29 December, 2010

Ceretic of Elmet

Ceretic was a king of the Brittonic kingdom of Elmet in the early seventh century. The likely location of the kingdom of Elmet was discussed in an earlier post. Ceretic is the only king of Elmet explicitly mentioned in the surviving sources, and it seems likely that he was the last. What do we know about him?


Historia Brittonum

Edwin, son of Alla, reigned seventeen years, seized on Elmete, and Expelled Cerdic, its king.
--Historia Brittonum ch. 63, available online

Annales Cambriae

616 Ceredig died.
617 Edwin begins his reign.
--Annales Cambriae, available online

Assuming that the Ceredig who died in 616 is the Cerdic, king of Elmet, mentioned in Historia Brittonum, Annales Cambriae seems to have got the events the opposite way round. If the records refer to the same individual, it is possible that Edwin (Eadwine) expelled Ceredig/Cerdic before beginning his own reign, or perhaps as part of the same campaign so that events followed close on one another and their order later became confused.

Bede, Ecclesiastical History

Bede refers to a Brittonic king called Cerdic, ruling in around 614. This king Cerdic shares a name with the Ceredig recorded in Annales Cambriae at about the same time, and also with the king of Elmet recorded at about the same time in Historia Brittonum. Ceretic, Ceredig and Cerdic were variant spellings of each other. Ceretic was a popular name*, but three separate Ceretics, two of whom are explicitly called kings and the third of whom was considered important enough for his death to be recorded in the Annales, all contemporaries, seems rather unlikely. The simplest explanation is that all three sources refer to the same individual.

….a dream which her mother Breguswith had when Hild was an infant, during the time that her husband Hereric was living in banishment under the protection of the British king Cerdic, where he died of poison.
--Bede, Ecclesiastical History, Book IV ch. 23.

I discussed Hereric in an earlier post. Bede’s story suggests that Hereric’s death is likely to have occurred around the time of Hild’s birth in about 614, so Ceretic was reigning at that time.

The Welsh Triads

Three Adulterers' Horses of the Island of Britain:Fferlas [Grey Fetlock] horse of Dalldaf son of Cunin, and Gwelwgan Gohoewgein horse of Caradawg son of Gwallawc, and Gwrbrith [Spotted Dun] horse of Rahawd.
--Red Book of Hergest Triads, available online

Caradawg is a variant spelling of Ceretic.


There is no patronymic for Ceretic of Elmet given in Bede, Historia Brittonum or Annales Cambriae. As far as I know, the Triad mentioning a Ceretic ap Guallauc does not give him a territorial association. I cannot find a likely candidate for Ceretic of Elmet in the Harleian, Jesus College or Men of the North genealogies listed on Keith Matthews’ website.

On the strength of the reference to Ceretic ap Guallauc in one of the Welsh Triads (see above), John Koch suggests that Ceretic of Elmet was the son of Guallauc ap Laenauc, who appears in the genealogies and in Canu Taliesin (Koch 1997, page xxiii, footnote 1). If this is the same Guallauc recorded as an ally of Urien Rheged in Historia Brittonum, he was active in the late sixth century. More about Guallauc in another post.



Historia Brittonum is clear that Ceretic was ruling Elmet when Eadwine ruled Northumbria, and we know from Bede that Eadwine ruled from 617 to 633. Annales Cambriae says that Ceretic died in 616 (assuming this is the same Ceretic), which would imply that Ceretic was ruling Elmet at the beginning of Eadwine’s reign rather than the end. If he is the same as the king mentioned by Bede, he was ruling in 614. So we can reasonably conclude that Ceretic was an adult in 614-617.

If we take John Koch’s suggestion that Ceretic of Elmet was the son of Guallauc, then Ceretic’s father was leading armies in the late sixth century.

Ceretic could have been born as late as the late 590s, if he was born well into his (putative) father’s active life. This would place him in his late teens in 614, just about old enough to be a king. None of the sources mention any children, which would be consistent with Ceretic having been too young to have married or fathered children before the end of his reign. However, the sources available to us are very patchy and it is perfectly possible that Ceretic did have children and they were simply not considered important enough to be mentioned (as is very likely if they did not hold positions of political or ecclesiastical power).

Ceretic was probably born some time after 550 (550 would make him 64 years old in 614), otherwise he would have been getting too old to be an active ruler in 614-617. This would make him an adult at the time of his father’s campaigns in the late sixth century, and so it is slightly surprising that he is not mentioned even in passing, but I wouldn’t read too much into that.

On the whole, I would favour a birth date for Ceretic somewhere in the middle of the possible range, probably some time around 580 or so. This would make him too young to take a senior role in his father’s campaigns in the late sixth century, and he would be an adult in his thirties by the time we know he was ruling Elmet in 614-617.


No children, wife or parents are recorded for Ceretic of Elmet, so his family background and connections are uncertain. If John Koch is correct that he was the son of Guallauc ap Laenauc, then his family was a branch of the ‘Men of the North’ and claimed descent from the founder figure Coel Hen. This would make Ceretic and his father relatives of Peredur (possible king of York, see post on Peredur) and Urien, king of Rheged. This is quite a likely familial association for someone who ruled a territory in part of modern Yorkshire.

If Ceretic of Elmet is the Caradawg ap Gwallawc of the Triad, then presumably he was associated with some famous incident of marital infidelity, since he is listed as one of the Three Adulterers. Make of that what you will. (Sometimes I wish the Triads were just a little less cryptic).


Assuming that Ceretic of Elmet is the same British king Ceretic mentioned by Bede, he had given refuge to Hereric of Deira. Since Bede says that Hereric was living under Ceretic’s protection, this indicates that Hereric’s presence was officially recognised and sanctioned by Ceretic. Hereric’s wife and at least one young daughter, possibly two, were also living with him at Ceretic’s court. This may suggest that Hereric had been there some time, long enough to establish a household, and/or that he felt sufficiently secure there to bring his family to live with him. If he had been on the run from a recent defeat in battle, say, or if he doubted Ceretic’s intentions, it is perhaps unlikely that his wife and baby daughter(s) would be with him. This is consistent with Ceretic having a friendly attitude towards Hereric, rather than one of hostility or resentment, though this is speculative.

If Ceretic was friendly towards Hereric of Deira, this may indicate personal friendship, kinship or a political alliance (or any combination thereof). Ceretic’s marriage and family ties are unknown, and he may have had connections with the Deiran royal family in general or Hereric in particular. Elmet and Deira were neighbouring territories and would be natural candidates to ally together against predatory neighbours. Aethelferth of Bernicia had annexed Deira some years earlier (see post on Dating the annexation of Deira), which may well be the reason that Hereric was living in banishment in Elmet in the first place. Ceretic may have been willing to shelter Hereric to honour an alliance. If Hereric was planning to make an attempt to reclaim Deira, Ceretic may have been prepared to offer help and support, either to honour an alliance, out of self-interest or both. Aethelferth had a long track record of military conquest, and if Ceretic feared Aethelferth’s intentions towards Elmet he may have hoped that an attack by Hereric would weaken Aethelferth and forestall an invasion of Elmet.

If Hereric and Ceretic were on friendly terms, this raises questions about Hereric’s death while under Ceretic’s protection. We know from Bede that Hereric’s uncle Eadwine, also in exile from Deira, was living on friendly terms at the court of King Raedwald of the East Angles at about the same time (616/617), and that Aethelferth of Bernicia, Eadwine’s deadly enemy, sent envoys to Raedwald offering him bribes if he would murder Eadwine and threats of war if he would not. Raedwald was swayed by Aethelferth’s arguments – Aethelferth was an extremely powerful king at the time, very probably the most powerful in England – and agreed to kill Eadwine, until he was talked out of it by his queen (Bede, Book II ch. 12). Perhaps something similar happened with Hereric and Ceretic in Elmet, except that Ceretic did not have a queen who persuaded him to change his mind. Many other possibilities come to mind: Hereric’s death may have been due to natural causes and mistakenly or maliciously attributed to poison; he may have been killed for some personal motive that had nothing whatever to do with his membership of the Deiran royal family or Ceretic’s political position; he may have been secretly assassinated on Aethelferth’s orders, or by a rival from his own family, without Ceretic’s knowledge or consent; he may have been killed by somebody to discredit Ceretic… the list is limited only by your imagination.

Hereric’s uncle Eadwine expelled and/or killed Ceretic a few years after Hereric’s death, according to Historia Brittonum. No motive is recorded. It may have been an act of vengeance for Hereric’s death, if Ceretic was believed to have been responsible or even if he had only failed to prevent it. If it was a straightforward land grab with no motive except gain, it is possible that Hereric’s death served as a convenient excuse, if one was needed.


Historia Brittonum says that Ceretic was expelled from his kingdom, Annales Cambriae says that he died in 616. Both may be true; if he was driven out of his kingdom, perhaps injured in battle, he could have died shortly afterwards in exile.

Ceretic does not appear in the genealogies, and none of the sources mention any children. This may indicate that he did not have children, or that none of them held a position of sufficient political or ecclesiastical importance to warrant a mention by the chroniclers. Either way, it suggests that if Ceretic had any children, they did not subsequently reclaim his kingdom.


Annales Cambriae, available online
Bede, Ecclesiastical history of the English people. Translated by Leo Sherley-Price. Penguin Classics, 1968, ISBN 0-14-044565-X.
Historia Brittonum ch. 63, available online
Koch J. The Gododdin of Aneirin. Text and context from dark-age North Britain. University of Wales Press, 1997. ISBN 0-7083-1374-4.

