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HISTORICAL CHRONOLOGY of the
EARLY SAXON KINGDOMS
PART 1: AD 597-649

597 - The Roman brand of Christianity is brought to Britain for the first time by St. Augustine, the missionary sent from Pope Gregory to convert the Saxons. Augustine lands in Kent and is welcomed by King Aethelbert whose Frankish Queen is already a Christian practicing at her church of St. Martin's, Canterbury. Augustine converts Aethelbert and his court to Christianity and founds a monastery at Canterbury. Commencement of the erection of a monastery at St. Augustine's, Canterbury, built from the Roman ruins of the old city. Death of King Ceol of Wessex. He is succeeded by his brother, Ceolwulf.

598 - Kings Mynyddog Mwynfawr & Prince Cynan of Din-Eidyn ride south to fight King Aethelfrith's Bernician army against enormous odds at the Battle of Catterick. The British are victorious. Probable expansion of North Rheged to fill the vacuum left in North Yorkshire.

602 - St. Augustine of Canterbury meets with the Welsh Bishops at Aust near Chepstow. He accuses them of acting contrary to Church teachings, failing to keep Easter at the prescribed Roman time and not administering baptism according to the Roman rite. He also insists that they help in the conversion of their enemy, the Saxons, and look to Canterbury as their spiritual centre. The Welsh tactfully decline. Augustine is proclaimed Archbishop of Canterbury and commences the erection of his stone-built Cathedral.

604 - The Welsh Bishops meet for a second time with St. Augustine of Canterbury. He neglects to rise to greet them, lectures them again and insists they submit to him. The Welsh send him packing. They refuse to recognise the authority of a church within their enemies' territory under such a disrespectful bishop. The See of Rochester is established and Justus appointed its first bishop. Death of King Sledda of Essex. He is succeeded by his son, Saebert. King Saebert is persuaded to convert to Christianity through the intervention of his uncle, King Aethelbert of Kent. The See of Essex is founded. King Aethelbert of Kent founds the cathedral church of St. Paul in London. St. Mellitus is appointed the first Saxon Bishop of London (& Essex). King Aethelfrith of Bernicia invades Deira and kills its king, Aethelric. Prince Edwin, son of the late King Aelle of Deira (and possibly nephew of King Aethelric) flees to the Court of King Iago of Gwynedd. Aethelfrith marries King Aelle's daughter, Acha, and takes the kingdom.

605 - Birth of Prince (later King) Oswald of Bernicia. Death of Bishop Augustine of Canterbury. He is buried in St. Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury and later revered as a saint. He is succeeded by St. Laurence of Canterbury.

606 - Death of King Pybba of Mercia. He is succeeded by his kinsman, Ceorl.

611 - Death of King Ceolwulf of Wessex. He is succeeded by his nephew, Cynegils. King Cynegils shares power to some extent with his eldest son, Cwichelm, who may have been given Upper Wessex.

613 - King Aethelfrith of Bernicia invades Gwynedd in order to route out his old enemy, King Edwin of Deira. A united British force (Gwynedd, Powys, Pengwern and Dumnonian warriors) clashes with his army at the Battle of Chester. King Iago of Gwynedd and King Selyf Sarffgadau of Powys are both killed but the victor is unclear. The Battle of Bangor-is-Coed follows in quick succession. King Bledric of Dumnonia is killed in the fighting and 1000 monks are massacred by the Northumbrians. King Edwin of Deira flees to the Court of King Redwald of East Anglia. Birth of Prince (later King) Oswiu of Bernicia. The stone Abbey Church at St. Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury is completed and dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul.

614 - King Cynegils & his son, Prince Cwichelm, of Wessex invade Dumnonia and defeat the local army (possibly under a King Clemen) at the Battle of Bindon. Birth of Princess (later Abbess & Saint) Hilda of Deira.

c.615 - King Aethelfrith of Bernicia visits King Redwald of East Anglia at Rendlesham and persuades him to hand over the former's old enemy, King Edwin of Deira. In return, Redwald is promised rich rewards, yet war is threatened if he fails to comply. Redwald's wife however, reminds him of his obligations as Edwin's protector and the King begrudgingly declines the offer. King Edwin of Deira marries Princess Cwenburga, daughter of King Ceorl of Mercia.

