Anglian Leadership in Northumbria, 547 A.D. through 1075 A.D.
By Jean Anne Hayes
PhD Dissertation, Louisiana State University, 2005
Abstract: The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Britain were founded in warfare beginning in the fifth century. These kingdoms developed alongside the native Romanized Britons, who attempted to reassert their authority in Britain in the wake of the Roman withdrawal. Northumbria, located north of the Humber River, the largest and most northerly of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms played a vital role in the politics of early medieval Britain.
During the seventh century, the Northumbrian kings were recognized as the overkings of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, as well as the neighboring British and Pictish kingdoms. Over the course of several centuries, the leaders of Northumbria alternately engaged in military conflict and peace alliances with their most powerful northern neighbor, the Scots. After York fell to an invading Danish army in the ninth century, the lands of Northumberland were permanently divided along the Tees River valley into Yorkshire and Northumbria. The tenth and eleventh centuries witnessed power struggles between the earls of Northumbria and the ‘English’ kings from Wessex. While the other Anglo-Saxon ealdormen received their political appointments from the kings and worked alongside their monarchs, the earls of Northumbria alone maintained political autonomy.
Northumbria was uniquely located between the two emerging powers of Scotland and Anglo-Saxon England, yet never succumbed to either. Dedication to local Northumbrian ealdormen as earls, who exhibited strong military leadership and surprising political savvy, guaranteed Northumbria self-rule and unchanged laws until the Norman Conquest. Not until William Rufus II gained the throne of England in 1087 did Northumbria begin participating as a political and military entity within greater England.