This list outlines names, dates and doings as chosen by the author to be the basis for the women, men and children who populate the world of The Song of Hild.

To help identification in this novel, the name ending -frith is given as -fred in Ædelfred’s family line and -frid in Edwin’s family.


[ ] = fictional character and/or circumstance, invented for the novel
b. = born
d. = died
m. = married
m/o = mother of
f/o = father of
d/o = daughter of
s/o = son of
sis/o = sister of
b/o = brother of

ACHA—d/o King Ælle of Deira; m. [aged 11] King Ædelfred of Bernicia. Children: daughter Ebba; sons Oswald, Oswy, Oslac, Oswudu, Oslaf and Offa.

AGILBERT—d. c.690; b. in modern-day France, educated in Ireland; b/o Abbess Telchildis of Jouarre; bishop in the realm of the West Saxons c.650–60, later Bishop of Paris; attended what is now known as the Synod of Whitby 664; friend of Wilfrid, briefed Theodor and Hadrian about circumstances in the British Isles. Saint.

AHLFLÆD—b. 639 at the latest [635]; d/o King Oswy of Northumbria and his first wife Rhiainfellt; m. King Penda’s son Peada 653; possibly responsible for Peada’s murder, Easter 656.

AIDAN—d. 31 August 651; monk from the isle of Iona, of Irish descent, never learnt the ‘English’ language. Brought to Lindisfarne by King Oswald in 635, where he was bishop and abbot. Friend of Oswine, Hild’s teacher. Extolled for his humility, moderation, asceticism, missionary work on foot; many miracles attributed. Described with great love by Bede, despite his Iro-Celtic views on the dating of Easter. Saint; ‘Apostle of Northumbria’.

ALCHFRED—s/o King Oswy and his first wife Rhianinfellt; m. [10-year-old] Cyneburh, d/o King Penda of Mercia. King of Deira 655–664. Chose Wilfrid as bishop, similarly supporting the Roman system of Christianity. Stone cross at Bewcastle, Cumbria, possibly erected by Wilfrid in remembrance of Alchfred and Cyneburh.

ALDWULF—[634]-713; s/o Hereswid [and Sigebert]; king of the East Angles 664–713.

AMBROSIUS AURELIANUS—lived mid-5th century, presumably a Romano-Briton of noble birth, campaigned against the Anglo-Saxons; possibly the historical person behind the King Arthur of legend. [First ancestor of the kings of Gwynedd.]

ANEIRIN—Brittonic bard, author of the heroic poem ‘Y Gododdin’ (The Gododdin).

ANNA—king of the East Angles [636]-654; Christian. Dependent on Penda, slain after rebelling against him. [Step-]f/o Ædelthryd; f/o many pioneering daughters: Seaxburh, married to King Erconberht of Kent, Abbess of Ely 679–699; Ædelburh, Abbess of Faremoutiers-en-Brie (double monastery in northern France); Wihtburh, nun in Ely; Sæthryd, Abbess of Faremoutiers-en-Brie.

ANNEMUNDUS—d. 657; Bishop of Lyon; Wilfrid’s patron; beheaded, according to Eddius Stephanus, at Queen Baldhild’s instigation.

ANTONIUS—251–356; monk, abbot, hermit in the Egyptian desert where he experienced the temptations that usually accompany strict asceticism and isolation. Much revered in the Middle Ages as healer of diseases and as the father of monasticism. Saint—also known as Anthony the Great, Anthony the Anchorite, Anthony of Egypt, and other epithets.


BALDHILD—d. 680; Anglo-Saxon by birth. Captured by invaders from Denmark, sold into slavery at the court of the king of the Franks, where she eventually m. King Clovis II in 649. Founded double monasteries of Corbie and Chelles, the latter with nuns from Jouarre. Served as queen regent after Clovis died in 657; worked to halt slavery and purchased the freedom of slaves; following a palace revolution in 665, she withdrew to Chelles and became a humble nun. In his Vita Sancti Wilfrithi (Life of Saint Wilfrid), Eddius Stephanus writes that she was responsible for the assassinations of ten bishops, which is a much-disputed claim. Saint.

BEBBA—b. c.575; queen, m. to Ædelfred king of Bernicia; m/o Eanfred (briefly king 633–634); gave her name to the royal stronghold of Bebbanburg/Bamburgh, which was possibly her morning gift.

BEDE—c.673–735; ‘the Venerable Bede’; monk at Benedict Biscop’s Wearmouth-Jarrow monastery, author of many works. With its approach to historical detail and dating, his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (731; Ecclesiastical History of the English People) is a both pioneering and awe-inspiring work. Aged 7, Bede was handed over to Benedict Biscop and thereafter spent his entire life in Wearmouth and Jarrow, reading and writing. His account of ‘the English People’ is coloured by the disputes of his day, and his sympathies plainly lie with the royal power, with the Christians rather than the pagans, with Northumbria rather than Mercia and other enemy peoples, and with the Roman Catholic rather than an Iro-Celtic Church that was slow to accept the dominance of Rome. Bede’s sympathy for ‘the English’ in comparison with the Britons also applies to the pagan ‘English’ kings who attack Christian Britons. The purpose of his account is to show the successful onward march of Christianity; he is reluctant to mention the many setbacks along the way and he writes as little as possible about pagans. In depicting Aidan and Hild with such great warmth—even though they supported the Brittonic method of calculating the date of Easter—his intention was perhaps to highlight certain principles for his weak-willed contemporaries. Despite these caveats, it is impossible not to be fond of him—his straightforward style, attentiveness to and delight in his material, and the integrity that nonetheless shines through. With hindsight, his concerns about the substandard defence of the British Isles could almost seem prophetic: in 693 Lindisfarne was plundered by Danish Vikings, and from then on there was no let-up. [Illegitimate s/o Cædmon the shepherd.]

