EDWIN (EADWINE): King of Northumbria; one of the greatest of the kings of Anglo-Saxon England and an earnest champion of Christianity; b. 585; slain in battle at Heathfield (probably Hatfield Chase, 7 m. n.e. of Doncaster, Yorkshire) Oct. 12, 633. He was born a heathen, son of Ella, king of Deira, who died when Edwin was three years old, whereupon the Bernician king, Ethelric, seized his kingdom. Edwin, during his boyhood and early manhood, was a wanderer, often in danger from the unrelenting pursuit of Ethelric and his son, Ethelfrid. In 616 or 617 he was at the court of Redwald, king of East Anglia, and may have met there with the Roman missionary Paulinus (q.v.). Redwald refused to deliver him up at the bidding of the Northumbrian king, attacked the latter, and defeated and slew him. Edwin now regained his kingdom. He established his capital at York and extended his dominions northward to the city which bears his name (Edinburgh), westward to the islands of Anglesea and Man, and southward over all England with the exception of Kent, with which he was in alliance. In 625 he married Ethelburga, princess of Kent, a Christian, and thus Paulinus gained admission to his court. For the story of Edwin's conversion see PAULINUS OF YORK. The king's greatness of mind is evident in his toleration of his wife's religion, in his reluctance to accept it himself without due deliberation and conviction, and in his conduct when once the decision was made. His first step was to announce his resolve to his witan and to ask if they would be baptized with him. The head priest is said to have been the first to give an affirmative answer, saying his service of the old gods had profited him nothing. After a noble had spoken in favor of a trial of the new religion, the others gave their assent and the priest led the way in desecrating the heathen temples and altars. Edwin gave Paulinus full permission to preach and baptize, and began a stone church at York. He persuaded Eorpwald of East Anglia to become a Christian. He ruled so well, says Bede, that a woman with her newborn infant could cross his realm from sea to sea without harm. He had cups placed beside the springs along the highways for the use of travelers, and such was the love or the fear of him that no one carried them away. It was an evil day for England when he was slain by Penda, the heathen king of Mercia, with the help of the Britons of Wales, who, though Christians, could not forget the old animosity against the Saxons.
Bibliography: Sources to be consulted are: Bede, Hist. eccl., ii. 5, 9-17, 20; Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, in Monumenta historica Britannica, ed. H. Petrie, J. Sharpe, and T. D. Hardy, London, 1848; Nennius, Eulogium Britanniæ, in Monumenta historica Britannica, ut sup.; Alcuin, Carmen de pontificibus, ed. J. Raine, in Historians of York, i. 349-398, cf. pp. lxi.-lxv., London, 1879; Haddan and Stubbs, Councils, i. 123, iii. 83-86. Consult: J. R. Green, Making of England, London, 1882; DNB, xvi. 132-134.