Northumbria, a kingdom of Angles, in what is now northern England and south-east Scotland, was initially divided into two kingdoms: Bernicia and Deira. The two were first united by king Æthelfrith around the year 604, and except for occasional periods of division over the subsequent century, they remained so. The exceptions are during the brief period from 633 to 634, when Northumbria was plunged into chaos by the death of king Edwin in battle and the ruinous invasion of Cadwallon ap Cadfan, king of Gwynedd. The unity of the Northumbrian kingdoms was restored after Cadwallon's death in battle in 634.

Another exception is a period from about the year 644 to 664, when kings ruled individually over Deira. In 651, king Oswiu had Oswine of Deira killed and replaced by Œthelwald, but Œthelwald did not prove to be a loyal sub-king, allying with the Mercian king Penda; according to Bede, Œthelwald acted as Penda's guide during the latter's invasion of Northumbria but withdrew his forces when the Mercians met the Northumbrians at the Battle of Winwaed. After the Mercian defeat at Winwaed, Œthelwald lost power and Oswiu's own son, Alchfrith, became king in his place. In 670, Ælfwine, the brother of the childless king Ecgfrith, was made king of Deira; by this point the title may have been used primarily to designate an heir. Ælfwine was killed in battle against Mercia in 679, and there was not another separate king of Deira until the time of Norse rule.

Kings of Bernicia

Reign Incumbent Notes
c. 500 Esa (Oesa)[1] Doubtful historicity as a king.
c. 520 Eoppa Doubtful historicity as a king. Son of Esa.
547 to 559 Ida The Historia Brittonum calls Ida the first king of Bernicia. Son of Eoppa.
Glappa (Clappa)
Adda Order and dates uncertain. Son of Ida.
568[?] to 572[?] Æthelric Order and dates uncertain. Son of Ida.
Theodric (Deoric) Order and dates uncertain. Son of Ida
Frithuwald (Frithewlf) Order and dates uncertain.
585[?] to 592[?] Hussa Order and dates uncertain.[2]
593[?] to 616 Æthelfrith Son of Æthelric, also ruled Deira, killed in battle
Deira Dynasty
616 to 12/14 Oct 632 Edwin Son of Ælla of Deira, which he also ruled, killed in battle by Penda, King of Mercia
Bernicia Dynasty
late 632 to 633 Eanfrith Son of Æthelfrith
634 to 5 Aug 642 Oswald (Osuualde, Osƿald) Son of Æthelfrith, also ruled Deira, killed by Penda, King of Mercia; Saint Oswald
late 642 to 654 Oswiu Son of Æthelfrith, became king of united Northumbria

Kings of Deira

Reign Incumbent Notes
559/560 to 589 Ælla (Aelli) Son of Yffa
589/599 to 604 Æthelric (Aedilric) Brother of Ælla
Bernicia Dynasty
593/604[?] to 616 Æthelfrith Also king of Bernicia; killed in battle
Deira Dynasty
616 to 12/14 Oct 632 Edwin Son of Ælla, also ruled Bernicia; killed in battle by Cadwallon of Gwynedd and Penda of Mercia; Saint Edwin
late 633 to summer 634 Osric Son of Æthelric
Bernicia Dynasty
633 to 5 Aug 642 Oswald Son of Æthelfrith, also ruled Bernicia, killed by Penda, King of Mercia; Saint Oswald
642 to 644 Oswiu Son of Æthelfrith, also ruled Bernicia
Deira Dynasty
644 to 651 Oswine Son of Osric, murdered
Bernicia Dynasty
summer 651 to late 654 or 655 Œthelwald Son of Oswald
654 to 15 Aug 670 Oswiu Restored
656 to 664 Alchfrith Sub-king under his father Oswiu
664 to 670 Ecgfrith Sub-king under his father Oswiu, upon whose death he became king of all Northumbria
670 to 679 Ælfwine Sub-king under his brother Ecgfrith, King of Northumbria. Killed in the Battle of the Trent against King Æthelred of Mercia

