O're Hills and Valleys Reign: A Cumbrian Timeline

Chapter One: The Fall of Bernice
O're Hills and Valleys Reign

An abridged History of the Kingdom of Cumbry

Chapter One

Britain in the late 6th Century was in the midst of a struggle for the cultural heart of the island. On the one hand were the post-roman native Britons, on the other were the many germanic tribes that have come to be called the Anglo Saxons.

The Anglo-Saxons may have originally come to the isle as mercenaries in the mid fifth century but quickly rebelled when they realized their clients were weak and unable to pay them, as mercenaries are wont to. It didn't take long for their continental cousins to join them and soon much of the south east had fallen, though their expansion in the south was kept in check for a time by Ambrosius Aurelianus and his heirs.

later in the fifth century the Angles also came to settle north of the aber Cumber[1]. First in the lands east of avon Derwent, and so was named Dere, and the second Bernice, named after the British kingdom it had almost entirely conquered by the year 578.

At that time the northern britons presence was composed of a handful of kingdoms: Alt Clout in the north west, named after the impressive hilltop fortification near the mouth of the avon Clout[1] which served as its nominal capital; Gododhin in the north east, named after the descendants of the votadini tribe the romans had settled around Din Eidyn; Reget along the western coast from the Rinns to at least as far south as the Avon Repool[1] and whose chief capital was at Penn Rinnedh; Elvet at the southern end of the Pennine mountains, centered in Loidis; and Bryneich, now reduced to the small inland area around Din Gevron.

At that time Morgant vap Cuncar was king of Bryneich, and seeing his realm shrunk to almost nothing within his lifetime, called upon his neighbors to help him drive out these invaders. His call was answered by Redherch king of Alt Clout, Gwallok king of Elvet, and Urien king of Reget, men experienced from fighting the Picts and Angels. We have some details of the campaign, much of it from poetry and from the Chonica Brittones, a work purporting to have been commissioned only two generations afterwards though only copies from the 9th century are known to us, while later histories tend to build on these sources and others unavailable to us.

It seems that king Đeodric of Bernice caught wind of the Briton's plans and attacked Urien at one of his strongholds with a large force, hoping to remove his biggest opponent from the board before his enemies could join together into an insurmountable force. According to the Gweith Argoed Luwyven, Đeodric surrounded the stronghold of Urien and demanded hostages (a common practice to ensure obedience). Ewen son of Urien refused and Urien sallied out. The two forces fought for much of the day in a shield wall with the occasional trade of javelins, as was typical for warfare in the period. At some point in the battle king Đeodric was killed, according to legend from a javelin from Urien's cousin Leuwarch, and the bernician forces broke with Urien and Ewen pursuing them to their borders.

In the following season the campaign began in earnest with Redherch and Morgant clashing with one Frithuwald at the Avon Teil[1], while Urien and Gwallok came up from the Avon Tein[1], raiding and burning towns as they made their way north, only facing resistance at the Bernician town of Alunwic where a small band of Bernicians lead by one Hussa ambushed them in the midst of their pillaging. Urien was quick to rally the men but Gwallok was caught in the ambush, leaving command to his son Cerdik.

There is some debate as to whom became king in the wake of Đeodric's death, be it his brother Frithuwald or his cousin Hussa. Ancient sources conflict leading some to conclude that the Bernicians were in the middle of a succession crisis, while others have posited them being co-kings.

Redherch and Morgant prevailed and drove Frithuwald to his capital at Idasburh[2], or Din Gwardys according to the Britons, where Urien and his men joined them. At some point the Bernician leaders withdrew to the tidal island of Enis Medhgot, and the Britons settled in for a siege.

At around this time Morgant came to fear Urien and the fame he had gathered, or perhaps doubted that the man would turn over control of the land he had ravaged with seemingly no opposition. Thus he paid a man to kill Urien, thinking that with their king dead that he would take command. According to later legends the would be assassin turned out to be more treacherous, or more cowardly than his client. For no sooner did he enter Urien's tent, and, finding the king awake and more sober than his men, confessed what his lord had commanded of him. The narrative is somewhat fanciful, as more than likely the intruder was caught out by the guards. Whichever is the case, the assassin was kept hidden until after Hussa surrendered six days later. It was then that Urien revealed the plot and Morgant's men, already dissatisfied at his poor leadership and now repulsed by his dishonorable conduct, abandoned him and swore fealty Urien alongside the Bernicians. Morgant is reported to have fled to ground, apparently literally as local legends have him sheltering in a nearby cave system.

