EDWIN, Aeduini or Edwine (585-633), king of Northumbria, was the son of Ella of Deira. On the seizure of Deira by Æthelfrith of Bernicia (probably 605), Edwin was expelled and is said to have taken refuge with Cadfan, king of Gwynedd. After the battle of Chester, in which Æthelfrith defeated the Welsh, Edwin fled to Rœdwald, the powerful king of East Anglia, who after some wavering espoused his cause and defeated and slew Æthelfrith at the river Idle in 617. Edwin thereupon succeeded to the Northumbrian throne, driving out the sons of Æthelfrith. There is little evidence of external activity on the part of Edwin before 625. It is probable that the conquest of the Celtic kingdom of Elmet, a district in the neighbourhood of the modern Leeds, ruled over by a king named Cerdic (Ceredig) is to be referred to this period, and this may have led to the later quarrel with Cadwallon, king of Gwynedd. Edwin seems also to have annexed Lindsey to his kingdom by 625. In this year he entered upon negotiations with Eadbald of Kent for a marriage with his sister Æthelberg. It was made a condition that Christianity should be tolerated in Northumbria, and accordingly Paulinus was consecrated bishop by Justus in 625, and was sent to Northumbria with Æthelberg. According to Bede, Edwin was favourably disposed towards Christianity owing to a vision he had seen at the court of Rœdwald, and in 626 he allowed Eanfled, his daughter by Æthelberg, to be baptized. On the day of the birth of his daughter, the king's life had been attempted by Eomer, an emissary of Cwichelm, king of Wessex. Preserved by the devotion of his thegn Lilla, Edwin vowed to become a Christian if victorious over his treacherous enemy. He was successful in the ensuing campaign, and abstained from the worship of the gods of his race. A letter of Pope Boniface helped to decide him, and after consulting his friends and counsellors, of whom the priest Coifi afterwards took a prominent part in destroying the temple at Goodmanham, he was baptized with his people and nobles at York, at Easter 627. In this town he granted Paulinus a see, built a wooden church and began one of stone. Besides York, Yeavering and Maelmin in Bernicia, and Catterick in Deira, were the chief scenes of the work of Paulinus. It was the influence of Edwin which led to the conversion of Eorpwald of East Anglia. Bede notices the peaceful state of Britain at this time, and relates that Edwin was preceded on his progresses by a kind of standard like that borne before the Roman emperors. In 633 Cadwallon of North Wales and Penda of Mercia rose against Edwin and slew him at Hatfield near Doncaster. His kinsman Osric succeeded in Deira, and Eanfrith the son of Æthelfrith in Bernicia. Bede tells us that Edwin had subdued the islands of Anglesey and Man, and the Annales Cambriae record that he besieged Cadwallon (perhaps in 632) in the island of Glannauc (Puffin Island). He was definitely recognized as overlord by all the other Anglo-Saxon kings of his day except Eadbald of Kent.
See Bede, Hist. Eccl. (ed. Plummer, Oxford, 1896), ii. 5, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20; Nennius (ed. San Marte, 1844), § 63; Vita S. Oswaldi, ix. Simeon of Durham (ed. Arnold, London, 1882-1885, vol. i. R.S.).
(F. G. M. B.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)