BEGU—nun at Hild’s monasteries in Whitby and Hackness. According to Bede, Begu saw angels accompanying Hild on her ascent to heaven. Saint.

BENEDICT BISCOP—628–690; b. to high-ranking Anglo-Saxon nobility; name taken by Biscop Baducing when he became a monk in Saint-Honorat, on the monastic island of Lérins, off the Mediterranean coast of France, where he stayed for two years. Frequent travels to Rome; accompanied by Wilfrid on his first visit; brought back books, relics, art, and European craftsmen. Established the monasteries of Wearmouth 674 and Jarrow 685, both built of stone, which became leading European centres of scholarship and culture. Baducing’s library was the foundation for Bede’s writings. His monastic rule was Benedictine, compiled from seventeen monasteries he had visited. On his deathbed, he requested that his people should observe his rule, should not split up his library and should not elect his brother as his successor. Saint.

BENEDICT OF NURSIA—480–550; b. in Nursia, Italy. Established Monte Cassino monastery, between Rome and Naples. Compiled Regula Benedicti (The Rule of Benedict), a guide for monastic life, which became dominant in the early Middle Ages, emphasizing moderation, obedience, regularity and community within the monastery. The flexibility of the Benedictine communities contributed to their monasteries becoming centres of learning, agriculture, care for the needy, and the development of medicines. Wilfrid claimed to have introduced Benedict’s rule to the British Isles, as did Baducing. Saint.

[BERHTFRID—Wilfrid’s (adoptive) father.]

BEUNO—d. c.640; Welsh abbot, said to have been descended from the princes of Powys. Founded a monastery at Clynnog Fawr, Lleyn peninsula of Gwynedd. See also GWENFREWI (Winifride), his niece. Saint.

BIRINUS—d. 650; possibly a Germanic Lombard by birth. Sent to Christianize the Britons by Pope Honorius I. Stayed with the West Saxons from 635; Bishop of Dorchester 635–650; baptized King Cynegils and his family; founded churches in and around Dorchester, Winchester. Saint.

BOSA—d. c.705; Bishop of York 678–686 and again 691–705. Consecrated bishop by Theodor when Wilfrid was banished from Northumbria and his diocese of York was divided. Educated at Hild’s monastery. Saint.

[BOTHELM—626–645; s/o Penda and his second wife.]

BOUDICCA—1st-century queen of the Iceni tribe, in modern-day East Anglia. Led a bloody and ultimately unsuccessful campaign against occupying Roman troops.

BREGUSWID—[d/o Cearl, king of the Mercians]; m. Hereric, m/o [Hereberht], Hereswid and Hild. According to Bede, she had a vision before Hild’s birth: Breguswid found a precious jewel under her garment, shining with such brightness that it filled the whole land with its glorious blaze of light—a dream that Bede’s sees fulfilled in the life of Breguswid’s daughter, Hild.

BRIGID OF CILL DARA—c.450–523; founder and abbess of the double monastery at Kildare. Status of a bishop in the early Irish church (possibly inadvertently consecrated bishop by Bishop Ibor). Saint—perhaps a Christian rendition of the pagan triple goddess: bard, healer, smith.

BRYNHILD—figure from Norse and Germanic mythology. There is no actual proof that the story of Brynhild and Sigurd was known in Hild’s day, but as ‘evidence’ handed down is so random and sparse, particularly with respect of non-Christian material, it features in The Song of Hild. A magic potion causes Sigurd to forget his vow of love to Brynhild and he marries the king’s sister; he later helps the king win Brynhild for himself; having discovered Sigurd’s deceit, Brynhild plots to have him slain, whereupon she chooses to die alongside him in the flames of his funeral pyre.

CADFAN—(Catamanus)—c.580–625; king of Gwynedd; f/o Cædwalla.

CARADOC—(Caratacus)—1st-century tribal king in what is now southeast Wales. Resisted the Roman invaders, was handed over to them by his former ally Cartimandua; taken to Rome, pardoned and allowed to stay there.

CARTIMANDUA—queen of the Brigantes in the mountainous area of the Pennines. Entered an alliance with the invading Romans. Cast off her husband and married her swordbearer; her ex-husband turned against her and Roman domination, and Cartimandua had to ask the Romans for protection. She handed over her former ally Caradoc to the Roman invaders.

CEARL—c.606-c.625; king of the Mercians; f/o Cwenburh [and Breguswid]; not of Penda’s kin and not mentioned in any genealogies. Mercia was possibly run by many sub-kings in his day.

CEDD—c.620–664; died of the plague; missionary and bishop of the East Saxons. He and his brothers—Chad, Cynebil and Cælin—were educated by Bishop Aidan. Accompanied Penda’s son Peada to Mercia following his baptism in 653, and was then sent to the East Saxons. Founded a monastery in Lastingham, a gift from Ædelwald, king of Deira. Interpreter at the Synod of Whitby. Saint.

CENWALCH—d. c.672; s/o King Cynegils. King of Wessex 642 to c.645, when Penda expelled him for rejecting his wife (Penda’s sister); exile until c.648 in East Anglia, where he was baptized; returned to Wessex, king until his death. His second wife, Seaxburh, reigned for one year after his death.

CHAD—d. 672. Succeeded his brother Cedd as abbot of Lastingham. In Wilfrid’s absence, he was made bishop of the Northumbrians in 664, but Archbishop Theodor overruled his ordination and reinstated Wilfrid in 669. Chad then became the first bishop of Lichfield, Mercia, and was given land by King Wulfhere. Ascetic and humble. Saint.

