World and Setting – Edwin of Deira
It’s been a while since I did a blog post about the world or setting of my novels, so this time I thought I’d talk about Edwin of Deira. Deira was an east Yorkshire kingdom. It was originally a Brittonic Celtic kingdom, that was then taken over by the Angles sometime in the 5th century.
Edwin became renowned in this period for being a king of both Bernicia and Deira, which would then become the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria.
Edwin was born about 586 AD and is one of the chief historical figures my main character Imogen encounters Imogen first meets Edwin when he is an exile to his own kingdom. This happens in 613 AD, 23 years since the setting of my 1st historical fiction novel, ‘The Boy from the Snow’.
If you’re interested in my Celtic historical fiction series, you can check it out below.
After his father, King Aelle, probably the earliest Anglian Deiran king recorded – dies, Deira is taken over by Bernicia.
As with many things in this early medieval period, some historical accounts contradict each other and the truth is obscure. For example, some manuscripts of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle hold that King Aelle in 588 AD and is succeeded by his brother, Ethelric. Whereas the medieval historian Bede claims King Aelle was killed by the Bernician King Ethelfrith, after Ethelfrith took power in 604 AD.
King Ethelfrith is one of the antagonists in my 3rd historical fiction novel, which I’m currently proofreading. So I’ve gone for the interpretation of Edwin going into exile aged 18, after Ethelfrith kills King Aelle in 604 AD.
Early Life in exile
Either way, at some point Ethelfrith marries Edwin’s sister Acha and forces Edwin to go on the run. Edwin spends at least ten years in exile. His spends the time in the protection of King Cearl of Mercia and also in the kingdom of Gwynedd, seeking refuge with British Celts and Angles alike.
One of the plot points in what I hope to be the 4th in my historical fiction series is Edwin seeking an alliance from Rheged, the Celtic kingdom where my novels are based. When Imogen first meets Edwin he (and his fictional brother Osmund) are travelling through Rheged and other Celtic kingdoms, seeking support to oust King Ethelfrith and reclaim his throne.
For some context, here’s another chance to see the picture my friend Beth Baguley did of Rheged. It includes the real capital of Caer Ligualid and the fictional kingdoms of Gaeson and Klumeck.
While you’re here, you should totally check out Beth’s (aka LawandDraw) amazing artwork on her Estsy shop. You can also check out her Facebook Page and Instagram.
You can read more about the Celtic kingdom of Rheged in this blog post.
At Raedwald’s court
Later on in his exile, Edwin also spends time at the court of King Raedwald, who was the king of East Anglia. At the moment, I’m writing that my main character Imogen is about to travel to King Raedwald’s court.
Up until now, apart from the odd quest or battle in the Anglian kingdom of Bernicia, my characters have stayed pretty much in Rheged. So far virtually everything has been set in the North of England still, so it’s going to be interesting to write Imogen in a different setting.
While Edwin is at King Raedwald’s court (now about 615 AD) King Ethelfrith sends his ambassadors to visit. Ethelfrith offers a large price for the head of Edwin. Raedwald is tempted and seems to accept the offer at first. However, Raedwald’s wife (sadly her name seems to be lost to history) convinces him to remain loyal to his guest.
Raedwald, rather than turning in Edwin for his thirty pieces of silver, Raedwald becomes instrumental for Edwin reclaiming the throne. At the Battle of River Idle, King Ethelfrith is defeated and Edwin becomes king of both Deira and Bernicia. The kingdom of Northumbria is unofficially born here. Then, almost 50 years later, Edwin’s great-nephew King Oswald would make the merger permanent.
So, that’s the early life of Edwin of Deira. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading more about him. Researching and including a historical figure for my fictional characters to get to know is one of my favourite aspects of writing historical fiction. It’s also been exciting to research more into Anglo-Saxon history, having mostly written about life in Rheged so far.
Till next time,
PS thanks for stopping by! You can check out my other blog posts, or head here to check out my published novels. Why not sign up to my newsletter? You’ll get a free preview of Lottie’s Locket, my recent fantasy novel, when you sign up. I also include a free preview of The Boy the Snow with every newsletter edition.
He certainly lived an adventurous life – will you try and perfectly reproduce it in your own book? I love the idea of doing interesting historical research, especially since so many of the surviving stories are gripping thrillers in their own right
Hi Tom, thanks for your comment. Yes Edwin is a strong secondary character in my new project, what I hope to be the 4th novel in the series. Not sure how perfectly I’ll recreate him but I’ll try my best 😆
Yes, I love research too. It’s one of my favourite parts of the writing process. 😊