The Sequel

I am now back on track with the planning for the second book. At this stage, the first book is called Cuckold and the second one will be called Sacrifice. Both revolve around real murders.

Cuckold investigated the murder of St Hilda’s father, Hereric, and Sacrifice investigates the murder of King Edwin’s (second) son, Eadfrith. There is no consensus among historians as to who murdered Hereric, but Eadfrith was, according to Bede, murdered by King Penda of Mercia. However, the murder would have required the payment of compensation to Eadfrith’s surviving kin. These include the heroine of Cuckold, his sister Godgifu, and two equally fictional uncles, sons of King Cearl of Mercia. (Eadfrith’s mother, Cwenburgh, was a daughter of Cearl of Mercia). Sacrifice, like Cuckold, therefore sets up a complex web of conflicting family loyalties because if (as I propose and is historically quite likely) Penda’s father Pybba was brother to Cearl, then Eadfrith’s uncles on his mother’s side (his spindlekin) were also Penda’s cousins on his father’s side (his spearkin.)

Historically, we do not know the exact relationship between Penda of Mercia and Eadfrith of Deira because we do not know the exact relationship between Eadfrith’s grandfather, Cearl, and the man who was almost certainly Penda’s father, Pybba. That they were totally unrelated is possible, but highly unlikely. I have made them brothers, which is very likely. Brothers seem to have succeeded each other to the Mercian kingship, or reigned jointly, very commonly. In reality, Penda and Eadfrith were almost certainly related through Eadfrith’s mother, a member of the Mercian ruling family, but exactly how closely, we simply do not know.

Eadfrith passed into the control of Penda after the battle of Haethfeld in 633. He was in theory heir to Deira, if not also Bernicia, when his father and older brother were killed in the battle. The general presumption is that Penda wanted to install him as some sort of client king. But why, given that Cadwallon and Penda were the victors at Haethfeld, did this never happen? Instead Penda killed him, or had him killed. Why?

This is the background to Sacrifice.


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2 Responses to The Sequel

  1. Its an interesting act on Penda’s part. Pressure from Cadwallon perhaps? There is a tradition in Wales that Cadwallon had married Penda’s sister. Eadfrith not as compliant as Penda had hoped? Any role for Oswald, also maternal kin to Eadfrith? Its interesting to work out all the intermarriages between these kingdoms even before the intermarriages between the children of Penda and Oswy. Then there are the roles for the widows. Presumably Edwin’s first wife was dead before he married Athelburgh but do we really know that? Pagan english kings could have more than one wife. Could Edwin have put her aside for a better marriage? We know Penda goes to war with Wessex because that king had sent his sister home packing. Penda is ticked because he was still honoring his marriage to his Wessex wife. Lots of possibilities.

  2. Sally says:

    Thanks Michelle. Yes, interesting connections. The ‘peaceweaver’ thing often seems to have entailed sleeping with the enemy, but writers at the time (and since) seem to have been myopic about the linkages through the women. I have gone with the tradition that Cadwallon married Penda’s sister and note that Penda seems to have had a rather large number of both brothers and sisters (full or half? We don’t know). Between them, they set up family ties with most of the kingdoms that surrounded Mercia. Sometimes, this meant alliance, but just as often Mercia was at war with them, or intervening in the succession. Penda’s family ties wove a very tangled web indeed. And yes, I think you are right. Oswald is just as likely as Cadwallon to have been an influence on Eadfrith’s fate.

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