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Yorkshire Family Romance

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
NORTHUMBRIA was at peace, after a long period of anarchy, bloodshed, battles, and murders. Christianity had been restored by St. Oswald, King and Martyr; York Cathedral, commenced by King Eadwine, had been completed; the great Abbey of Lindisfarne had become a centre of Christian light and civilisation; and several other churches and religious houses were growing up over the length and breadth of the land. Oswy, a wise, vigorous, and warlike King, one of the most illustrious of his line, ruled Northumbria in its integrity; held northern Mercia under his sway; had subjected the southern Picts and Scots to his authority; and was Bretwalda of the Heptarchy. This position, however, he had only gained, and this peace firmly secured, after a great struggle and the shedding of much blood, and, it must be added, after the perpetration of an atrocious crime. When Paulinus, under the patronage of King Eadwine, had introduced Christianity into Northumbria, Mercia was ruled by Penda, a ferocious Pagan, who made a vow to Woden that he would exterminate the new heretical faith or lay down his life in the attempt. Accordingly, he entered into a compact with Cadwallon, a British Prince of Wales, and together they invaded Northumbria. Eadwine met them in battle and was slain; Paulinus and the Queen, with her children, fled to Kent, and the kingdom was harried by the victors, who sought out the Christians and put them indiscriminately to the sword. Cadwallon remained as ruler of the kingdom, and under his barbarous measures Christianity became almost, if not altogether, extinct, whilst the altars of Woden were re-established in every direction. Osric and Eanfrid, grandsons of Ælla, first King of Deira, after the death of Eadwine, were raised by the voice of the people to the thrones of Deira and Bernicia. They had been baptised at the court of their uncle by Paulinus, but now, as they had no Christians to govern, they apostatised and relapsed into the faith of Woden, but their reign was short; they laid siege to Cadwallon in York, were defeated, Osric slain in the battle, and Eanfrid put to death afterwards; and Cadwallon continued to rule the Northumbrians with an iron hand. At this time there was a young Prince, an exile in Scotland—Oswald, son of Æthelfred, King of Bernicia—who had fled thither when a youth, and had been instructed in the principles of Christianity by the monks of Iona. He heard of the deaths of the two Kings, and of the misery to which his native land was subjected by the tyranny and oppression of Cadwallon, and determined upon going thither and attempting to drive out the usurper. On his arrival the people flocked round his standard, and, with a cross borne in front of his army, he met Cadwallon at Deniseburn, near Hexham, and defeated him, Cadwallon falling in the fight. He established his Court at York, as King of Northumbria, and eventually became Sixth Bretwalda, extending his territories beyond the Tweed. He restored Christianity, by means of missionaries from Iona, completed the church of York, commenced by Eadwine, and founded other churches and some monasteries, leading a life of usefulness, beloved by his people for his piety and good government. But Penda was still living, as bitter as ever against Christianity, and intelligence reached the Court of York that he was preparing for a second invasion of Northumbria, again to trample out the nascent Christianity. In order to be beforehand with his enemy, Oswald invaded Mercia, where the Pagan King was again victorious, and Oswald slain at Masserfield, which came, in consequence, to be called Oswald's-town, corrupted in modern times into Oswestry. Penda caused his body to be torn limb from limb and cast abroad to be devoured by wild beasts, then crossed the border into Northumbria, and ravaged the land with fire and sword.