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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    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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    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.
    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.
    Chapter 4: Ethnogenesis
  • Chapter 4

    With his victory at Catraeth Ewen was without a doubt the most powerful king in the north and quite possibly in all of Britain, at least in military terms. If he had wanted to he could have easily pressed further south; Dere was conquered, Lindsege was unwilling to oppose him and readily accepted his overlordship, and Merce was kingless and its warbands scattered. It certainly would have been in line with the expansionist streak he demonstrated against his previous foes. Perhaps he thought such a move would overextend himself, or maybe he was paid off with tribute that may have been hinted at in his eulogy poem, but he decided to return home and disband the army. He was victorious and had gained land and wealth, his warbands were satisfied.

    Cundairn succeeded his father three years later but much less peaceably than his father had come to the throne. King Neython of the Picts laid claim to the throne of Alt Clout[1] either in an attempt to check the growing power of his southern neighbor or simply just for expanding his own power and influence, causing Coustentin vap Redherch to flee to the safety of nearby Dal Riata. There was a battle between Cundairn and Neython at Predhynain in 615 AD. contesting his usurpation but it seems to have been indecisive for both parties by the sparse information given.

    A second attempt was made in 621 at the battle of Cumyrinalt. Coustentin returned from his time among the Skots with a band of hardened mercenaries and further gathered as many loyal Britons to himself as he could. Neython obviously had to deal with the threat he posed and quickly marched down from Predin. Ironically, they met near the old ruins of the antonine wall in a clash that no doubt bore echoes of the long history between the two peoples. The fighting was long and vicious, with the mercenaries proving their worth, but it seemed like the Picts would still win the day until the army of Reget arrived led by a king eager to redeem himself and assert his cousin's right. The men of Bernice and Dere reinforced the line of alt clout while the horsemen of Reget encircled the Pictish flanks. The weight of these combined forces Neython couldn't withstand and he fled the field while much of his army was captured. The victory would mark an end to pictish attacks south of the Avon Gwerit but perhaps more importantly we see a cultural shift in the people north of the Avon Cymber as in the praise poem commemorating the victory we see the first instance of them being referred to as the Cumbry.

    On the religious side of things, Ewen had granted to Andras the land he had already built upon and paid to have Andras' little chapel expanded into a proper monastery in the style of Lannilltud.[2] Andras continued his work in preaching and teaching in Dere, including performing a three day long mass baptism at Eoforwic, starting with Eadwine's sister Acha who was afterwards married by Cundairn, solidifying his hold over the region. Andras was proving successful enough that he was even beginning to send missionaries north to Bernice, but soon he would be sending missionaries southward too.

    Pibba's death at Catraeth along with several important nobles had thrown Merce into disarray as a struggle for the crown commenced. On one side were the supporters of Pibba's young children, Eowa and Penda (six and four years old, respectively), with the expectation that they would control the regency. The other faction wanted a strong king immediately lest their neighbors started whittling away at their borders, and they coalesced around ealdorman Cearl as their leader. The evening before a clash between the two factions Cearl was encamped upon the crossroads of the old roman roads of the Fosse Way and Watling street and received a vision of a golden cross in the sky and heard a voice saying that he would gain victory and the kingdom by bearing the sign of the cross.[3] Cearl did so supposedly by painting the golden cross upon the blue cloaks he and his retinue wore. Cearl went on to win at the battle of Aderestun against the "loyalist" faction and marched on the royal center of Tomworthig, where he was officially declared king. Eowa and Penda disappear from the records from then on, so it is presumed that the two princes were executed. Among his first acts as king was to lift the restrictions placed upon the Christians, but he didn't formally reach out to the British church until 617 A.D., some five years after his victory.

    From an outside perspective this sudden turn away from the old pagan gods and towards christianity may seem odd, but even ignoring the vision and interaction with Andras it is not hard to see why Woden and Þunor were starting to seem less attractive than they once were. The pagan Anglo saxon advances from the mid sixth century had ground to a halt as had happened to the West Saxons at the battle of Deorham, or totally reversed as seen in the north with the rise of Reget. Cearl was likely a survivor of Catraeth and had seen that the christian armies of the north had defeated warriors and kings claiming the favor, or at least descent, from the gods of his people. Perhaps he had even heard of the exchange between Andras and Coefi from Eadwine's warband, and began to think the christian god was better for finding victory. Whatever the case was, Cearl felt a change in the wind and was adjusting his course to match it.

