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Eorpwald was the son of Raedwald and ruled as King of East Anglia from c 624 to c627.

He received Christian teaching and sacraments (i.e. baptism and communion at least) for himself and on behalf of his kingdom or nation, and became the first English king to suffer death as a consequence of his Christian faith, though the motive for his assassination was probably political as well as religious. The primary source for Eorpwald is Bede's Ecclesiastical History, ii.15.

Contents

Eorpwald's inheritance

Raedwald himself was the senior brother of Eni, and his use of the letters R and E in the name-fastening of the next generation reproduced that of his own. On this principle Eorpwald would be junior to his brother Raegenhere, who was slain at the Battle of the River Idle in 616, and therefore it is inferred that he was Raedwald's younger son, and became heir to Raedwald's kingdom after Raegenhere's death. In the later part of his rule, 616-624, Raedwald was not only King of the East Angles within the Wuffinga dynastic succession, but also the most powerful king amongst the rulers of the various English kingdoms, occupying the role which was later described by the term Bretwalda. At his death, for which a late series of annals supplies the date 624, the regnal power of East Anglia reverted to the kingdom only, while the authority of supreme ruler lay open to whichever king might be powerful enough to seize it.

Inheritance of senior kingship

Raedwald had achieved his position by bringing Northumbria firmly under fealty when, following the battle of 616, he returned Edwin to his rightful position as ruler of Deira (centred at York) and made possible his dominion of Bernicia, the northern Northumbrian province. While Edwin was in exile at Raedwald's court, shortly before the battle of 616, he was offered certain encouragements that he should some day become a greater king than any Englishman before him, if he would consider accepting Christian teaching. If the account of that conversation contains truth, it signifies that Raedwald foresaw Northumbria's future power and intended that Edwin should succeed to the highest authority after him.

Soon after Raedwald's death Edwin married the sister of the Christian king Eadbald of Kent. An attempt on his life was made by the West Saxons, whose ruling house had ancient links with that of Bernicia. Edwin suppressed the West Saxons in a military expedition. He then accepted Christian teaching for himself and was baptised with other members of his family and court by Paulinus of York, a member of the Gregorian mission. The first conversion of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria was therefore within the Roman Church. York had formerly been an important bishopric of the Church in Roman Britain.

Conversion of Eorpwald

Edwin and Paulinus undertook the conversion of the Northumbrian people, and also those of Lindsey (Lincolnshire) and East Anglia. (Lindsey had been within Raedwald's secure dominion because its western frontier was the scene of the Battle of the Idle just over the Lincolnshire-Nottinghamshire border, near Gainsborough). This Christian patronage helped to affirm Edwin's position as senior ruler of the English, and until his final confrontation with Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd in 632-3 he also held the British or Welsh powers under his dominion.

It was at Edwin's prompting that Eorpwald, together with his kingdom, received the Christian faith and sacraments. Eorpwald was therefore not yet a Christian during his father's lifetime nor at his own accession. It is not known whether his baptism took place in East Anglia, Northumbria or Kent, but it is very likely that Edwin, now a senior ruler, was his sponsor at baptism. The conversion had the political benefit of bringing the entire eastern seaboard from Northumbria to Kent under the dominion of Christian rulers in alliance with Edwin, with the single exception of the East Saxons.

Death

Not long after his conversion Eorpwald was slain (occisus) by a heathen (viro gentili) named Ricberht. The circumstances are not recorded, so that it is not known whether Ricberht represented an internal East Anglian opposition to Christian rule, or if he was an emissary from an external power wishing to diminish Edwin's influence. Eorpwald shares his feast as royal saint and martyr with Edwin of Northumbria, 4 October.

Bede states that after the slaying of Eorpwald the kingdom reverted to heathen rule (in errore versata est) for three years. This does not necessarily mean an overt struggle between the worship of the Anglo-Saxon gods and the worship of Christ, but could equally express a conflict in the political allegiances which Edwin's rise to power had prompted. The attribution of these three years to a supposed rule of Ricberht is a banner of convenience, though the fact that his name was remembered at all (when East Anglian history of this period is dependent upon very fragmentary records) indicates that he was a person of some importance.

See also

Further reading

  • Colgrave, B. and Mynors, R.A.B. (eds) (1969) Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Oxford : Clarendon Press, ISBN 0-19-822202-5
  • Plunkett,S. (2005) Suffolk in Anglo-Saxon Times, Stroud : Tempus Publishing, ISBN 0-7524-3139-0
English royalty
Preceded by
Raedwald
King of East Anglia
625 – 627
Succeeded by
Ricberht
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Eorpwald was the son of Raedwald and ruled as King of East Anglia from c 624 to c627.

