The Heroic Age
1. Adomnan 1.1, Anderson & Anderson 1991: 17; Bede 3.6, McClure & Collins 1994:118.
2. See Ziegler 1999 for more information on Oswald's exile.
3. Traditionally Cenel nEogain was the dominant kindred among the Northern Ui Neill but not during Oswald's exile or reign. Cenel Conaill had closer ties to Dalriada and the two kindred's opposed each other at the battle of Mag Rath in 637.
4. Brecc means "freckled".
5. Fiachna was possibly the same individual recorded as an ally of Aedan son of Gabran, King of Dalriada (Domnall Brecc's grandfather) (Bannerman 1974:98).
6. Charles-Edwards 1997:179, 1993:78-82. Alternatively, Oswald and his young siblings may have been taken into exile by Anglian foster-parents who would have acted as their guardians. These hypothetical foster-parents could have dealt with Eochaid Bude on their but they could not have stood as godparents since they would have been pagan.
7. Anderson 1922:142. There appears to have been friction between Oswiu and Bishop Aidan of Lindisfarne (Higham 1997: 277-231) and there are no recorded events in which both Oswiu and Aidan participate. Aidan appears to have been very active in Deira during Oswiu's reign. It may be this friction that prevented Æbbe from taking the veil earlier. Finan was on much better terms with Oswiu than Aidan. It is possible that Finan Rimid was the brother of Fina daughter of Colman Rimid, the mother of Oswiu's son Aldfrith (Ireland 1991). Finan may have been chosen as the next bishop of Lindisfarne by the community at Iona in the hope of patching up the relationship between Oswiu and Lindisfarne. Finan was Bishop of Lindisfarne from 651-661.
8. According to John Marsden (1992:122, 1997:99-100), the late Life of Æbbe includes a curious reference that if Æbbe had not been a dedicated virgin, Oswald would have given her in marriage to an Irish king/Domnall Brecc. Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate a copy of the Life of Aebbe to confirm this. Baring-Gould (1990:32) states that "it had been the intention of her brother to give her in marriage to the King of the Scots, but Ebba obstinately opposed the marriage". If the marriage occurred when they left Dalriada in 633 or earlier, it is possible the marriage was arranged by Eanfrith. Christian writers so despised Eanfrith for his apostasy that they may have transferred the responsibility to Oswald. Of course, Æbbe's reported refusal is a common hagiographical slant on the truth to make her appear to be a virgin, a state honored above widowhood by the later church.
9. Since she lived until 683 and was the last known surviving child of Æthelfrith, it is likely that she was quite young when he died.
10. Bede 3.1, McClure & Collins 1994:110; Annals of Tigernach (AT) 634; Anderson 1922:158. Bede leaves out any mention of the battle between Eanfrith and Cadwallon possibly to vilify Cadwallon. The execution of a defeated king may have been common practice in the aftermath of a battle.
11. See Charles-Edwards (1997:174) on the responsibility of vengeance to a successor king. Higham (1997:151-155) views Eanfrith as a rival of Oswald's, but this seems unjustified. For the date, see Higham 1997:206.
12. His victory over Cadwallon who was the current king or overking of Deira would have eased the transition. Cadwallon would have already dealt with any remaining Deiran opposition to foreign rule before the battle of Denisesburn.
13. According to the Historia Brittonum, Oswald's brother Oswiu married Rieinmellt daughter of Royth son of Rhun, believed to be of Rheged and Oswald may have married a niece or other kinswoman to Beli of Strathclyde. See note 73.
14. Rather than seeing Dalriada and Pictland as unified kingdoms, they should be viewed as overkingdoms. The threefold division of Dalriada under the legendary brothers Fergus, Oengus and Lorn may reflect subkingdoms within Scottish Dalriada and Dalriada in Ireland could be seen as a fourth subkingdom. This could explain the unusually large force of 1200 men that the Senchus Fer nAlban (History of the Men of Scotland) claims Dalriada could field, although it should be noted that 1200 is a symbolic number (Evans 1997:30-31, Evans refers to the divisions as "principal districts" rather than subkingdoms.)
