Scotland's History Articles The Kingdom of the Angles

The Kingdom of the Angles

Stone carvings of soldiers

The Angles were Germanic invaders who came from the Danish-German border and conquered most of Roman Britannia, giving the country its later name, England (Angle land), and dividing it up into seven kingdoms.

Ida was the warlord who carved out the northern-most Anglian kingdom, Bernicia, north of Hadrian's Wall, in the fertile farmlands around the River Tweed. This led to a struggle over territory in the 6th and 7th centuries with the Britons, who were based at Dumbarton on the River Clyde. It was a struggle that the Britons seemed to lose.

Angle power was in the ascendant. In 603 they defeated Aedan, Gaelic King of Dál Riata, at the battle of Degsastan.

In 638 the Bernicians took Edinburgh from the Britons, but greater success followed under their great warlord Oswui (641 – 670). In a series of campaigns Oswui conquered Dumfriesshire, Galloway, Kyle and the Lothians. To the south he took the Angle kingdom of Deira, that covered Yorkshire, and forged a new kingdom – Northumbria.

So great was Oswui's power that both the Picts and the Gaels recognised his overlordship. Only after the Picts defeated the Angles at Dun Nechtain (Dunnichen) in 685 AD did Northumbrian expansion halt and their overlordship was finally broken.

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The power of the Angles was smashed in 867 AD when the Vikings, under Ivarr and Halfdan, took York. All of Northumbria south of the Tyne was lost. The Angles barely held on in Bamburgh, their kingly status reduced to that of an Earl. Soon the Angles, with their power depleted, looked to the new kings of Alba, like Constantine II, for protection from the Vikings in York.

In 954 Illuib, King Constantine's son, captured Edinburgh, and Anglian power finally crumbled in Scotland when Malcolm II defeated the Northumbrians at the Battle of Carham in 1018 – taking the Scottish frontier to the Tweed.

Later Earls still played a part in Scottish history. Earl Siward helped Malcolm Canmore drive Macbeth from the kingship of Alba at the Battle of Dunsinnan – Macbeth didn't actually die there, as is related in Shakespeare's play, but died three years later at Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire at the hands of Malcolm Canmore.

After the Norman conquest of England, the last Anglian Earl of Northumbria decided Scotland was a safer option than England and fled to Malcolm's court for sanctuary.

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