*The name Ceretic belonged to: Caratacus, the first-century British king who fought the Romans; Coroticus, a fifth-century king in northern Britain ticked off by St Patrick; Vortigern’s interpreter in Historia Brittonum; the eponymous founder of Ceredigion in what is now mid-Wales; Cerdic, the founder of the royal line of Wessex; Caradog, an eighth-century king of Gwynedd. And those are just the ones I can think of.

24 December, 2010

December recipe: Christmas meringue

This is another alternative to Christmas pudding, sweet, suitably festive and lighter than the traditional plum pudding.

It’s a variation on mince pies. You can make it with any mincemeat of your choice (for a home-made mincemeat recipe, see here).

Here’s the recipe.

Christmas meringue (serves 2)

6 oz (approx 150 g) self-raising flour
4.5 oz (approx 125 g) butter
2 Tablespoons (2 x 15 ml spoons) icing sugar
1 egg yolk (use the white to make the meringue)

Mincemeat of your choice, home-made or bought

Meringue topping:
1 egg white
1 oz (approx 25 g) granulated sugar

Grease two patty tins about 4 in (approximately 10 cm) diameter.

Rub the butter into the flour and icing sugar.

Beat in the egg yolk and press the mixture into a ball of dough. This quantity of pastry is much more than you need for the meringue tarts. About one-fifth to one-quarter of the pastry will be enough to make two meringue tarts. You can freeze the rest or store it in the fridge for two or three days to be used later.

In theory, at this point you are supposed to chill the pastry overnight. I find it is less prone to break if I roll it out straight away.

Roll out the pastry on a floured work surface. I like thin pastry so I roll mine to about 2 mm thick; you can leave yours thicker if you like.

Cut circles big enough to make pastry cases lining the base and sides of your tartlet tins.

Spoon mincemeat into the pastry cases. Don’t overfill them or the mincemeat will boil out and make an unpleasant mess on the baking tray. The filling should be no more than level with the rim.

Whisk the egg white until it stands in soft peaks.

Fold in the sugar using a metal spoon. Pile the meringue on top of the mincemeat, making sure that the meringue seals against the pastry edges.

Bake in a hot oven, around 200 C, for about 15 minutes until the meringue is set and golden brown.

Let the meringue tarts cool for a minute or two in the tins to set the pastry, then lift them out with a palette knife or pie slice and serve immediately.

Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, have a happy Christmas, and best wishes for the New Year!

19 December, 2010

The Duke’s Agent, by Rebecca Jenkins. Book review

Quercus, 2009. ISBN 978-1-84724-788-9. 296 pages. Review copy kindly supplied by publisher.

The Duke’s Agent is a historical mystery set in Northumberland in 1811. All the major characters are fictional.

Captain Frederick Raif Jarrett, on medical leave from the British Army, takes on the role of land agent to his relative, the Duke of Penrith. Sent to the Northumberland town of Woolbridge to conduct an audit of the Duke’s properties in the area after the unexpected death of the previous agent, Jarrett soon finds evidence of widespread embezzlement and corruption. Events take a sinister turn when a local beauty is found dead in mysterious circumstances and Jarrett becomes the prime suspect for her murder. It seems his investigations have earned him a powerful enemy – but who, and why?

The Duke’s Agent has at least two sub-plots, cleverly intertwined. The first, with which the narrative opens, centres on the strange circumstances surrounding the death of the Duke’s previous agent. Who cut the throat of the dead man’s dog? Who ransacked his study, and what were they looking for? The second appears about a third of the way into the book, and centres on the death of Sally Grundy, “Black-Eyed Sal”, a beautiful local laundry maid who was recently jilted by a local boy and was apparently being courted by a mysterious gentleman friend. How did Sal come by her death? Who moved her body afterwards and why? Who is the unknown gentleman friend and what was his business with Sal? And why are the locals – or some of them, at least – so keen to finger Jarrett for her murder? Both mysteries are gradually unravelled as the plot unfolds, revealing layers of subtle connections and local rivalries. I spotted the villain early on, but that was on the basis of character and role in the narrative, not by solving the mysteries.

The pace is leisurely, even slow, to start with, as the local countryside and the town of Woolbridge are described and the cast introduced. Jarrett is new to the area and a talented painter, so the reader sees both landscape and people through his keen artist’s eye. After Sal’s death the pace steps up a gear, with an effective courtroom scene and a greater urgency to Jarrett’s investigations. The leisurely pace allows time to develop not only a varied cast of characters – from poacher and innkeeper to the local gentry – but also the relationships and rivalries between them, all told in stylish prose.

Although the immediate mystery is wrapped up at the end – partly through the villain’s desire to demonstrate his own cleverness by filling in the details that the hero has not quite worked out for himself – there is a larger intrigue still to be resolved, which clearly offers scope for a sequel (or several). Similarly, Jarrett’s tentative relationship with Miss Henrietta Lonsdale, a young lady of impeccable manners, calm good sense, formidable reserve and remarkably attractive grey eyes, looks as if it has scope for further development.

Stylish historical mystery with well-defined characters and a clear sense of time and place, set in Northumberland in the early nineteenth century.

08 December, 2010

The kingdom of Elmet

Elmet was a British kingdom located in the area around what is now Leeds in the early seventh century. What do we know about it?


Place names

The name ‘Elmet’ is retained in the modern place names of Barwick-in-Elmet and Sherburn-in Elmet, east of Leeds.

Map link: Barwick-in-Elmet
Map link: Sherburn-in Elmet

If these names were given to stress that the areas in question belonged to Elmet, it may indicate that they were located in a region near the edge of Elmet, where territorial affiliation might be in doubt. If so, this would be consistent with the kingdom having been bounded on its north-eastern side by the natural barrier of the River Wharfe and the River Ouse.

To the west, the Pennine chain of hills and moors running north-south through Yorkshire and Derbyshire forms a natural barrier that is a likely candidate for the western boundary of the kingdom of Elmet. See Wikipedia for a relief map.

One of the three main routes from west to east across the Pennines is the valley of the River Aire, which runs through Leeds. Following the river upstream, north-west, brings you to Bradford, Keighley, and then to a small town called Sutton-in-Craven.

Map link: Sutton-in-Craven

On the same logic as the –in-Elmet place names mentioned above, the –in-Craven suffix is presumably there to indicate a regional identity. If so, the north-western boundary of Elmet may have been somewhere in the Keighley area.

The River Sheaf, which flows into Sheffield from the south and gives its name to the city, has an Old English name meaning ‘boundary’ (Room 1993).

Map link: River Sheaf, Sheffield

It formed the boundary between the counties of Derbyshire and the old West Riding of Yorkshire (see Wikipedia for a map of the location of the West Riding). ‘Riding’ is a Norse word meaning ‘a third part’ (the other two were East and North), so the Ridings date back a long time. If the West Riding was derived from an earlier region, then the River Sheaf may have also formed the boundary of the earlier region, and it is thus a possible candidate for the southern boundary of Elmet.

Historia Brittonum

Edwin, son of Alla, reigned seventeen years, seized on Elmete, and Expelled Cerdic, its king.
--Historia Brittonum ch. 63, available online

Annales Cambriae

616 Ceredig died.
617 Edwin begins his reign.
--Annales Cambriae, available online

Assuming that the Ceredig who died in 616 is the Cerdic, king of Elmet, mentioned in Historia Brittonum, Annales Cambriae seems to have got the events the opposite way round. Ceretic is a common Brittonic name and Annales Cambriae may be referring to a different individual. If they are the same, it is possible that Edwin (Eadwine) expelled Ceredig/Cerdic before beginning his own reign, or perhaps as part of the same campaign so that events followed close on one another and their order later became confused.

Bede, Ecclesiastical History

Bede specifically mentions Elmet once in his Ecclesiastical History:
A basilica was built at the royal residence of Campodunum, but this, together with all the buildings of the residence, was burned by the pagans who killed King Edwin and later kings replaced this seat by another in the vicinity of Loidis. The stone altar of this church survived the fire and is preserved in the monastery that lies in Elmet Wood and is ruled by the most reverend priest and abbot Thrydwulf.

--Bede, Ecclesiastical History, Book II ch.15

Loidis is modern Leeds. The site of Campodunum is uncertain. The two leading candidates are Doncaster and Slack, near Huddersfield, both the sites of Roman towns or forts. The Roman name of Doncaster, Danum, could be related to the second element of Bede’s name Campodunum. Both are within the boundaries of Elmet as suggested above. Bede uses the name Elmet not as the name of a region or province, but as the name of a forest, Elmet Wood. This may indicate that the name Elmet could refer to a specific locality, possibly part of a larger territory.

Bede also refers to a Brittonic king called Cerdic, ruling in around 614. If this king Cerdic is the same individual as the Ceredig recorded in Annales Cambriae at about the same time, and also the same individual as the king of Elmet recorded at about the same time in Historia Brittonum, then this also refers to events in Elmet:
….a dream which her mother Breguswith had when Hild was an infant, during the time that her husband Hereric was living in banishment under the protection of the British king Cerdic, where he died of poison.
--Bede, Ecclesiastical History, Book IV ch. 23.

I discussed Hereric in an earlier post. Bede’s story suggests that Hereric’s death is likely to have occurred around the time of Hild’s birth in about 614, so Ceretic was reigning at that time.

