Ceolwulf of Northumbria

Ceolwulf of Northumbria
King of Northumbria
Reign 729 – 737
Predecessor Oscric
Successor Eadberht
Born 7th Century
Died 765
Burial Lindisfarne Monastery
House Leodwaldings
Father Cuthwine
Ceolwulf of Northumbria
King, Monk
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion
Feast 15 January

Saint Ceolwulf was king of Northumbria from 729 until 737, except for a short period in 731 or 732 when he was deposed, and quickly restored to power. Ceolwulf finally abdicated and entered the monastery at Lindisfarne. He was the "most glorious king" to whom Bede dedicated his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum.


Ceowulf was born around 695 in Northumbria.[1] His ancestry is thus given by the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle": "Ceolwulf was the son of Cutha, Cutha of Cuthwin, Cuthwin of Leoldwald, Leoldwald of Egwald, Egwald of Aldhelm, Aldhelm of Ocga, Ocga of Ida, Ida of Eoppa."[2] Ceolwulf's brother, Coenred, seized the Northumbrian throne in AD 716.[3] Coenred ruled for two years when Osric, the last of the House of Aethelric, claimed the throne and ruled for ten years. In 729, shortly before his death, Osric nominated Ceolwulf as his successor.

He consulted the Venerable Bede for advice on important matters.[1] While praising Ceolwulf's piety, Bede also expressed some reservations regarding Ceowulf's ability to rule. Ceolwulf was a man with deep monastic interests, and perhaps little suited to affairs of state. Bede dedicated his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum ("History of the English Church") to Ceolwulf in 731.[3] That same year Ceolwulf was deposed for a short period in the autumn of 731 or 732, but quickly restored. The details of the attempted coup are unclear. Bishop Acca of Hexham is said to have been deprived of his see, which suggests he may have supported Ceowulf's opponents.[1]

It has been suggested that Ceolwulf had spent time in Ireland, perhaps studying to enter into religion. As King, he had endowed the monastery at Lindisfarne with many gifts. He obtained a dispensation for the monks to use of wine and beer for the monks, contrary to the established Celtic practice which limited beverages to water and milk.[3]

In 737 Ceolwulf abdicated in favor of his first cousin Eadberht, to retire to Lindisfarne. His death is recorded in the winter of 764765. He was later canonized, and his feast day is 15 January.[4]


Further reading

  • Bede (1994), McClure, Judith; Collins, Roger, eds., The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Oxford World Classics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-953723-2 
  • Fraser, James E. (2009), From Caledonia to Pictland: Scotland to 795, New Edinburgh History of Scotland, I, Edinburgh University Press, ISBN 978-0-7486-1232-1 
  • Higham, N. J. (1993), The Kingdom of Northumbria AD 3501100, Stroud: Sutton, ISBN 0-86299-730-5 
  • Higham, N. J. (2006), (Re-)Reading Bede: The Ecclesiastical History in context, Abingdon: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-35368-8 
  • Kirby, D. P. (1991), The Earliest English Kings, London: Unwin Hyman, ISBN 0-04-445691-3 
  • Marsden, J. (1992), Northanhymbre Saga: The History of the Anglo-Saxon Kings of Northumbria, London: Cathie, ISBN 1-85626-055-0 
  • Yorke, Barbara (1990), Kings and Kingdoms in Early Anglo-Saxon England, London: Seaby, ISBN 1-85264-027-8 
  • Yorke, Barbara (2006), The Conversion of Britain: Religion, Politics and Society in Britain c. 600–800, London: Longman, ISBN 0-582-77292-3 

External links

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King of Northumbria Succeeded by
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