conflict with many of his leading chiefs. This occurred A.D. 655, and the battle was fought at Winwidfield, near to Leeds. Nine years subsequently and at the close of a hot and dry summer, a fearful pestilence ravaged the country, to which the name of the yellow plague was given, baffling the medical skill of the natives, and causing many to regard it as a visitation sent by their former gods. No diagnosis of the scourge has been preserved, but Bede says that it continued to appear at intervals for twenty years, and was always most fatal, not one in thirty of those attacked ever recovering.

Chapter 2, Ethelbert of Kent

Ethelbert of Kent

Laws of Ethelbert of Kent

Union of Bernicia and Deira, as Northumbria

Reign and Wars of Penda

Chapter 2, Kings Alfred and Ethelbald

Alfred of Northumbria’s Contest with Wilfrid and the Pope

Contest for Supremacy Between Mercia and Wessex

Modes of Punishment

Chapter 2, King Egbert

History of Each Kingdom

Supremacy of Wessex Established

Chapter 2, Invasion of the Northmen

Invasion of the Northmen

Sketch of Their History and Character


Categories: Book 2

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