The Tribal Hidage

The Tribal Hidage is a list of regions and the number of hides they contained. A hide was an Anglo-Saxon unit of land measurement, and roughly approximated to the amount of land required to support a household. Bede regularly refers to districts as “….the land of XXX families….”. Needless to say, the area of a hide would have varied enormously depending on the productivity of the land. The date and purpose of the Tribal Hidage are not certain (more on this in another post), but the various controversies need not concern us here. For the purposes of this post, the interesting part is the following entry:
Pecsætna twelf hund hyda. 1,200
Elmed sætna syx hund hyda. 600
--Tribal Hidage, transcription available online

“Elmed” is a variant spelling of Elmet, and “saetna” is an Old English word meaning something like “settlers”. It appears several times in the Tribal Hidage as the suffix to a district name.

The immediately preceding entry, Pecsaetna, is the origin of the modern name ‘Peak District’, which refers to the uplands forming the southern end of the Pennines in modern Derbyshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire. Map on the National Park Authority website here. This is consistent with the suggestion above that Elmet bordered the Pennine uplands of the modern Peak District.

The small number of hides attributed to Elmet (600) is slightly surprising, given that it was important enough for Historia Brittonum to consider its ruler a king. Caveat that we are uncertain about what was meant by a king or what size of territory qualified as a kingdom. This may indicate that Elmet was smaller than implied by the boundaries suggested above, which in turn may suggest that Ceretic was a minor king or a sub-king. Or it may suggest that Elmet had changed in size when the Tribal Hidage was compiled, or that the name Elmet could be used to refer to a particular region within a larger territory, or that the Tribal Hidage records only part of the territory of Elmet.


The place names with the –in-Elmet suffix indicate that Elmet included the area east of modern Leeds. Its boundaries are conjectural, but the River Sheaf, the Rivers Wharfe and Ouse, the Pennine uplands and the district of Craven are reasonable candidates. Its boundaries may have fluctuated over time.

Elmet was a sufficiently important territory for its ruler to be considered a king by the compiler of Historia Brittonum. This seems inconsistent with the small size (600 hides) recorded in the Tribal Hidage. It may be that Elmet was a small territory and its king may have been more of a sub-king, or Elmet may have changed in size over time, or the Tribal Hidage may refer to only a part of Elmet, or the name Elmet may have referred to a particular region (Bede’s ‘Elmet Wood’, perhaps) within a larger territory, which may or may not have shared the same name.

The king of Elmet at the time of its conquest was Ceretic or Cerdig (more about him in another post). If he was the king referred to by Bede, he was a Brittonic king, and he certainly had a Brittonic name. This may indicate that Elmet was a Brittonic or predominantly Brittonic territory.

Elmet was conquered by Eadwine of Deira/Northumbria (reigned 617-633), probably near the beginning of his reign on the basis of the dates in Annales Cambriae. It presumably remained under Eadwine’s control until his death in 633. Bede’s statement that “later kings” (presumably kings of Northumbria given the context of the passage, though this is not specified) had a royal residence near Loidis suggests that Elmet, or at least the area of Elmet near modern Leeds, was also in Northumbrian control during the reigns of Eadwine’s successors as kings of Northumbria.

What happened to Elmet immediately after Eadwine’s death is not recorded. It may have stayed part of Northumbria throughout, it may have regained independence temporarily, in part or in whole, or it may have been temporarily taken over by another kingdom, peacefully or otherwise. Bede describes the year following Eadwine’s death as total chaos in Northumbria, and the same may also have applied in Elmet.


Annales Cambriae, available online
Bede, Ecclesiastical history of the English people. Translated by Leo Sherley-Price. Penguin Classics, 1968, ISBN 0-14-044565-X.
Historia Brittonum ch. 63, available online
Room A. Dictionary of Place Names. Bloomsbury, 1993. ISBN 0-7475-1511-5.
Tribal Hidage, transcription available online

Map links


02 December, 2010

The Forever Queen, by Helen Hollick. Book review

First published under the title A Hollow Crown, Arrow, 2005. Shortened and revised edition published by Sourcebooks, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4022-4068-3, 614 pages.

Set in England, Normandy and Denmark in 1002-1042, The Forever Queen tells most of the life story of Emma of Normandy, who was Queen of England through her marriages to Aethelraed and Cnut. All the main characters are historical figures.

As a shy thirteen-year-old married into a foreign kingdom, Emma of Normandy quickly discovers that her new husband Aethelraed is a disaster both as a king and as a husband. While the inept Aethelraed and his avaricious favourite Eadric Streona progressively lose England to the capable Viking Svein Forkbeard and his son Cnut, Emma will have to rely on her own political skill and innate intelligence if she is to survive and to keep the crown that has become her most precious possession.

The Forever Queen covers a period of 40 years, from Emma’s arrival in England as a naïve young bride to the accession of her son Edward (later known as the Confessor) when Emma is a 53-year-old dowager. There was a lot going on in England and its neighbouring kingdoms during those four decades, and The Forever Queen covers most of it. It is thus a very long book – over 600 pages – and densely packed with detail, so some concentration is required to keep track of characters and events.

Emma seems to have had little happiness in her eventful life, and I would say The Forever Queen is the gloomiest of Helen Hollick’s historical novels. Part of this is due to the political situation; The Forever Queen gives the impression that almost everyone in a position of power in England in the first decade or two of the eleventh century was ineffectual or self-seeking or both. This may be entirely justified – Aethelraed Unraed (“Ill-Advised”) and Eadric Streona (“Greedy” or “Grasping”) no doubt did much to earn their derogatory nicknames, and the contemporary Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is scathing about the incompetence of England’s leadership – but it doesn’t make for a cheerful read, especially for the first 300 pages.

Part is due to Emma’s personal circumstances, particularly during her disastrous marriage to Aethelraed, where her fortitude in enduring an abusive and sometimes sickeningly violent husband is well conveyed. Part is due to Emma’s character as developed in the novel. Coming from an unloved childhood, trapped for years in a miserable marriage, Emma has to be hard to survive. Clinging to her pride and her crown when they were all that gave meaning to her life, Emma develops a cold, calculating ruthlessness that shapes her whole life. She has little affection for her sons by Aethelraed, perhaps not surprising given the nature of her relationship with their father (and young Edward, as portrayed here, would have been a very difficult child to like!). Even when she finds some happiness in her marriage to Cnut, the demands of empire mean that Emma is often left alone for long periods while Cnut is away in one of his far-flung territories. Her son by Cnut, Harthicnut, is brought up largely in Denmark, and Emma sees little of him after early childhood. By the time her sons are grown, Emma seems to regard them in part as a means to retaining her status, and there seems little love lost even between her and Harthicnut, let alone between her and her sons by Aethelraed.

On a more cheerful note, Cnut is attractively drawn, maturing from an overgrown and somewhat blundering adolescent to an effective leader without losing his humanity along the way. Edmund Ironside, son of Aethelraed, takes his rightful place as a capable leader and a promising king. Had he not been mortally wounded in combat, Edmund might have made a worthy successor to his ancestor Alfred the Great, and English history might have followed a very different course. Edmund’s short reign is often treated as little more than a footnote between Aethelraed and Cnut, so it is very pleasing to see him fully developed as a character in his own right in The Forever Queen.

Useful maps at the beginning of the book help to locate the events, and a detailed Author’s Note is very helpful in setting out the historical basis for the novel.

Solid, detailed portrayal of the life and times of the formidable Queen Emma, wife to two kings and mother to two more in early eleventh-century England.

25 November, 2010

November recipe: Braised red cabbage and pork

Red cabbage and cooking apples are both in season in late autumn and early winter, usually harvested earlier in the autumn.

The brilliant red-purple of braised red cabbage is a cheerful splash of colour as the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness gives way to fog and frosts.

Both red cabbage and apples seem to go particularly well with pork. This recipe works equally well with pork chops or pork steaks, either grilled or fried as you see fit.

Serves 2

Braised red cabbage with fried pork steak

Braised red cabbage
8 oz (approx 250 g) red cabbage
4 oz (approx 125 g) cooking apple
Half a small onion
About a teaspoon (1 x 5 ml spoon) of butter
1 teaspoon (1 x 5 ml spoon) granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon (1 x 15 ml spoon) white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
About 3-4 fl. oz (approx 75-100 ml) water

2 pork steaks or pork chops

Half a small onion
About half an ounce (approx 10 g) butter
2 teaspoons (2 x 5 ml spoon) flour
About 0.25 pt (approx 150 ml) milk
1 teaspoon (1 x 5 ml spoon) tomato puree
1 teaspoon (1 x 5 ml spoon) ready-made mustard

Remove the outer leaves from the cabbage and cut out the tough stalk in the centre. Cut into shreds.

Peel and core the cooking apple, and chop into chunks. Peel and chop the half onion (put the other half aside for the sauce).

Cook the cabbage in boiling water for 3-5 minutes, then drain. At this stage the cabbage will look a rather unappealing blue colour. Don’t worry. In a few minutes you can perform some kitchen alchemy with vinegar and turn it red again.

Add the butter to the drained cabbage and cook gently over a low heat to melt the butter. Stir in the chopped apple and onion.

Stir in the sugar and vinegar. The acid in the vinegar will turn the cabbage a cheerful red-purple colour. Add the water, season with salt and pepper to taste, cover the pan and simmer over a low heat for about 30 minutes until the cabbage is tender. Stir from time to time to make sure it isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan, and add a little more water if necessary. Only add a small amount of water at a time, because when it has finished cooking most of the water should have gone, leaving just a small amount of cooking juices.

While the cabbage is cooking, fry or grill the pork chops or pork steaks. I fry them in butter or cooking oil over a moderate heat for about 5-7 minutes each side.