15. The best example of this is the 30 ealdormen gathered by Penda of Mercia for his invasion of Northumbria in 654 (Bede 3.24, McClure & Collins 1994:150). Each of these ealdormen would have brought his own warband to the army. Some of these ealdormen were kings in their own right (such as Æthelhere of East Anglia, Peada of Middle Anglia, Cadafael of Gwynedd and Oethelwald of Deira) who could have brought armies of their own to the battle further increasing Penda's force.
16. In the Life of Guthlac, the saint, as a young nobleman, is said to have welcomed warriors from "various races" to his warband (Evans 1997:33). Even better contemporary examples are available. I have already mentioned that Anglo-Saxons, possibly including Oswald, fought for Dalriada. Penda of Mercia fought in alliance with Cadwallon of Gwynedd. On a more personal level, Cynddylan of Powys is claimed in his elegy to have been eager to answer Penda of Mercia's call to battle. Y Gododdin claims that Picts and a Yrfai son of Wolstan, which Koch (B2.28, 1997: xlviii, 8-9) suggests may be the English name Wulfstan, fought for the British of Gododdin in a respected role within the warband. While the Angles fighting for Dalriada could be explained away as fulfilling the obligations of an exile to his host, similar explanations would not work for the relationship between the British and Mercia and there is no indication that the foreign warriors in Y Gododdin were exiles. Guthlac's men were attracted to his warband because of its fame. Bede claims that Oswine of Deira was so beloved because of his "royal dignity" that "noblemen from almost every kingdom flocked to serve him as retainers" (Bede 3.14, McClure & Collins 1994:132). Reputation was a considerable factor in a lord's ability to attract and retain warriors. If his reputation was great enough, warriors could be attracted from other ethnic groups. For a more detailed discussion of the composition of warbands, see Evans 1997: 33-34, 51-52.
17. It would have been natural for many of them to transfer their loyalty to a brother of Æthelfrith or to his eldest son Eanfrith. The support of Æthelfrith's surviving retainers may have ensured that Eanfrith succeeded as king in 633 when the sons of Æthelfrith returned home. For a more detailed discussion of the relationship between a lord and his retainers, see Evans 1997: 54-55, 63-71, 119-120.
18. The value of counselors is illustrated by Edwin's consultation of his nobles before adopting Christianity despite the political value of converting and the fact that the Christian God had passed his test on the battlefields in Wessex ( Bede 2.9-2.13, McClure & Collins 1994:84-96).
19. Kirby 1991:90, Marsden 1992:111-113,116-117.
20. Their relative low status is due to several factors. There would have been suspicion that many who had stayed behind had cooperated with the Deiran overlord and Æthelfrithing rival Edwin. This does not preclude these warriors from later becoming integral members of the warband but they had to prove themselves to Oswald.
21. Eanfrith's son Talorcan became King of Picts in 654. It is believed that Eanfrith married a Pictish woman during his exile (Miller 1978). If so, it is likely that Eanfrith spent at least part of his exile in Pictland and we might expect Pictish warriors to have accompanied him home to Bernicia to see that he was firmly settled into his kingdom. Bede claims that the brothers spent their exile among the "Irish or Picts" (Bede 3.1, McClure & Collins 1994:110). He may be indicating that the brothers split up. Given Eanfrith's marriage, it is possible that he led a group of exiles in Pictland (Kirby 1991:87).
22. Adomnan 1.1, Sharpe 1995:111, Bede 3.6, McClure & Collins 1994:118.
23. Note how Bede puts words into Oswald's mouth that confirm his own assessment in the previous two chapters that Cadwallon was threatening the very survival of the northern Angles as a people and that Cadwallon was proud. Bede claims that Cadwallon boasted that his army was "irresistible" (3.1, McClure & Collins 1994: 111).
24. This is not the first association of St. Columba with victorious battles (Smyth 1984:97-99). He was associated with a battle in Ireland that proceeded his exile. Adomnan further credits at least of Aedan's victories to Columba's prayers and has Columba prophesy other victories (Adomnan 1.7, 1.12, Sharpe 1995: 119, 121; All of Book I of the Life of Columba refers to prophecies). It would not have been lost on the family of Iona that Aedan's victories all but dried up after Columba's death. Adomnan is clearly aware of what an important claim he is making in relating the vision or dream. He is therefore very careful to document his sources.
