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Cenwalh

Cenwalh (d. 672), king of Wessex (642–5, 648–72). Cenwalh was driven out by his powerful Mercian neighbours in 645 for repudiating his wife, sister of the Mercian king. He sought refuge at the court of East Anglia, where he was baptized. Returning in 648, he established a kinsman in Berkshire, probably as a bulwark against Mercian aggression. His main successes were against the Britons to the west, gaining victories at Bradford on Avon (652), Peonnan (658), and Posbury (possibly Pontesbury near Shrewsbury) in 661. Against the Mercians he was less successful and in 661 lost parts of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to Mercia, which granted them to Sussex. Cenwalh's creation of a second episcopal see at Winchester, c.660, may have been prompted by the vulnerability of the one at Dorchester-on-Thames, though Bede claims that he had tired of his Frankish bishop, Agilbert, whose speech he could not understand. After Cenwalh's death, Bede says that Wessex was divided among under-kings for ten years, while the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports that his queen reigned for a year.

Audrey MacDonald

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