To make the sauce, peel and chop half a small onion and fry gently in the butter in a small saucepan until softened and starting to colour.

Remove from the heat and stir in the flour, mixing well so that the flour coats the onion pieces. Pour in the milk.

Return the saucepan to the heat and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. When the sauce thickens, turn the heat down and add the mustard and tomato puree. Season with salt and pepper. If it is too thick for your liking, stir in a little more milk. Simmer over a low heat for 1-2 minutes.

Pour the sauce over the cooked pork steak or chops. Serve with the braised red cabbage and mashed potatoes.

19 November, 2010

Ruso and the Demented Doctor, by RS Downie. Book review

Penguin, 2009. ISBN 978-0-141-02726-5. 462 pages

Also published under the title Terra Incognita. Sometimes the author’s name appears as Ruth Downie, sometimes as RS Downie.

Second in the Medicus Ruso Roman historical mystery series, Ruso and the Demented Doctor is set in AD 118 in and around Coria (modern Corbridge) in the north of the Roman province of Britannia. All the main characters are fictional.

Gaius Petreius Ruso, Medicus (army surgeon) with the Roman Twentieth Legion in Deva (modern Chester), has volunteered to accompany a detachment on a mission to the northern border*, partly as a way of taking his housekeeper and girlfriend Tilla home to visit her remaining family and friends. Before they even arrive, Ruso learns there is trouble among the local population, not least from a man with antlers on his head – the Stag Man – who claims to be a messenger from the gods. Things get even worse after arriving in Coria, where Ruso is pitched unwillingly into a politically sensitive murder investigation. A soldier has been gruesomely killed in a back alley, and the fort doctor has apparently gone insane and confessed to the murder. Ruso is ordered to get the doctor to retract his confession, so the Prefect’s aide can arrest the preferred suspect, a local rebel sympathiser. On top of this, Ruso is also supposed to sort out the hopelessly inefficient – and, as he gradually discovers, possibly corrupt – fort medical service. And just to make his life even more complicated, his lovely girlfriend Tilla is even more troublesome than usual now she is home, especially when it turns out that the Romans’ preferred suspect for the murder is her childhood friend and former lover….

Ruso and the Demented Doctor lives up to the high standards of its predecessor, Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls (reviewed here in August 2010). The dry humour that was such an appealing feature of the first novel is back, as Ruso the eternal straight man gamely tries to navigate the bewildering native customs, Tilla’s self-willed independence of thought and action, the antics of the infirmary staff and the devious machinations of security officer Metellus. Ruso himself is as decent and likeable as ever, although he can be so obtuse in emotional matters that I can’t help thinking his ex-wife may have had a point when she told him he was impossible to live with. The beautiful and enigmatic Tilla comes more to the fore here on her home ground, torn between her affection for Ruso and her suspicion of Rome. More is revealed about the sad fate of her family and the events that led to Ruso buying her at death’s door from an abusive slave dealer in far-off Deva.

Minor characters are as individual as the two leads, whether they are secondary characters from Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls making a reappearance – slimy Claudius Innocens, cheerfully egotistical Valens – or new actors in the new story. Of the latter, I found Metellus especially convincing as the Prefect’s aide, a sort of head of the security police, polite, amoral and chillingly ruthless.

The mystery plot is rather more substantial than in Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls, and the solution isn’t obvious in advance (or at least, I didn’t spot it). An especially interesting feature of the novel is the vivid portrayal of a Roman frontier fort and its associated shanty town, full of the soldiers’ relatives and traders on the make. Some of the local British population have decided that the Romans have something to offer and have moved into town, set up businesses servicing the Army, and begun adopting Roman names and Roman ways. Others regard the Romans with suspicion and outright hostility. The different customs and ideas, and the interactions and conflicts between them, make for a thought-provoking picture of culture clash and transition, with no easy answers.

Ruso’s relationship with Tilla, which was just getting started in the first book, develops and deepens further in this one. It’s another feature of the novel that I found especially convincing. Both are likeable and sympathetic characters, both are independent adults with their own history and their own values, sometimes resulting in mutual incomprehension and mistrust that conflicts with their attraction to each other. Their relationship is important to them, but it is not the only thing in their lives, and if it is to work they will need to find some sort of mutually acceptable balance. The quote at the beginning of the paperback, from the poet Martial, says “I can’t live with you – nor without you.” Very apt. I look forward to more of this intriguing relationship in the next instalment.

A useful map at the front of the book places the locations in their geographical context, and a brief Author’s Note at the end sketches some of the underlying history.

Delightful historical mystery told with wry humour and deft characterisation, set against the contrasting cultures of northern Britain and the Roman Army in the second century AD.

*Hadrian’s Wall has yet to be built, so the border at this stage is just a road linking a string of forts.

12 November, 2010

Staffordshire Hoard – revisited

Jonathan Jarrett has some interesting additional information on the Staffordshire Hoard on his blog, reporting from a seminar held at Oxford in October this year. Read the article here.

The Staffordshire Hoard
I’m sure you all remember the Staffordshire Hoard, discovered in 2009. If you need to refresh your memory, see my post on the Hoard and the comments thread, and Jonathan’s post on Cliopatria.

The Hoard was discovered at Hammerwich (Map here), in the heartland of the early medieval kingdom of Mercia. It is near the Mercian royal centre at Tamworth and the Mercian ecclesiastical centre at Lichfield, and very close to the Roman road of Watling Street.

At the time of the announcement of the discovery, it was thought that the hoard’s burial site was a field in the middle of nowhere, as there was no evidence of any structures in the vicinity. This, coupled with its proximity to the road, supported interpretations suggesting that the Staffordshire Hoard was buried in a hurry in adverse circumstances by someone who was unable to recover it subsequently, perhaps because the people who buried it were being pursued by an enemy and did not survive to recover the hoard or reveal its location. Whether this represented someone burying their wealth for safekeeping from enemies, an attempt to recover tribute yielded unwillingly by a defeated army, a sort of seventh-century jewel heist (theft of a royal treasury?) gone disastrously wrong, or any number of other interpretations, is open to discussion.

Was the Staffordshire Hoard originally under a mound?
Jonathan’s blog post adds the important new information that the site of the hoard might originally have been under a mound.

“It also emerged later that the deposition site may have once had a mound over it, which would have been quite clear from the road”
-- http://tenthmedieval.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/seminary-lxviii-a-namecheck-to-be-treasured/

If true, this turns the idea of a hasty burial completely on its head. Raising a mound is a non-trivial task requiring quite a lot of labour (how much depends on the size of the mound). It’s not something you can do in a hurry with an enemy in hot pursuit. If there was a mound raised over the Staffordshire Hoard, it suggests that the hoard was deposited deliberately and was meant to be marked and remembered.

Valuable objects buried under a mound are well-known from rich graves, like the ones at Sutton Hoo. However, the Staffordshire Hoard site was excavated by archaeologists and no trace of a grave was discovered in the vicinity. Furthermore, the composition of the Staffordshire Hoard was very peculiar, containing a high proportion of precious metal fittings from military equipment, such as sword pommels and helmet pieces, no actual weapons, and no belt fittings, buckles, brooches or strap-ends. This composition is nothing like any grave assemblage I have ever heard of. So it doesn’t look likely that the Staffordshire Hoard was a rich burial (or if it was, it was a very peculiar one).

A ritual deposit?
In my original post I mentioned the possibility of a ritual deposit in passing, but did not consider it in detail because it seemed too inconsistent with the idea of a hurried deposition. However, the suggestion of a mound raised over the site brings the possibility of a deliberate ritual deposit back into the frame.

Ritual deposition of the military equipment of a defeated army is recorded in Germany and southern Scandinavia in the early centuries AD. Tacitus recounts a battle between two first-century German tribes, the Hermundari and the Chatti, in which the entire defeated army and its equipment was sacrificed to the gods:

In the same summer, a great battle was waged between the Hermunduri and Chatti,
both attempting to appropriate by force a river which was at once a rich source
for salt and the frontier line between the tribes. Apart from their
passion for deciding all questions by the sword, they held an ingrained
religious belief that this district was peculiarly close to heaven
The struggle, which went in favour of the Hermunduri, was the more
disastrousº to the Chatti in that both sides
consecrated, in the event of victory, the adverse host to Mars and Mercury; a
vow implying the extermination of horses, men, and all objects whatsoever.
--Tacitus, Annals of Imperial Rome, Book 13 ch 57, available online

Archaeological discoveries in Denmark and southern Sweden show that this was not a literary exaggeration or invention; for example, at Illerup in Denmark entire armies’ military equipment has been found systematically broken and dropped into a lake (see this English-language article on the Illerup website for information).

Extrapolating from first- or second-century Germany and Denmark to seventh- or eighth-century England is speculative at best, as should surely go without saying. That said, Tacitus’ description and the Illerup finds offer at least an intriguing parallel. The Staffordshire Hoard contained a high proportion of military items, consistent with an assemblage of war gear. The rich weapon fittings in the Staffordshire Hoard had been stripped from the weapons they had originally adorned, which could be dismantling for re-use or could also be consistent with a form of symbolic destruction. The helmet pieces in the Staffordshire Hoard are fragments of multiple helmets, not pieces of the same helmet, suggesting that the hoard was part of a larger collection and that some of the material ended up elsewhere (see Jonathan’s post), which is reminiscent of the findings from Illerup of different pieces of the same sword in different bundles on the lake bed. This may even provide an answer to the question about what happened to the business end of the weapons – perhaps the blades ended up with the other bits of the various helmets, wherever that is or was.