CLOVIS II—634–657; king of the Franks; his queen, Baldhild, reigned after his death.

COIFI—high-priest of perhaps Deira’s largest shrine in Goodmanham, east of York. His two speeches in The Song of Hild are referenced from Bede.

COLMAN—d. 675; Irish; abbot and bishop on Lindisfarne 661–664. In protest over decisions made at the Synod of Whitby, he left Lindisfarne and returned, along with the majority of his Irish monks and thirty of his ‘English’ monks, to Ireland, settling on the island of Inishbofin. Conflict would seem to have broken out at the monastic community: the Irish monks undertook missionary trips during the summer and upon their return expected to have their share of the harvest foods brought in by the monks who had stayed and worked the fields. Saint.

COLUMBA—c.521–597; Irish abbot, established monasteries of Derry, Durrow and Kells in Ireland. Travelled in 563/5 to present-day Scotland, where the king of Dalriada gave him and his twelve companions the isle of Iona, on which he established a monastery. Converted the Pict king, Brude; established two churches in Inverness. Ecclesiastical leader of the Irish realms in present-day northern England and western Scotland. Extremely learned man; three surviving hymns, rendered in Latin, may be attributable to him. Saint.

CWENBURH—d/o Cearl, king of the Mercians; m. Edwin of Northumbria; m/o Osfrid and Eadfrid. [Died in childbirth 612.]

CYNEBIL—monk, priest; b/o Cedd, Chad and Cælin. By many days of prayer and fast, he helped Cedd expel the spirits from Lastingham before they built the monastery.

CYNEBURH—[621–643]; d/o Cynegils, king of the West Saxons; m. King Oswald, possibly in connection with Cynegils’ baptism; m/o King Ædelwald of Deira. [Burnt to death with her daughters when staying with Oswy.]

CYNEBURH—[643]-680; d/o King Penda [and Cynewise]; m. [aged 10] Oswy’s son Alchfred, sub-king of Deira from 655 until his disappearance after 664. Founded the Castor monastery in present-day Northamptonshire; succeeded as abbess by her sister Cyneswid. Saint.

CYNEGILS—king of the West Saxons 611–642; f/o King Cenwalch (ruled 643–672), Cyneburh, Cynewise, King Centwine (ruled 676–685). King Oswald stood sponsor at his baptism.

CYNEWISE—b. 624; d/o King Cynegils; [642 m. Penda of Mercia; m/o Cyneburh and Cyneswid—likely to have been married to Penda, since Bede reports that in 655 Oswy’s son Egfred was held hostage by Queen Cynewise in Mercia].

CÆDMON—first named Anglo-Saxon poet. Illiterate herdsman who, by heavenly grace, received the gift of poetry composition. Presented to Hild when his talent for rendering divine doctrine in glorious verse and song had become evident, and invited to enter her monastery of Streonæshalch. Passages from the Holy Scriptures were read to him and he would thereafter, according to Bede, turn them into beautiful verse, translated into the language of his native people, in words expressive of the praise of God—which must have been of great benefit to the missionary work. The fragment quoted by Bede, and now generally known as Cædmon’s Hymn, is the earliest surviving Old English poem written in Germanic alliterative verse—and was later recorded in seventeen extant manuscripts.

CÆDWALLA—s/o King Cadfan; king of Gwynedd c.624-c.635; Christian. Besieged 632 by King Edwin on Ynys Seiriol (Puffin Island). Together with Penda, defeated King Edwin of Northumbria at the battle of Hatfield (October 12, 633), and thereafter rampaged through the land. Killed Osric, king of Deira; later killed Eanfred, king of Bernicia, when he sought peace. His huge army was defeated by Oswald at the battle of Heavenfield (August 635); while escaping, Cædwalla was killed near Rowley Burn, south of Hexham. His son Cædwaladr (d. 664 of the plague) later ruled peacefully and achieved sainthood.

CÆLIN—monk; b/o Cedd, Chad and Cynebil. Priest for Ædelwald, king of Deira.

DAVID—d. 589; monk, bishop. Lived a highly ascetic life; possibly founder of Glastonbury and monasteries in Cornwall and Brittany, but very little is known. Considered the greatest Welsh saint.

DEUSDEDIT—d. 664 of the plague; first native-born archbishop in Canterbury 655–664. Saint.

EADBURH—[625–654]; d/o Penda [with his second wife]; nun; possibly abbess in Aylesbury. Saint, as Edburh of Bicester.

EADFRID—[611–635]; s/o Edwin, king of the Northumbrians and his first wife Cwenburh; [m. Hild]; surrendered to Penda at the battle of Hatfield and was held prisoner in Mercia (633-?); [f/o Hundfrid and Wilbrord 635]; murdered, allegedly on Penda’s orders.

EANFLÆD—626–704; d/o King Edwin and Queen Tata (Edelberg) of Northumbria; first baptism in the kingdom, Whitsun 626, by Paulinus. After Edwin’s defeat 633, escaped by boat to Kent with her mother and Paulinus; m. King Oswy of Bernicia 642. Patron of Wilfrid; supported Roman Church usage. Upon Oswy’s death 670, she and her daughter Ælfflæd entered Hild’s monastery in Whitby, where she took charge after Hild’s death; had Edwin’s remains brought to the monastery. Saint.

EANFRED—d. 634; s/o King Ædelfred of Bernicia and his wife Bebba. In exile after the battle at the River Idle 616. Baptized, but as king of Bernicia 633–634 reverted to paganism. Killed by Cædwalla when he sought peace negotiations with twelve unarmed men.

