Monthly Archives: August 2012

From Kings of Cornwall to the Annals of Wales in three small clicks

I am off to Cornwall next weekend for a week with the family and as with anything and anywhere I go it got me thinking of the history of the place.  So away I go googling to see what I could find on my favourite subject the Kingship.

Now within a couple of links I got onto Dungarth who was referred to as ‘rex Cerniu’,  King of Cornwall in the Annales Cambriae (Annals of Wales) as being drowned in 876.

I decieded to check deeper in to the Annales and was just in awe.  They are a set of complex Cambro-Latin chronicles deriving from a text compiled from different sources St Davids, Dyfed, Wales before the 10th Century.   Although the name mentions Wales there are events from all around the British Isles listed hence how I found the snippet on Dungarth.  The text also mentions Arthur and is argued to show his true existence.

Now the bit that I really wanted to share is the fact that the Annales are transcribed from the original text online.

Well worth a read and I was well and truly side tracked this morning.   I think it is great that we have the preservation of such texts and people who are willing to go and put the effort in to benefit everyone.   The page is now bookmarked and I am sure I will visit it time and time again to read!

Aella, King of Deira.

When you think of England and you think of all the different accents and dialects there are within the few hundred miles that separate the English channel and Hadrian’s Wall, it may be more easier to picture how fragmented the land once was.  England wasn’t always England.   The joining of the last fragmentation brought Northumbria in with Wessex, East Anglia and Mercia uniting them all as England. 

Northumbria it’s self was not always as one and was a make up of smaller kingdoms. 

One of these was Deira.  According to Simeon of Durham (died after 1129) it lay on the east coast of what would become England between the Humber and the Tyne.  Although the land north of the Tees was wasteland and useless.  It’s capital would of been Ebrauc which is now modern day York. 

The first known King of Deira was Aella who died in 588.   According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, he became king the same year as Ceawlin of Wessex (560) on the death of Ida of Bernicia, and ruled 30 years. However, the Chronicle records in the year 588 that Aella died, and was succeeded by Aethelric. Possibly this is the reason Florence of Worcester offered the date Aella came to the throne as 559, which would closer align the dates of his death and reign. 

Not much is actually known of Aella but his geneology is disputed by two different sources.

According to the manuscripts of Matthew Parker a 16th Century Archbishop of Canterbury, Aella was the son of Yffe, the son of Uxfrea, the son of Wilgisl, the son of Westerfalca, the son of Sæfugl, the son of Sæbald, the son of Segegeat, the son of Swebdæg, the son of Sigegar, the son of Wædæg, the son of Woden

Although in the Historia Brittonum it is stated that Aella was the son of Iffi, grandson of Giulgis, great grandson of Sguerthing and great-great grandson of Soemil who “first separated Deira from Bernicia”. 

Another mention of Aella, appears in the Gautreks Saga where he was visited by a peasant hero. 

One of Aella’s sons was Edwin of Northumbria who went on to become King of both Bernicia and Deira which joined together to become Northumbria.  Edwin was later venerated as a Saint.  Aella’s daughter was Acha who married Aethelfrith of Bernicia.

He was succeeded by Aethelric (d.c604) although there is some ambiguity regarding this.  The Anglo Saxon Chronicle states that Aethelric succeeded Aella in 588.  Bebe states that Deira was invaded by Aethelfrith in about 604.  The exact details are unclear and it is stated that Edwin is exciled which would lead to believe that Deira was conquered by Aethelfrith and Aethelric’s fate is unknown.  Aethelfrith then ruled both Deira and Bernicia together until his death in battle when then Edwin and the Deria line was restored.

1066, the year of four Kings

When Edward the Confessor died, the nation of England was thrust into turmoil.  Double promises of succession and foreign upstarts laying claim to the throne that now had no head to sit on.  Each claim had its own merits and down falls but would lead to two battles that would shape the future of England forever.  England would have four Kings within the year 1066, and each of them with a story to tell.

