Cædwalla (d.634) (DNB00)

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CÆDWALLA (d. 634), whose name is also spelt Cadwalader, Cadwallon, Caswallon, Catgublaun (probably equivalent to the Latin Cassibellaunus),Catguolaum, and with several other variations, son of Cadvan (Angl. Sacr. ii. 32), king of North Wales [q. v.], was the British king of Guenedotia or Vendotia, commonly called Gwynedd, which was probably coextensive, roughly speaking, with North Wales; but the king seems to have exercised some authority over the western regions north of the Mersey, possibly even as far as Carlisle (Lappenberg, Ang.-Sax. Hist. i. 121, 122; Journal of Archæolog. Assoc. xi. 54).

A deadly rivalry had long existed between the British kingdom of Gwynedd and the Anglian kingdom of Northumbria. Æthelfrith, the ‘Fierce’ or Destroyer, had inflicted a terrible blow upon the Britons in the battle of Chester in 613 (Bæda, ii. 2; Rees, Welsh Saints, p. 293). It was probably to avenge this disaster that in 629 Cædwalla invaded Northumbria; but he was defeated by Eadwine, the successor of Æthelfrith, near Morpeth, driven thence into Wales, and besieged in the island of Glannauc, probably to be identified with Priestholm, near Anglesey (Ann. Cambriæ, M. H. B. 832). He escaped to Ireland; but after a brief sojourn there returned to Britain, and, although himself a christian, entered into alliance with Penda, king of the Mercians, a merciless pagan. Their united forces invaded Northumbria, and overwhelmed Eadwine's army at Heathfield or Hatfield, probably Hatfield Chase, a few miles north-east of Doncaster, a.d. 633. Eadwine and his son Osfrid were slain. Northumbria was cruelly devastated. Cædwalla, who surpassed his pagan ally, Penda, in ferocity, vowed that he would extirpate the whole Anglian race from Britain, and spared neither age nor sex, putting women and children to death by torture (Bæda, ii. 20). It was the temporary overthrow of the whole kingdom and church of Northumbria. Paulinus, who had converted Eadwine and founded the see of York, retired to Kent, accompanied by the queen, her daughter, son, and grandson. Osric, a cousin of Eadwine, and Eanfrith, a son of Æthelfrith, tried to recover the kingdom of Deira and Bernicia, and to secure the favour of the Mercians by basely renouncing their christianity, but received the just reward of their apostasy by being slain by Cædwalla in the following year, 634 (ib. iii. 1). The British king now boasted that his forces were irresistible; but his triumph was shortlived.

Oswald, a younger brother of Eanfrith and nephew of Eadwine, resolved to make an effort to shake off the yoke of the oppressor. Near the close of the year 634 he mustered an army, and met the enemy on a hill called Hevenfelth, north of the Roman wall, near Hexham. Here he set up a cross, which he helped to fix in the ground with his own hands, and bidding his soldiers kneel before it, prayed with them ‘to the living and true God, who knew how just their cause was, to save them from their fierce and haughty foe’ (ib. iii. 2). Thus encouraged, they fell upon the British host, which far outnumbered his own, and completely routed it. Cædwalla himself fled into the valley and was slain at the Deniseburn, perhaps the brook which flows northwards into the Tyne, and enters it near Dilston, east of Hexham (ib. iii. 1). The place of battle was afterwards called Oswald's Cross, and a small church was in time erected there, and was served by the clergy of the church at Hexham. Thus perished Cædwalla, who had fought, it was said, in fourteen battles and sixty skirmishes (Lappenberg, i. 156; Nennius), and with him ended the last serious struggle for supremacy between the old British and Anglian races in that part of the island.

[Bæda, Eccl. Hist. ii. 2, 20, iii. 1, 2; Annales Cambriæ, ap. Mon. Hist. Brit. 832; Nennius, ap. Mon. Hist. Brit. 76; Rees's Welsh Saints, 293.]

W. R. W. S.