EADWACER—only known from the poem quoted: ‘Wulf and Eadwacer’. Not a given name; means a watcher of wealth, lover of possessions, hoarder of riches, coveter of gold. It is not known where and when or who composed the poem, and there are numerous theories as to its meaning—one being that it is a riddle and the listeners have to guess who it is about.

EBBA—d. 683; d/o Ædelfred and Acha of Northumbria. After Oswald’s victory, became abbess for the double monastery at Coldingham. In 672, she housed Ædelthryd, who had run away from her husband, King Egfred. Coldingham burnt down 679, by all accounts due to fire sent from heaven because the nuns were more concerned with weaving fine cloth than with praying and watching. King Egfred visited her 681 with his new queen—Ermenburh—who fell ill; Ebba explained that the illness was caused by the saints’ relics Ermenburh had stolen from Wilfrid and now wore around her neck, plus the fact that Egfred had imprisoned Wilfrid and flouted the Holy See’s order to reinstate him. Once Wilfrid had been released and his relics had been returned to him, Ermenburh recovered her health. Gave her name to Ebchester and St Abb’s Head. Saint.

ECGRIC—s/o King Rædwald. King of the East Angles; [king until 636; m. Hereswid]. Killed, along with Sigebert, in battle against Penda; [buried by the victor (Penda) alongside Sigebert in the ship burial at Sutton Hoo].

EDBALD—s/o King Edelberht I of Kent (560?-616) and Bertha from Paris (the first Christian royal couple); b/o Tata; f/o King Erconberht and Ermenræd. King of Kent 616–640.

EDELBERG—see Tata.

EDWIN—584–633; s/o King Ælle of Deira; m. Cwenburh, princess from Mercia, and Tata (Edelberg) from Kent. Possibly brought up by the king of Gwynedd. Lived in exile in East Anglia, with King Rædwald, who helped him conquer Ædelfred, king of the Northumbrians, at the Idle river 616. King of the Northumbrians 616–633. Expanded the kingdom westwards, wiped out Elmet. After an attempt on his life 626 (see LILLA), he killed five West Saxon chiefs. Baptized 627 by Paulinus—the first king of the Northumbrians to accept baptism—in the newly-built wooden church of Saint Peter in York. Had a large entourage and practised Roman splendour. Dominated the surrounding kingdoms. Bede wrote that it was said a woman with her newborn babe could confidently walk throughout the island, from coast to coast, safe in the knowledge she would not be harmed. Killed, alongside his son Osfrid, at the battle of Hatfield (October 12, 633) against Cædwalla of Gwynedd and Penda of Mercia. Saint.

EOSTRE—goddess; the month of April bears her name, from which we derive Easter.

ERCE—goddess; only known from the invocation quoted.

ERCONBERHT—king of Kent 640–664; m. King Anna’s daughter, Seaxburh; f/o Egberht I, Hlotere, Ermengyld, Ercongota.

ERMENBURH—[625]-c.700; d/o Ermenræd (b/o King Erconberht of Kent); m. Merewald (Penda’s son); m/o Mildred (educated in Chelles, became abbess of Minster, saint), Milburh (abbess of Wenlock, saint), and Mildgyd (nun in Northumbria, saint). Ermenburh founded the monastery of Minster on the Isle of Thanet for the wergild she received after the murder of her two brothers. Saint.

ERMENGYLD—d. c.700; d/o King Erconberht of Kent and Queen Seaxburh; m. Wulfhere, king of Mercia, whom she converted; m/o Coenræd (king of the Mercians 704–709) and Werburh, abbess. After Wulfhere’s death, Ermengyld became a nun and succeeded her mother Seaxburh as Abbess of Ely. Saint.

[EVAN of Dolwyddelan—f/o Tancwoystel, Hild’s slave, whom she calls Talcuin.]

FELIX—d. 647; b. and educated in Burgundy; came to join Honorius of Canterbury in order to help with the conversion of the Angles. Consecrated Bishop of the East Angles. When Sigebert returned from exile, Felix was sent to join him. Given Dunwich as his episcopal residence; founded a school based on the Gallic model with teachers from Canterbury. Saint.

FINAN—Irish monk; educated at the monastery on Iona; abbot and bishop at Lindisfarne 651–661. When he succeeded Aidan, he had to restore the dilapidated wooden church and monastery on Lindisfarne. Baptized Peada and sent missionaries to Mercia and Essex. Saint.

FINN—legendary figure, known from the fragment of a poem about the battle at Finnsburh (Finn’s stronghold) and references in Old English poetry, mainly ‘Beowulf’: Finn, king of the Frisians, settles a conflict by marrying Hildeburh, sis/o the Danish Prince Hnæf, with tragic consequences.

FLORA—Roman goddess; figurines of her found in northern England.

[FREAWARU—nun in Hild’s monastery.]

FREAWARU—legendary figure, known from ‘Beowulf’; d/o the Danish King Roar; married off to Ingeld, king of the Heaðobards (s/o Frode), in order to settle an old conflict—the marriage did not end the dispute.

FRIGA—goddess; corresponds to Freya of Norse mythology.

[FRIGYD—very young orphaned girl.]

FRIGYD—[abbess of the Tynemouth double monastery until 679]; at the time of Hild’s death 680, prioress at Hild’s double monastery in Hackness.

[GEFMUND—628–645; s/o Penda and his second wife.]

