Emperor of All Britain: Oswy and his Hegemony (642–70)

James E. Fraser

in From Caledonia to Pictland Scotland to 795

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780748612314
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748672158 | DOI:
Emperor of All Britain: Oswy and his Hegemony (642–70)

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Oswy son of Aeðilfrith became king of the Bernician superpower after his brother Oswald was slain by the forces of the pagan Mercian king Penda on 5 August 642. Like his brother, Oswy was thirty when the kingship passed to him. Unlike Oswald, he held it for more than twenty-seven years, dying peacefully at the age of just fifty-eight in February 670. Both the length of his reign and the non-violence of his death are remarkable for a seventh-century king of the Northumbrian English. In fact Oswy was one of the most successful kings in all of British history. It seems to have been he, and not his brother as Bede later wrote, who brought the four nationes of Britain under his sway in any meaningful sense. It was also he who established the Aeðilfrithing dynasty as permanent overlords of the Deirans, paving the way for the union of the regnum Nordanhymbrorum, the superpower kingdom of the Northumbrians.

Keywords: Bernician king; Northumbria; Britain; Aeðilfrithing dynasty; regnum Nordanhymbrorum

Chapter.  9910 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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