    Andras received the request and traveled to convert the Mercian king with his best anglian monks in tow, likely as to not imply that christianity was only a British religion. Cearl proved to be more interested in actual christian instruction than he had at their previous meeting, and so were his counselors after he had explained the visions he had been given previously. Though he was still somewhat hesitant because he didn't want to upset the men who put helped him in power, he agreed that his household would convert if he won another victory by the Christian god's intervention. He got his victory in a fight with the Middle Angels near a crossing of the river Nyn, where on the bank opposite from the battle Cundairn lead his monks in a prayer for victory and thus the place was named Munecsford. A man of his word, Cearl indeed had his whole family baptized by Andras. King Cearl also encouraged his subjects to convert, though he didn't force them to. This was less from a moral stance than a pragmatic one; forcing conversion would be difficult and antagonistic while rewarding the nobles of his court was easier and was more in line with the king's role as a giver of gifts. Andras installed a priest to minister for the royal family while he arranged for the archbishop of Cair Ciron to send on more holy men for Merce and for himself in the north.

    [1] Neython was a descendant of Duwnwal Hen of Alht Clout on his father's side and thus an uncle to Redherch. It was by virtue of his mother being a Pictish princess he had been acclaimed king of the picts in 595 AD.
    [2] Lannandras (OTL Scarborough), called Andres Mynster by the angles, would not be completed until after Ewen's death, but the school there still bears his name.
    [3] Renamed Heh Ród, formerly Roman Venonis
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    Chapter 5:
  • Chapter Five

    Paskent, who had succeeded Brannok as archbishop of Cair Ciron, was ecstatic at the success Andras' mission was finding and gladly lent his aid to induct the angles into the faith and especially to train them up as men of the cloth. The reason for this were the strict laws arrayed against the Britons in the Anglo-saxon territories that limited their ability to travel and interact with the Anglo-saxons and especially their ruling class. Such restrictions obviously wouldn't apply to the Anglo-saxon converts, nor to the handful of irish peregrini [1] that made their way into the pagan lands of the southeast. Paskent and Andras would send further missions to Westseaxna and East Engle respectively while attempts to reach into Cantawara and Suþseaxna were rebuffed turned away.

    Cundairn wasn't blind to the influence that the church offered him beyond his own territories, using the connections he had to appoint abbots in southern Predin and arrange the marriage of Connad Mac Conall, co-ruler of Dal Riata, with his niece Rienmelt verch Reyth. In the south he stood as godfather to Cadell son of King Cadvail of Cair Mammik (a position that was considered as good or better than a blood relation). With the approval of Paskent the king invested Saint Andras and Saint Elifer with the sees of Evrok and Lindcolun in a reestablishment of the ancient ecclesiastical provinces of Britannia Secunda and Flavia Caesariensis. He was also more than happy to patronize the church materially, granting land to monasteries throughout Reget as well as in the sub-kingdoms of Alht Clout and Elvet, like Glaskow abbey which was given to Irish monks from Eilean Bhóid that had a sheltered his cousin Coustentin in his exile. Unusually for most cultures in this period, we also see Queen Acha taking an active role in ruling by witnessing charters and donating land to Abbeys in the former Anglian kingdoms such as at Dunhama and Hereteu.

    Their support was not only because of piety, though. When Urien and Ewen had conquered Bernice and Dere a significant number Anglian landowners remained in place, but despite their submission to the Mab Meirchyon dynasty[2] tension remained between the anglian speaking pagans and the british speaking christians that threatened to boil over if not dealt with. It appears that both of them were working together, in support with the church, to bring the two groups into further contact while also tying them together through a shared faith and education as the monastic communities would teach the families of both groups indiscriminately, as saint Andras directed.