GREGORY THE GREAT—c.540–604; pope, monk. Sent the first mission to the British Isles, under Augustin 596, and then Paulinus came with the second mission 601—kept a close eye on this missionary work, sending pragmatic advice not to enter open conflict with the pagans, but to rid their shrines of idols, for example, and adapt them for Christian purposes. The missions were one of Gregory’s measures to strengthen the power of the Holy See; he also raised the profile of the monasteries. Known for his many writings; promoted the Vulgate Bible. ‘Gregorian chant’ plainsong is named after him. The first known account of his life was written by an anonymous author at Whitby (one of the earliest surviving pieces of writing from the Anglo-Saxon period), later accounts by Bede and Aldhelm. The abbey church at Whitby, St Gregory’s Minster near Hodge Beck and thirty other old churches consecrated to him. Saint.

GWENFREWI (Winifride)—niece of Saint Beuno; much revered, but very little known about her with any certainty. Legend tells that she refused the advances of Prince Caradoc; he then beheaded her, but Saint Beuno healed her, restoring her head to her body. Saint.

[GYDA—nun in Whitby; died during the plague.]

HADRIAN—d. 709; b. in Africa. Abbot of a monastery near Naples. Selected by Pope Vitalian to be Archbishop of Canterbury; Hadrian declined and suggested Theodor of Tarsus instead, accompanying and helping him on his journey to the British Isles. Became Abbot of Canterbury, turning the school there into a significant centre of scholarship. Saint.

HEIU—abbess of double monastery in Hartlepool until 649 (succeeded by Hild) when she moved to Tadcaster. Possibly the first nun in Northumbria; Aidan received her vows. Saint.

[HEREBERHT—Hild’s lost brother.]

HERERIC—d. 614; King Edwin’s nephew; s/o [Ædelfred’s sister and (non-biological)] Edwin’s brother Eadfrid; m. Breguswid; f/o [Hereberht], Hereswid and Hild, the latter born after his death. Poisoned while in exile under Cerdic, king of Elmet. Wiping out Elmet was perhaps King Edwin’s revenge for Hereric’s murder.

HERESWID—[613–648]; d/o Breguswid and Hereric; sis/o Hild; m. a prince [Ecgric] of the East Angles; m/o Aldwulf [and Ædelthryd]. Nun in Chelles, France.

HIERONYMUS—Saint Jerome.

HILD—614–680; abbess. The Venerable Bede gives an account of her life, but with no details of the first thirty-three years spent in the secular realm, which The Song of Hild interprets as having included marriage to a pagan, a man she failed to convert to Christianity. She founded a monastery in Hackness and perhaps other places [Saint Gregory’s Minster near Hodge Beck and Saint John’s in Escomb]. During the final seven years of her life, she suffered bouts of fever (malaria?). The decisive Synod of Whitby 664 to settle ecclesiastical practice was held at her monastery; the Iro-Celtic Church (independent monasteries, often double monasteries led by abbesses, almost anarchistic structure) was placed under the Church of Rome (hierarchical, serviced by a priesthood, organized in dioceses overseen by a bishop, duty of obedience). During her later years, she was bitterly at odds with Wilfrid about the authority and powers exercised by bishops and abbesses. Despite not being a virgin, and the only miracles linked to her having occurred before her birth and as she departed the world, she was made a saint soon after her death.

HONORIUS—Archbishop of Canterbury 631?-653. Came to the British Isles in 601 with the second mission sent from Rome. Ordained bishop in Lincoln by Paulinus. Saint.

HREDA—goddess; month of March named for her.

[HUNDFRID—b. 633; s/o Hild and Eadfrid; born in a cave near Hodge Beck (Kirkdale Cave, discovered in 1821, a hyena den containing the bones of many animals no longer living in the British Isles—e.g. elephant, mammoth, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, bison, reindeer, wild ox); twin b/o Wilbrord. Sent to Oswine to be fostered in Deira, 634. Disappeared. Could have been Cædmon.]

IDA—king of Bernicia 547–559. Angle, hired by the Brittonic kings and chieftains in the north of present-day England to help defend the territories from Angles, Saxons and Picts. Founded Bamburgh and quickly set himself up as king over the Brittonic sub-kings. Paternal grandfather of Ædelfred. Allegedly tenth generation after Woden.

ILLTUD—4th-century Welsh saint. Founder and abbot of Llanilltud Fawr (Llantwit Major), said to have housed hundreds of monks.

INGELD—popular legendary figure (see FREAWARU). In the 700s, a priest complained that the monks would rather hear about Ingeld than about Christ.

JOHN of Beverley—d. 721; monk from Whitby; 687 Bishop of Hexham and 705 of York; also studied under Hadrian in Canterbury. Took care of people who suffered from illness and disability, achieved miracles. Ordained Bede as priest. Saint.

LILLA—retainer of King Edwin. Easter 626, leapt between King Edwin and an assassin’s poisoned dagger, dying in the act of saving his king. An ancient stone cross—known as Lilla’s Cross—stands to this day on the North Yorkshire Moors.

LOKI—mythological figure; corresponds to the Norse Loke.

MEREWALD—[b. 620]; s/o Penda [and his first wife]; c.645 married Ermenburh, granddaughter of King Edbald of Kent; f/o the nuns Milburh, Mildgyd, and Mildred, all three made saints. Not mentioned by Bede.

MAELGWN GWYNEDD—6th-century king of Gwynedd. The poem quoted about him refers to his death from the ‘yellow plague’.

OFFA of Angel—Danish Uffe hin Spage; s/o King Wermund, also known from the Gesta Danorum (Story of the Danes) by Saxo Grammaticus. Penda allegedly their descendant. Wermund is fifth generation after Woden.

