Friday, October 12, 2012

Edwin of Northumbria

(c. 586 – 12 October 632/633) 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 neighboring 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.

After the death of his father Edwin was deposed and exiled by Æthelric an usurper. Edwin traveled around the kingdoms of Britain and had found refuge in several royal houses, eventually marrying Cwenburg, Princess of Mercia. From refuge with King Rædwald of the East Angles, Edwin with his allies fought his rival Æthelric with the usurper being killed in the battle, thus Edwin was placed on the throne of Northumbria and made a vassal of Rædwald.

During his exile, Edwin had learned about Christianity from several of his hosts and with his restoration was contemplating his own conversion along with that of his kingdom. Edwin was very indecisive and held-back in his decision for fear of risk to his throne, but eventually he gave in to the counsel of Paulinus of York and was Baptized on 12 April 627.

After his conversion Edwin's star seems to rise with many victories, both political and military and Edwin was the most powerful king among the Anglo-Saxons, ruling Bernicia, Deira and much of eastern Mercia, the Isle of Man and Anglesey. His alliance with Kent, the subjection of Wessex, and his recent successes added to his power and authority. The imperium, as Bede calls it, that Edwin possessed was later equated with the idea of a Bretwalda, a later concept invented by West Saxon kings in the 9th century. Put simply, success confirmed Edwin's overlordship, and failure would diminish it.

It wasn't until the early 630's that Edwin was challenged for regional power. In 632/633 his vassals Penda of Mercia and Cadwallon of Gwynedd formed an alliance to resist Northumbrian overlordship. Edwin faced Penda and Cadwallon at the Battle of Hatfield Chase in the autumn of 632/633, and was defeated and killed. For a time his body was (allegedly) hidden in Sherwood Forest at a location that became the village of Edwinstowe (trans. Edwin's resting place). Of his two grown sons by Cwenburh of Mercia, Osfrith died at Hatfield, and Eadfrith was captured by Penda and killed some time afterwards.

Edwin is considered a martyr as that his adversary Penda and the Mercians were pagans.

Propers for Edwin of Northumbria - King, Convert and Martyr

The Collect.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who didst strengthen thy blessed martyr Edwin with the virtue of constancy in faith and truth: Grant us in like manner for love of thee to despise the prosperity of this world, and to fear none of its adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle - 2 Esdras 2:42-48

The Gospel - St. Matthew 10:16-22

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