Frithuwald is known from both Cumbrian and anglo-saxon sources to have escaped south, first to kingdom of Dere and later to Lindsege across the Cumber with his family where they would grow in prominence.

The true reactions of Urien's other allies are unknown at that time, though it is supposed that Cerdik appreciated having a strong neighbor to keep the Derens in check while Redherch was more concerned with returning home to deal with the Picts.

In one fell swoop Urien had doubled the size of his realm, beginning the hegemony of his realm over the north.

  1. Aber Cumber = the Humber estuary; Avon Clout = River Clyde; Avon Repool = River Ribble; Avon Teil = River Till; Avon Tein = River Tyne.

  2. OTL Bebbanburh. Seeing as this is before the time of aethelfrith and the wife he supposedly renamed it after, and i'm unaware of what they might have called it before.
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Just want to say I'm interested in seeing where this goes. Massively into native Briton kingdoms.
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yeah the old north/cumbria region is super interesting, because in wales and cornwall the britons are always at a demographic and geographic disadvantage to keep the saxons at bay
I took a break from researching and writing for the next chapter to throw together a map for those of you who like visuals


Oh and im just wondering if anyone knows a source for the early history of the church/monastery at whithorn (aka candida casa)? I don't need it for the next chapter but it will be helpful for the third.
Chapter Two: The Hegemony of Reget
Chapter Two

The period immediately following the conquest of Bernice has become very romanticized in the following centuries, and at times it can become very difficult to disentangle the authentic from the fantastic[1]. On the whole, however, we have a fair grasp on Urien's reign. With his conquest of Bernice complete he placed his son Ewen in charge of quelling unrest and deterring Derean attempts to encroach upon his new territory. Assured that his flank was secure Urien used his newfound power to leverage tribute from his smaller neighbors Gododhin and the unnamed king of Cair Mammik. Strat Clout and Elvet were more resistant to his attempts at strong arm diplomacy, however, and instead entered into an alliance that would be secured with marriages. He gave his daughter Morvydh to king Redherch and would have arranged for Ewen to marry one of king Cerdik's sisters, had Ewen not been caught sleeping with king Leudun of Gododhin's daughter Teneu. The two were married to appease Leudun, and Urien's youngest son Elffin was betrothed to Gwendolen of Elvet instead.

The first real test to Urien's influence came in 583 A.D. when King Aedan mac Gabrain of Dal Riata, the Gaelic kingdom of the north western coast of Britain, sacked royal stronghold of Penn Rinnedh with his fleet of long ships[2] and ravaged the countryside. It seems that Aedan had taken notice of Reget's rise to prominence, and wished to nip the potential rival in the bud, though the hiberno-skottish sources say that the incident was in response to Urien forcing Redherch to break his ties with Aedan in exchange for his daughter's hand. Urien was furious, and began plans to repay in kind. However the geography of Dal Riata played into the defenders favor as the mountains and lochs of the highlands constricted troop movement through them severely, and unlike the gaels the britons had no experienced navy to call upon. Undeterred, Urien assembled his forces and in the summer of 585 A.D. marched north with his middle son Paskent, calling upon king Redherch and king Luedon to assemble their own men.

The armies of the Cumbrians came together at the south end of Loch Loovenn (Gaelic: Loch Laomainn)[3] and marched north along its west bank and following the valleys through Chrìon làraich[3], a place that even in modern times has come to be known as the gateway to the highlands. It seemed as though Urien intended to march all the way to the ceremonial capital in Dun Add to repay Aedan an eye for an eye, but the Cumbrians met the forces of Dal Riata as they came into the wider valley of Stradh Urchaidh[3]. Aedan's men were in fact later than he had expected, having planned to catch the Cumbrians in the narrow glenn where their javelin throwing cavalry would be of little use. With the enemy right before them Aedan's men could not be persuaded to withdraw to a more favorable position such as along the banks of Loch Obha[3] or in Glean Aray, and so he settled them along a slight ridge. The ensuing battle was bloody and costly for both sides, Áedán's sons Artúr and Eochaid were killed in the battle, as was Urien's son Paskent. Despite this, the battle seems to have been relatively short as Urien made good use of his light cavalry to which the Gaels had little answer to in the open field. With yet another victory under his belt Urien's grasp of the north seemed nigh unshakable.

