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Raedwald

(c. 546—621) king of the East Angles


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The most famous of East Anglian kings, is said by Bede to have been the son of Tytil and grandson of Wuffa; the dynasty was hence known as the Wuffingas. He is placed as fourth in the line of bretwaldas of southern Britain, and though that probably overstates his authority, it indicates that East Anglia's period of influence came early. His reign can be dated roughly, since Bede related that he gave refuge to Edwin, and helped him to recover Northumbria by defeating Aethelfrith at the battle of the river Idle, c.616. Raedwald's son, Regenshere, was killed in the victory, which suggests that Raedwald must by then have been middle-aged or elderly. Bede complained that though Raedwald had been converted to Christianity in Kent, he had subsequently reneged, erecting altars to both faiths, ‘so that his last state was worse than his first’. His date of death is not known, but was probably soon after his great victory, and certainly before 627. His burial place is uncertain, but it has plausibly been argued that he was the great king for whom the elaborate and remarkable ship-burial at Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge, was prepared. If the Merovingian coins found there can correctly be dated no later than 625, the possibility seems very strong.

Sutton Hoo Helmet. This remarkable iron helmet, found at Sutton Hoo in 1939, shows strong Scandinavian influence. The burial was probably of Raedwald, king of the East Angles, c.625. Source: © The Trustees of the British Museum

Subjects: British History.


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