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Geoffrey of Monmouth History of the Kings of Britain

 
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Geoffrey of Monmouth
History of the Kings of Britain
page 83



Chapter 10. Oswald routs Penda in fight, but is killed by Cadwalla coming in upon him.

Their deaths made room for Oswald to succeed to the kingdom of Northumberland; but Cadwalla drove him, with the rest that had given him disturbance, to the very wall which the emperor Severus had formerly built between Britain and Scotland. Afterwards he sent Penda, king of the Mercians, and the greatest part of his army, to the same place, to give him battle. But Oswald, as he was besieged one night by Penda, in the place called Heavenfield, that is, the Heavenly Field, set up there our Lord’s cross, and commanded his men to speak with a very loud voice these words: “Let us all kneel down, and pray the Almighty, living and true God, to defend us from the proud army of the king of Britain, and his wicked leader Penda. For he knows how justly we wage this war for the safety of our people.” They all therefore did as he commanded them, and advanced at break of day against the enemy, and by their faith gained the victory. Cadwalla, upon hearing this news, being inflamed with rage, assembled his army, and went in pursuit of the holy king Oswald; and in a battle which he had with him at a place called Burne, Penda broke in upon him and killed him.

Chapter 11. Oswy submits to Cadwalla. Penda desires leave of Cadwalla to make war against him.

Oswald, with many thousands of his men, being killed, his brother Oswy succeeded him in the kingdom of Northumberland, and by making large presents of gold and silver to Cadwalla, who was now possessed of the government of all Britain, made his peace and submission to him. Upon this Alfrid, his brother, and Ethelwald, his brother’s son, began an insurrection; but, not being able to hold out against him, they fled to Penda, king of the Mercians, desiring him to assemble his army and pass the Humber with them, that he might deprive Oswy of his kingdom. But Penda, fearing to break the peace, which Cadwalla had settled through the kingdom of Britain, deferred beginning any disturbance without his leave, till he could some way work him up, either to make war himself upon Oswy, or allow him the liberty of doing it. At a certain Pentecost therefore, when Cadwalla was celebrating that festival at London, and for the greater solemnity wore the crown of Britain, all the kings of the Angles, excepting only Oswy, being present, as also all the dukes of the Britons; Penda went to the king, and inquired of him the reason, why Oswy alone was wanting, when all the princes of the Saxons were present. Cadwalla answered, that his sickness was the cause of it; to which the other replied, that he had sent over to Germany for more Saxons, to revenge the death of his brother Oswald upon them both. He told him further, that he had broken the peace of the kingdom, as being the sole author of the war and dissension among them; since Elthelfrid, king of Northumberland, and Ethelwald, his brother’s son, had been by him harassed with a war, and driven out of their own country. He also desired leave, either to kill him, or banish him the kingdom.

Chapter 12. Cadwalla is advised to suffer Penda to make an insurrection against Oswy.

This matter caused the king to enter upon much deliberation, and hold a private consultation with his intimate friends, what course to take. Among the rest that offered their proposals, Margadud, king of the Dimetians, spoke as follows:—“Royal sir, since you have proposed to expel the race of the Angles from the coasts of Britain, why do you alter your resolution, and suffer them to continue in peace among us? At least you should permit them to fall out among themselves, and let our country owe its deliverance to their own civil broils. No faith is to be kept with one that is treacherous, and is continually laying snares for him to whom he owes fidelity. Such have the Saxons always been to our nation, from the very first time of their coming among us. What faith ought we to keep with them? Let Penda immediately have leave to go against Oswy, that by this civil dissension and destruction of one another, our island may get rid of them.

Chapter 13. Penda is killed by Oswy. Cadwalla dies.

By these and other words to the same effect, Cadwalla was prevailed upon to grant the permission desired. And Penda, having assembled a vast army, went to the Humber, and laying waste that country, began a fierce war upon the king. Oswy was at last reduced to such extremity, that he was forced to promise him innumerable royal ornaments, and other presents more than one would believe, if he would desist from ruining his country, and return home without committing any more hostilities. But when the other could by no entreaties be prevailed upon to do it, the king, in hopes of divine assistance, though he had a less army, however, gave him battle near the River Winwid, and having killed Penda and thirty other commanders, gained the victory. Penda’s son Wulfred, by a grant from Cadwalla, succeeded to the kingdom, and joining


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