616 - King Edwin of Deira, with the help of King Redwald of East Anglia, conquers Northumbria at the Battle of the River Idle. King Aethelfrith of Bernicia & Deira is killed in the fighting and his children are forced to flee north. His heir, Prince Enfrith, seeks refuge with his mother's family, probably in Gododdin, and then moves further north into Pictland; Princes Oswald, Oswiu and others escape to Court of King Eochaid Buide of Dalriada where they are converted to Christianity by the monks of Iona. Death of Kings Aethelbert of Kent and Saebert of Essex. The former is succeeded by his pagan son, Edbald, who promptly marries his step-mother, in accordance with pre-Christian custom. King Edbald loses overlordship of Essex, where the new kings, Saebert's sons, Sexred, Saeward and Sexbald, throw out the Christian missionaries and return to paganism. Bishop (& Saint) Mellitus of London (& Essex) flees with Bishop Justus of Rochester to France. King Edbald of Kent is persuaded to convert to Christianity by St. Laurence, Archbishop of Canterbury.

617 - King Edwin of Deira invades and conquers Elmet. King Ceretic of Elmet is killed in the fighting. Death of King Redwald of East Anglia. He was probably buried in the Great Ship discovered in the Royal East Anglian Cemetery at Sutton Hoo. Shortlived succession of his brother, Eni.

618 - Redwald's son. Eorpwald, takes the East Anglian throne from his uncle, King Eni.

619 - Death of Archbishop Laurence of Canterbury. He is buried at St. Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury and is later revered as a saint. He is succeeded by St. Mellitus.

620 - The church of St. Mary is built at the Royal Abbey complex of St. Augustine's, Canterbury.

c.620 - Angles probably under King Edwin of Deira invade South Rheged, and expel King Llywarch Hen who flees to Powys. Edwin's armies also move north into Southern Strathclyde and Gododdin. Prince Enfrith, heir of Bernicia, marries a Pictish Royal Princess and fathers Prince (later King) Talorcan (I) of the Picts.

c.623 - King Edwin of Deira is baptised by Prince Rhun of North Rheged, according to the Historia Brittonum. This was probably at the Royal Court of Gwynedd. He soon relapses back to paganism.

624 - Death of Archbishop Mellitus of Canterbury. He is buried at St. Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury and is later revered as a saint. He is succeeded by Bishop (& Saint) Justus of Rochester.

625 - King Edwin of Deira marries Princess Ethleburga of Kent. As a Christian, she brings her personal chaplain, Paulinus, north with her. St. Paulinus has already been consecrated Bishop of York. With the help of Pope Boniface, the new Queen encourages her husband to convert to Christianity.

626 - Death of King Ceorl of Mercia. He is succeeded by Penda, son of his predecessor. Prince Cwichelm of Wessex sends an assassin to murder King Edwin of Deira. Edwin is saved from the assassin's dagger by the timely intervention of one of his thanes who is killed in the process. Edwin's daughter, Enflaed, is born the same night and he promises to give her for baptism to St. Paulinus, if he is victorious over the instigator of this crime. Edwin discovers Cwichelm's treachery and marches on Wessex. Prince Cwichelm and his father, King Cynegils of Wessex, march north to meet the Northumbrians at the Battle of Win Hill & Lose Hill, possibly with the aid of King Penda of Mercia. Despite their army's superior numbers, the Wessex duo are defeated and flee south. Edwin keeps his promise to St. Paulinus.

c.626 - The rivalry between King Edwin of Deira and King Cadwallon of Gwynedd, which has grown since childhood, reaches a climax. Edwin invades the Isle of Man and then Anglesey. Cadwallon is defeated in battle and is besieged on Puffin Island. He eventually flees to Brittany.

627 - St. Paulinus converts King Edwin of Deira back to his lapsed Christianity at the Royal Court of Yeavering. The King is baptised in Paulinus' proto-Cathedral in York and persuades his sub-monarch, King Eorpwald of East Anglia to follow suit. Death of Archbishop Justus of Canterbury.

c.627 - Possible building of the Western section of the Wansdyke, by King Cynegils of Wessex, in an attempt to counter aggression from King Penda of Mercia.