25. At the Synod of Whitby in 664, Oswald's successor Oswiu's decision on which practice Northumbrians would follow came down to his estimation of which saint was greater, Columba or Peter. Clearly, the church of Iona, and its daughter house Lindisfarne, put no other saint before Columba.
26. It is possible that the saga of Oswald's vision of Columba had been suppressed after Northumbria accepted Roman tradition at the Synod of Whitby in 664 and replaced Columba with St. Peter as the main saint of the church. Bede was one of the most ardent proponents of accepting Roman tradition.
27. It should be pointed out that Domnall Brecc is not actually mentioned in the annal entries for the battle and his association is largely based on legendary material and on Cummene's account of the effects of the battle on Dalriada.
28. The claim that Mael Umai (Maeluma) killed a brother named Eanfrith is usually taken to be a reference to Æthelfrith's brother Theobald whom Bede records being slain at the battle. However, it is certainly possible that Æthelfrith lost more than one brother in the battle and that he had named one of his sons after a brother named Eanfrith. Note that Mael Umai may have been the leader of a fianna and may have commanded such a retinue at the battle of Degsastan (Bannerman 1974:88).
29. Kirby (1991:143) suggests that Fina may have been Colman Rimid's granddaughter rather than daughter. The 650s would have been during the episcopate of Finnan Rimid, possibly the son of Colman Rimid, and therefore Fina's uncle (if she was Colman's granddaughter). However, it seems unlikely that Oswiu would have had an affair with his bishop's neice and William of Malmesbury claims that Aldfrith (Flann Fina) was older than Oswiu's son Ecgfrith. See Ireland 1991 for a more complete discussion of Flann Fina/Aldfrith's parentage.
30. For example, the descendants of the Bernician king Hussa appear to have sought refuge in Dalriada during Æthelfrith's reign and may have opposed Æthelfrith at Degsastan (Kirby 1991:71, Bannerman 1974:87). According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Hering son of Hussa led the Dalriadan army to the battle (Kirby 1991:71). The presence of Hussa's family or followers in Dalriada is suggested by Adomnan who claims that there were Englishmen on Iona prior to Columba's death in 597 (Adomnan 3.10 and 3.22, Sharpe 1995:213, 223-4). Descendants of these Angles would have been enemies of the descendants of Æthelfrith and may not have been welcome in Oswald's Bernicia, although they may have shared common enemies in Edwin and then Cadwallon to cause them to reconcile any remaining disputes.
31. (Anderson & Anderson 1991:189-191, Anderson 1980:6-8) The records of this time are polarized by the personal politics of the abbots of Iona: Cummene and Adomnan. Cummene's short chapter describing the bitter fate of Dalriada after Mag Rath does not refer to Oswald or any other specific outsider (Anderson & Anderson 1991:189-191). Cummene was more interested in Domnall's attack on his own blood family at Mag Rath and possibly could see little else than the perceived treachery to Columba's kindred. Adomnan writing decades later omitted Cummene's account. By Adomnan's time, Dalriada was no longer dominated by outsiders so the Columban prophecy related by Cummene was no longer valid and Adomnan could appreciate the vision given to Oswald and Oswald's importance to the Columban mission to the Angles. Adomnan may have also been motivated to include the Oswald material in the Life of Columba to please his friend King Aldfrith (son of Oswiu) of Northumbria, Oswald's nephew.
Bernicia's domination of Dalriada lasted from c. 637 to 685 although
there was a likely period of disruption in the overlordship after
the death of Oswald in 642. Oswiu was not in a position to force
Dalriada into submission from 642 to the mid 650s. It is possible
that Dalriada passed under the hegemony of Owen son of Beli of
Strathclyde for a short period after the defeat of Domnall Brecc
in December 642. See Moisl (1983:
117-120) for a discussion of Dalriada's domination by outsiders
in the seventh century.
