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Ecgfrith of Northumbria
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Ecgfrith of Northumbria

Ecgfrith (645 - May 20, 685) was a King of Northumbria (670 - 685). He was the son of Oswiu of Northumbria.

During Penda of Mercia's invasion of Northumbria in 655, the young Ecgfrith was taken as a hostage by Penda; however, he was freed after the Northumbrians killed Penda at the Battle of Winwaed.

Ecgfrith was made king of Deira, a sub-kingdom of Northumbria, in 664, and he became king of Northumbria following his father's death on February 15, 670. He had married Æthelthryth;, the daughter of Anna of East Anglia, in 660; however, she took the veil shortly after Ecgfrith's accession, a step which possibly led to his long quarrel with Wilfrid, the Archbishop of York. Ecgfrith married a second wife, Eormenburg, before 678, the year in which he expelled Wilfrid from his kingdom.

Early in his reign he defeated the Picts, who had risen in revolt, and created a new sub-kingdom in the north called Lothian. In 674, Ecgfrith defeated Wulfhere of Mercia and seized Lindsey. In 679, however, he was defeated by Æthelred of Mercia; (who had married Ecgfrith's sister, Osthryth) on the river Trent. Ecgfrith's brother Ælfwine was killed in the battle, and the province of Lindsey was given up when peace was restored at the intervention of Theodore of Canterbury.

In 684 Ecgfrith sent an expedition to Ireland under his general Berht, which seems to have been unsuccessful. In 685, against the advice of Cuthbert, he led a force against the Picts, who were led by his cousin Brude mac Bili, but was lured by a feigned flight into their mountain fastnesses and slain at Nechtansmere (now Dunnichen) in Forfarshire. This disastrous defeat severely weakened Northumbrian power in the north, and Bede dates the beginning of the decline of Northumbria from Ecgfrith's death. He was succeeded by his illegitimate half-brother, Aldfrith.

See Eddius, Vita Wilfridi (Raine, Historians of Church of York, Rolls, Series, London, 1879 - 1894), 19, 20, 24, 34, 39, 44; Bede, Hist. Eccl. (Plummer, Oxford, 1896), iii. 24; iv. 5, 12, 13, 15, 19, 21, 26.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

Preceded by:
Oswiu
King of Northumbria Succeeded by:
Aldfrith