The first of these Kings, Edward the Confessor did not last very long.  He died at Westminster Palace on 4th or 5th of January leaving empty the throne with no children to sit on it. The Normans claimed that in 1064 Edward is meant to have sent his actual successor Harold to see William, Duke of Normandy to confirm to William that he would follow him onto the throne.   This is evidenced in the account of William of Poitiers just after the Battle of Hastings.  William states that an envoy was sent by Harold to William stating that on his deathbed Edward had promised him the throne and that he would become the next King of England.  William never disputed this claim but always believed that the previous promise overruled the later one.  Some say that Edward actually entrusted the Kingdom to Harold before he died.

Edward the Confessor, opening scene of the Bayeux Tapestry

The Witenagemot or Witan convened the next day and declared Harold as the successor to Edward and he was crowned most probably at Westminster Abbey on the 6th January 1066. On hearing of this William began plans for the invasion of England with a mass fleet being built of 700 hundred ships.  A standoff then took place for the next seven months with unfavourable winds not allowing William to sail and Harold with the English army encamped on the Isle of Wight.  Provisions were nearing empty and Harold disbanded the army and set off back to London.  On the 8th of September the same day as Harold left the Isle of Wight, another claimant to the throne landed at the foot of the Tyne.

Harald Hardrada was the King of Norway and stuck his claim from Cnut.  He was joined by Harold’s brother and the ex Earl of Nothumbria Tostig.  It is stated that Edwards’s predecessor Harthacnut as the King of England, had stated that the crown would pass down the House of Denmark line instead of moving back to the House of Wessex.  Magnus I of Norway didn’t follow this through but with persuasion from Tostig the fallen brother Harald believed he had a claim to stake.  Harald invaded England with about 300 ships and 15,000 men.  The major and decisive battle took place at Stamford Bridge on the 25th September 1066.

After Harald had landed at the Tyne Harold raced north making the journey from London to Yorkshire in three days.  With the speed at which Harold was traveling the invading Norwegian army was taken by surprise not knowing about the oncoming army came into view.  It is said that with the surprise the Viking army were ill equipped and there armour had been left aboard their ships.  The battle raged on the Viking side of the river once the Anglo-Saxon had removed the danger on the bridge.   Sheild walls were formed and the fighting became close quarter.  With the Norwegians having no armour they were at a disadvantage and their army began to fragment.  The Anglo-Saxon then drove home this advantage and went on to win the battle.  Harald was killed during the battle and Harold accepted the truce of his sons Olaf and Paul Thorfinnsson, Earl of Orkneyto which they pledged never to attack England again.  The battle is quite often stated as being the end of the era of Viking raiding in the British Isles, although there were a further two campaigns in the next couple of decades, notably those of King Sweyn Estrithson of Denmark in 1069-70 and King Magnus Barefoot of Norway in 1098 and 1102.

Battle of Stamford Bridge.
From 13th century Anglo-Norman manuscript.

Harold was not allowed to rest on his victory for long.  Three days after the battle on the 28th September 1066 William landed on the south coast of England.  Harold and his battle weary army had to turn round and race back the road they had come to fight, to try and repulse the second invasion of the year.  The tale of the crown in 1066 had taken another twist.

The Battle of Hastings took place on the 14th October 1066.  The Anglo-Saxon spirit was broken during the battle when Harold was shot through the eye with an arrow.  This scene has been made famous by the Bayeux Tapestry.  After numerous attacks and counter attacks the causalities caused by William’s army led to the Saxon shield wall being filled with untrained and poorly weaponed troops.  Small chinks were being made into the shield wall when William and a group of knights made a breakthrough this is where the attack against Harold himself is believed to come from.  To many of the Anglo Saxon nobles had died Hastings to rally the remaining of the troops around and it looked like William would become the next King of England.