It was only six years later however that Urien would die in the south defending Elvet from the expanding anglo-saxons, his warband out flanked and cut down by Creoda, the first recorded king of Merce, when his ally was forced to flee. Ewen succeeded him without contention as his brother Elffin readily accepted his overlordship, though he remained lord of Din Prys. Ewen would go on to show that he was as much a warrior-king as his father when his brother-in-law King Monidhok tried to buck off his control. At the decisive battle of Mailros, the men of Gododhin were defeated and Monidhok was killed. Ewen went on to outright conquer the kingdom, claiming it for his son who was the nearest relative of the king. Ewen is also famous for his campaigns against the kingdom of Dere, culminating in the battle of Catraith where he defeated the combined forces of Dere, Lindsege, and Merce. The pitched battle came to be commemorated in the anglo-saxon poem Þæs Beadwe Cetrehtena where the kings and their retinue of thegns are remembered for their bravery in the face of death and failure. Dere would share the fate of northern sister kingdom and become incorporated into the emerging Cumbrian kingdom.

Yet for all that he was a warrior Ewen would die a peaceful death, passing from what is now believed to be a heart condition in 612 A.D. at the age of 55. He was succeeded by his son Cundairn, who would prove to be a very different king from his forebears.

[1]For example, one of the more famous episodes is the expedition to the celtic otherworld of Annuwn. In it, Urien and his men successfully rescue his men that where entrapped by King Gwinn vap Nudh, but pay a heavy price when they fail to make off with Gwinn's greatest treasures. Could this be a reference to raid on an island in the Mor Iwerdhon, or just another rendition of the celtic sea voyage trope?

[2]Although they share a name with the ships of the Anglo-saxons and Scandinavians there is no direct connection between the two. They differ significantly in design as well; the Germanic style is constructed in a clinker method, while the Gaelic style is made in a mortise and tenon method (possibly borrowed from the roman liburnas given its difference from the native currachs).

[3]Loch Lomond; Crianlarich; strath orchy/glenorchy, round about the village of Dalmally; Loch Awe.
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Here's a map of northern Britain towards the end of Ewen's reign. Please note that at this time Urien, Ewen, and Cundairn are still called kings of Reget rather than of Cumbry/Cumberland
Chapter 3: The Cumbrian Mission (part 1)
Chapter Three

The period following the end of roman rule in the British Isles goes by many names, but perhaps one of the most accurate is the Age of Saints. It is an appellation that has earned derision from some continental commentators, citing incredibly low standards for sainthood as the source of the name, but the important role churchmen and pious christian rulers played at this formative period in the history of the British Isles is hard to understate.

One such example was Cundairn's illegitimate half-brother Andras, who would go on to become the patron saint of the Kingdom of Cumbry. Cundairn was in fact very involved with his brother's mission and because of his influence it is not uncommon to see that churches dedicated to Andras also honor Cundairn[1]. The tale is related to us most clearly in the hagiography De Vita Andras, written by Cynrik, the anglo-cumbric Archbishop of Evrok, which in addition to the details he gives on Cundairn's rule the Vita is noteworthy for giving some insight into the pre-christian religion of the anglo-saxons[2].

According to his Vita, Andras was sired by Ewen upon the Bernician princess Eadswiþ. Eadswiþ was among those who fled south with Frithuwald to the kingdom of Dere when their kingdom fell, taking shelter in the court of King Ælla. When it became clear that she was pregnant, Frithuwald became furious and began to plot her and the child's death. He attempted to have them killed three times. First by calling on demons to attack Eadswiþ, but the Virgin Meri came to her and instructed her to ward them away; the second by calling on the god Þunor to strike them down, but Saint Meical the archangel appeared and protected her; and the third by setting them adrift in the sea to be eaten by sea serpents, but a sudden wind bore them back to shore without Frithuwald's knowledge. At last Eadswiþ and the young babe made their way to Bernice where Ewen received them gladly and recognized the child as his own, as was the custom of the Britons.

