Redwald (DNB00)

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REDWALD or RÆDWALD (d. 627?), king of the East-Angles, was the son of Tytili or Tytla, the son of Wuffa or Uffa. The latter was reckoned as eighth in descent from Woden, and after him, as first East-Anglian king, the kings of his house were called Uffingas (Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica, ii. 15). Redwald reigned during the supremacy of Ethelbert or Æthelberht (552?–616) [q. v.], king of Kent (ib. c. 5), under whose influence he accepted Christianity and was baptised in Kent. On his return to his own land he was persuaded by his queen and certain teachers to resume his heathen practices; he did not, however, renounce his new faith, but worshipped Christ and his old gods at the same time, having a temple in which were two altars, one for Christian sacrifice, the other for sacrifices to idols. This temple remained undestroyed until the lifetime of Aldwulf, king of the East-Angles from 664, who said that he had seen it when a boy (ib. c. 15). Redwald rose to great power, and even in the reign of Æthelbert obtained the leadership of all the English peoples south of the Humber, with the exception probably of the kingdom of Kent, and is therefore reckoned as fourth of the kings that held a power of that kind, and are called Bretwaldas (ib. c. 5; Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, an. 827). When Edwin or Eadwine [q. v.] was a fugitive from Northumbria, Redwald received him and promised him protection. Ethelfrid [q. v.], the Northumbrian king, thrice sent messengers to Redwald, offering him large sums of money if he would slay his guest, and threatening him with war if he would not do so. Redwald was tempted, and promised either to slay Eadwine or give him up to Ethelfrid's messengers. At this crisis Eadwine had the vision of Paulinus (d. 644) [q. v.], which was afterwards made the means of deciding him to embrace Christianity; and if, as is supposed by some, Paulinus appeared to him in the flesh, the bishop's presence at Redwald's court would throw some light on the king's position as regards religion. Redwald privately told his queen of his purpose against his guest, and she dissuaded him from it, telling him that it would ill become so great a king to betray his friend for gold, or to break his word, which was more precious than all the jewels in the world, for love of money. He hearkened to her, and not only refused to give Eadwine up, but determined to espouse his cause. As soon as Ethelfrid's messengers were departed he gathered a large army and marched on a sudden against Ethelfrid, who advanced to meet him with a much smaller force; for he had not had time to gather the whole force of his kingdom. They met on 11 April 617 on the border of Mercia, on the eastern bank of the river Idle, near Retford in Nottinghamshire. The battle was fierce, and was long commemorated in the saying, ‘The river Idle was foul with the blood of Englishmen’ (Hen. Hunt. p. 56). Raegenheri, one of Redwald's sons, fell. Finally Ethelfrid was slain and his army totally defeated (Bede, u.s. c. 12). The date of Redwald's death is not certainly known; it probably took place in or about 627, when his successor, Eorpwald, was converted to Christianity. He had two sons: Raegenheri, called Rainer by Henry of Huntingdon, and Eorpwald, who succeeded him, and was slain by a heathen, Ricbert, after reigning three years, probably in 631. Sigebert (Flor. Wig. i. 260), who was banished to Gaul, and who succeeded Eorpwald, was probably Redwald's stepson.

[Anglo-Saxon Chron. ann. 617, 827 (Rolls Ser.); Flor. Wig. i. 13, 260 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Hen. Hunt. p. 56 (Rolls Ser.); Dict. of Christian Biogr. art. ‘Redwald,’ by Bishop Stubbs; Bright's Early English Church History, p. 109, 2nd edit.; Green's Making of England, pp. 249–51.]

W. H.