He received Christian teaching and sacraments (i.e. baptism and communion at least) for himself and on behalf of his kingdom or nation, and became the first English king to suffer death as a consequence of his Christian faith, though the motive for his assassination was probably political as well as religious. The primary source for Eorpwald is Bede's Ecclesiastical History, ii.15. He is a possible candidate among scholars as the person in the Sutton Hoo ship-burial (Mound 1), usually thought most likely to be his father; otherwise he may be buried in Mound 2.[1]

Contents

Eorpwald's inheritance

Raedwald himself was the senior brother of Eni, and his use of the letters R and E in the name-fastening of the next generation reproduced that of his own. On this principle Eorpwald would be junior to his brother Raegenhere, who was slain at the Battle of the River Idle in 616, and therefore it is inferred that he was Raedwald's younger son, and became heir to Raedwald's kingdom after Raegenhere's death. In the later part of his rule, 616-624, Raedwald was not only King of the East Angles within the Wuffinga dynastic succession, but also the most powerful king amongst the rulers of the various English kingdoms, occupying the role which was later described by the term Bretwalda. At his death, for which a late series of annals supplies the date 624, the regnal power of East Anglia reverted to the kingdom only, while the authority of supreme ruler lay open to whichever king might be powerful enough to seize it.

Inheritance of senior kingship

Raedwald had achieved his position by bringing Northumbria firmly under fealty when, following the battle of 616, he returned Edwin to his rightful position as ruler of Deira (centred at York) and made possible his dominion of Bernicia, the northern Northumbrian province. While Edwin was in exile at Raedwald's court, shortly before the battle of 616, he was offered certain encouragements that he should some day become a greater king than any Englishman before him, if he would consider accepting Christian teaching. If the account of that conversation contains truth, it signifies that Raedwald foresaw Northumbria's future power and intended that Edwin should succeed to the highest authority after him.

Soon after Raedwald's death Edwin married the sister of the Christian king Eadbald of Kent. An attempt on his life was made by the West Saxons, whose ruling house had ancient links with that of Bernicia. Edwin suppressed the West Saxons in a military expedition. He then accepted Christian teaching for himself and was baptised with other members of his family and court by Paulinus of York, a member of the Gregorian mission. The first conversion of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria was therefore within the Roman Church. York had formerly been an important bishopric of the Church in Roman Britain.

Conversion of Eorpwald

Edwin and Paulinus undertook the conversion of the Northumbrian people, and also those of Lindsey (Lincolnshire) and East Anglia. (Lindsey had been within Raedwald's secure dominion because its western frontier was the scene of the Battle of the Idle just over the Lincolnshire-Nottinghamshire border, near Gainsborough). This Christian patronage helped to affirm Edwin's position as senior ruler of the English, and until his final confrontation with Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd in 632-3 he also held the British or Welsh powers under his dominion.

It was at Edwin's prompting that Eorpwald, together with his kingdom, received the Christian faith and sacraments. Eorpwald was therefore not yet a Christian during his father's lifetime nor at his own accession. It is not known whether his baptism took place in East Anglia, Northumbria or Kent, but it is very likely that Edwin, now a senior ruler, was his sponsor at baptism. The conversion had the political benefit of bringing the entire eastern seaboard from Northumbria to Kent under the dominion of Christian rulers in alliance with Edwin, with the single exception of the East Saxons.

Death

Not long after his conversion Eorpwald was slain (occisus) by a heathen (viro gentili) named Ricberht. The circumstances are not recorded, so that it is not known whether Ricberht represented an internal East Anglian opposition to Christian rule, or if he was an emissary from an external power wishing to diminish Edwin's influence. Eorpwald shares his feast as royal saint and martyr with Edwin of Northumbria, 4 October.

Bede states that after the slaying of Eorpwald the kingdom reverted to heathen rule (in errore versata est) for three years. This does not necessarily mean an overt struggle between the worship of the Anglo-Saxon gods and the worship of Christ, but could equally express a conflict in the political allegiances which Edwin's rise to power had prompted. The attribution of these three years to a supposed rule of Ricberht is a banner of convenience, though the fact that his name was remembered at all (when East Anglian history of this period is dependent upon very fragmentary records) indicates that he was a person of some importance.

See also

Further reading

  • Colgrave, B. and Mynors, R.A.B. (eds) (1969) Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Oxford : Clarendon Press, ISBN 0-19-822202-5
  • Plunkett,S. (2005) Suffolk in Anglo-Saxon Times, Stroud : Tempus Publishing, ISBN 0-7524-3139-0

References

  1. ^ David M. Wilson, Anglo-Saxon: Art From The Seventh Century To The Norman Conquest, Thames and Hudson (US edn. Overlook Press), 1984, p. 25; M.O.H. Carver, Sutton Hoo: Burial Ground of Kings?, p. 172, 1998, ISBN 0-8122-3455-3.
English royalty
Preceded by
Raedwald
King of East Anglia
625–627
Succeeded by
Ricberht


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