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Penda

Penda (d. 655), king of Mercia, can in many ways be seen as the anti-hero of Bede's Ecclesiastical History—a resolute pagan, responsible for the deaths of many Christian kings in battle, including that of St Oswald at Maserfield. However, Bede also admitted that he allowed Christian missionaries to preach in areas under his control and that he was vir strenuissimus ‘a man exceptionally gifted as a warrior’. Penda first appears in recorded history in 626 battling with rulers of the West Saxons for control of the province of the Hwicce. The Northumbrians apparently first encountered him in alliance with Cadwallon of Gwynedd at the battle of Heathfield in 633 and he also fought at least two major battles with the East Angles. Penda's energetic campaigns from his midland base greatly increased the territory under Mercian control and enabled him to establish a wide-ranging overlordship, recognized in Northumbria and parts of Wales as well as in the southern English kingdoms. It was Oswiu of Bernicia's challenge to his authority as overlord which led to Penda's death at the battle of Winwaed in 655, where he had come with 30 duces regii, probably commanders leading military contingents from his subject provinces.

Barbara Yorke

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Penda

Penda, d. 654, king of Mercia (c.632–654). A noble of the Mercian royal house, he fought (629) the king of Wessex for lands along the Severn River. He then allied himself with Cadwallon of Wales, defeated (632) Edwin of Northumbria, and made himself king of Mercia. A great fighting king, he was the central figure in the history of Anglo-Saxon England for nearly a generation thereafter. He defeated and killed (641) Oswald of Northumbria and extended his power over Wessex and East Anglia. His Greater Mercia included all the Midlands. However, he still had an enemy in the new king of Northumbria, Oswy; Penda attacked him in 654 and was killed in the battle. Penda himself remained heathen, but at the time of his son Peada's marriage he consented to that son's Christian baptism. Eight of Penda's descendants ruled Mercia, beginning with his son Wulfhere.

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