Deira, kingdom of

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Deira, kingdom of. Anglo-Saxon kingdom lying north of the Humber and south of the Tees. The origins are obscure, but the name is British and may imply Anglo-Saxon take-over of a British territory. The Deiran dynasty appears well established by the end of the 6th cent. when Ælle was ruling. After his death Æthelfryth of Bernicia conquered the province in 604 and expelled Ælle's son Edwin. Edwin returned in 616 and after killing Æthelfryth ruled both Bernicia and Deira himself. Through his marriage with a Kentish princess, he caused the province to be officially converted to Christianity in 626–7, and Paulinus from the Gregorian mission in Canterbury was appointed the first bishop of York. After the death of Edwin the royal house was increasingly under threat from its Bernician neighbours. The last member of the Deiran royal house to rule was Oswin (644–51) who was murdered by Oswiu of Bernicia who ruthlessly hunted down males of the royal house. Females fared rather better and the monastery of Whitby under a succession of Deiran princess-abbesses was a major ecclesiastical centre. During the reign of Ecgfrith (670–85) Deira was fully integrated with Bernicia to form the kingdom of Northumbria.

Barbara Yorke