126 – Have Exile, Will Travel

Ok, when we left off, Edwin… the exile from Deira, had been on the run for quite some time. The King of Bernicia, AEthelfrith, now occupied the throne held by his father, and his father’s father, and so on and so forth. His sister, Acha, had given birth to a child with the man who was hunting him (and we aren’t sure what the circumstances to that were). His nephew, Hereric, had been poisoned at the court of Ceretic of the Elmet. He had married a Mercian princess, possibly as a condition for ensuring his safety and an attempt to build alliances with common enemies of King AEthelfrith. War had broken out between his former home and the British kingdoms that had offered him safety… and things had been turning against the British and towards Northumbria (with the British kingdoms of Wales being effectively cut off from their compatriots to the north, following the Battle of Chester). King Iago of Gwynedd was now dead, as well as a number of other British leaders who had stood against this menace that had risen in the North that was relentlessly pursuing him.

Edwin was trying to put together an insurgency, but his list of options were growing thin. The British could not break AEthelfrith, and now an Anglian kingdom had made it as far west as the Irish Sea… it probably seemed unlikely that salvation would come from the West. But there was another option. In the South, AEthelfrith had a counterpart. A man who desired the title of Bretwalda… and with the recent death of AEthelberht of Kent, a way had opened up.

And so Edwin’s improbable journey had lead him from the Court of Deira, to exile, to North Wales, through the midlands, and now to East Anglia. All while being pursued by one of the most powerful kings in all of Britain.

As luck would have it, King Raedwald accepted him in and offered him guest rights. It’s possible that Raedwald just liked the vagabond prince. But there were also solid political advantages to taking Edwin in.

7 Responses to “126 – Have Exile, Will Travel”

  1. David Ponting says:

    Spine-chillingly awesome, almost poetic in parts, description of the battle at the end! I was listening at work and had to put down what I was doing and just listen…

  2. Tim Brown says:

    I have listened to every episode of this podcast, but this has been my favorite yet. Jamie has reached the perfect blend of history and storytelling. Though I have struggled to remember all of the names and dates throughout the Anglo-Saxon period, Jamie’s inspired delivery will ensure that I forever remember the story of AEthelfrith, Raedwald, and Edwin.

  3. Michael Brennan says:

    Jamie, I quite enjoyed this programme but you are leaving out crucial details, with the result that the history is coming across as a Game of Thrones-style story.
    Like, when did the battle take place? Even, in what decade? We need to know where we are in the seventh century to get a sense of the unfolding transitions of the Anglo-Saxons and British over time.
    And also, Where did the battle take place?
    Michael,
    Ireland.

    • Hi Michael, I’m sorry you feel that I was unclear in the show. As you might have gathered from the obsessive detail I go into, I try very hard to be complete. I haven’t relistened to the show since reading your comment, but as I recall I pointed out that the battle took place on the border of Deira on the banks of the river Idle. As for the year, I really can’t remember if I stated the date affirmatively. I think I said something like “Late summer or early autumn of 616″ but without relistening, I can’t say for certain. It’s possible that I simply forgot to say the year outloud because we’ve been talking about 616 so much (what with the recent Battle of Chester, the death of AEthelberht, and the uncertainty with who the new Bretwalda was).

      Anyway… 616 at the River Idle. :)

      • Michael Brennan says:

        Thanks Jamie for such a speedy reply. Be assured that I’m a solid fan of your work. It’s great to have that date for the battle – in the second decade of the 7th century. Sutton Hoo is coming up, the foundation of Lindisfarne, the Staffordshire Hoard (?), Whitby, the Book of Durrow…. I look forward to the information you give because it helps to fill in the gaps, and make connections between between such stand-out events and the people behind them. Michael.

  4. I don’t know if you’ll see this, Jamie, but I’m finally catching up to you. Getting close, at least!

    What cultural differences do you think there would have been between the British kingdom of Elmet and the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms of Northumbria, Bernicia, and Deira? How foreign would it have felt?

    • You’re nearly caught up!

      And it’s really hard to say. Even by the time of Bede he noticed a distinct cultural difference between regions, but you also have the aristocracy mingling and sharing cultural behaviors. So it’s hard to make a clear statement on how different they would have seemed. But Elmet was British, so it was probably rather different from Deira and Bernicia. And it seems like Deira and Bernica definitely didn’t see themselves as similar. At least not at first, but overtime they did start to merge into Northumbria.

      Does that help?

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