Bernicia

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Kingdom of Bernicia

Beornice
6th century–654
Capital Bamburgh
Common languages Old English, Cumbric
GovernmentMonarchy
Historical era Early Medieval
 Established
6th century
 Shared crown with Deira
604
 merged with Deira
654
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Sub-Roman Britain
Northumbria Blank.png
Today part ofFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Flag of England.svg England
Flag of Scotland.svg Scotland

Bernicia (Old English: Bernice, Bryneich, Beornice; Latin: Bernicia) was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom established by Anglian settlers of the 6th century in what is now southeastern Scotland and North East England.

Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest historical form of the English language, spoken in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages. It was brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers probably in the mid-5th century, and the first Old English literary works date from the mid-7th century. After the Norman conquest of 1066, English was replaced, for a time, as the language of the upper classes by Anglo-Norman, a relative of French. This is regarded as marking the end of the Old English era, as during this period the English language was heavily influenced by Anglo-Norman, developing into a phase known now as Middle English.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Anglo-Saxons Germanic tribes who started to inhabit parts of Great Britain from the 5th century onwards

The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th century. They comprise people from Germanic tribes who migrated to the island from continental Europe, their descendants, and indigenous British groups who adopted many aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture and language; the cultural foundations laid by the Anglo-Saxons are the foundation of the modern English legal system and of many aspects of English society; the modern English language owes over half its words – including the most common words of everyday speech – to the language of the Anglo-Saxons. Historically, the Anglo-Saxon period denotes the period in Britain between about 450 and 1066, after their initial settlement and up until the Norman conquest. The early Anglo-Saxon period includes the creation of an English nation, with many of the aspects that survive today, including regional government of shires and hundreds. During this period, Christianity was established and there was a flowering of literature and language. Charters and law were also established. The term Anglo-Saxon is popularly used for the language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons in England and eastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century. In scholarly use, it is more commonly called Old English.

Contents

The Anglian territory of Bernicia was approximately equivalent to the modern English counties of Northumberland and Durham, and the Scottish counties of Berwickshire and East Lothian, stretching from the Forth to the Tees. In the early 7th century, it merged with its southern neighbour, Deira, to form the kingdom of Northumbria and its borders subsequently expanded considerably.

Northumberland County of England

Northumberland is a unitary authority and a Historic county in North East England. The northernmost county of England, The unitary authority borders Cumbria to the west, County Durham and Tyne and Wear to the south and the Scottish Borders to the north. To the east is the North Sea coastline with a path 103 kilometres (64 mi) long. The county town is Alnwick, although the county council is based in Morpeth.

County Durham County of England

County Durham is a county in North East England. The county town is Durham, a cathedral city. The largest settlement is Darlington, closely followed by Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees. It borders Tyne and Wear to the north east, Northumberland to the north, Cumbria to the west and North Yorkshire to the south. The county's historic boundaries stretch between the rivers Tyne and Tees, thus including places such as Gateshead, Jarrow, South Shields and Sunderland.

Berwickshire Historic county in Scotland

Berwickshire is a historic county, registration county and lieutenancy area in the Scottish Borders. It takes its name from Berwick-upon-Tweed, which was part of Scotland at the time of the county's formation, but became part of England in 1482 after several centuries of being fought over and swapping back and forth between the two kingdoms.

Brittonic Bryneich

Y Hen Gogledd or "The Old North" Yr.Hen.Ogledd.550.650.Koch.jpg
Y Hen Gogledd or "The Old North"

Etymologies

Bernicia occurs in Old Welsh poetry as Bryneich or Brynaich and in the 9th-century Historia Brittonum , (§ 61) as Berneich or Birneich. This was most likely the name of the native Brittonic kingdom, whose name was then adopted by the Anglian settlers who rendered it in Old English as Bernice or Beornice. The counter hypothesis suggesting these names represent a Brythonic adaption of an earlier English form is considered less probable.

Old Welsh is the label attached to the Welsh language from about 800 AD until the early 12th century when it developed into Middle Welsh. The preceding period, from the time Welsh became distinct from Common Brittonic around 550, has been called "Primitive" or "Archaic Welsh".

