Page 1091

1091 BARBARIAN ASCENDENCY,-THE ANGLO-SAXON KINGDOMS, 1091

of whose people and those of Wessex he

labored assiduously. He compelled even

the Scots and Picts to acknowledge his

authority. In him rather than in any of the

preceding Britwalda might be recognized the

lineaments of a real king of the Angles.

In 642 Oswald was slain in battle, whereupon Penda, the pagan king of Mercia, endeavored to regain his ascendancy over the

Angles; but Oswy, the brother of Oswald,

rallied his countrymen, and the Mercians were

beaten back. Oswy, however, was not recognized as Britwalda. Under the repeated assaults of Penda he was restricted to the, old

kingdom of Bernicia, while Deira was given

to a prince named Odelwald. In 652 the

Mercian king again advanced into North Umbria, laying waste with fire and sword like a

savage. In his despair Oswy sued for peace,

which was granted on such terms as greatly

to weaken the North Umbrian kingdom. Two

years later, however, the compact was broken

and a great battle was fought near York

between the Mercians and North Umbrians.

In this conflict Penda and thirty of his princes

were killed. In gratitude for his unexpected

victory, Oswy established ten abbeys and sent

one of his daughters to become a nun with

the Lady of Hilda.

Following up his success the victorious

Oswy inflicted a signal vengeance on the Mercians. All the territory north of the Trent he

annexed to his kingdom, and soon afterwards

added the remainder south of the river. In

655 he assumed the office of Britwalda, but

his claim was disputed by a rival. In the

following year the North Umbrians revolted

under Wulfere, son of Penda, and not only

regained their kingdom, but also made a successful conquest of a part of Wessex. About

this time Oswy was greatly afflicted by the

revolt of his son Alchfrid, who demanded that

a part of North Umbria should be given to

him in sovereignty. The king was obliged to

comply with the wish of the rebellious prince.

Meanwhile an epidemic called the yellow

plague broke out with violence, and for twenty

years continued to decimate the island. In

670 Oswy died.

In the mean time a consolidating tendency

had appeared among the states of the Heptarchy. The seven kingdoms were reduced to

three. Kent, Sussex, Essex, and East Anglia

were swallowed up in North Umbria, Mercia,

and Wessex, which now became the ruling

states of England. This fact of consolidation

greatly simplifies the remaining history of the

Saxon kingdoms, and further on we shall find

the tendency to union constantly illustrated

until the final merge in the times of

Egbert.

The successor of Oswy in North Umbria

was his son Egfrid. Scarcely was the latter

seated on the throne when his northern frontier was assailed by the Picts. In 671 they

were defeated by Egfrid's cavalry and driven

to their own territories. Eight years afterwards the king made war on Mercia, and his

army met that of his enemy on the banks of

the Trent. Here was fought another bloody

battle, in which many brave leaders on each

side were slain. Peace was made by the interposition of a Christian bishop, who induced

the rival Saxons to desist from further bloodshed. In 685 the Picts and the Scots again

rushed down from the North, and were confronted by Egfrid. This, however, was the

last of his battles. He was slain in a conflict

with Brude, the Pictish king.

Such was the violence of these times, that

of the fourteen kings who reigned in England

during the seventh century, six were slain by

rival competitors, generally their own kinsmen; five were overthrown by their rebel

subjects; two sought refuge in monasteries;

and one died with the crown on his head.

Of such bloody materials was composed the

concrete under the heavy walls of the English

Monarchy!

During the first quarter of the eighth century, a dubious contest was waged between

the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex. The

kings of Wessex were reduced to a kind of vassalage. In 737, Ethelbald, king of Mercia,

was recognized as monarch over the whole

country south of the Humber, excepting

Wales. In the fifth year of that monarch's

reign, however, the Saxons of the West Kingdom rose against the Mercians and defeated

them in a great battle at Buxford, in