Kings of Northumbria

Reign Incumbent Notes
654 to 15 February 670 Oswiu Previously king of Bernicia and Deira
February 670 to 20 May 685 Ecgfrith Son of Oswiu, killed in battle against the Picts
May 685 to 14 December 704 Aldfrith (Ealdfrith, Aldfrid) Son of Oswiu
late 704 to early 705 Eadwulf Usurper
705 to 716 Osred I Son of Aldfrith, killed in battle or murdered
716 to 718 Coenred Distant descendant of Ida of Bernecia
718 to 29 May 729 Osric Son of Aldfrith, adopted Ceolwulf as his heir
729 to 731 Ceolwulf Brother of Coenred, deposed; Saint Ceolwulf
731 to 737/8 Ceolwulf Restored; abdicated to become a monk
737 to 758 Eadberht Son of Eata, a descendant of Ida of Bernicia, abdicated to become a monk
758 to 759 Oswulf (Osulf) Son of Eadberht, murdered by his servants
759 to 765 Æthelwald Moll Deposed
765 to 774 Alhred Distant descendant of Ida of Bernicia, deposed and exiled
774 to 779 Æthelred I Son of Æthelwald Moll, deposed
779 to 23 September 788 Ælfwald I Son of Oswulf, murdered
788 to 790 Osred II Son of Alhred, deposed and exiled
790 to 18 April 796 Æthelred I Restored
796 Osbald Exiled after a reign of 27 days
14 May 796 to 806/8 Eardwulf Deposed
806/8 to 808/10 Ælfwald II (Elfwald II)
808 to 810 Eardwulf Restored
810 to 841 Eanred Son of Eardwulf
840/1 to 844 Æthelred II Son of Eanred, deposed
844 Rædwulf (Redwulf) Usurper
844 to c. 848/9 Æthelred II Restored
c. 848/9 to 862/3 Osberht (Osbert) Deposed
862/3/7 to 21 March 867 Ælla Usurper, killed by the Danes with Osberht
867 to 21 March 867 Osberht (Osbert) Killed by the Danes with the usurper Ælla

Kings of Northumbria in the Norse era

The kings of Northumbria in the Norse era variously controlled Jórvík, the former Deira, from its capital York or the northern part of the kingdom, the former Bernicia, from Bamburgh. The southern kings were usually Vikings while the northern rulers were Anglo-Saxons. Some of the rulers controlled all or most of Northumbria although there is some doubt over the details as the history of Northumbria in the ninth and tenth centuries is poorly recorded.

Years Ruler of southern Northumbria Ruler of northern Northumbria Notes
867–872 Military conquest by the Great Heathen Army Ecgberht I Ecgberht I ruled north of the Tyne as a puppet king of the Danes.[3]
872–c. 875 Ricsige Probably ruled most of Northumbria as a sovereign Anglo-Saxon king.[4]
c. 875–877 Halfdan Ragnarsson[5] Ecgberht II[6] The year in which Ecgberht II ceased to be king is unclear.
877–883 Interregnum in York
c. 883–895 Guthred Uncertain. Possibly Ecgberht II.
c. 895–900 Siefried Eadwulf II 1. Eadwulf II is variously titled as either a king or a reeve and the year in which he came to power is unknown. Conventionally he is thought to have ruled only the northern part of the kingdom but he may have ruled the entirely of Northumbria.[7]
2. Siefried and Cnut may have been joint kings in York for part or all of the period between 895 and 905[8]: 79 
3. Along with Hálfdan and Eowils, another king, Ingwær, their brother, may have also ruled. All three were killed at the Battle of Tettenhall in 910.
c. 900–905 Cnut
c. 900–902[8]: 79  Æthelwold
c. 902–910[8]: 87  Hálfdan and Eowils
c. 910–913 Anglo-Saxon control, possibly under Eadwulf II
913–c. 918 Anglo-Saxon control, possibly under Ealdred I Ealdred I 1. There is some evidence that Ealdred submitted to Edward the Elder in 924 who died in that year.
2. Ealdred submitted to Æthelstan in 927, making Æthelstan the overlord of all Northumbria as King of the English from 12 July 927, following the Treaty of Eamont Bridge. It is likely that Ealdred's submission was somewhat nominal with Ealdred ruling semi-independently while acknowledging West Saxon authority.[9]
918–921[10]: 144–8  Ragnall
921–927[10]: 148–51  Sigtrygg
927 Guthfrith
927–c. 933 Æthelstan
c. 933c. 934 Adulf mcEtulfe 1. The name Adulf mcEtulfe can be taken to be Æthelwulf son of Eadwulf.
2. Alternatively, Adulf mcEtulfe indicates Ealdred son of Eadwulf, i.e. Ealdred I.[11]
3. Adulf mcEtulfe died in 934 and had been named 'King of the Northern Saxons' by the Annals of Clonmacnoise.[12]
c. 934–939 [10]: 151, 74  Overlordship of Æthelstan
939–941[10]: 174, 81  Olaf Guthfrithson Possibly Olaf Guthfrithson After Æthelstan's death in 939, the men of York immediately chose the Viking king of Dublin, Olaf Guthfrithson (or his cousin, Anlaf Cuaran[a]), as their king and the Anglo-Saxon control of the north collapsed.
941–943/944[10]: 181–2  Olaf Sihtricson Possibly Olaf Sihtricson Olaf Sihtricson was also known as Amlaíb Cuarán
c. 942 Sitric II Possibly Sitric II Sitric's existence is only evidenced by coins bearing his name which were minted at York.
943–944[10]: 182  Ragnall Guthfrithson (possibly with Olaf Sihtricson) Possibly Ragnall Guthfrithson with Olaf Sihtricson
c. 944–946[10]: 182, 86  Edmund of Wessex Possibly under Eadmund's overlordship Edmund's authority was as King of the English.
c. 947–948[10]: 186–8  Eric Bloodaxe[14] Under Eadred's overlordship 1. From 946, Osulf I appears in the historical record as high-reeve of Bamburgh under Eadred the King of the English.
2. Eric Bloodaxe had previously been King of Norway.
949–952[10]: 186, 88  Olaf Sihtricson[14] 1. Olaf Sihtricson was restored to the throne. During this time, Osulf I is variously described as the high-reeve or earl of Bamburgh.
2. Olaf Sihtricson was also known as Amlaíb Cuarán.
952–954[10]: 188–90  Eric Bloodaxe[14] Eric Bloodaxe was restored to the throne. In 954 Osulf I was responsible for a conspiracy that led to the death of Eric Bloodaxe.