    We also see the mixing of their cultures in more subtle ways. A mixture of 'Celtic' and 'Germanic' styles began emerging that has come to be known as the Insular style, that prominently featured interlace and geometric styles from the romano-celtic tradition with the animal styles of the Anglo-saxons. It would be some time yet before they would reach their fullest expression in illuminated manuscripts, but broaches and other jewelry with the style do appear. It has been supposed that the marriage to Acha brought the first anglian poets into the cumbrian court because later laws entitle the queen to her own poet among her entourage, but it is far from certain that such was the case at this early date.

    Reget was becoming a formidable power in Britain and it's rise loomed large over the south, because despite the long standing grudges the Britons and Angles south of the Cymber-Mersuwy line both viewed it as a threat. To the Angles the Mab Meirchyon were the bane of anglian dynasties, having brought low the Idingas the Ællingas and the Iclingas, and if they pressed south any of them could be next. There was also a worry among some of them, even the christians, that the ongoing conversion efforts were a cowardly and devious means to subject them at to the (spiritual) authority of the norþwealhcynn without a fight. To the Brythonic kingdom of Powis they were encroaching upon their traditional sphere of influence, leading to worries over their ambitions towards Cair Leon[3], a vital part of their northern defenses; whoever held it would have easy access to the heartlands of Powis and its capital. Tensions between north and south were rising, and it was only a matter of time before fighting broke out again.

    [1] literally pilgrim or wanderer, but here meaning the practice for people to go into exile from their homeland either as penance or to preach The Word.
    [2] "Sons of Meirchyon", the legendary first ruler of Reget and Urien's grandfather. Through him Urien's family claimed descent from Cail Hen, the last Dux Britanniarum before roman withdrawal.
    [3] that is, Cairleon on Deverdewr, not to be confused with Cairleon on Wisk.
    Chapter 6
  • Chapter Six

    Despite the largely peaceful and prosperous rule of Cundiarn not everyone in the north appreciated being under Reget's thumb. Eidyn vap Cerdik, one of the sons of the king of Elvet, rebelled in 632 AD. Eidyn's motives in this aren't told to us by the Chronica, but the old antiquarian notions of it arising from his dissatisfaction with Cundiarn's reconcilary policies with the north angles can be dismissed on account of the Mercian and Powisian support he received. The most popular theory among current historians is that the rebellion arose over a dispute to the succession of the sub-kingdom, as the regnal list of Elvet have Cerdik dying at about this time and succeeded by his son Predour, who has appeared in Cundiarn's charters and was likely the over-king's favored candidate to succeed. Alternatively, it could be as simple as an independence movement. In either case Merce and Powis were quick to lend their support, and the combined warriors of the south once again faced off with the warriors of the north at a location northeast of Cairleon on Deverdewr.[1]


    The southern forces made use of the wooded landscape to secure their flanks and gave a pointed reminder of why the shield wall endured for so long as a viable tactic. Javelins were thrown and blocked, the cavalry charged repeatedly but was repulsed each time. Eidyn, along with kings Cearl of Merce and Eluit of Powis, didn't allow them to break the shield wall to pursue. Then the infantry of the north moved in and met the southern line. Fights between shield walls are essentially a pushing match as spears and swords and axes attempt to get around (or break) the protection of the shields. The casualties at this point of the battle were relatively low; the real slaughter only really took place once a line broke, and so every fight greatly depended upon the moral of the warriors. When the heir to the north, Cinuit, was killed the northern line faltered, and when King Cundairn himself was cut down the shield wall collapsed completely and the army was routed.

    The death of a ruler is an unstable and uncertain time for a kingdom of this era, which was why many of them designated the heir apparent to take the throne immediately, known as the Tanais in the British realms. With the loss of both however Reget was thrown for a loop. Cundiarn did have another son, Arthwal, but british succession customs tended to prefer adults over children (Arthwal was fourteen) which meant that some thought the crown ought to go to Reyth son of Elffin, a cousin to Cundiarn. And contrary to later developments, matrilineal relatives weren't barred from the kingship so Coustentin of Alt Clout also had a valid claim to press. Late in 632 the Queen Acha, exercising a surprising amount of royal authority even after her husband's death, stepped in to prevent civil war and called for a cumgor to determine the way forward. The cumgor was not, as some earlier historians had supposed, a legislative institution that directly prefigured the modern Senadh. Rather it was an informal body of important lords, clergy, and jurists assembled in an ad hoc manner to provide legal advice to the king, to show their support for the king's edicts and charters, or on very rare occasions choosing the monarch. It does not appear to have had the power to pass laws on its own authority. We're not told of all the political wrangling that must have gone on behind the scenes, but judging by the cumgor's neutral location of Penroudh[2] and that it was held almost four months after Cundiarn's death, it could not have been an easy task.