628 - King Cynegils and his son, Prince Cwichelm, of Wessex clash with King Penda of Mercia at the Battle of Cirencester. Cynegils' son, Cenwalh, may have married King Penda's sister as part of the subsequent peace treaty by which the Mercians take control of the area. King Penda probably establishes the sub-Kingdom of the Hwicce at this time. Anti-Christian uprising in East Anglia. King Eorpwald is killed by one Rigbert, and his half-brother, Sigebert, flees to France. Rigbert takes the throne. The exiled Prince Oswald of Northumbria accompanies King Connad Cerr of Dalriada to Ireland to fight against Maelcaich and the Irish Cruithne at the Battle of Fid Eoin.

629 - St. Paulinus meets Blecca, the Praefectus Civitatis of Lincoln, and converts him to Christianity.

630 - The West Saxons invade Gwent. King Meurig defeats them, with the help of his aging father, at the Battle of Pont-y-Saeson.

c.630 - King Penda of Mercia besieges Exeter (possibly held by King Clemen of Dumnonia). King Cadwallon of Gwynedd lands nearby, from his Deiran imposed exile in Brittany. He negotiates an alliance with King Penda of Mercia and a united British and Saxon force moves north to re-take Gwynedd. The Deirans are defeated at the Battle of the Long Mountain and Cadwallon chases them back to Northumbria. The British ransack Northumbria and bring the kingdom to its knees. St. Felix arrives in Britain from Burgundy with the intention of evengelising the Angles. He stays a while at Canterbury.

631 - Death of King Rigbert of East Anglia. The half-brother of his predecessor, King Eorpwald, returns from exile in France and takes the throne as the Christian King Sigebert. With the new King's encouragement, St. Felix is sent by Archbishop Honorius of Canterbury to evangelise his people. St. Felix establishes his see at Dunwich.

c.631 - King Edwin of Deira re-fortifies the City of York, probably including the building of the so-called Anglian Tower.

632 - The West Saxons cross into Wales and defeat King Idris of Meirionydd on the Severn.

633 - King Edwin of Deira and his Northumbrian army meet the British, under King Cadwallon of Gwynedd, in the Battle of Hatfield Chase. King Edwin is killed in the fighting and Cadwallon is victorious. Edwin's cousin, Osric, succeeds to the throne of Deira and Prince Enfrith of Bernicia returns from Pictland to claim his rightful crown. Both are pagans. St. Paulinus, Bishop of York, flees south and is made Bishop of Rochester. Cadwallon is later besieged at York by King Osric. The former is again victorious.

634 - Despite suing for peace, King Cadwallon of Gwynedd slays both King Enfrith of Bernicia and Osric of Deira rather than negotiate with them. Enfrith's half-brother, Oswald succeeds, as son of Aethelfrith of Bernicia and Acha of Deira, to a united Northumbria. He is given a force of men (including monks from Iona) by King Domnall Brecc of Dalriada and marches south to claim his inheritance. He clashes with King Cadwallon of Gwynedd at the Battle of Heavenfield. Despite having superior numbers, Cadwallon is killed, and King Oswald victorious. The former Queen Ethelburga of Deira packs up her infant sons and step-grandson and flees to France for fear that, as offspring of her husband, King Edwin, Oswald will have them murdered. The Deiran Royal Court at Yeavering is probably abandoned at this time. Oswald re-introduces Christianity to Northumbria, though James the Deacon is still ministering to the people of Swaledale. The chief among the monks who accompanied the King from Dalriada attempts to convert the Northumbrians, but meets with little success. Oswald calls on Iona to send an evangelical Bishop. King Sigebert of East Anglia retires to the monastery of Burgh Castle and entrusts the kingdom to his cousin, Egric, who had already been deputising in part of the country. St. Birinus arrives as a bishop from Genoa to convert the people of Mercia. He, however, decides to halt in Wessex instead. He preaches to King Cynegils of Wessex near Cholsey. Birth of St. Cuthbert in Tweedale and St. Wilfred in Northumbria.