The Staffordshire Hoard need not necessarily represent the spoils of a single battle. The items may have been accumulated in different places over time and brought together at a later date, perhaps as a tribute payment after a military defeat as Jonathan suggested in his Cliopatria article. Jonathan has the respectable historian’s wariness of romantic ‘storybook’ explanations, and rightly so, though I rather suspect that the deposition of 5 kg of gold composed mostly of fittings from high-status weapons was far from an everyday occurrence and therefore might reasonably be taken to indicate some extraordinary event. Perhaps the Staffordshire Hoard reflects some profoundly important struggle, in which the identity or survival of a kingdom or a people was seen as being at stake. An enormous ritual deposit, made in thanks for victory/survival, as a consequence of defeat, or in fulfilment of an oath, could fit into such a context.

The concept of a ritual deposit also offers a potential explanation for why the Staffordshire Hoard was not recovered – a ritual deposit is not meant to be recovered. Everyone knows it is there, that it is supposed to stay there for all time, and that disturbing it may have appalling consequences. The cup-stealing episode in Beowulf, where theft of a cup from a burial mound brings down the dragon’s wrath and results in the destruction of Beowulf (soon to be followed, it is hinted, by the destruction of his people), offers a glimpse of the sort of beliefs that may have prevailed, even after the conversion to Christianity if the Christian glosses in the poem are anything to go by. By the time such beliefs were no longer current and digging up burial mounds for treasure was permissible, the mound marking the location of the Staffordshire Hoard could have long since eroded away and the existence of the hoard have passed from memory. In a way, this is a simpler explanation than the idea that no-one who buried the Staffordshire Hoard survived to tell the tale.

Tacitus, Annals of Imperial Rome, Book 13 ch 57, available online

05 November, 2010

Lion of Cairo, by Scott Oden. Book review

Transworld, 2010, ISBN 978-0-593-06125-1. 410 pages.

Lion of Cairo is set in and around twelfth-century Cairo. Some of the secondary characters are based on historical figures – I recognised Amalric, King of Jerusalem, and the Syrian general Shirkuh, among others. There may also be other historical figures that I didn’t recognise. The main character, Assad, is fictional.

In Cairo, capital of a decaying empire, the young Caliph Rashid al-Hasan is kept a virtual prisoner in his own palace by his ambitious vizier Jalal. On Egypt’s border, a Syrian army led by a previous scheming vizier and the powerful general Shirkuh is poised to invade. Vizier Jalal is hatching a nefarious plot to ally with the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem against Syria, murder the Caliph, and seize the throne for himself. But he has reckoned without Assad, the greatest assassin of the age and owner of a legendary blade with malevolent supernatural power, who has been sent by the Hidden Master of Alamut to offer help and alliance to the Caliph. As well as the duplicitous Vizier Jalal and the two invading armies, Assad must also deal with a rival sect of assassins and their leader’s loathsome black magic – a task that will stretch even the formidable Emir of the Knife to his limits.

Like Men of Bronze by the same author, which I reviewed a while ago, Lion of Cairo is a blockbuster adventure in the tradition of Robert E Howard, to whom the novel is dedicated. “Action-packed” would be an understatement. Lion of Cairo is overflowing with spies, political intrigues, secret passages, rival sects, murders, assassinations, conspiracies, betrayals, duels and battle, with a helping of necromancy thrown in. It’s also a very dangerous novel to be a character in, as one might expect of a novel with an Assassin as the central character. This is a story in which political backstabbing isn’t a metaphor. The deaths start in the prologue and reach a truly impressive level by the end of the book. Combat scenes are frequent, detailed and graphic; readers who enjoy violent blow-by-blow fight scenes will find Lion of Cairo much to their taste.

The plot is intricately constructed, with several sub-plots that at first appear to be distinct but which cleverly converge to reach a climax at the final battle. The narrative cuts back and forth between sub-plots and different groups of characters, building suspense by always leaving one sub-plot on a cliffhanger when the scene switches to the next. So much is packed into the story that it’s hard to remember that the main events span only a few days.

Although the setting is medieval Cairo in the second half of the twelfth century, and some real historical events and real historical figures are featured, Lion of Cairo has the larger-than-life feel of a tale from the Arabian Nights. Assad’s fearsome knife, called The Hammer of the Infidel, has some evil supernatural power, which Assad himself does not fully understand (although there is a hint that one of the other characters does, and that this may be taken up in the sequel). The leader of the rival assassin sect in Cairo is a necromancer and black magician, who seems to be seeking occult knowledge among the forgotten remains of ancient Egypt.

In the Author’s Note, Scott Oden says “The Cairo presented herein is not the Cairo of history but rather the Cairo of Scheherezade – a city where the fantastic occurs around every corner.” And indeed it does – the city of Cairo is drawn so vividly that it is almost a character in its own right, a teeming metropolis filled with colour, glamour and squalor, where new buildings jostle for space with ruins of unimaginable antiquity, a city filled with the energy of life and with the risk of sudden, violent death. In its variety and vigour it reminds me a little of Terry Pratchett’s Ankh-Morpork, and trust me, that is a compliment.

The ending leaves clear scope for a sequel. There are still plenty of ambitious men with designs on Cairo, and the history of Assad’s mysterious knife is still to be resolved. Not to mention the appearance near the end of a charming and capable young man by the name of Yusuf ibn Ayyub, who (if I have identified him correctly) has an exciting role ahead of him.

Violent, action-packed adventure fantasy full of swords and sorcery, following in the heroic tradition of RE Howard.

28 October, 2010

Soemil of Deira

Soemil was an early king of Deira, a territory occupying part of what is now Yorkshire. Historia Brittonum lists him in the Deiran genealogy, with the addition of a cryptic note that he “separated Deira from Bernicia”, implying some important action or event. What do we know about him?


Historia Brittonum

61. Woden begat Beldeg, Brond begat Siggar, who begat Sibald, who begat Zegulf,
who begat Soemil, who first separated Deur from Berneich (Deira from Bernicia.)
Soemil begat Sguerthing, who begat Giulglis, who begat Ulfrea, who begat Iffi,
who begat Ulli, Edwin
--Historia Brittonum, available online

Anglian Collection genealogies

Woden Frealafing
--Anglian Collection, available online

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Ella was the son of Iff, Iff of Usfrey, Usfrey of Wilgis, Wilgis ofWesterfalcon,
Westerfalcon of Seafowl, Seafowl of Sebbald,Sebbald of Sigeat, Sigeat of Swaddy,
Swaddy of Seagirt, Seagar of
Waddy, Waddy of Woden, Woden of Frithowulf
--Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (entry for year AD 560), available online

The lists are broadly similar, with variations in spelling, but not identical. Brond and Baldaeg in the Historia Brittonum list are replaced by Uegdaeg in the Anglian Collection genealogy. Suebdaeg and Siggot in the Anglian Collection list are missing from the Historia Brittonum list. Sguerthing in the Historia Brittonum list is replaced by Uuesteralcna in the Anglian Collection list. From Uilgils/Giulgils onwards, the two genealogies agree (with variations in spelling).

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle genealogy matches the Anglian Collection genealogy, with variations in spelling, except that Soemil and Saefugul in the Anglian Collection list are replaced by Seafowl in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.



The first king of Deira who can be dated securely is Aelle, father of Eadwine/Edwin. Bede tells us that Aelle was reigning in Deira when St Augustine arrived as a missionary to Kent in 597 (On the Reckoning of Time, Chapter 66 (4557)). Bede also tells us that Aelle was king in Deira when not-yet-Pope Gregory the Great saw some Deiran slave boys for sale in a Roman market and made his famous pun, "not Angles but angels" (Bede, Ecclesiastical History, Book II Ch. 1). This happened before Gregory was appointed Pope in around 590 AD, but after he returned to Rome from Constantinople in around 585 or 586 AD. In an earlier post on ‘Aelle of Deira’, I suggested that Aelle’s reign may have begun around 570 or 575.

Applying the inexact method of counting generations and allowing 25 years per generation, this would place Soemil somewhere around the middle of the fifth century.

‘First separated Deur from Berneich’

The meaning of this intriguing statement is not certain. We can probably be confident that whoever compiled Historia Brittonum, or its source material, thought that this action of Soemil’s was sufficiently important to be worth recording. Moreover, it is the only deed listed for any of the kings between Woden and Edwin, which suggests that it was considered very important indeed.

The kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia were combined, separated and recombined several times during the seventh century, as recorded in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History. The two kingdoms were separate before Aethelferth of Bernicia annexed Deira; I have argued elsewhere that this probably happened in about 605 (see ‘Dating the annexation of Deira’ for the rationale). Aethelferth ruled both kingdoms until his death in battle in 617, after which Eadwine son of Aelle ruled both kingdoms until his death in battle in 633. In 633/634 the two kingdoms were separated, with Deira ruled by Osric (son of Aelle’s brother Aelfric) and Bernicia by Eanferth son of Aethelferth; both were killed within a year. From 634 to 642, both kingdoms were united again under Oswald son of Aethelferth. After Oswald’s death in battle in 642, his brother Oswy ruled Bernicia and Oswine son of Osric ruled in Deira until Oswy had him murdered in 651 (yes, being a king in early medieval Britain was a dangerous job). If the compiler of Historia Brittonum was familiar with this to-and-fro, Soemil’s ‘separation of Deur from Berneich’ may have been seen as Round One in a long-lived dispute.