33. Bede 2.5 and 3.6, McClure & Collins 1994:78, 118.
34. Examples of Oswiu's interference in Mercia, outside of his direct rule there from 655-658, include his co-donation of Peterborough monastery, his control over the Mercian church because they were daughter houses of Lindisfarne and his presumed control over the selection of the Mercian bishop. Interestingly, Oswald is similarly said to have co-donated the land for the church at Dorchester but this claim of Bede's may be influenced by his perception of the rights of later overkings. It seems more likely that Oswald merely acted as a witness to the Dorchester grant.
35. Eanfrith's return to the old Anglo-Saxon gods may have been motivated by at least three factors: a need to patronize the gods that brought his father prosperity, to differentiate himself from the religion that Edwin forced on Bernicia, and to demonstrate his independence from Dalriada.
36. (Ziegler 1999, Higham 1997: 151-155) It is unlikely however that the æthelings accepted Christianity because they because they viewed their father's death as a failure of his gods to protect him as Higham (1997:151-155) suggests. Æthelfrith was an extremely successful king who fell in battle to another pagan king. During a period when many more kings fell in battle than died peacefully, his death would not have been perceived as unusual. Higham's assertion that they were influenced by Æthelberht of Kent's successful reign also seems to be a stretch (Higham 1997:155).
37. Apart from one suspicious reference early in the reign of Æthelberht, there is no offensive military action noted for Kent in either Bede's History or the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Later in the seventh century, Kent collapsed in the face of pagan aggression from Cædwalla of Wessex. Indeed, apart from the suspicious entry for Æthelberht there are no mentions of Kentish military activity outside of the Kent - Sussex region in the Early Medieval Period. The value of Kent as an ally was surely in its ecclesiastical and Frankish trade connections. These were not factors that Oswald would have needed or valued over Dalriada.
38. It should be noted however that by Adomnan's tenure as abbot there was a bishop of Iona. It is possible that there had been earlier bishops of Iona who were not recorded because of the dominance of the abbots.
39. Bede refers to Paulinus, Bishop of York under King Edwin, at one point as Archbishop Paulinus (Bede 3.25, McClure & Collins 1994:153), perhaps indicating either that he was eventually consecrated as a bishop in exile or that the Northumbrian's in Bede's time viewed him (and possibly his successors at York) as an archbishop. Paulinus remained Bishop of Rochester for the rest of his life, outliving Oswald and dying in 644.
40. The Martyrology of Donegal was written by Michael O'Clery at the monastery of Donegal in Ireland. According to the colophon at the end, it was completed on April 19, 1630. He is better known as the chief of the antiquarians known as the "Four Masters" for whom one of the annalistic compellations takes it name. (Todd and Reeves 1864:xi) Although of late date, it incorporates many much older sources including the Metrical Calendar or Festilogium of Aengus Ceile De (Martyrology of Oengus the Culdee, c. 830), Martyrology of Tallaght (contemporary with Oengus), Calendar of Cashel (12th century?), Martyrology of Maolmuire O'Gromain (c. 1167), the "Book of Hymns", The Poem of S. Cuimin of Condeire, The Naoimhseanchus (a poetical history of the saints of Ireland, c. 10th century?), "The Poem of St. Moling of Ferns, entitled Borumha" and many minor poems. O'Clery also had access to many large collections of genealogies. The genealogical sources he named came from the Book of Lecan, the Leabhar na huidhre, and the Book of Lismore. He also quoted from 32 hagiographic sources. (Todd and Reeves 1864: xiii-xx)
41. Inis Cathaigh is identified by Stokes (1905:387) as Scattery Island in the River Shannon which is opposite Kilrush in county Clare.
42. Inis Medhcoit is the Gaelic version of the British name for Lindisfarne. This form is also used in the ninth century Martyrology of Oengus the Culdee (Stokes 1905:179).
43. Stokes 1905:190-191, xii-xiii.
44. Bede 3.16, McClure & Collins 1994:135
45. Bede 3.25, McClure & Collins 1994:152
46. The fast friendship between Oswine and Bishop Aidan suggests that Deira was firmly under the control of Lindisfarne during Oswald's reign and that the preference for Roman customs and the authority of Canterbury had been completely suppressed.
