Thursday, June 25, 2009

Æthelfrith and the Kymry

In 593, four years before the landing of Augustine, Æthelric was succeeded by his son Æthelfrith. Æthelfrith began a fresh struggle with the Welsh. We know little of the internal history of the Welsh population, but what we do know shows that towards the end of the sixth century there was an improvement in their religious and political existence. The monasteries were thronged, especially the great monastery of Bangor-iscoed, in the modern Flintshire, which contained 2,000 monks. St. David and other bishops gave examples of piety. In fighting against Æthelfrith the warriors of the Britons were fighting for their last chance of independence. They still held the west from the Clyde to the Channel. Unhappily for them, the Severn, the Dee, and the Solway Firth divided their land into four portions, and if an enemy coming from the east could seize upon the heads of the inlets into which those rivers flowed he could prevent the defenders of the west from aiding one another. Already in 577, by the victory of Deorham, the West Saxons had seized on the mouth of the Severn, and had split off the West Welsh of the south-western peninsula. Æthelfrith had to do with the Kymry, whose territories stretched from the Bristol Channel to the Clyde, and who held an outlying wedge of land then known as Loidis and Elmet, which now together form the West Riding of Yorkshire.

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