The founder figure for the dynasty of Bernicia was Ida, whom Bede says began his reign in 547 (Bede, Ecclesiastical History, Book V Ch. 24). At first sight this is a puzzle; if Ida did not found the kingdom of Bernicia until 547, how could Soemil have separated Deira from it a century earlier?

Two possibilities come to mind (besides the prosaic ones that the names or dates are wrong, or that the entry is fictional):

  • Bernicia (or what was to become Bernicia) was in existence before Ida’s reign, and controlled the territory that was to become Deira;

  • Soemil separated Deira (or what was to become Deira) from some political entity other than Bernicia, and the Historia Brittonum chronicler misunderstood or misinterpreted his source.

Although Bede is clear that Ida founded the Bernician (later Northumbrian) royal dynasty, that is not necessarily the same thing as founding the kingdom of Bernicia itself. The name Berneich or Bernicia is of uncertain origin and does not appear to be an Old English name. There seems no reason why the kingdom of Bernicia could not have been in existence, perhaps for some time, before Ida came on the scene. Historia Brittonum provides some support for this in another cryptic remark, saying that Ida united the fortress of Dynguayth with Berneich:

Ida, the son of Eoppa, possessed countries on the left-hand side of
i.e. of the Humbrian sea, and reigned twelve years, and united

--Historia Brittonum, ch. 61, available online

Dynguayth refers to the site of modern Bamburgh, which the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says that Ida fortified by surrounding it first with a hedge and then with a wall (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, entry for 547). The statement that Ida “united” his fortress with Berneich is consistent with Berneich/Bernicia being a kingdom that already existed at the time. If this is the case, there is no indication of when it was founded, and therefore no reason why a kingdom of that name could not also have been in existence in Soemil’s (approximate) period in the mid-fifth century. Such a mid-fifth-century Bernicia would have had to be much larger than the later kingdom of Bernicia, if it controlled the area that later became Deira, but it is quite possible that kingdoms could have varied in size over time as political units consolidated or fragmented.

The second possibility is that Deira in the mid-fifth-century was subject to some other political authority, to which the compiler of Historia Brittonum applied the familiar name Bernicia. Given the date, only a few decades after the Rescript of Honorius telling the inhabitants of Roman Britain to look to their own defences, and the location of Deira, a short distance east of the major Roman fortress of York, a likely candidate for such a political authority would be whatever continued or succeeded the Roman government based at York.

Very little is known about post-Roman York (more about this in a later post). However, if some sort of local or regional government continued in York after the end of official Roman administration, that would be consistent with post-Roman activity observed by archaeology in other Roman cities (see post on Wroxeter) or Roman forts (see post on Birdoswald) in Britain. If Soemil of Deira was subject to a post-Roman ruler based in York and gained independence from his overlord, this might well have been considered worth remembering. By the time Historia Brittonum was compiled in 830 or so, York was under the control of Northumbrian kings of Bernician descent, and in ch. 50 of Historia Brittonum, Ida is described as “the first king in Bernicia, and in Cair Ebrauc (York).”. This is unlikely to be literally true since Bede, who was in a position to know a lot about Northumbrian history, doesn’t refer to Ida in connection with York. It may indicate that the compiler of Historia Brittonum considered that anyone who was a king in York would also be a king of Bernicia (as was the case in the early ninth century when he was writing). In this context, a rebellion against a previous authority based in York could be described as having “first separated Deira from Berneich”. Indeed, since there are no contemporary records of fifth-century names, any such post-Roman political entity based in York might even have been called Berneich for all we know (although something based on the Roman name Eboracum or its Brittonic equivalent Caer Ebrauc might seem more likely). If it was a polity covering most or all of the territory controlled by the Roman Dux Britanniarum, it would have extended from York to Hadrian’s Wall and could have taken a name equally easily from anywhere in the region.

The most famous account of a rebellion by an English leader against a post-Roman British overlord at some time around the middle of the fifth century is of course the tale of Hengest’s revolt against his employer Vortigern. Variations of the story are told in Bede, Gildas, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Historia Brittonum. Briefly, Vortigern was a ruler of part or all of Britain after the end of Roman administration, and hired Germanic mercenaries led by Hengest to protect Britain from the Picts in exchange for grants of land and regular pay. Hengest’s troops defeated the Picts, demanded more cash and more land (obtaining Kent, Essex and Sussex by treaty from Vortigern), sent for friends and relatives to join them in Britain, then rebelled, murdered many of the British leaders (but not Vortigern), and plundered large areas of Britain in a destructive raid. Bede dates these events to the middle of the fifth century (Book I, Ch. 15; he gives the initial arrival of Hengest as AD 449, but the sequence clearly took place over an extended period).

The coincidence in approximate dates raises the intriguing possibility that Soemil in Deira might also have been a captain of English federate troops, who was hired under similar terms to Hengest and who rebelled at the same time. This is the sort of thing that might well have been remembered in oral tradition, perhaps hazily as time went on, to be written down centuries later as a cryptic note in Historia Brittonum. I need hardly say that this interpretation is speculative.

Speculating further, it may be noteworthy that the genealogies disagree about Soemil’s immediate successor. The Anglian Collection and Anglo-Saxon Chronicle give the name of Soemil’s successor as Uuesteralcna or Westerfalcon, Historia Brittonum says it was Sguerthing. Furthermore, in all the genealogies there is a change from the succession of S- names up to and including Soemil to a succession of names beginning with a vowel (W = uu). This change happens immediately after Soemil in two of the genealogies, and after his successor in the other, and is consistent with (but does not prove) a change of dynasty, from a family that favoured names beginning with S- to a different family that favoured names beginning with a vowel. Possibly there were different family factions among the Deiran aristocracy in the mid-fifth century, and possibly Soemil’s ‘separation of Deira from Berneich’ ended up having adverse consequences for his faction or family. If the ‘separation’ turned out to be temporary, perhaps Soemil’s faction was displaced by a rival group when it was reversed. Or if the ‘separation’ involved breaking the terms of a treaty or agreement, perhaps a rival faction disagreed and took the opposing side.

From the single line in Historia Brittonum and the genealogies, we can reasonably infer that Soemil lived some time around the middle of the fifth century, and that he was remembered for gaining independence for Deira from some other political entity. What that entity was, whether Soemil’s independence from it was temporary or permanent, how it was achieved, what its consequences were, and whether it had any connection with the more famous and roughly contemporary rebellion of Hengest against Vortigern, are open to question.


Anglian Collection, available online
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, available online
Bede. Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Translated by Leo Sherley-Price, Penguin Classics, 1968, ISBN 0-14-044565-X
Bede, The Reckoning of Time. Translated by Faith Wallis. Liverpool University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-85323-693-3.
Historia Brittonum, available online

Map links


19 October, 2010

Elizabeth. Captive Princess, by Margaret Irwin. Book review

First published 1948. Edition reviewed, Sourcebooks 2010, ISBN , 323 pages. Uncorrected advance review copy kindly supplied by publisher.

Elizabeth, Captive Princess is the sequel to Young Bess, which I reviewed in March this year. It covers the years from 1553 to 1555, when Elizabeth was aged 19 to 21. All the main characters are historical figures.

In July 1553, Elizabeth receives a touching message summoning her to visit her dying younger brother, King Edward VI. But her political instinct, finely honed during her turbulent childhood and adolescence, warns her of imminent danger. The Regent, John Dudley Duke of Northumberland, wants to rule England through his young daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey, and to do so he will have to imprison and/or execute both Elizabeth and her elder sister Mary. As Mary and Duke Dudley struggle for the throne, Elizabeth is in grave danger from both sides. Even when Mary successfully secures the throne, Elizabeth’s peril is no less, as her popularity attracts Mary’s jealousy and makes her (willingly or otherwise) a focal point for dissenters and rebels. As Mary’s suspicions of her grow, Elizabeth will need all her intelligence and political ability if she is to avoid her mother’s fate on the block.

This is the second in Margaret Irwin’s trilogy of novels about Elizabeth I. I read and greatly enjoyed the trilogy years ago, and am pleased to see the novels back in print. The writing has a freshness and vivacity that doesn’t pall with time, or with any number of re-readings. No matter how well the modern reader knows the outcome, no-one at the time knew what would happen, and Elizabeth, Captive Princess brilliantly captures the uncertainty and the dizzying speed of events. This is particularly true of the crammed nine days of Jane Grey’s brief reign, which covers the first third of the novel.

As with Young Bess, the characterisation is splendid. Elizabeth’s cleverness and charisma, her unpredictability, her courage, her quick wits and shrewd judgment, all leap to life on the page. It is easy to see how she alternately exasperated and charmed those who had to deal with her, and to admire her remarkable skill in treading a dangerous path with hardly a wrong step – a skill that would stand her in good stead in her later career.

The other people in the story are no less individual, with their characters revealed through their actions and words as well as by others’ assessments of them. Although their lives touch Elizabeth’s – difficult not to, for anyone involved in English high politics in the mid 1550s – they are the chief actors in their own dramas, not bit-players in hers. All have their own ambitions and failings, their own past history and their own hopes for the future. Even while admiring Elizabeth, the reader can still respect Mary, who begins her reign with courage, bright optimism and honest good intentions, can feel for scholarly Jane Grey earnestly trying to puzzle out right and wrong among the brutal contradictions and compromises of power politics, and can sympathise with all three as they are pushed into deadly conflicts with each other that are not of their making or desire. Even the minor characters, like Elizabeth’s ex-tutor Roger Ascham, now a would-be diplomat and courtier, and homely Doctor Turner, are individuals following their own paths as best they can.