47. Paulinus consecrated Archbishop Honorius in the church at Lincoln (Bede 2.18, McClure & Collins 1994: 102). Since there is no record of Edwin building this church it may have been a surviving Roman structure.
48. It seems unlikely that Oswald initially allowed Edwin's head to be enshrined. Oswald would not have wanted to promote Edwin too much. The burial of Edwin's head may have occurred near the graves of his infant children (Æthelhun and Æthelthryth) in a side chapel (Bede 2.14, McClure & Collins 1994:97). Bede's comments that the head was buried in a chapel to Gregory of the Great (Bede 2.20, McClure & Collins 1994:105) may indicated that York had been designed like Æthelberht's funerary chapel in the church of St. Augustine at Canterbury, with side chapels intended to be royal and episcopal mausoleums. It has puzzled scholars why the names of these children were remembered (Miller 1979:37). A possible solution is that their graves were marked with inscriptions.
49. Oswine spent his exile with the Gewisse and therefore we might have expected him to turn to Bishop Birinus of Dorchester.
50. Since Stephanus personally knew Bishop Wilfrid it is unlikely that this is simply a mistake as Colgrave (1927: 156-157) suggests. Bishop Wilfrid may have made this claim for political reasons but it is possible that this was the view of his monastic family and so may be contemporary with the events.
51. Birinus' relationship with Bishop Aidan is unknown and it is possible that Cynegils' baptism occurred before Aidan started his mission.
52. In a later era, Oswald's sponsorship would have been seen as kinship of a significantly high level to prevent the marriage. (Lynch 1998)
53. I have not been able to find the source of Higham's belief that Fursa was a bishop. Bede does not refer to him as such.
54. Bede 3.19, McClure & Collins 1994:142.
55. Bede 3.19, McClure & Collins 1994:142.
56. Higham 1997:214-5, McClure & Collins 1994:393.
57. McClure and Collins (1994:392) date the surviving anonymous Life of Fursa to c. 656 and suggest that it was composed in Peronne, France. The vita may have come into Bede's possession via Abbot Esi, whom he credits in his introduction for supplying information on East Anglia.
58. Marsden 1992: 128-129, Anderson 1922:163, Bannerman 1974:102, Jackson 1959.
59. (Marsden 1992:127-8, Marsden 1997:97-98, Anderson 1922:163-164.) The loss at Glen Mairison was possibly the first in a string of battles that began pushing Dalraida out of southern Pictland. It was followed by further losses in southern Pictland or on the British border in 642, 649, and 654. There is a similarity between the entry for Glen Mairison and the entry for 559 when Gabran, Domnall's great grandfather, suffered a defeat that also led to the "flight of the men of Alba". Gabran is associated with the Forth region and Gowrie (Marsden 1997:52-53).
60. Kinsmen in the royal warband were obligated to protect the king and to fall in battle beside him (Evans 1997: 51-2).
61. Strathcarron is the valley of the River Carron which flows into the Firth of Forth. The Firth of Forth is the major estuary of Gododdin and the key geographic feature of the British centers of Edinburgh and Stirling.
62. Bannerman 1974: 77-8, 85-6, 95; Anderson & Anderson 1991:xxvi.
63. Anderson 1922:166-167, 173. Anderson believes this is a mistake for the battle of Winwæd in 655. However as both the Annals of Tigernach and the Annals of Ulster record this event in c. 642 it seems unjustified to claim that it is a duplicate of Winwæd, especially since the entries for Winwæd do not mention the Britons. Kirby (1974:7-8) suggests that Oswiu's opponents may have been the Northern Britons.
64. Bede claims that Oswiu led a raid to the site of Oswald's death to recover his head and arms in the year after the death. If the site of Oswestry on the Powysian border was the site of the battle, this reference could refer to Oswiu's raid.
65. Other possible rulers of Deira from 642-644 include a kinsman of Oswine, and also, Penda himself, who appears to have been given passage through Deira to attack Oswiu during Oswine's reign (644-651).
