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Penda - Last Pagan King of Britain 

Penda was a 7th Century King of Mercia (Pronounced Mer-chia in Anglo Saxon) he holds a great distinction as he was the last Pagan King of Britain before Christianity took complete hold of the island. He was King from about 632 until 655, and he made Mercia one of the most powerful kingdoms in England and temporarily delayed the rise of Northumbria.

It was said he did not suffer fools and particularly despised Christian priests who preached ones thing and did another. He was a noble of the royal house of Mercia and a pagan his entire life. Penda was the central figure in English history from 632 until his death. Penda treated every Northumbrian king as his enemy, especially if that king had any influence in southern England.

Who was he?

Penda was a son of Pybba of Mercia and said to be an Icling, with a lineage purportedly extending back to Wōden. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives his descent as follows: Penda was Pybba's offspring, Pybba was Cryda's offspring, Cryda Cynewald's offspring, Cynewald Cnebba's offspring, Cnebba Icel's offspring, Icel Eomer's offspring, Eomer Angeltheow's offspring, Angeltheow Offa's offspring, Offa Wermund's offspring, Wermund Wihtlæg's offspring, Wihtlæg Woden's offspring.

Bede, in his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, says of Penda that he was "a most warlike man of the royal race of the Mercians" and that, following Edwin of Northumbria's defeat in 633 (see below), he ruled the Mercians for 22 years with varying fortune

In 628 Penda defeated a West Saxon people known as the Hwicce at the Battle of Cirencester (in present-day Gloucestershire) and annexed their territory. He and King Cadwallon of Gwynedd (in northern Wales) invaded Northumbria in 632 and defeated and killed the Northumbrian king Edwin. That victory carried Penda into the Mercian kingship, but in 633 he was forced to recognize Northumbrian overlordship. Penda did not recover his independence until 641, when his army killed King Oswald of Northumbria. He then proceeded to extend his power over an area corresponding to modern Cheshire, Shropshire, and Hereford and Worcester. His son Peada had been made subking of Middle Anglia by 653. East Anglia was subjugated, and King Cenwalh was driven from Wessex for three years (645–648). In 655 Penda invaded Northumbria with forces drawn from many kingdoms, but he was slain by the Northumbrian king Oswin at the Battle of the Winwaed near Leeds (in present-day Yorkshire). Although Penda was a pagan, he allowed Peada to introduce Christianity into Middle Anglia.

When you come to our shows keep an eye out for King Penda and his wife Cynewise They will be richly decorated and protected by his household warriors the Werod. But be aware he does not suffer fools greatly and especially hates a hypocrite. He was a brave king who both lived and died by the sword in an age where leaders had to lead from the front!  If you want to know more about king penda we highly suggest Pete Jennings book Penda : Heathen king of Mercia or better still come and join our group and find more out about him and the times he lived in first hand!

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