Although Eadred claimed rule from 946,[10]: 185–90  the Kingdom of Northumbria was not absorbed permanently into England until after 954.[10]: 190  Thereafter Osulf had control of all Northumbria under Eadred.[15] See Rulers of Bamburgh for subsequent lords of Bamburgh after Osulf, none of whom ruled as kings.

Family tree

- Kings of Bernicia; - Kings of Deira; - Kings of Northumbria

d. 559
d. 560
d. 568
d. 572
d. 579
d. 588
d. 585
d. 592
d. 616
of Deira
b.c.586; d. 633
Osric I
d. 634
b.c.595; d. 634
b.c.604; d. 642
b.c.612; d. 670
d. 651
King of the Picts
Æthelwald I
d. 655
d. 664
b.c.645; d. 685
d. 704
b.c.661; d. 679
Osred I
b.c.697; d. 716
Osric II
d. 729

See also


  1. ^ Historian Kevin Halloran argues that it was Anlaf Cuaran rather than Olaf Guthfrithson who became King of York after Æthelstan's death[13]


  1. ^ Gething, Paul; Albert, Edoardo (1 October 2012). Northumbria: The Lost Kingdom. The History Press. ISBN 9780752490892 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Cannon, John; Hargreaves, Anne (26 March 2009). The Kings and Queens of Britain. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780191580284 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Rollason, David (2003). Northumbria, 500-1100: Creation and Destruction of a Kingdom. Cambridge University Press. p. 249. ISBN 0-521-81335-2.
  4. ^ Kirby, D. P. (1990). The Earliest English Kings. Routledge. ISBN 9781134548132.
  5. ^ Costambeys, M (2004). "Hálfdan (d. 877)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/49260. Retrieved 10 December 2019. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  6. ^ Symeon of Durham (1855). "The Historical Works of Simeon of Durham". Church Historians of England, volume III, part II. J. Stevenson, translator. Seeley's. p. 493. Retrieved 14 December 2019.
  7. ^ Hudson, Benjamin (2005), Viking Pirates and Christian Princes: Dynasty, Religion and Empire in the North Atlantic, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-516237-4, p. 21
  8. ^ a b c Downham, Clare (2007), Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland: The Dynasty of Ívarr to A.D. 1014, Edinburgh: Dunedin
  9. ^ Williams, "Ealdred"; Woolf, From Pictland to Alba, p. 158
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Woolf, Pictland to Alba.
  11. ^ Woolf, From Pictland to Alba, pp. 163-164
  12. ^ McGuigan, Neil (2015). "Ælla and the descendants of Ivar: politics and legend in the Viking Age". Northern History. 52 (1): 20–34. doi:10.1179/0078172X14Z.00000000075. S2CID 161252048. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  13. ^ Halloran, "Anlaf Guthfrithson at York", pp. 180–185
  14. ^ a b c Costambeys, "Erik Bloodaxe"; Hudson, Viking Pirates, pp. 37—8
  15. ^ Rollason, Northumbria, pp. 65—6