Andras' early life from then on was considerably less fraught and he grew close to his half brother, and is remembered as having performed several miracles such as reanimating a dead wren and the creation of a holy spring. He received an excellent education, traveling south to the great college of Teudos in Lannilltud Voar and became a monk. He was present at the synod of Cair Gwrikon[3] where he caught the eye of Brannok, archbishop of Cair Ciron.

In May of 606 Brannok determined that it was high time that the Saesnek, the colloquial term for the Anglo-saxons, be brought to the light of faith and that his fellow British clergymen should take heed that they were commanded to evangelize to the gentiles, even the more barbarous ones. Brannok directed Andras to lead a mission to the Angles around the Aber Cumber on account of his heritage and knowledge of the faith, and forty others were also selected to aid him. They met resistance as they traveled through the land of Merce where Pibba had succeeded his father Creoda. Pibba distrusted the christians because he believed they had set a curse upon his father for killing Urien of Reget, as Croeda had died a painful death from plague[4] afterwards, and made it unlawful for christian holy men to enter his realm. It was as Andras' company were passing Ligera Ceastre that the holy men were seized, having been recognized by their tonsure. Now they weren't arrested by Pibba himself but was held by his ealdorman Cearl, who was more curious than fearful of the Christians. The Vita says that Cearl consulted Andras on the meaning of a recurring dream he was having, and Andras interpreted it as foretelling Cearl that he would become king of Merce and his sons kings of all Angles, this despite having no blood connection to royal lineages. Regardless of its veracity, Cearl released them and they continued on the roman road to the kingdom of Lindsege, their first destination.

Lindsege was at that time ruled by Cueldgils brother of Pibba, who received the missionaries on account of his British wife, Iselt of Powis. But though the king was open to their preaching the retainers were not, especially Frithuwald who had moved further south to escape the reach of Reget. Things played out much like a fairytale, if the hagiography is trustworthy here, and it may well not be given how well the story plays out the trope, but there are some independent indications that Frithuwald really was in Cueldgils court at this time. As the narrative goes, his uncle recognized Andras as the nephew he had attempted to have killed and feared for his life, and so did everything to drive Andras away. By several means he attempts this, culminating in an attempted poisoning which is prevented by a raven stealing the poisoned bread. Andras finally realizes what is happening and confronts Frithuwald, who believing that his nephew is about to exact his rightful justice admits to all his crimes against him. Much to his surprise his nephew forgives him, and moved by his mercy he converts, as does does Cueldgils and the rest of his court soon after.

[1] Although Andras has been recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox church, Cundairn has only been canonized by the Britannic Catholic Church.
[2] Because of his seeming openness to discuss the old pagan ways of the Anglo-saxons it has been suggested that he wrote, or had commissioned, the Codex Eboracum; a manuscript containing a collection of Anglo-saxon myths and epic poetry.
[3] called in 602 by Brannok, it ruled on the Easter calculus in use by the britons and brought them back into alignment with the wider catholic church, although the Gaels and Skotts still kept easter differently.
[4] That is the Justinian plague, a strain of Yersinia Pestis that swept through Europe in the late 6th century, and would seem to have reached Britain at the start of the 7th century, striking places like Kent and Dumnonia the worst.
Hmm, this seems mighty interesting (I've a fancy for Brythonic North-Germanic South splits in Medieval Britain TLs). Subbed!
Hi huys! There's a few things worth mentioning that are going on in the story but are either to far in the background or too far afield for an abridged history focused on the north of Britain.

The most glaring change thats not directly addressed that you may have noticed is the lack of the Augustinian mission. The course im currently going with is that Gregory never got around to starting the mission to the angles he wanted, and died in 596, and was succeeded by Agustine, beginning a series of Pope's coming from St. Andrew's priory.