The History of the Britons is a purported history of the indigenous British (Brittonic) people that was written around 828 and survives in numerous recensions that date from after the 11th century. The Historia Brittonum is commonly attributed to Nennius, as some recensions have a preface written in his name. Some experts have dismissed the Nennian preface as a late forgery, arguing that the work was actually an anonymous compilation.

Common Brittonic was an ancient Celtic language spoken in Britain. It is also variously known as Old Brittonic, British, and Common or Old Brythonic. By the sixth century AD, this language of the Celtic Britons had split into the various Neo-Brittonic languages: Welsh, Cumbric, Cornish, Breton and probably the Pictish language.

Local linguistic evidence suggests continued political activity in the area before the arrival of the Angles. Important Anglian centres in Bernicia bear names of British origin, or are known by British names elsewhere: Bamburgh is called Din Guaire in the Historia Brittonum; Dunbar (where Saint Wilfrid was once imprisoned) represents Dinbaer; and the name of Coldingham is given by Bede as Coludi urbs ("town of Colud"), where Colud seems to represent the British form, possibly for the hill-fort of St Abb's Head. [1]

Bamburgh village in United Kingdom

Bamburgh is a village and civil parish on the coast of Northumberland, England. It had a population of 454 in 2001, decreasing to 414 at the 2011 census.

Dunbar town in East Lothian, Scotland

Dunbar is a town on the North Sea coast in East Lothian in the south-east of Scotland, approximately 30 miles (48 km) east of Edinburgh and 30 miles (48 km) from the English border north of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Wilfrid 7th-century Anglo-Saxon bishop and saint

Wilfrid was an English bishop and saint. Born a Northumbrian noble, he entered religious life as a teenager and studied at Lindisfarne, at Canterbury, in Gaul, and at Rome; he returned to Northumbria in about 660, and became the abbot of a newly founded monastery at Ripon. In 664 Wilfrid acted as spokesman for the Roman position at the Synod of Whitby, and became famous for his speech advocating that the Roman method for calculating the date of Easter should be adopted. His success prompted the king's son, Alhfrith, to appoint him Bishop of Northumbria. Wilfrid chose to be consecrated in Gaul because of the lack of what he considered to be validly consecrated bishops in England at that time. During Wilfrid's absence Alhfrith seems to have led an unsuccessful revolt against his father, Oswiu, leaving a question mark over Wilfrid's appointment as bishop. Before Wilfrid's return Oswiu had appointed Ceadda in his place, resulting in Wilfrid's retirement to Ripon for a few years following his arrival back in Northumbria.

Analysis of a potential derivation has not produced a consensus. The most commonly cited etymology gives the meaning as "Land of the Mountain Passes" or "Land of the Gaps" (tentatively proposed by Kenneth H. Jackson). [2] An earlier derivation from the tribal name of the Brigantes has been dismissed as linguistically unsound. [3] In 1997 John T. Koch suggested the conflation of a probable primary form *Bernech with the native form *Brïγent for the old civitas Brigantum as a result of Anglian expansion in that territory during the 7th century. [4]

Brigantes British tribe of the Iron Age and Roman era

The Brigantes were a Celtic people who in pre-Roman times controlled the largest section of what would become Northern England. Their territory, often referred to as Brigantia, was centred in what was later known as Yorkshire. The Greek geographer Ptolemy named the Brigantes as a people in Ireland also, where they could be found around what is now Wexford, Kilkenny and Waterford, while another people named Brigantii is mentioned by Strabo as a sub-tribe of the Vindelici in the region of the Alps.

Political history and memory

The Brythonic kingdom of the area was formed from what had once been the southern lands of the Votadini, possibly as part of the division of a supposed 'great northern realm' of Coel Hen in c. AD 420. This northern realm is referred to by Welsh scholars as Yr Hen Ogledd or, literally, "The Old North". The kingdom may have been ruled from the site that later became the English Bamburgh, which certainly features in Welsh sources as Din Guardi. Near this high-status residence lay the island of Lindisfarne (formerly known, in Welsh, as Ynys Metcaut), which became the seat of the Bernician bishops. It is unknown when the Angles finally conquered the whole region, but around 604 is likely.

