23 Facts About Aldfrith


Aldfrith is described by early writers such as Bede, Alcuin and Stephen of Ripon as a man of great learning.

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Aldfrith's reign was relatively peaceful, marred only by disputes with Bishop Wilfrid, a major figure in the early Northumbrian church.

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Aldfrith was born on an uncertain date to Oswiu of Northumbria and an Irish princess named Fin.

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Aldfrith was educated for a career in the church and became a scholar.

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However, in 685, when Ecgfrith was killed at the battle of Nechtansmere, Aldfrith was recalled to Northumbria, reportedly from the Hebridean island of Iona, and became king.

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Aldfrith's reign saw the creation of works of Hiberno-Saxon art such as the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Codex Amiatinus, and is often seen as the start of Northumbria's golden age.

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Aldfrith was a child of this marriage, but his date of birth is unrecorded.

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Aldfrith was probably thus a cousin or nephew of the noted scholar Cenn Faelad mac Aillila, and perhaps a nephew of Bishop Finan of Lindisfarne.

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Aldfrith had two full brothers: Alhfrith, who is not mentioned after 664, and Ælfwine, who was killed at the battle on the Trent in 679.

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Ecgfrith's death threatened to break the hold of the descendants of Æthelfrith on Northumbria, but the scholar Aldfrith became king and the thrones of Bernicia and Deira remained united.

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Aldfrith ruled both Bernicia and Deira throughout his reign, but the two parts remained distinct, and would again be divided by the Vikings in the late 9th century.

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Aldfrith appears to have had the support of leading ecclesiastics, most notably his half-sister Ælfflæd and the highly respected Bishop Cuthbert.

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Aldfrith is known to have received confirmation at the hands of Aldhelm, later the Bishop of Sherborne in the south-western Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Wessex.

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Aldfrith owned a manuscript on cosmography, which he purchased from Abbot Ceolfrith of Monkwearmouth-Jarrow in exchange for an estate valued at eight hides.

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Bede makes it clear that the church in Aldfrith's day was less subject to lay control of monasteries, a practice he dated from the time of Aldfrith's death.

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Aldfrith inherited from Ecgfrith a troubled relationship with Wilfrid, a major ecclesiastical figure of the time.

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When Wilfrid returned from exile the reconciliation with Aldfrith did not include Aldfrith's support for Wilfrid's attempts to recover his episcopal authority over the whole of the north.

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In 702 or 703, Aldfrith convened a council at Austerfield, on the southern border of Northumbria, which was attended by Berhtwald, Archbishop of Canterbury, and many bishops.

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Aldfrith responded by journeying to Rome, where he appealed in person to Pope John VI.

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Aldfrith refused to receive the letters, and Wilfrid remained in disfavour.

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Aldfrith's reign is considered the beginning of Northumbria's Golden Age, which lasted until the end of the 8th century.

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Exceptionally for the period, Aldfrith's coins bear his name, rather than that of a moneyer, in an Irish uncial script.

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Aldfrith was married to Cuthburh, sister of King Ine of Wessex; the marriage thus allied Aldfrith with one of the most powerful kings in Anglo-Saxon England.

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