    The Election of Penroudh, as this event came to be known as, considered each claimant in order of proximity of blood; first Arthwal, then Reyth, and then Coustentin[3]. Coustentin attempted to improve his chances with a marriage proposal to the widowed queen, but her cousin Hereric as head of her household conditioned his approval on Coustentin immediately naming Arthwal as his Tanais, which the sub-king of Alt Clout rejected. Reyth likely emphasized his connections with the king of Dal Riata and the fact that his holdings were in Din Prys, the heartlands of Reget. Arthwal probably relied upon the precedent set by his forefathers; the crown had passed to the eldest surviving son for the last three generations; from Cunvarch to Urien to Ewen to Cundiarn. Arthwal also would have had the support of Bernice and Dere as he was more likely to continue the favorable integration scheme of his father and mother, given his half Angle ancestry. In the end the cumgor did decide in Arthwal's favor, unknowingly further entrenching the tendency towards primogeniture.

    We are given a description of the coronation ceremony of a later monarch of Cumbria and it is supposed that Arthwal's ceremony would have been much the same, as similar practices among all the Britons as far south as Cerniw imply a common origin.


    The king would travel to the royal center of Ardhwall[2] and fasted for the three days before the ceremony. The day of the ceremony would begin with a celebration of mass at the local church, during which prayers and blessings for the king's reign would be made, after which the bishop would place the royal diadem upon the king. Then the king would make a procession on horseback up the hill to the citadel where he would dismount. A sword owned by the last king, which had been placed inside of an anvil, would be withdrawn by the new king to symbolize his full assumption of royal power.

    [1] Believed to be near Cinuidryd, "Cinuit's ford" (OTL knutsford)
    [2] "Red Top" (OTL Penrith); "walled hieghts" (OTL Trusty's hill)
    [3] When the laws of Cumbria would be written down decades later matrilineal relatives would be regarded as more distant than patrilineal ones for legal purposes, though we cannot be absolutely certain this was true at the time of the first Cumgor of Penroudh.
    Chapter 7
  • Chapter Seven:

    If one were to take the Chronica Brittonem's account of at face value one would get the impression that Arthwal was in some way destined to be king, but the reality was that he was also young and inexperienced. Arthwal would have only just started his formal military training at the time of his father's death in 632, and he would've been far behind where his brother had been in his education as a ruler. This was not a good combination to have in the face of Powis growing their influence at the expense of his kingdom. All the while, Reyth was waiting in the wings, ready to swoop in as soon as the young king stumbled. Luckily he had people to fall back on, not the least of whom were his mother the queen and his uncle bishop Andras, but a small group of trusted advisers weren't enough to run as big of a kingdom as he'd inherited. His lands stretched from Din Eidyn in the north to Evrok in the south, and from Idasbruh in the east to Penn Rinnedh in the west. Even with the sub-kings of Alt Clout and north Elvet (sometimes called the kingdom of Cair Loidis in this period) taking on some of the load it was simply too much land for a single traveling court to administer properly, which is probably why it is in his reign that we see the creation of the Tuwissogow.[a]

    In the days when the kingdom of Reget had only went from the Rinns and Strat Itun it had been broken up into cummodow, which were a collection of anywhere from twenty to fifty households primarily for tax purposes, though the lords of a cummot was also responsible for keeping the peace and enforcing the laws. One issue with this organization was that justice remained the king's prerogative and it would take time for the royal court to swing by and deliver judgment; another was that the king had to come to the cummot himself to enjoy his taxes, which at this time took the form of in-kind payments of (primarily) foodstuffs, the monetized economy of the roman days having long since collapsed. King Cundiarn had worked towards expanding this organization into his eastern lands but the system was proving difficult to manage on such a large scale. Arthwal's remedy to this, or more likely the solution suggested by his advisors, was to group the cummodow into larger administrative districts. These men, given the title of Tuwissok and a silver tork[1] to note their high rank and display their fealty to the crown, would now gather the king's dues in more centralized locations in their region and were authorized to carry out justice in the king's name for more minor matters. Naturally these positions tended to be given to men the king could trust and who were dependent upon royal patronage, but powerful people couldn't be completely ignored and so we see men like Roun son of Reyth were also given office.