OFTFOR—monk from Whitby; bishop of the province of the Hwicce 691–693. Also studied under Theodor; travelled to Rome.

OSFRID—s/o King Edwin; killed at the Battle of Hatfield 633.

OSRIC—d. 634; s/o King Ælle’s brother Ælfric. Baptized while in exile. Briefly king of Deira; when king, reverted to paganism. Slain by Cædwalla.

OSTHRYD—d. 697; d/o King Oswy and Eanflæd; c.679 m. King Ædelræd of Mercia. With Ædelræd, founded Bardney monastery in Lindsey, where she helped promote the cult of her uncle King (and later Saint) Oswald with a shrine and relics. She was murdered for political reasons by Mercian nobles. Saint.

OSWALD—604–642; eldest s/o King Ædelfred of Northumbria and Acha; m. Cyneburh, d/o King Cynegils of Wessex; king of Northumbria 635–642, after defeating Cædwalla at the battle of Heavenfield, north of Hadrian’s Wall; f/o Ædelwald (king of Deira 651–655). Baptized in exile. Sent for Aidan and gave him the island of Lindisfarne. Brutal regime. Slain in battle against Penda at Oswestry. In Bede’s day, Oswald’s imperishable arm was displayed in Bamburgh as evidence of his holiness. Wilfrid was a forceful advocate for veneration of Oswald. Credited with countless miracles. Fifty years after his death, he was still such a hated figure in Lindsey that when his niece Osthryd (married to Ædelræd of Mercia) brought some of Oswald’s bones to the Bardney monastery, the cart carrying them was refused admittance. That night, however, light from Oswald’s relics was seen streaming up to heaven, and next morning, now the extent of his holiness had been witnessed, the bones were brought inside. Saint.

OSWINE—s/o King Osric of Deira; king of Deira 644–651. Having disbanded his army and gone into hiding with a relative, he was killed at Gilling on the orders of King Oswy of Bernicia. Aidan’s friend and patron; Bede recounts how Aidan foretold Oswine’s death. Revered as martyr and saint.

OSWY—612–671; second s/o Ædelfred and Acha of Bernicia; king of Bernicia 642–671, of Deira 655–671, and of Mercia 655–658; often had command over Lindsey; m. Rhiainfellt, princess from Rheged; shortly after 642 m. Eanflæd, d/o King Edwin and Tata; f/o Alchfred, Ahlflæd, Osthryd, Egfred, Ælfflæd. Baptized in exile on the isle of Iona. In constant conflict with Penda of Mercia; frequent peace-making attempts with marriage between their children (three children married to three of Penda’s children) and exchange of hostages. In Bede’s account, Oswy is a quarrelsome and ungenerous king. Promised his infant daughter Ælfflæd to the service of God in return for victory over Penda at the battle of Wynwæd 655, plus twelve plots of land. Thought to be behind the disappearance of Ædelwald and Alchfred.

PAULINUS—573–644; monk, bishop; came with Gregory the Great’s second mission to the British Isles 601. Accompanied Tata to Northumbria when she married Edwin. Northumbria’s first bishop. Baptized Eanflæd (Whitsun 626), King Edwin and many others (Easter 627), thereafter spent days on end baptizing people in the rivers Swale, Trent and Glen. Edwin’s adviser; a prudent and wise man. When Edwin died, fled with Tata and Eanflæd to Kent. Later, bishop in Rochester. Saint.

PEADA—[633]-656; s/o Penda [and his second wife]. King of the Middle Angles 653–655 and South Mercia 655–656. Baptized by Bishop Finan 653, in a place called At-the-Wall, near the Roman Wall, twelve miles inland from the east coast; thereafter able to marry the Christian d/o Oswy, Ahlflæd, who allegedly murdered him. Received four priests at his baptism—Cedd, Adda, Betti, Diuma—who accompanied him home to his realm, where they would undertake the work of converting the people to Christianity.

PENDA—582?-655; king of Mercia 626/35–655, perhaps also of Deira 642–644. Together with Cædwalla, defeated King Edwin 633; thereafter Northumbria ravaged. The last major king to remain faithful to the ancient gods, he nonetheless allowed access to missionaries, baptism of his subjects and of his own children. Expanded his realm extensively; often had dominance over Deira, Lindsey, East Anglia. Children: Merewald [with his first wife]; Tibba, Eadburh, [Bothelm, Gefmund], Peada [with his second wife]; Wulfhere and Ædelræd [with Hild]; Cyneburh, Cyneswid [and two sons, both suffered ‘cot death’] [with Cynewise, m. 642]. Often at war with Northumbria; besieged Bamburgh several times; killed Oswald 642; sent Cenwalch, king of Wessex, into exile 645–648 when he rejected his wife (Penda’s sister); killed King Anna of East Anglia. Bede writes as little as possible about this pagan enemy of Northumbria; when he does appear, however, he would seem to be an old-school man of honour.

RADEGUND—518–587; princess from Thuringia; aged 12, taken captive by the Franks; m. their king, Chlotar; left him after six years; nun in Noviomagus; founded the monastery of Sainte-Croix in Poitiers; peacemaker, learned. Saint. Jesus College, Cambridge, was founded on the site of the Priory of St Mary and St Radegund; when the College was founded in 1496, St Radegund was named one of its three patron saints—alongside the Blessed Virgin Mary and St John the Evangelist.

RHIAINFELLT—d/o Rhwyth (s/o the renowned Brittonic king Rhun of Rheged); m. Oswy of Northumbria until 642/43; m/o Alchfred and Ahlflæd.

RONAN—monk on Lindisfarne; strong advocate of the Roman system of administrating Christianity.

