Edwin’s Lasting Legacy


In the previous article, we have seen how ambition got the better of Edwin, King of Northumbria.

However, Edwin did leave a lasting legacy.

His conversion to Christianity was nothing short of a monumental event, and it spurred other important people (inside Northumbria and out) to convert as well. Among these was Eorpwald, King of East Anglia.

Edwin was also well respected throughout his kingdom as a protector of his people and their laws. The Venerable Bede wrote of Edwin’s Northumbria that “a woman might travel through the island with a babe at her breast without fear of insult.” (This was, of course, referring to Edwin’s time as bretwalda. There’s that ambition thing again. We won’t go there this time.

Anyway, Edwin left us York, which was known then as Eoferwic (the Romans having called it Eboracum). There he was baptized, at the spot now occupied by York Minster. He made it his political and trade center. It was one of the largest and most important cities in the north and in all of Northumbria.

Edwin also lent his name to Edinburgh. This city was, of course, named after Edwin was gone. But the present Edinburgh Castle on Castle Rock is on the site where Edwin built a fort long ago. This fort was strategically placed to give its occupants not only a view of the surrounding countryside but also views of the Firth of Forth and the North Sea.

Edwin is revered as a saint, not only because he led his people in a conversion to Christianity but also because he was killed by two so-called “heathens,” Cadwalla and Penda. Edwin is said to have been a judicious ruler, who, once he had accomplished what he set out to do (that is, conquer as much territory as he could), ruled fairly and justly. His subjects respected him, and they probably also feared him. He brought peace to the north of England, an area that had not seen peace in a very long time. He gave us two wonderfully beautiful cities, York and Edinburgh. He was truly one of the great and important people in the history of Britain.