    The Tuwissogyon also demonstrated themselves to be a benefit in another important area: war. The Skottek Register records that in 635 a band of Irish raiders from Enis Monow[2] launched a failed attack upon the old Regetian capital of Penn Rinnedh. The Annals of Ard Macha give a more detailed telling; King Domnall Brecc of Dal Riata had a feud with Cenel Comgaill after deposing the previous King Connad, and so he sought to undermine mine the support the clan had starting with the weakened and apparently vulnerable British kingdom to his south was. After all, they were ruled by a child king who'd never been in battle. Thusly the men of Monow were enticed to raid to show just how weak Reget was. The attack was initially successful and the Monowgwir took many treasures and slaves, but finding and moving them to their ships took time, time enough for Tuwissok Cunan to respond with his mounted retinue. The raiders were taken by surprise and were forced to flee without their spoils. In response to the raid Arthwal launched his own in 637, which is notable for being his first recorded military action as well as his use of Anglian style[3] long ships. This action, along with his mother's retirement to the dual monastery at Heretu, is taken by some scholars to mark the end of his regency although some push the date to the death of his uncle Andras in 645.

    Before his passing however the ever active monk left one more lasting impact upon the faith of the Isles. Ever since his investiture with the See of Evrok Andras had been in communication with the monks of Ioua and their leader Ségéne, and we are fortunate enough that their letters were preserved for the historical record. The majority of the letters are focused on discussions on monastic life that would come to shape the whole of Britannic monasticism, but more immediately the two esteemed clergymen began a debate about the calculus of easter to which Andras brought his experience at the Synod of Gwrikon and the reflection that old age provided him. The arguments between them became heated leading Ségéne to appeal to Andras' superior in Bishop Paskent of Cair Ciren, but the bishop lent his not insignificant weight to the British monk and rebuked the Abbot of Iuoa for leading god's flock astray, though he did it with the best intentions by keeping with the old tradition. Yet Paskent also reminded Andras that his authority only went so far, officially recognizing the See of Ioua as extending over Caledonia[4]. This episode of the Britannic church's history would go on to be a key part of the bishop of Cair Ciren's argument for primacy in Britain.

    [1] A type of highly ornamented neck ring that had been popular in iron age Europe prior to the Roman conquest of western Europe. They had fallen out of popularity in the Roman territories in the first century AD, but their revival in post-Roman Britain seems to indicate that either they had remained popular in the British frontier, or had been reintroduced by cultural exchange with the Hiberno-Skotek cultures.
    [2] OTL Isle of Man
    [3] ie: clinker built, as opposed to the mortise and tenon gaelic style.
    [4] that is, the land north of the Antonine wall.

    [a] I debated using a "cantref" system, or even a shire system, but decided otherwise because of a few reasons. The Cumbraek conlang that I've been using does make use of a cumbricized 'shire', but not only is that an Anglo-saxon term it seems to have been particular to Wessex for much of Anglo-saxon history. As for some variation on cantref, for starters i don't want Cumbria to just be Wales-but-north; they have a history and culture that, while connected to the southern Britons, also has significant Gaelic and Pictish influences their southern counterparts don't share. Also I've had to consider the cantrefs in their context, the laws of Hywel dda. Frankly the timing of their codification, Hywel's closeness with the English court, and the definition of the cantref to be 100 towns makes me suspect that they were Hywel importing the English institution of the Hundred into his kingdom to improve his rule.
    Chapter 8
  • Chapter Eight

    It is very likely that in Arthwal's early reign there was a lot of pressure upon him as king to punish the rebellious Eidyn, but also as the head of the royal Looth[1] he was expected to avenge himself upon Eluit of Powis for the death of his father and brother and on a personal level he may have wanted payback for totally upending his life. Powis however was at the height of its power, as having secured an alliance with Merce by a marriage to Censige son of Cearl they were able to exercise their ancient claim to overlordship over the middle British kingdoms, barring Cair Gwent who was allied with Duwnant. Besides that repeated Irish raids were holding Arthwal's attention and led him to move the main royal residence from the exposed Penn Rinnedh to the more protected Cair Luwel, which had been in the process of being renovated since at least the time of his grandfather.