ROMANUS—Queen Eanflæd’s personal priest, brought along from Kent.

RÆDWALD—king of East Anglia until 616/625; baptized, also made offerings to the ancient gods. Helped Edwin defeat Ædelfred 616, losing his son Rægenhere in the battle. His pagan wife [Rægenhild] talked him out of bringing dishonour on himself by handing over exiled Edwin to Ædelfred. Mighty king.

[RÆGENHILD—m. King Rædwald of East Anglia. Bede does not mention her name—preferring not to identify pagans—but recounts how she warned her husband not to sacrifice old codes of honour, such as helping a friend in need.]

SAMSON—d. c.565; b. in Wales; monk; trained by Saint Illtud; ordained bishop. Missionary journeys to Cornwall and the Scilly Isles, the Channel Islands, Normandy—and Brittany, where he founded a monastery.

[SAMSON from Caer Segeint.]

SCHOLASTICA—d. c.543; sis/o Benedict of Nursia; first Benedictine nun; abbess in the monastery of Plombariola near Monte Cassino. Saint.

SEIRIOL—6th-century abbot; founded monasteries at Penmon on Anglesey and on the islet of Ynys Seiriol (Puffin Island); he and his friend Cybi are regarded as Anglesey’s most important saints.

SIGEBERT—s/o King Rædwald of East Anglia. In exile with the Merovings when his stepbrother Earpwald, king of the East Angles, was murdered; returned as king of East Anglia 630; founded the monastery at Beaduricsworth (Bury St Edmunds), to which he withdrew, having abdicated. Forced back onto the battlefield to fight Penda and his invading army, he refused to bear arms, carrying nothing but a rod, and was slain. His place of burial is unknown (see ECGRIC). Saint.

SIGURD FAFNERSBANE—legendary hero (see BRYNHILD). Having killed the dragon Fafner and bathed in its blood, Sigurd is invulnerable—except for a spot on his back where a leaf had stuck. Brynhild knows of this vulnerability; discovering he has betrayed her, she causes his death—pierced by a spear below his shoulder blade.

SISEBUT—king of the Visigoths. Warrior and poet; expanded the kingdom and victimized Jews who would not convert and be baptized.

[SÆTHRYD—nun in Escomb, Hartlepool, and Whitby. Wrote elegies, such as ‘The Wife’s Lament’ and ‘Wulf and Eadwacer’]

[TALCUIN—slave name for Tancwoystel from Dolwyddelan in Gwynedd; soldier in Cædwalla’s army; given to Hild as redress for the death of Frigyd 633; set free when Hild entered the monastery.]

TALIESIN—Welsh bard. Many of his poems have survived—written in praise of kings and warriors, lamentations on their deaths, descriptions of battles.

TATA (Edelberg)—d. 647; d/o King Edelberht I and Bertha of Kent; baptized 625; m. King Edwin of Northumbria, who promised to consider the possibility of baptism; m/o Eanflæd. Received an admonitory letter from the Pope, quoted by Bede. After Edwin’s death, fled to Kent, accompanied by Paulinus; later founded a monastery in Lyminge, Kent, where she was abbess until her death. Saint.

THEODOR OF TARSUS—603–690; b. in Tarsus; educated in Athens. Aged 66, consecrated archbishop by Pope Vitalian; sent to the British Isles to reorganize the running of the Church following the Synod of Whitby, accompanied by Hadrian, with Benedict Biscop acting as their guide and interpreter; arrived 669. Became friends with Hild, but was against double monasteries. Interested in medicine; biblical exegete (school of Antioch); efficient organizer. Conflict with Wilfrid about the division of ‘his’ see. With Hadrian, founded a school in Canterbury, an important centre of scholarship. Energetic and authoritative, he succeeded in making the new Church structure work. Saint.

THUNOR—god; corresponds to Thor of Norse mythology.

TIBBA—[b. 624; d/o Penda]. Nun; hermit at Ryhall, Rutland; linked to Penda’s daughters Cyneburh and Cyneswid, with whom she was buried. Saint.

TIW—god; corresponds to Tyr of Norse mythology.

TONDBERHT—chief of the Southern Girvij; m. Ædelthryd 652; killed by Penda 654.

[TRUMHERE from Wodensburh—slew Sigebert; served Penda faithfully; killed when deployed in an exposed position at Bamburgh.]

[WALDBURH—nun in Hild’s monastery.]

[WILBRORD—b. 633; s/o Hild and Eadfrid; born in a cave near Hodge Beck (Kirkdale Cave, see HUNDFRID); twin b/o Hundfrid. Sent to Oswine to be fostered in Deira, 634. Disappeared. Could have been Wilfrid.]

