Wednesday, June 24, 2009

England History: Death of Æthelberht, 616

In 616 Æthelberht died. The over-lordship of the kings of Kent ended with him, and Augustine's church, which had largely depended upon his influence, very nearly ended as well. Essex relapsed into heathenism, and it was only by terrifying Æthelberht's son with the vengeance of St. Peter that Lawrence kept him from relapsing also. On the other hand, Rædwald, king of the East Anglians, who succeeded to much of Æthelberht's authority, so far accepted Christianity as to worship Christ amongst his other gods.

Augustine's Church was weak, because it depended on the kings, and had not had time to root itself in the affections of the people. Æthelberht's supremacy was also weak. The greater part of the small states which still existed—Sussex, Kent, Essex, East Anglia, and most of the small kingdoms of central England—were no longer bordered by a Celtic population. For them the war of conquest and defence was at an end. If any one of the kingdoms was to rise to permanent supremacy it must be one of those engaged in strenuous warfare, and as yet strenuous warfare was only carried on with the Welsh. The kingdoms which had the Welsh on their borders were three—Wessex, Mercia, and North-humberland, and neither Wessex nor Mercia was as yet very strong. Wessex was too distracted by conflicts amongst members of the kingly family, and Mercia was as yet too small to be of much account. North-humberland was therefore the first of the three to rise to the foremost place. Till the death of Ælla, the king of Deira, from whose land had been carried off the slave-boys whose faces had charmed Gregory at Rome, Deira and Bernicia had been as separate as Kent and Essex. Then in 588 Æthelric of Bernicia drove out Ælla's son and seized his kingdom of Deira, thus joining the two kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia into one, under the new name of North-humberland.

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