NIGHTBRINGER | The Arthurian Encyclopedia


Northumbria was an important and powerful medieval kingdom, located in the northern part of Anglo-Saxon England, covering territories that are now part of northern England and southeastern Scotland. The kingdom was divided into two main regions: Bernicia to the north and Deira to the south.

Northumbria | History

The Kingdom of Northumbria emerged through the union of the two Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira in the early seventh century. The union was often attributed to Æthelfrith, the king of Bernicia, who conquered Deira.

Early Rulers
Æthelfrith was succeeded by his son Edwin, who ruled both Bernicia and Deira. However, the kingdom faced internal strife, and Edwin was eventually defeated and killed by Penda of Mercia in 633 AD at the Battle of Hatfield Chase.

Conversion to Christianity
Northumbria played a crucial role in the conversion of Anglo-Saxon England to Christianity. King Edwin was converted to Christianity by Paulinus, a missionary sent by Pope Gregory I. Edwin’s conversion had a significant impact on the spread of Christianity in the region.

Golden Age under Edwin and Oswald
The seventh century is often considered the golden age of Northumbria, particularly under the rule of King Edwin and his successor, King Oswald. It was a period of relative stability, economic growth, and cultural flourishing.

Monastic and Learning Centers
Northumbria was home to several important monastic and learning centers, including Lindisfarne and Jarrow. Bede, the famous scholar and historian, lived and worked in Jarrow, producing works that significantly contributed to early English historiography.

Viking Invasions
Like many Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, Northumbria faced Viking raids and invasions during the eighth and ninth centuries. The raids disrupted the stability of the kingdom, and there were periods of Viking control over parts of Northumbria.

End of Northumbria
Northumbria faced internal conflicts and struggles for power, exacerbated by Viking incursions. The kingdom gradually declined in the ninth and tenth centuries. The Battle of Carham in 1018, between the Scots and the English, marked the final end of Northumbria as an independent kingdom.

The legacy of Northumbria is seen in its contributions to Christian scholarship, particularly through the works of Bede. The Lindisfarne Gospels, a beautifully illuminated manuscript, is a notable example of Northumbrian artistic and religious achievements.