Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia


Deira was one of the two Anglo-Saxon kingdoms – the other being Bernicia – that eventually merged to form the powerful kingdom of Northumbria during the early medieval period.

Deira | History

Early Settlement and Anglo-Saxon Arrival
Deira’s history begins in the post-Roman period when Anglo-Saxon settlers arrived in Britain. The region became one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that emerged as the Romano-British authority waned. Deira was established in the sixth century by the Angles, a Germanic tribe from which the name “England” is derived.

Formation of the Kingdom
By the early seventh century, Deira had solidified as an independent Anglo-Saxon kingdom. It occupied the area roughly corresponding to the modern counties of Yorkshire and Durham in northern England. Deira shared the region of Northumbria with another Anglo-Saxon kingdom called Bernicia. The River Tees roughly marked the boundary between Deira to the south and Bernicia to the north.

During the late sixth and early seventh centuries, Ælla was king of Deira. He is notably associated with the Battle of Degsastan, which took place in 603 AD. The battle was fought between the forces of Æthelfrith of Bernicia, who was the ruler of the northern part of Northumbria, and Ælla of Deira. Æthelfrith emerged victorious in this battle, leading to the death of Ælla and the consolidation of Northumbria under Æthelfrith’s rule.

Conversion to Christianity
The conversion to Christianity in Deira is often associated with the mission of Paulinus, a Roman missionary who baptized King Edwin of Deira in 627 AD. This event was a significant turning point in the Christianization of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.

Rise and Fall of King Edwin
King Edwin, a key figure in Deira’s history, ruled Northumbria in the early seventh century. He expanded the kingdom’s influence and power but was defeated and killed in the Battle of Hatfield Chase in 633 against the forces of Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd and Penda of Mercia.

Division and Reunification of Northumbria
After the Battle of Hatfield Chase, Northumbria was briefly divided back into Deira and Bernicia. However, King Oswald, Edwin’s successor, successfully reunified Northumbria, continuing the legacy of a united kingdom.

Viking Raids and Invasions
Like many Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, Deira faced repeated Viking raids during the eighth and ninth centuries. The Norse invasions brought significant challenges, disrupting the stability of the region and contributing to political changes.

Dissolution and Norman Conquest
By the tenth century, individual identities of Deira and Bernicia within Northumbria were less distinct. Northumbria, along with Deira, faced internal conflicts and Viking invasions. Eventually, the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 brought further changes to the political landscape as William the Conqueror installed Norman lords to govern the region.