Edgar the Atheling was the great grandson of Aethelred the Unready.  Aged only 15 at the time of the Battle of Hastings this did not stop the Witan meeting the day after the battle in London and proclaiming him King.  Edgar although was never actually officially crowned.  England had now its third King of the year.  As William then closed in on London in December Edgar’s supporters began to slowly dwindle   In December of 1066 the remaining members of the Witan took Edgar out to William submitting to him at Berkhamsted quietly forgetting about the previous proclamation of Edgar as King.

Harold Rex Interfectus Est: “King Harold is killed”. Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings. Harold grasps the arrow lodged in his eye.

William the Conqueror sent troops into London to begin to construct a castle.  He was crowned England’s fourth King of the year on Christmas Day at Westminster Abbey 1066.  His Kingship would be littered with revolts as he slowly put down the different rebellions of the Anglo Saxons, but his tenure would be the beginning of the House of Normandy that would revolutionise England.  The death of the House of Wessex would end two hundred and fifty year history of the House of Wessex as it grew from the southern parts of England into uniting the whole nation as one.

1066 was defiantly not a quiet year in the making on England and would be one that every inhabitant of England would go on not to forget.

English coin of William the Conqueror

Emma of Normandy, the Multinational Viking Queen

If Rollo could be called the ‘Father of Royal Europe’, then you would have to look at his great granddaughter Emma of Normandy as the first prominent woman of modern monarchy.  If being Queen of England, Denmark and Norway through two different marriages and at different times throughout her life was not good enough she was also mother to a King of England, a King of England and Denmark and a Holy Roman Empress.   Emma is also the link to the English throne that gave William ‘the Conqueror’ (her great nephew) his claim to the title of King.

Emma (b.985) was the daughter of Richard the Fearless, Duke of Normandy and his mistress Gunmora.  Her parents went on and later married this then legitimised the birth.

In 1000-01 Normandy gave shelter to a Viking Army that threatened England and it is believed that Aethelred King at the time may have attempted an invasion to try and surpass the threat.  This then could of led to the alliance between England and Normandy with the marriage of Emma to Aethelred in 1002.  She then had three children with Aethelred, Edward the Confessor (future King of England), Alfred Aetheling, and Goda (future Countess of Boulogne).  In 1013 Emma and her children were sent to Normandy to escape the invasion on Sweyn where they were shortly joined by Aethelred.

When Sweyn died they returned to England where Aetheling was restored as King of England. On his death Edmund Ironside from his first marriage to Aelfgifu of York became the next King of England.  Within the matter of months at the Battle of Ashingdon on 18th October 1016 this was all to change as Edmund signed a treaty with Sweyn’s son Cnut giving up all of England except for Wessex.  Edmund died soon after this on 30th November.  Cnut then seized control of Wessex as well and the crown of England moved back into the hands of the House of Denmark.

In what could have been a marriage of convenience and to guarantee the safety of her sons following Cnut’s campaign to rid himself of all other possible threats, Emma became again the second wife to the second wife to the King of England once more.  Cnut went on to become King of Denmark and also the Norway and some of the Swedes.

On Cnut’s death in 1035 the throne of England jumped around a little between the next generation first it went to Harold his son to Aelfgifu of Northampton his first wife.  Then to Harthacnut , Emma’s first son with Cnut.  Harthacnut suddenly died in 1042 aged only roughly 23-24.  Upon his death Edward Emma’s son to Aethelered was made King and the house of Wessex was restored once more to the throne of England.  Emma thou during his reign was cast aside setting her support for Magnus the Noble who was son of the dethroned Olaf, King of Norway.  It was believed that she had no love for the children from her first marriage and that is why her support went behind Magnus.

Emma died in Winchester, Hampshire on 6th March 1052.  Her life twisted between three different branches of the throne of England.  England, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Normandy she clearly shows already how intertwined the thrones of Europe where becoming at such an early age.

Cnut and Emma of Normandy, from the Liber Vitae of the New Minster, Winchester (1031).