The rapid political and religious reversals of the 1550s form the background to the novel, and there is a real sense of a time of bewildering and yet also exhilarating social change. For those with nerve, ability, energy and luck new opportunities were opening up; but for those caught on the wrong side of change the consequences could be unpleasant, even fatal.

Elizabeth has an instinctive understanding of and empathy for other people. Unlike Jane Grey and Mary Tudor, both of whom are concerned with absolute right – and absolutely convinced that they are right - Elizabeth recognises and accepts the complexity and contradictions in English society. Her concern is not to eliminate differences of opinion, but to manage them so that disparate people can get on with their own lives more or less in harmony, or at any rate with a minimum of destructive conflict.

Vivid, powerful portrayal of Tudor England and the people who shaped it.

17 October, 2010

October recipe: Apple cakes

You can make these cakes with eating apples or with cooking apples, according to taste and availability.

Apple cakes (makes about 12)

2 oz (approx 50 g) butter
2 oz (approx 50 g) light brown soft sugar
1 egg
4 oz (approx 100 g) self-raising flour
1 tsp (1 x 5 ml spoon) ground mixed spice or ground cinnamon (optional)
3-4 oz (approx 75-100 g) apples (weight after peeling and coring)

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the beaten egg.

Stir in the flour and spice (if using).

Peel and core the apples. Grate or chop finely. Stir the chopped/grated apples into the cake mixture.

Put spoonfuls of the mixture into greased bun tins. It doesn’t spread much during cooking, so you can fill the tins quite full. I usually get about 12 buns out of the mix.

Bake in a moderately hot oven about 180 C, until set and golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack.

Keeps for a week in an airtight tin, or can be frozen.

13 October, 2010

Gleann Bianasdail

Way back in January I posted some photographs of the Enchanted Woods of Loch Maree. The next stage of the walk takes you into lovely Gleann Bianasdail (yes, it has taken me a long time to get around to posting the next photos; life is like that). For a location map, click here.

Over the course of its 4-5 km length (approximately 3 miles or so), Gleann Bianasdail falls from about 320 m altitude (approximately 1000 feet) at the shores of Lochan Fada (“the long lochan”) to near enough sea level on the shore of Loch Maree. Most of the rock in the glen is Torridonian sandstone, a handsome red-purple sedimentary rock laid down in thick strata around 1000 million years ago. Still more or less horizontal, the strata form a series of terraces, with the river sweeping from side to side around sandstone walls...

.... or leaping down the terraces in a succession of sparkling waterfalls...

....sometimes carving a steep-walled miniature gorge....

.... until the waterfalls give way to rapids in the flatter terrain at the foot of the glen

View downstream from the footbridge across the river at the foot of Gleann Bianasdail

06 October, 2010

Helmet acoustics: a definitive answer from King Raedwald

King Raedwald at Sutton Hoo

A few months ago, the subject of the acoustic effects of full-face helmets came up in a discussion thread here (scroll down to the last few comments). I mentioned a TV documentary on the Sutton Hoo helmet, in which someone from the British Museum said that the replica helmet gave the wearer’s voice an impressive booming, echoing quality. We immediately wondered if this was true, and if so, whether it applied to other designs of helmet or was some unique property of the Sutton Hoo helmet.

Elizabeth Chadwick kindly posted a query for me on the Regia Anglorum re-enactors’ society email forum. I don’t have permission to post the responses, but in summary the consensus of the replies was ‘no’. None of the respondents thought that a face-covering helmet did anything to the wearer’s voice except perhaps to muffle it.

I can now give a definitive answer to the question, at least for the Sutton Hoo helmet, courtesy of King Raedwald himself (or, more correctly, his 21st-century alter ego). King Raedwald, or whoever was buried in the Mound 1 ship burial (see earlier post for discussion of the likely candidates), makes occasional appearances at Sutton Hoo when there are special events on. I was fortunate enough to meet him a couple of weeks ago, as the King had read and enjoyed Paths of Exile and had expressed an interest in meeting me.

As you can see from the photograph, King Raedwald looks immensely impressive. The helmet is particularly dramatic in sunlight, although the camera hasn’t fully caught the glitter and sparkle.

Close up of the replica Sutton Hoo helmet

The King also sounded very impressive when declaiming to the assembled multitude. I shouldn’t think he would have any difficulty in making himself heard across a battlefield. However, I think that was due to the King himself and not to any acoustic property of the helmet. When talking to the King later, his voice sounded similar whether he was wearing the helmet or not. I noticed a slightly disconcerting visual effect, in that when he was talking to me wearing the helmet I automatically expected the mouth to move in line with the spoken words, and of course it doesn’t. I imagine this discrepancy between audio and visual signals could have a slightly disquieting effect, but only on a listener who was close enough to see the helmet in detail.

King Raedwald very kindly let me try the replica helmet on, and my voice didn’t sound noticeably different to me. This suggests to me that the helmet has little effect on the wearer’s perception of their own voice, although it’s possible that a female voice may be in the wrong frequency range.

It appears that the Sutton Hoo helmet as currently reconstructed does not have any dramatic acoustic effects on the wearer’s voice, either as perceived by other people or as perceived by the wearer. The King suggested that the TV programme might have been referring to Rupert Bruce-Mitford’s comments on the earlier reconstruction of the helmet made in the 1970s. That version of the helmet was larger than the current reconstruction and could perhaps have had different resonance effects. Another possibility was raised by one of the people who replied on the Regia Anglorum forum, who suggested that some helmets make the wearer feel more important, which in turn could alter how the wearer projects their voice. Looking at the replica helmet, it’s easy to see how it could make its wearer feel like a king.

29 September, 2010

King Arthur: The Bloody Cup, by MK Hume. Book review

Headline, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7553-4871-8. 526 pages. Review copy supplied by publisher.

Set in post-Roman Britain some time in the fifth or sixth century, King Arthur: The Bloody Cup is the third part of a trilogy retelling the Arthurian legend. Many of the main characters are familiar figures from the legends, including Artor (King Arthur), Wenhaver (Guinevere), Gawayne (Sir Gawain), Percivale (Sir Percival), Galahad, Bedwyr (Sir Bedivere), Nimue, Artor’s half-sisters Morgan and Morgause, and Morgause’s son Modred (Mordred). Other characters are fictional, such as Artor’s bodyguard Odin and spy chief Gruffydd, and the villains Pebr and Gronw.

Artor has ruled as High King of Britain from his citadel on Cadbury Tor for many years and is now growing old. He has no legitimate heir as his wife Wenhaver is barren, and his court has grown corrupt and decadent. Artor’s enemies sense that he is growing weak. Three mysterious figures hatch a plot to steal the sacred cup once owned by the saintly Bishop Lucius of Glastonbury, claim that it once belonged to the goddess Ceridwen and use it as a symbol to provoke a rebellion against Artor. The struggle for possession of the cup, and a mysterious spear, threatens Artor’s friends, his kingdom and his life.

I reviewed the previous book in the series, King Arthur: Warrior of the West, in January 2010, and concluded then that it wasn’t for me. The publishers sent me a copy of the third instalment without asking first, and I read it partly out of curiosity to see if the loose ends from Book Two were resolved and partly to see if I got on better with the style on further acquaintance. The answers are ‘sort of’ and ‘no’, respectively. This is still not a series for me.

On the plus side, it was quite fun to spot bits of the medieval legends – e.g. the Trystan-Isolde-King Mark love triangle makes a brief appearance, transplanted to north-east Wales instead of the traditional Cornwall – and the steady attrition of Artor’s friends and potential heirs has a certain poignancy. On the other hand, the corruption and decadence of Artor’s court is so strongly emphasised that it is not obvious why the reader is supposed to be worried when it is threatened. If Artor’s court is full of lies, vanity and backbiting courtiers trying to stab each other in the back while living in the lap of decadent luxury, it’s hard to suppress a niggling thought that a different set up might not be noticeably worse. The tragic grandeur of the Arthurian legend – a good king brought down by lesser men and by his own flaws – seemed to me to be missing from this retelling.

However, the main reason I did not get on with the novel was the same as last time; I found the writing style reminiscent of academic prose. Maybe the intention is to create an archaic flavour (although modern slang such as “gumption”, “sodding thing”, “shite” tends to work against this), but to me it seemed lifeless, especially the dialogue. People speak in grammatically correct complete sentences even when being tortured or when mortally wounded, and everyone sounds much the same.

Place names are a mix of Roman names, e.g. Ratae (modern Leicester), Verterae (modern Brough, Cumbria), and modern names with Old English elements, e.g. Glastonbury, Cadbury. If there is a pattern to the mix it wasn’t clear to me. Similarly, although the ‘Saxons’ are treated throughout as an utterly alien enemy to Artor’s realm (they don’t make an on-stage appearance), some of the characters in Artor’s kingdom have Old English names, such as the saintly Bishop Aethelthred* the Pure of Glastonbury. This struck me as potentially intriguing; does the presence of Old English names indicate that some ‘Saxons’ were acceptable in Artor’s realm, implying a degree of co-operation or integration, and if so, how is this reconciled with the fact that everyone at Artor’s court apparently regards the ‘Saxons’ as the enemy? Was Bishop Aethelthred a ‘Saxon’ immigrant, and if so how did he come to be the revered head of the greatest Christian monastery in Artor’s realm? As far as I could see this was never touched on, unless I missed it somehow, and it contributed to a general impression of unreality about the setting. This perhaps doesn’t matter, since the medieval Arthurian legends are set in a ‘once-upon-a-time’ setting, and this novel is perhaps best read in the same light.