635 - King Penda of Mercia aims to gain control of Middle Anglia and therefore attacks his rivals in East Anglia. Ex-King Sigebert is forced to leave his monastery in order to join King Egric of East Anglia in battle against the invaders. Sigebert and Egric are both killed in the fighting. Sigebert is later revered as a saint. Egric's brother, Anna, succeeds to the East Anglian throne. St. Aidan, Bishop of Scattery Island, arrives to evangelise Northumbria and founds the Bishopric and Priory of Lindisfarne. Under pressure from King Oswald of Northumbria, King Cynegils of Wessex, is persuaded to allow St. Birinus to convert him to Christianity. Cynegils' eldest son, Cwichelm, resists. Cynegils is baptised at Dorchester-on-Thames and gives Birinus the town for his cathedral. Birinus is made the first Bishop of Wessex. Oswald acts as godfather and agrees to enter into a strategic alliance with Wessex against Mercia. The agreement is cemented by the marriage of King Oswald to King Cynegils' daughter, Princess Cyniburg.

c.635 - St. Finnian and St. Aebbe, half-sister of King Oswald of Northumbria, found the monastery of Coldsbury at St. Abbs.

636 - St. Birinus converts Prince Cwichelm of Wessex to Christianity. The latter dies soon afterward. He is supposedly buried at Scutchamer Knob in East Hendred (Berkshire).

637 - King Oswald of Northumbria probably sends troops to Ireland to assist King Domnall Brecc of Dalriada in his alliance with King Congal Caech of Ulster during the Irish dynastic wars. They are defeated at the Battle of Mag Rath.

638 - King Oswald and his Northumbrian army besiege and conquer Edinburgh. His half-brother, Prince Oswiu of Bernicia, marries Princess Rhiainfelt, heiress of North Rheged. Northumbria probably embraces North Rheged in a peaceful takeover. Oswiu may have been sub-King there for a time.

c.640 - St. Maildulph settles in Malmesbury.

640 - Death of King Edbald of Kent. He is succeeded by his sons, Erconbert as overking and Eormenred as King of West Kent. St. Aebbe moves her monastery from St. Abbs to Coldingham Priory. Foundation of Hartlepool Abbey by Princess Hieu (of Ireland) who becomes the first Abbess.

641 - Prince Oswiu of Bernicia conquers Gododdin as far north as Manau, on behalf of his half-brother, King Oswald.

642 - King Penda of Mercia commands a united British and Mercian force against King Oswald of Northumbria. The British contingent includes the army of Kings Cadafael Cadomedd of Gwynedd, Eluan of Powys and Cynddylan of Pengwern. Oswald is killed at the Battle of Oswestry, as is Prince Eowa of Mercia, probably sub-King of Wrocenset. Oswald is buried at Bardney Abbey and is later regarded as a saint. He is succeeded by his half-brother, Oswiu, in Bernicia, but he is found to be unacceptable to the Deirans. The Mercians become dominant in Midland Britain.

643 - King Oswiu of Bernicia sends to Kent for Princess Enflaed, daughter of King Edwin of Deira. She sails north to Bamburgh and the two are married. Despite this, Oswiu still fails to secure Deira. King Penda of Mercia seizes control of Lindsey and Elmet. Death of King Cynegils of Wessex. He is succeeded by his son, Cenwalh, who promptly repudiates his Royal Mercian wife.

644 - Despite armed objections from King Oswiu of Bernicia, Oswin, the son of the late King Osric of Deira, manages to establish himself as King of Deira, possibly with Mercian support. Death of Bishop Paulinus of Rochester.

645 - King Cenwalh of Wessex is driven from his kingdom by his one time brother-in-law, King Penda of Mercia. He flees to the Court of King Anna of East Anglia. Penda overruns Wessex.

647 - Death of Bishop Felix of Dunwich. He is buried at Soham and later revered as a saint.

c.647 - Princess (& Saint) Hilda of Deira is persuaded by St. Aidan to enter the monastic life at Hartlepool Abbey.

648 - St. Wilfred enters Lindisfarne Priory. King Cenwalh of Wessex returns to reclaim his kingdom and succeeds. He gives 3,000 hides of land around Ashdown to his nephew, Cuthred, possibly sub-King of Berkshire.

c.648 - King Cenwalh of Wessex invites St. Birinus to establish the Old Minster in Winchester. Together they have a small stone church built.

649 - Death of Abbes Hieu of Hartlepool. She is succeeded by St. Hilda.

Part 2: AD 650-692

 

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