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Rædwald († between 616 and 627) was probably the most important king of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia from the Wuffinger dynasty .


Spangenhelm from a grave near Sutton Hoo , which probably belonged to King Rædwald.

Rædwald was the first known "historical" king of East Anglias, from whom more than just the name has been handed down; Most of the very poor information has come down to us in the Church history of the Beda Venerabilis . It represents the most important source for this period, supplemented by reports from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and other representations made later.

Rædwald was the son of Tyttla and grandson of the dynasty founder Wuffa (insofar as the latter is historical). He was a brother of Enis . His children were Rægenhere († 616) and Eorpwald . Sigebert was possibly his stepson. His reign is usually dated around 593 or 599.

At the beginning of his rule Rædwald was under the suzerainty of the Bretwalda Æthelberht of Kent . Æthelbert urged Rædwald to adopt the Christian faith. According to Beda Venerabilis, Rædwald (perhaps around 604) was baptized and attended church services in Kent, but at the same time continued to serve his old gods . Two altars are said to have stood in his temple, one for the Christian god and one for pagan gods. A "limbo" between old pagan and new Christian beliefs is by no means unique. However, if the identification of Rædwald in the famous tomb of Sutton Hoo were correct (see below), this would ultimately be understood as a strong commitment by the king to paganism. Maybe Rædwald was partly responsible for the expulsion of Christian bishops, like the London bishop Mellitus .

Around 616 Rædwald granted asylum to Edwin , who had been driven out of Northumbria by Æthelfrith and who saw himself as the rightful heir to the throne. Æthelfrith offered Rædwald a large sum if he were to kill or extradite Edwin; in the event of rejection he threatened Rædwald with war. According to Beda, Rædwald was initially prepared to betray Edwin, but was then changed by his wife. He then sent his troops north. On the river Idle there was a decisive battle in 616, Æthelfrith was defeated and died in the fighting. In the battle, which was victorious for his troops, Rædwald also had to mourn the loss of his son Rægenhere. Presumably this victory led to Rædwald's recognition as Bretwalda and thus to his supremacy within the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy . Edwin entered Northumbria victoriously, and Æthelfrith's heirs now had to go into exile.

Rædwald's further rule seems to have been politically stable in peace and prosperity. He died between 616 and 627. He was succeeded by his son Eorpwald.

During Rædwald's lifetime , the Scandinavian custom of ship graves arose near the East Anglian royal seat of Rendlesham, in Sutton Hoo and Snape , with the ship grave in Sutton Hoo containing particularly valuable gifts (including jewelry, clothing, weapons and over 30 Merovingian coins) so that it must be a ruler's grave. Shortly after the discovery, Hector Munro Chadwick assumed that the ruler buried in Mound 1 was Rædwald. Although this is not certain, Rædwald's position of power in this period and the rich grave goods speak for it, so that this assumption is largely followed in (historical) research to this day.



  • Nicholas J. Higham, Martin J. Ryan: The Anglo-Saxon World. Yale University Press, New Haven 2013.
  • David Peter Kirby: The Earliest English Kings. Revised Edition. Routledge, London 2000, pp. 50ff.

Web links


  1. a b c d e f g Nicholas J. Higham: Rædwald. In: Michael Lapidge, John Blair, Simon Keynes, Donald Scragg (Eds.): The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England. 2nd edition Chichester 2014, p. 395f.
  2. a b c Beda, Church History 2.15.
  3. The Anglian collection also identifies Eni as Tyttla's son.
  4. a b Beda, Church History 2:12.
  5. ^ Rædwald in Foundation for Medieval Genealogy
  6. Beda, Church History 2.5.
  7. ^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 617
  8. ^ Richard Hoggett: The Archeology of the East Anglian Conversion. Woodbridge 2010, p. 30.
  9. Hector Munro Chadwick: The Sutton Hoo Ship Burial VIII: Who was he ?. In: Antiquity 14 , 1940, pp. 76-87.
  10. See Martin Carver: Sutton Hoo. Burial Ground of Kings ?. Philadelphia 1998, pp. 22f. and p. 33ff .; Nicholas J. Higham, Martin J. Ryan: The Anglo-Saxon World. New Haven 2013, p. 133. Michael Parker Pearson, Robert Van De Noort, Alex Woolf: Three men and a boat offer a critical overview . Sutton Hoo and the East Saxon kingdom. In: Anglo-Saxon England 22, 1993, pp. 27-50.
predecessor Office successor
Tyttla King of East Anglia
593/599 – around 625