Son of Aethelric, became king of Bernicia in 593 and added the neighbouring kingdom of Deira. His first wife was Bebba; the second was Acha, daughter of Aelle, king of Deira, by whom he had seven sons and a daughter, Aebbe, who founded the monastery at Coldingham. Bede described him as ‘a very brave king and most eager for glory … for no ruler or king had subjected more land to the English race or settled it, having first exterminated or conquered the natives’. He defeated the north Britons at Catterick c.600, a disaster recorded in Welsh annals by Aneirin in The Gododdin, and in 603 won a crushing victory over Aedán mac Gabhráin, king of Dál Riata, at Degsastán, probably in Liddesdale. Towards the end of his life he is said to have inflicted a severe defeat on the Britons at Chester. Not surprisingly, references in the Welsh annals are unflattering, and he is called Aethelfrith the Artful. In c.616 he was himself defeated and killed at the battle of the river Idle by Raedwald of the East Angles, who was supporting the claims of Edwin, fugitive claimant to the throne of Deira.
Subjects: British History.