A partial character list at the front of the book helps with keeping some of the large cast straight, and is especially useful for characters who played a role in the earlier books but who are now dead. However, not everyone is listed (e.g. Taliesin and Modred are missing, as are the villains Gronw and Pebr), so I still had to jot down notes. A glossary of place names at the back of the book matches some of the place names in the novel with their modern equivalents, but it is incomplete – I got confused between Salinae and Salinae Minor and looked in the glossary for clarification, but only Salinae is listed. Readers who like to follow the characters’ journeys on a modern map may find they have to keep notes.

Final part of a trilogy retelling the Arthurian legends, but not a book for me.

*I’m not sure if this is a typo for Aethelred, as Aethelthred or Aethelthryth was a female name, or if I have missed something subtle.

22 September, 2010

Kings of Lindsey

Lindsey was an early medieval kingdom south of the Humber estuary, in roughly the area of north Lincolnshire. See sketch map for approximate location. The name was recorded by Bede in his Ecclesiastical History, written in 731, as ‘prouinciae Lindissi’ or ‘the province of Lindsey’ (Book II Ch. 16). What do we know about its rulers?



The genealogy of the kings of Lindsey is given in the Anglian Collection, as follows:

Godwulf Geating
--Anglian Collection genealogies, available online

Each king is given a patronymic derived from the name of his predecessor, e.g. Finn Godwulfing, Frithulf Finning, and so on. (I have missed the patronymics out of the list above for ease of reading). Presumably whoever compiled the genealogy believed, or wished to indicate, father-to-son succession. This may have been accurate, or it may result from a scribe misinterpreting a king list as a genealogy, or a bit of both.

Place name

There is a village called Winteringham, which could mean ‘settlement of the followers of Winta’, on the south shore of the Humber estuary, near the Roman road of Ermine Street. Naturally, even if the place name is derived from the personal name Winta, it need not be the same Winta as the one listed in the kings’ genealogy. However, it may indicate a person of some authority with the right name in the right area, and is thus consistent with the genealogy.


Bede does not mention any kings of Lindsey by name. In his Ecclesiastical History he describes Paulinus, Bishop of Northumbria in 625-633, baptising the ‘prefect’ of the city of Lindocolina (modern Lincoln) and conducting a mass baptism in the River Trent in the presence of King Eadwine (Edwin) of Deira/Northumbria.

Paulinus also preached the word of God to the province of Lindsey, which lies immediately south of the Humber and extends to the sea. His first convert was Blaecca, Reeve of the city of Lincoln, with all his family.
The priest Deda […] told me that one of the oldest inhabitants had described to him how he and many others had been baptised by Paulinus in the presence of King Edwin, and how the ceremony took place at noon in the River Trent…
--Bede, Ecclesiastical History, Book II Ch. 16.

This may suggest that the king of Northumbria had some political authority in Lindsey at this period, since the Northumbrian bishop was active in Lindsey. The nature of the relationship is uncertain; it may represent Northumbrian dominance over Lindsey, or a friendly relationship with the new bishop of Northumbria ministering to an allied neighbouring territory that did not (yet) have a bishop of its own.

At a slightly later period there is clear evidence of hostility and Northumbrian dominance, when the monks of Bardney in Lindsey initially refused to allow (some of) the bones of King Oswald of Northumbria to be buried there after his death in 642.

In the province of Lindsey there is a noble monastery called Beardaneu, which was greatly loved, favoured and enriched by the queen [Osthryth, daughter of Oswy of Northumbria and thus Oswald’s niece] and her husband Ethelred [of Mercia]. She wished that the honoured bones of her uncle be reinterred there. But when the waggon carrying the bones arrived towards evening at the abbey, the monks were reluctant to admit it; for although they acknowledged Oswald’s holiness, they were influenced by old prejudices against him even after his death, because he originally came from a different province and had ruled them as an alien king.
--Bede, Ecclesiastical History Book III Ch. 11



None of the names in the Lindsey kings’ genealogy appear in other sources, so none of them can be independently dated. There may be a couple of slight clues:

  • Biscop = ‘bishop’, and this is a name that is perhaps most likely to have been given after the kingdom’s conversion to Christianity. If so, this would suggest a date some time after Paulinus made his ‘first convert’. The chapter in Bede’s history describing Paulinus’ activity in Lindsey is headed AD 628. As Paulinus came to Northumbria in 625 with Eadwine’s Kentish wife Aethelburh (Bede, Book II Ch. 9), and left Northumbria for good after Eadwine’s death in October 633 (Bede Book II Ch. 20), his activity in Lindsey must fall between these dates even if he made more than one visit. This would place Biscop somewhere after this period.

  • Paulinus’ first convert held a position of authority in the city of Lincoln. Bede describes him as a ‘prefect’, and Leo Sherley-Price translates this as ‘reeve’. He was clearly a person of considerable importance. His name was Blaecca, according to Bede, which alliterates with the names Beda and Bubba in the genealogy. If he was related to these kings, that would be consistent with (but is not proved by) the name alliteration and his position of authority. This would be consistent with dating the B- kings to a period not too far from 625-633, which would also be consistent with the tentative dating for Biscop suggested above.

If we assign Beda, Bubba and Biscop to somewhere around the middle two quarters of the seventh century, at and after Paulinus’ activity in Lindsey, then the admittedly inexact method of counting generations would place their immediate predecessor Caedbaed somewhere in the early seventh century*, Winta somewhere in the early sixth century, and the last name in the list somewhere around the mid-eighth century. It should go without saying that this is very tentative.


Caedbaed contains the common Brittonic name element Cad- or Caed-, meaning ‘battle’. If the name is genuine and represents a genuine ruler of Lindsey, it may indicate Brittonic familial or political connections.

The Bardney incident tells us that Oswald held royal authority over Lindsey, or at least the monks of Bardney considered that he did and resented him for it. Yet we have a separate list of Kings of Lindsey in the Anglian Collection genealogies. How to reconcile these? Three possibilities come to mind:

  • All the kings in the genealogy ruled before the time of King Oswald (and perhaps before his predecessor King Edwin). Since we don’t know the dates of any of the kings in the list, this is possible. However, even if we disregard Woden and the preceding names as mythological, there are 11 names in the list, which is rather a lot to get through before the 620s or 630s;

  • Oswald (and perhaps Edwin) represent an interruption to the rule of Lindsey’s own kings, perhaps reflecting a temporary period of military conquest. This would be consistent with the monks’ hostility to Oswald;

  • Lindsey was at least temporarily a sub-kingdom or client kingdom under the political authority of the Northumbrian kings – voluntarily or by coercion – but retaining a line of sub-kings or client kings of its own.

If Lindsey was (temporarily?) a sub-kingdom of Northumbria, with its own kings who were subject to some degree of political control from the Northumbrian kings, this would be consistent both with Bede’s mention of Northumbrian authority in Lindsey and with the presence of a genealogy for kings of Lindsey. There is no particular reason why a line of sub-kings or client kings could not have continued for several generations under foreign overlordship. Or if the genealogy is in fact a king-list, some or all of the names on it may represent a succession of client kings installed by an over-king. If Lindsey’s status as a sub-kingdom was based partly or wholly on force or threat, rather than voluntary alliance, this would also be consistent with the resentment displayed by the monks of Bardney.

The hostile reaction of the monks at Bardney to King Oswald’s body suggests a strong and definite dislike. This could have been a personal objection to King Oswald himself as a result of some real or perceived insult or injury. However, Bede says that the monks objected to him because he came from a different province and had ruled them as an alien king. Since the monks’ hostility to Oswald was purely territorial according to Bede, it is a reasonable inference that the same attitude would have applied to any Northumbrian king ruling over them. (Caveat that Bede was a Northumbrian himself and a great admirer of King Oswald, so if Oswald had committed some injustice against Lindsey or the Bardney monastery it is possible that Bede might have chosen not to mention it). How far the opinion held by the monks of Bardney was representative of the rest of Lindsey’s population is unknown.

It is worth noting that the monks of Bardney evidently felt confident that they could snub Oswald (and the wishes of Oswald’s niece, Osthryth) without fear of catastrophic reprisals. This is consistent with the incident having occurred shortly after Oswald’s death in 642, when Northumbrian power would have been severely weakened by his defeat. Given that Oswald had been killed in battle by the Mercian king Penda, it is possible that the monks of Bardney were siding publicly with Mercia by insulting the Mercians’ defeated opponent. This could reflect straightforward pragmatism, since Mercian power would have been in the ascendancy in the Midlands region after Penda’s victory over Oswald, and it is usually good politics to be in favour with the winning side. Or it may reflect a preference for the Mercian kings over the Northumbrian kings. Lindsey eventually ended up as part of the later kingdom of Mercia.

The limited evidence seems to me to be consistent with a picture of Lindsey as a client kingdom with its own line of kings but subject to Northumbrian political authority in the early to mid seventh century. If the attitude of the monks of Bardney is representative, Northumbrian political authority over Lindsey may have been obtained by force or threat and resented in Lindsey. As usual, other interpretations are possible.


Anglian Collection genealogies, available online
Bede. Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Translated by Leo Sherley-Price, Penguin Classics, 1968, ISBN 0-14-044565-X

Map links
Winteringham (scroll south to pick up the line of Ermine Street on the map)

*In Paths of Exile I made Caedbaed of Lindsey an older contemporary of Eadwine, ruling in Lindsey in 605 AD. This is the rationale.