Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Greatness of Eadwine

Powerful as Æthelfrith was, he was jealous of young Eadwine, a son of his father's rival, Ælla of Deira. For some years Eadwine had been in hiding, at one time with Welsh princes, at another time with English kings. In 617 he took refuge with Rædwald, the king of the East Angles. Æthelfrith demanded the surrender of the fugitive. Rædwald hesitated, but at last refused. Æthelfrith attacked him, but was defeated and slain near the river Idle, at some point near Retford. Eadwine the Deiran then became king over the united North-humberland in the place of Æthelfrith the Bernician, whose sons fled for safety to the Picts beyond the Forth. Eadwine completed and consolidated the conquests of his predecessors. He placed a fortress, named after himself Eadwinesburh, or Edinburgh, on a rocky height near the Forth, to guard his land against a fresh irruption of Scots and Picts, such as that which had been turned back at Degsastan. He conquered from the Kymry Loidis and Elmet, and he launched a fleet at Chester which added to his dominions the Isle of Man and the greater island which was henceforth known as Anglesea, the island of the Angles. Eadwine assumed unwonted state. Wherever he went a standard was borne before him, as well as a spear decorated with a tuft of feathers, the ancient sign of Roman authority. It has been thought by some that his meaning was that he, rather than any Welshman, was the true Gwledig, the successor of the Duke of the Britains (Dux Britanniarum), and that the name of Bretwalda, or ruler of the Britons, which he is said to have borne, was only a translation of the Welsh Gwledig. It is true that the title of Bretwalda is given to other powerful kings before and after Eadwine, some of whom were in no sense rulers over Britons; but it is possible that it was taken to signify a ruler over a large part of Britain, though the men over whom he ruled were English, and not Britons.

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