66. Taylor (1999: 49-51) suggests that the St. Baithene commemorations may have been established by younger contemporaries, spiritual or familial relatives, of Baithene who died in 600. If so this would suggest that they belong to the 630s or early 640s at the latest.
67. Old Melrose rose to prominence soon after the Synod of Whitby in 664 when it supplied several bishops of Lindisfarne including St. Cuthbert. Although these bishops adopted Roman practices they were sympathetic to the Irish cause and represented one focus of opposition to Wilfrid.
68. Gartnait son of Donuel's death is listed in the Annals of Tigernach in 663 along with the deaths of Donald son of Tuathal and Tuathal son of Morgan (Anderson 1922:178). Tuathal son of Morgan can be identified in the History of the Men of Scotland (Senchus fer nAlban) as kinsmen of Domnall Brecc. The Senchus reads "Tuathal son of Morgand son of Eochaid Find (d. 590s) son of Aedan son of Gabran" (Bannerman 1974:48). Tuathal is in the same generation as Domnall Brecc but according to Adomnan (1.9, Sharpe 1995:119-120). Eochaid Find was one of Aedan's oldest sons and Eochaid Bude was one of his youngest. Therefore it is likely that Tuathal son of Morgan and Tuathal's son Donald were contemporaries of Gartnait son of Donuel and Domnall Brecc's other sons. That men of Cenel nGabrain died along side Gartnait son of Donuel strengthens the case that Gartnait was the son of Domnall Brecc. That the sons of Donuel, Gartnait and Drest, were dependent upon Bernicia for their throne is also shown by the expulsion of Drest from Pictland within of year of Oswiu's death when the Picts rebelled against Bernician overlordship under Oswiu's son Ecgfrith. To further support their claim to the Pictish throne, Gartnait and Drest sons of Donuel had familial ties to former Pictish kings on both sides of their lineage, cousins of Talorcan son of Eanfrith through their mother and possibly their maternal grandmother Bebbe (Ziegler 1999), and Domnall's family had long been associated with the Pictish royal family. In addition, Domnall had an uncle named Gartnait who has been speculated to have been King of Picts from c. 584-c. 595 (Bannerman 1974:92-94). Further, Domnall's father Eochaid Bude was called "Rex Pictorum" in his obituary in the Annals of Ulster, although this may be a late insertion (Bannerman 1974: 95). This designation may refer to Dalriadan hegemony over southern Pictland.
69. Ecgfrith had to invade Pictland to reestablish his control and his second cousin Bridei ap Beli (grandson of Eanfrith, brother of Oswald and Oswiu) appears to have become king of Picts. It is unknown if Bridei became king prior to the rebellion or was (re)established with Ecgfrith's aid after he regained control. It seems likely that Bridei ap Beli acted with some military independence from Ecgfrith between 672 and 685. Bridei was the victor of the battle of Dunnichen in 685 where Ecgfrith was slain.
70. It is unknown who slayed Domangart but since there is no mention of an invasion of Dalriada by Ecgfrith it is possible that he was slain in an internal Dalriadan dispute, perhaps because of his close ties to Northumbria. If the reconstruction of events here is correct, the family of Domnall Brecc would have been closely associated with the subjugation of the Picts and Scots to Northumbria, a political situation which factions of both peoples would have resented.
71. Oswald is listed on the Calendar of Willibrord, an ecclesiastical calendar used by the fledgling Frisian church to remember its feast days.
72. Bede 3.13, McClure & Collins 1994:130, Sharpe 1995: 250 n. 38
Oswald's relationship with Strathclyde is now questionable. Woolf
(1998:162) has suggested that King
Beli of Strathclyde married a daughter of Edwin of Deira by his
first wife Coenburgh. If this is true, we have no evidence of
diplomatic ties between Oswald and Strathclyde. However, Miller
(1978) and Sellar (1998:37-42)
have supported a niece of Oswald (a sister of Talorcan) as being
Beli's wife. The resolution of this issue is unclear and much
depends on the still disputed pattern of Pictish succession since
Beli's son by this wife was Bridei, King of Picts c. 672-693.
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