    Luckily Arthwal didn't have to look far for allies. Though he styled himself as Gworthiarn in the model of the first British overlord of the south[2], Eluit was an insecure king that lashed out at threats to his rule, real and imagined, meaning that there were quite a few disgruntled prince expelled from their homes. Cadwaladur vap Cadwalon, the would be heir to Gwinet, was one such prince that made his way to the court of Arthwal in 643 after spending some time in Ireland. Cadwaladur brought the news that it was King Domnall Brecc who was encouraging the raids, and offered his loyal service in return for putting him back on the throne of his father. Arthwal readily accepted, and by all accounts the two men became close friends, bonding over their shared love of poetry. In fact Arthwal is reported as being quite skilled in the art as he had learned under the tutelage of the great bardh Aneyrin, though few poems can be definitively attributed to him.

    At any rate Arthwal was sick of Domnall's piratical behavior and decided to go straight for Dun Add, but unlike his great grandfather he would take the sea route directly to the Skottek ceremonial seat. When Domnall heard of this he raised the alarm, and began rallying the ships of Dal Riata at Eilean Líach[3], a small island with a sheltered bay and sandy beach that was a perfect harbor. By old agreement and tradition it was the kindreds of Albu, that is the british part of the kingdom, that were to supply the long ships of Dal Riata according to their ability. In practical terms however the number of ships the high king could reliably call up depended much more on his ability to convince the kindreds to follow his lead than their ship building capacity. We are told by the Skottek Register that after two failed campaigns against the Pictish kingdom of Fortriu, Cenel Loairn had no confidence in Domnall's military ability and delayed their coming to the king's side, but Domnall was confident that the men of Cenel nGabrain and Cenel nOengusa would be enough to put down the smaller force of the British king. It must have been a real surprise then when he woke up one day to find that the British fleet, joined by the Cenel Comgaill, had turned the harbor into a trap and negated his numerical advantage. The Skotts managed to put up some fight but it wasn't long before Domnall was captured and they surrendered. Arthwal was fairly lenient with his captured foe for the standards of the time, and only had his thumbs removed to disqualify him from the high kingship before exiling him in Ireland. Ferchar Mac Connaid, the son of king Connad and kin to Arthwal, would be proclaimed the king of Dal Riata under the auspices of Ségéne of Ioua and soon thereafter made an agreement with Arthwal for their two kingdoms to defend each other's shores from piratical raids. Despite the language of the agreement being one of a mutual defense pact it clearly benefited the British kingdom far more, it wasn't Dal Riata that had been suffering from raiders after all but Arthwal had cleverly managed to make the people who cause the problem fix it, freeing himself to focus his attentions elsewhere.

    Stepping back from high politics a bit, Arthwal caused a great stir when he returned home from the north with a low born mistress by the name of Mòrag. Such things weren't especially uncommon in that era, but generally such women were kept in the background whereas Mòrag dared to be seen publicly in the king's company, and thusly earned the king and herself the censure of the clerical writers of the time who bemoaned their licentious habits. They would receive even more criticism when Mòrag gave birth to a daughter named Annak out of wedlock two years later. On the other hand the poems and stories of the bardhs remember her more kindly as generous woman who could sing and play the harp beautifully, an skill that implies that she was not so low born as the monastics made her out to be. There are two poems that mention her one of which is believed to be Arthwal's own work and are preserved in the Green Book of Lannwinndy[4], a book of Cumbrian poetry sometimes called the book of the bardhs.

    [1] Clan/tribe, often glossed as Gens in latin commentaries
    [2] literally overlord or over-ruler, it is also the name given to the first leader of the Britons after the withdrawal of the legions that we know of. Whether it was his actual name or merely his title is debated
    [3] 'spoon island', OTL Sanda island
    [4] 'enclosure of the white house', aka Candida Casa, OTL Whithorn
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