Votadini

The Votadini, also known as the Wotādīni, Votādīni or Otadini, were a Celtic people of the Iron Age in Great Britain. Their territory was in what is now south-east Scotland and north-east England, extending from the Firth of Forth and around modern Stirling to the River Tyne, including at its peak what are now the Falkirk, Lothian and Borders regions and Northumberland. This area was briefly part of the Roman province of Britannia. The earliest known capital of the Votadini appears to have been the Traprain Law hill fort in East Lothian, until that was abandoned in the early 5th century. They afterwards moved to Din Eidyn (Edinburgh).

Coel Hen legendary post-Roman king of north Britain

Coel, also called Coel Hen is a figure prominent in Welsh literature and legend since the Middle Ages. Early Welsh tradition knew of a Coel Hen, a c. 4th century leader in Roman or Sub-Roman Britain and the progenitor of several kingly lines in the Hen Ogledd, the Brittonic-speaking part of what is now northern England and southern Scotland.

Hen Ogledd area of northern Britain between c. 500 and c. 800

Yr Hen Ogledd, in English the Old North, is the region of Northern England and the southern Scottish Lowlands inhabited by the Celtic Britons of sub-Roman Britain in the Early Middle Ages. Its denizens spoke a variety of the Brittonic language known as Cumbric. The Hen Ogledd was distinct from the parts of northern Britain inhabited by the Picts, Anglo-Saxons, and Scoti as well as from Wales, although the people of the Hen Ogledd were the same Brittonic stock as the Picts, Welsh and Cornish, and the region loomed large in Welsh literature and tradition for centuries after its kingdoms had disappeared.

Kings of British Bryneich

There are several Old Welsh pedigrees of princely "Men of the North" (Gwŷr y Gogledd) that may represent the kings of the British kingdom in the area, which may have been called Bryneich. John Morris surmised that the line of a certain Morcant Bulc referred to these monarchs, chiefly because he identified this man as the murderer of Urien Rheged who was, at the time, besieging Lindisfarne. [5]

English Bernicia

Northumbria.rise.600.700.jpg

Some of the Angles of Bernicia (Old English :Beornice) may have been employed as mercenaries along Hadrian's Wall during the late Roman period. Others are thought to have migrated north (by sea) from Deira (Old English :Derenrice or Dere) in the early 6th century. [6] The first Anglian king in the historical record is Ida, who is said to have obtained the throne and the kingdom about 547. His sons spent many years fighting a united force from the surrounding Brythonic kingdoms until their alliance collapsed into civil war.

A forcibly united Northumbria

Ida's grandson, Æthelfrith (Æðelfriþ), united Deira with his own kingdom by force around the year 604. He ruled the two kingdoms (united as Northumbria) until he was defeated and killed by Rædwald of East Anglia (who had given refuge to Edwin, son of Ælle, king of Deira) around the year 616. Edwin then became king. The early part of Edwin's reign was possibly spent finishing off the remaining resistance coming from the Brythonic exiles of the old British kingdom, operating out of Gododdin. After he had defeated the remaining Brythonic population of the area, he was then drawn towards a similar subjugation of Elmet (a Cumbric speaking [7] territory that once existed in the modern-day West Riding of Yorkshire, near Leeds), which drew him into direct conflict with Wales proper.

Following the disastrous Battle of Hatfield Chase on 12 October 633, in which Edwin was defeated and killed by Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd and Penda of Mercia, Northumbria was divided back into Bernicia and Deira. Bernicia was then briefly ruled by Eanfrith, son of Æthelfrith, but after about a year he went to Cadwallon to sue for peace and was killed. Eanfrith's brother Oswald then raised an army and finally defeated Cadwallon at the Battle of Heavenfield in 634.

After this victory, Oswald appears to have been recognised by both Bernicians and Deirans as king of a properly united Northumbria. The kings of Bernicia were thereafter supreme in that kingdom, although Deira had its own sub-kings at times during the reigns of Oswiu and his son Ecgfrith.

Kings of Bernicia

(see also List of monarchs of Northumbria)

Under Deiran rule 616–633)

Under Oswald son of Æthelfrith, Bernicia was united with Deira to form Northumbria from 634 onward until the Viking invasion of the 9th Century.