WILFRID—633–709; abbot and bishop. When young, studying on Lindisfarne, served Queen Eanflæd’s retired retainers; helped by the queen, went to Canterbury and then Rome 653; three years spent with Bishop Annemundus in Lyon; learnt from the might and splendour of the Gallic bishops. 660 abbot in Ripon, where he introduced the Benedictine monastic rule. Protégé of the new generation of kings—such as Alchfred of Deira, Wulfhere of Mercia. Proponent of the system of organized Christianity applied by the Church in Rome, which he advocated at the Synod of Whitby. King Alchfred appointed him bishop 664; he travelled to Compiègne, France, to be consecrated bishop in great splendour, thereafter staying overseas for two years, and Chad became bishop of York in his place. Theodor reinstated him, appointing him bishop of Northumbria 669. During the dispute over Ædelthryd’s virginity, Wilfrid supported her viewpoint and she gave him land at Hexham upon which he built a monastery and a stone church—at the time, this monastery church was allegedly the most magnificent north of the Alps. When Theodor, in collaboration with King Egfred, divided Northumbria’s large bishopric into three 678, Wilfrid went to Rome to complain; on the way he spent two years undertaking missionary work in Friesland. Returned home with papal backing for his cause; King Egfred accused him of bribery, threw him into prison, thereafter expelling him from the realm. After some years as a missionary in Sussex, he was reinstated as bishop of Northumbria 686, with limited powers, until he fell out with the new king, Aldfred, and moved to Mercia, where he founded several monasteries. At the Synod of Austerfield 703, Wilfrid was requested to give up Northumbria and his monasteries, whereupon he again complained to Rome and again received papal backing. At the synod held by the River Nidd, a settlement was reached: Wilfrid kept his monasteries and the Hexham bishopric, while John became bishop of York. Before his death, assembled his riches and divided into four, leaving money to churches in Rome, the poor, his companions during his lengthy periods of exile, and to the abbots at his monasteries so they could buy the bishops’ favour and also royal favour. All the conflicts in which Wilfrid was involved were due to his strong will, his intelligence, and his Frankish-inspired view that his bishopric and all its monasteries were his personal property. He launched the medieval power struggle of Church v. Crown in the British Isles. Saint.

WINE—bishop of the West Saxons from 660; according to Bede, in 665 he was the only bishop to have been canonically ordained. Consecrated Cedd, assisted by two bishops from Cornwall whose ordination was not recognized by the papal see or Theodor.

WODEN—god; corresponds to the Odin of Norse mythology. In The Song of Hild seen as a warrior hero, forefather of the royal dynasties.

WULFHERE—[638]-675; s/o Penda [and Hild]. Following Penda’s death, kept in concealment by Mercian nobles 655–658, whereupon he ousted Oswy and took over as king of Mercia 658–675. Ruthless king; burnt down churches and monasteries. Converted by his wife Ermengyld (d/o King Erconberht and Seaxburh of Kent). Son: Coenræd, king 704–709; daughter: Werburh, succeeded her mother Ermengyld as abbess of Ely, which her grandmother Seaxburh had run; saint. Wulfhere in armed conflict with Northumbria 674, Wessex 675—died shortly afterwards. Friend of Alchfred of Deira and Wilfrid.

[WYNFLÆD—nun in Hild’s monastery.]

WYNFRID—bishop in Lichfield 672–672/6; removed by Theodor on grounds of disobedience.

ÆDELFRED—king of Bernicia 590/2–616, and of Deira from 590 or 605 [590]; m. Bebba, killed her brother; then m. [11-year-old] Acha. Killed by Edwin and Rædwald in the battle at the River Idle 616. Greatly expanded his territories; pagan; tried to bribe Rædwald to hand over or kill Edwin in exile. Many children, who had to go into exile when he died. His behaviour towards the Britons caused Bede to compare him with King Saul.

ÆDELHERE—king of East Anglia 654–655; b/o Anna. Disappeared at the battle of Wynwæd, his body never found, which gave rise to the theory that the Sutton Hoo ship burial was a memorial to him, as no traces of a body have ever been unearthed in the ship. Later theories suggest his corpse dissolved in the highly acidic sand.

ÆDELRÆD—[b. 640]; s/o Penda [and Hild]; c.679 m. Oswy’s daughter Osthryd, later killed by the Mercians. King of Mercia 675–704. Ravaged Kent, burnt churches and monasteries, destroyed Rochester. Abdicated 704 and entered a monastery.

ÆDELTHRYD—[636]-679; [foster-]d/o King Anna of East Anglia, [biological d/o Hereswid and Sigebert]. 652 m. Tondberht, but was still a virgin when he died 654. 660 m. 15-year-old Egfred of Northumbria, on the condition that she preserved her virginity; 672 he wanted to consummate the marriage, she fled to Ebba in the Coldingham monastery where she received the veil from Wilfrid; then went to Ely, her morning gift, where she founded a monastery and lived a highly ascetic life as abbess. Friend of Wilfrid, who supported her preservation of virginity; gave him her morning gift of land at Hexham. Died of a (plague?) boil on her neck, which she considered punishment for her earlier vain wearing of necklaces. Buried in a marble Roman sarcophagus found in Grantchester; when the coffin was opened 17 years later, the incision where the boil had been lanced had healed, her body was uncorrupted by the ravages of time, and the linen clothes in which she had been wrapped were entire and fresh—which was read as a sign of divinity. The most popular of the Anglo-Saxon female saints.

ÆDELWALD—s/o King Oswald and Cyneburh of Northumbria; king of Deira 651–655. Possibly Penda’s vassal. Lost power or ‘disappeared’ after the battle at Wynwæd, where he held his troops back. His coffin is possibly in the church at Lastingham, on land he gave to Cedd to build a monastery, but the inscription is now indecipherable.

ÆLFFLÆD—654–714; d/o King Oswy and Eanflæd of Northumbria. As a baby, dedicated to the Lord (i.e. at Hild’s monastery) so her father could defeat Penda—which he did. Nun at Whitby; after Hild’s death 680, took over as joint abbess with her mother. Friend and admirer of Wilfrid, trying to reconcile him with the king, and also of the charismatic ascetic Saint Cuthbert. An account of the life of Gregory the Great survives from her time as abbess—the first extant attempt at the biographical genre from the Anglo-Saxon period—and a letter she had written in Latin; both discovered on continental Europe. Saint.

ÆLLE—king of Deira 560?-588, at one point having to accept Ædelfred of Bernicia as overking; f/o King Edwin, Acha and Hild’s paternal grandfather Eadfrid.