Penda

This profile of Penda is part of
Who's Who in Medieval History

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Penda was known for:

Being the earliest king of Mercia about whom scholars have any real information. Through his conquests, he made his kingdom into one of the most powerful lands of the English Heptarchy, delaying for a time the rise of Northumbria.

Occupations:

King
Military Leader

Places of Residence and Influence:

England

Important Dates:

Died: Nov. 15, 655

About Penda:

Even before he was king, Penda conquered the Hwicce, a West Saxon people, at the Battle of Cirencester in 628, and added their territory (in modern Gloucestershire) to Mercia. In 632, he allied with King Cadwallon of Gwynedd (in Wales) to invade Northumbria; in the subsequent battle, the Northumbrian king, Edwin, was slain. This victory helped Penda gain the throne.

Unfortunately, Penda's independent reign did not last. Shortly after Oswald gained the throne of Northumbria in 634, the Mercian king was forced to recognize the overlordship of the Northumbrians. While by no means a complete subjugation, it did limit any attempt at expansion. The situation lasted until 642, when Oswald was killed by Penda's troops at Maserfelth (Maserfeld).

Now Penda was able to extend his power. He acquired territory in present-day Cheshire, Shropshire, and Hereford and Worcester.

In 645, the Mercian king was able to drive King Cenwalh out of Wessex; an absence that lasted only three years, but which was nevertheless considered an impressive accomplishment. In 653 his son Paeda became sub-king of Middle Anglia, and it wasn't long before East Anglia came under Penda's control.

Penda always had his eye on Northumbria, and in 655 he gathered forces from many kingdoms and attempted one more invasion. But it was not to be. Penda was slain at the Battle of the Winwaed on November 15, 655, by forces of the Northumbrian king, Oswiu.

Throughout his life, Penda remained a pagan at a time when Christianity was making great headway in England. Most other English kings of the Heptarchy during his lifetime converted to Christianity. For this reason, Penda may have received short shrift from Christian scholars. In spite of his staunch adherence to the old religion, Penda allowed his son, Paeda, to bring Christianity to Middle Anglia.

More Penda Resources:

Penda in Print
The link below will take you to a site where you can compare prices at booksellers across the web. More in-depth info about the book may be found by clicking on to the book's page at one of the online merchants.


by James Campbell

Penda on the Web

Penda, King of Mercia
Substantive biography at David Nash Ford's Early British Kingdoms site.

Penda the Pagan: Royal sacrifice and a Mercian king
A useful perspective from Alby Stone at The Edge.



Early Medieval Britain



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