Notes

  1. Rollason, Northumbria 500–1100, p. 81.
  2. Jackson, Language and History in Early Britain, pp. 701–5; Rollason, Northumbria 500–1100, p. 81.
  3. Jackson, Language and History in Early Britain, pp. 701–5; Jackson, The Gododdin, p. 81.
  4. Note 566 in John T. Koch, ed. (1997). The Gododdin of Aneirin: text and context from Dark-Age North Britain. University of Wales Press. p. 216. ISBN   978-0-7083-1374-9 . Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  5. John Morris
  6. The History of England – From the Earliest Times to the Norman Conquest By Thomas Hodgkin, Published by READ BOOKS, 2007, ISBN   1-4067-0896-8, ISBN   978-1-4067-0896-7
  7. Koch, John T. (2006). Celtic Culture: a historical encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 515–516.

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Æthelfrith was King of Bernicia from c. 593 until his death. Around 604 he became the first Bernician king to also rule the neighboring land of Deira, giving him an important place in the development of the later kingdom of Northumbria. He was especially notable for his successes against the Britons and his victory over the Gaels of Dál Riata. Although he was defeated and killed in battle and replaced by a dynastic rival, his line was eventually restored to power in the 630s.

Deira kingdom in northern Britain

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Ida is the first known king of the Anglian kingdom of Bernicia, which he ruled from around 547 until his death in 559. Little is known of his life or reign, but he was regarded as the founder of a line from which later Anglo-Saxon kings in this part of northern England and southern Scotland claimed descent. His descendants overcame Brittonic resistance and ultimately founded the powerful kingdom of Northumbria.

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Eanfrith (590–634) was briefly King of Bernicia from 633 to 634. His father was Æthelfrith, a Bernician king who had also ruled Deira to the south before being killed in battle around 616 against Raedwald of East Anglia, who had given refuge to Edwin, an exiled prince of Deira. His mother was Acha of Deira.

Battle of Hatfield Chase

The Battle of Hatfield Chase was fought on 12 October 633 at Hatfield Chase near Doncaster. It pitted the Northumbrians against an alliance of Gwynedd and Mercia. The Northumbrians were led by Edwin and the Gwynedd-Mercian alliance was led by Cadwallon ap Cadfan and Penda. The site was a marshy area about 8 miles (13 km) northeast of Doncaster on the south bank of the River Don. It was a decisive victory for Gwynedd and the Mercians: Edwin was killed and his army defeated, leading to the temporary collapse of Northumbria.

Battle of Heavenfield

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Cadafael ap Cynfeddw was King of Gwynedd. He came to the throne when his predecessor, King Cadwallon ap Cadfan, was killed in battle, and his primary notability is in having gained the disrespectful sobriquet Cadafael Cadomedd.

<i>Y Gododdin</i> literary work

Y Gododdin is a medieval Welsh poem consisting of a series of elegies to the men of the Brittonic kingdom of Gododdin and its allies who, according to the conventional interpretation, died fighting the Angles of Deira and Bernicia at a place named Catraeth in about AD 600. It is traditionally ascribed to the bard Aneirin and survives only in one manuscript, the Book of Aneirin.

Æbbe was an Anglian abbess and noblewoman. She was the daughter of Æthelfrith, king of Bernicia from c. 593 to 616. She founded monasteries at Ebchester and St Abb's Head near Coldingham in Scotland.

Adda was the third known ruler of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Bernicia.

The Battle of Catraeth was fought around AD 600 between a force raised by the Gododdin, a Brythonic people of the Hen Ogledd or "Old North" of Britain, and the Angles of Bernicia and Deira. It was evidently an assault by the Gododdin party on the Angle stronghold of Catraeth, perhaps Catterick, North Yorkshire. The Gododdin force was said to have consisted of warriors from all over the Hen Ogledd, and even some from as far afield as Gwynedd in North Wales and Pictland. The battle was disastrous for the Britons, who were nearly all killed. The slain warriors were commemorated in the important early poem Y Gododdin, attributed to Aneirin.

References

Further reading