(c. 659—689) king of the Gewisse

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Was a great-great-grandson of king Ceawlin and the son of Cenberht (whom the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 661 described as king, i.e. a sub-king). His reign was brief and eventful. He was born c.659 and was therefore twenty-six when he forced Centwine from the throne in 685; the Celtic-sounding name suggests that his mother may have been a British princess. His wife was Cynethryth. Before he gained the throne, he had spent some time in exile in the Chilterns and the Sussex weald, where he had met and been befriended by bishop Wilfrid, though he remained a pagan. He and his brother Mul campaigned against the men of Kent and Sussex, killing Aethelwald, king of the South Saxons, c.680, and taking the Isle of Wight (686), where they killed the last king and his two brothers. Bede recorded, with some satisfaction, that Caedwalla ‘endeavoured to wipe out all the natives by merciless slaughter’, in order to replace them by Christians. When his brother was captured and burned by the men of Kent, Caedwalla returned to devastate the kingdom and avenge his death. Suddenly there was a dramatic change of heart, perhaps brought about by the onset of illness. In 688 he abdicated in favour of a kinsman, Ine, and journeyed to Rome. In a long and detailed passage, Bede related that Caedwalla was baptized by pope Sergius, took the name Peter, but survived only seven days, dying 20 April 689. He was buried in St Peter's.

Subjects: British History.

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