A slightly smaller thing touched on in the chapter notes is a plague that strikes Britain that hits Kent hard. In otl the plague came a little bit later, but here i had it come early to kill king aethelbert of kent and his francish wife, thus avoiding another one of the causes for a more roman style mission. Their son still lives, but he wont be converting anytime soon

Edit: oh i amlost forgot, but one of the changes here thats been glossed over but will have a significant impact as time goes on is the archbishop of what used to be Corinium. Its almost certain that it was the capital of Britannia Prima, and if we assume that the church in Britain before imperial collapse mirrored the secular jurisdictions then it would've been the seat of an archbishop. In OTL the city came under saxon control after the battle of Deorham, where the rulers of corinium, glevium, and bath were slain. Here the battle either never happened or the Britons won.
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One thing I'm glad about is that there is delightfully no anachronistic modern Welsh spellings! All seems to be Cumbrian or close enough.
I was going to mention edh rather than thorn for the Anglian names but when I looked it up edh only became popular in the 800s well after your divergences. And good on you for mentioning that the Angles do still exist in the expanded Reget!
@The Professor @piratedude I did notice the usage of the letter K instead of using C exclusively, which alone is a good sign that we won't be seeing as many anachronisms! As for the Angles, even if the Cumbrians do Celticize the Angles north of the Humber, I think there'd still be plenty of space in Mercia for them to counter-balance the Saxons politically and culturally (assuming they don't get conquered as well!).
Funny how despite the respective origins it's the Germanic peoples of Britain that are likelier to get drawn into the affairs of the Franks, and the Cumbrians who have to deal with the Danes first and remain within the Scandinavian economic/military sphere for the next century or two.
One thing I'm glad about is that there is delightfully no anachronistic modern Welsh spellings! All seems to be Cumbrian or close enough.

I did notice the usage of the letter K instead of using C exclusively, which alone is a good sign that we won't be seeing as many anachronisms!
Indeed, I've been making liberal use of the Cumbraek resources Niel Whalley made up, though I've made exceptions to his rules (i sure as hell not going to spell Urien as Ourven, even if it makes etymological sense for his conlang). I've also been forced to use his grammar rules to figure out how to cumbricise welsh names.

I was going to mention edh rather than thorn for the Anglian names but when I looked it up edh only became popular in the 800s well after your divergences.
I considered it but Þ just looks better than đ
Chapter 3: The Cumbrian Mission (part 2)
In 608 Andras determined he must continue on, though he left twenty of the missionaries behind led by the Saint Elifer who had gained the queen's favor. Andras went to the court of king Eadwine of Dere whom the Vita describes as "a most warlike prince". Eadwine was a cautious and very superstitious man, taking every care to properly honor his gods and perform the rituals of sacral kingship. As it happened Eadwine was in the middle of such a rite when Andras came to him at Godmuningas Hama, but for fear of upsetting the god to whom the place was dedicated the mission was directed to wait outside the boundaries of the village until the pagan festival had ended. While they waited one of Andras' companions, a nun named Elen, caused a healing spring to spout, and when they washed themselves in it all the weary hurts of traveling were eased[1].

When Eadwine and his retinue finally deigned to meet them he was respectful as custom dictated but wary as kings ought to be when dealing with wise men. Andras professed the message of the gospel but unlike in Lindsege where the resistance to the faith was merely resistance to foreign influences, in Dere there were true believers. Coefi the head priest became very vocal in his opposition to the mission. He made it clear that he saw Woden as offering the greater sacrifice, and in his own tongue (it is made clear that communication had been in Latin) he mocked the wealas for having a weak god that could not "ride" the gallows for a single day, let alone seven.[2] The chuckles of the king's advisors died when Andras responded in fluent anglisc that Christ bore the greater burden and was clearly the greater warrior since he could liberate the captives of Hell while Woden couldn't even free his own son. Needless to say Coefi became Andras' inveterate enemy. Still, the healing spring impressed Eadwine enough to allow Andras to preach, though not near any of the pagan temples.

Andras established a small chapel on the shore where he and his mother had landed, though it was really more of a home base that he and his companions frequently traveled from and returned to in their circuit of the country. Eadwine's request was honored, but there were still confrontations with pagan priests and their believers who hounded their steps, and regardless of frequent visits to Eadwine's court the king showed only passing interest in the faith, seeming to earnestly listen to the message but continuing his pagan ways. It seems plausible that this was all arranged by Coefi in the hopes of provoking a reaction from the mission and early in 609 he got exactly what he asked for. Andras finally grew short tempered with the king, quoting Revelations to condemn his apathetic ways. Eadwine did not take the rebuke well, and had Andras and imprisoned for slander while Coefi had him charged with the desecration of altars, a crime punishable by death.

