Alright, so when we last left Edwin he was installed as King of Northumbria by King Raedwald, Bretwalda. And he had wielded his newly granted power to exact revenge upon King Ceretic of Elmet, probably in response to the British King poisoning Edwin’s Nephew. But for as powerful as Edwin was in the north, Raedwald was the true power in Britain. He was referred to Rex Anglorum by Bede… King of the Angles. And he was certainly that. But unfortunately, the battle at the river Idle is the last entry we have about Raedwald. He just vanishes. So lets hit pause on him for a minute and look south. To Raedwald’s neighbors in Essex.
Do you remember King Saebert’s three sons? They were the Pagan Kings who ruled Essex following Saebert’s death. As you might remember, they controlled both Essex as well as London but it looks like they were rather ambitious. So in 617, only a year after the Battle at the River Idle, the warbands of the East Saxons clashed with the West Saxons… quite possibly over Surrey.
Now let me say this. Surrey is beautiful It really is. However, they might have regretted their choice because in that battle all three fantastically named kings of Essex, King Sexred, King Saeward, and (probably) King Seaxbald were killed in battle. Leaving Saeward’s son, Sigeberht, as the sole King of the East Saxons. And Surrey was still under the control of the West Saxons. And even worse, this defeat brought an end to the charming tradition of Sex names.
And then things were quiet for a bit… until there was a wedding.
You see, at some point in this period, Edwin married AEthelburh, the daughter of King Aethelberht of Kent and the sister of the current King of Kent, Eadbald. That’s a pretty good marriage for the new king of Northumbria. Kent was powerful, and by marrying AEthelburh, he was also tying himself in with the Merovingians of Frankia. Don’t forget that her mother, the former Queen of Kent, was Bertha, the daughter of the King of Paris. So through this union, hopefully Edwin’s children would have the support of the Franks. That’s a pretty smart move. And as incentive for the marriage to take place, Edwin apparently said that he would consider converting to Christianity. Not that he WOULD convert, only that he’d consider it. But hey, it’s a start. And he’d allow AEthelburh to bring a priest with her. Which should remind you of how the conversion of King AEthelberht of Kent started. So the new Queen of Northumbria brought an Italian priest by the name of Paulinus with her, and we’re told that Paulinus was “a man tall of stature, a little stooping, with black hair and a thin face, a hooked and thin nose, his aspect both venerable and awe-inspiring.”