Around 625 Paulinus
was consecrated bishop of York and was instrumental in converting the Northern
lands to Roman Christianity. Edwin took some years before he and much of his
court embraced Christianity. Three events decided Edwin to convert, the first
was an unsuccessful assassination attempt by the West Saxons, secondly when the
pagan high priest Coifi gave up his practices and joined the Church and finally
when Paulinus reminded him of a mysterious event that happened to him while in
exile. Edwin was baptised at Easter, in 627, after the birth of his daughter
Eanfled. Many lords and their subjects in both Yorkshire and Lincolnshire
followed his example.
Edwin continued to
extend his territory at the expense of the Picts to the north, the Cumbrians to
the west and the Welsh from whom he captured Anglesey and Man, he also absorbed
the British enclave of Elmet, near modern day Leeds. He became the first
Northumbrian to be overlord of the southern kingdoms and the first Christian
king of Northumbria. But his expansion brought him mortal enemies, Penda, the
powerful pagan king of Mercia allied himself with the Christian Welsh king
Cadwallon and they eventually defeated and killed Edwin at the battle of
Hatfield Chase in 633.
daughter Eanfled and Paulinus fled south to the safety of Kent and thus halted
the Roman Christian advances in the north.
Oswald acceded to the
throne the following year and brought with him the Celtic faith that was to
prosper in the north.
Eanfled, herself a Roman Christian, was to return to Northumbria to marry Oswiu
on Oswald’s death and this led to a court which was part Roman on her side and
Celtic on the side of her husband. It was Eanfled who was the sponsor and
driving influence behind Wilfrid which led to the Synod of Whitby in 664 and a
return to Roman ways.
It is extraordinary that in St.
Wilfrid’s Lady Chapel there is a window for Edwin’s Queen Aethelburgh but none
for Edwin’s daughter Queen Eanfled who was a pivotal figure in our Wilfrid
story. (PG based on JH’s original)