The news of the arrest traveled quickly, reaching the court of Ewen. Cundairn, now a young prince, urged Ewen to seek his brother's relief, and a demand was sent for the release Andras. Coefi, who seems to have had Eadwine's ear completely according the hagiography, assured him that so long as Andras was alive and secure the king of Reget would do nothing. He was right, until the saint escaped with the help of a servant who had come to faith overhearing the sermons to the king.

But the ball having been put in motion could not be stopped. Tensions rose, troops were mustered, allies were called in, and in the fall of 609A.D the armies marched to Catraeth. Much has been said of the battle in poetry, especially among the anglo-saxons who praised the manly bravery of Eadwine and Pibba and curse the treachery of Cueldgils. Of the battle itself we can piece together some clues to create an impression that mostly fits with the poetic and the historic accounts: the Anglo-saxons were almost entirely foot soldiers, and were noticeably out numbed (though troop numbers are notoriously difficult to pin down for this period in Britain). The battle started at dawn near a crossing of the Avon Gwinnduwr (known as the Swaluæ to the Angles) after a night of heavy drinking. The battle wasn't a singular clash between shield walls but rather they would clash for a time, pull back, and then re-engage. This happened several times before a gap opened up in the Anglo-saxon lines which was targeted by the cavalry. Separated, the men of Lindsege retreated while the Derean line was rolled up and crushed. The Mercian king tried to rally but the retreat turned into a route when King Pibba was struck down.

Eadwine had also fallen in the battle, thus there was little to oppose Ewen when he conquered the last Anglo-saxon kingdom of the north. Coefi is said to have fled from the capital in Pocelinstun to the temple of Woden in Goodmuningas Hama where he barred himself inside. When Cundairn arrived there with his dear Andras in tow they offered for Coefi to surrender peacefully but were rejected with invectives, the high priest unwilling to live a life of exile. The building was set ablaze with Coefi inside, the pagan priest calling down curses until the roof collapsed upon him, defiant to the end.

[1] To this day the wellspring and nearby chapel dedicated to Saint Elen sees many a pilgrim or tourist seeking to wash in its cool mineral rich waters, and is one of the more popular holy wells in Britain.
[2] An allusion to the seven days Woden is said to have hung from the world tree, Eorminsyl, as related to us in the Codex Eboracum.
Really digging this timeline so far; and its giving me some ideas for when I finally turn my attention back to Cumbria is my own timeline. Great job! Will we spend more time looking into the cultural developments of Cumbria during this era? Also, what impact does having a large and seemingly aggressive Christian power to the North do to the Christianization efforts about the Anglo-Saxons? Finally, whats going on with Dal Raida? (sorry, I'm a bit of a Dal Riada fanboy. :p I'm super looking forward to visiting Dunad once I get a bit more established in Scotland this semester!)
Really digging this timeline so far; and its giving me some ideas for when I finally turn my attention back to Cumbria is my own timeline. Great job
Thank you! And I'm flattered, really. I haven't had the time to read your timeline myself and tbh i think I'd get rather side tracked by it lol. These last two chapters i had to keep reigning myself in to stop from going full hagiography mode because its so easy to get side tracked with all the stuff Saints get up to, the celtic saints of this era especially.

Its hard, but I'm trying to keep true to being an abridged history rather than a deep dive on one period or event.

Will we spend more time looking into the cultural developments of Cumbria during this era?
Definitely, and I'll try to show how different Cundairn is from his father and grandfather in this regard.
Also, what impact does having a large and seemingly aggressive Christian power to the North do to the Christianization efforts about the Anglo-Saxons?
Finally, whats going on with Dal Raida?
We shall see ;)
Definitely, and I'll try to show how different Cundairn is from his father and grandfather in this regard.
One thing the orthodox church calls itself<<the orthodox Catholic church>>
Will the anglo saxons inside the kingdom influence cumbric at all?
About hagiography is it Byzantine or an original style ?