Cearl of Mercia

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Cearl was an early king of Mercia who ruled during the early part of the 7th century, perhaps from about 606 to about 626. He is the first Mercian king mentioned by Bede in his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum.

Cearl's ancestry is unknown. According to Bede, he had a daughter, Quenberga, who married the exiled Edwin of Deira, who was later king of Northumbria, and had two sons by him, Osfrith and Eadfrith (Bede's only mention of Cearl is in the context of this marriage).1 Historians have noted the marriage as evidence for Cearl's independence from the then-Northumbrian king Aethelfrith, since Edwin was Aethelfrith's rival and Cearl would not have married his daughter to an enemy of his overlord.2,3 The historian D. P. Kirby speculated that perhaps Cearl was enabled to marry his daughter to Edwin due to the protection of the powerful East Anglian king Raedwald, and that Edwin's subsequent exile among the East Angles may have been due to Aethelfrith's power beginning "to impinge on Cearl or his successors among the Mercians."3 Cearl was followed as king by Penda, son of Pybba, who was probably king by the year 633, but whether Penda came to power immediately after Cearl or after some intervening period is unknown. It is also unknown what relationship Cearl had to Penda, if any.

References

  1. Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Book II, Chapter XIV. (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/bede-book2.html)
  2. Nicholas Brooks, "The Formation of the Mercian Kingdom", in S. Bassett, The Origins of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms (1989), page 166.
  3. Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (1943), third edition (1971), reissued paperback (Oxford University Press, 1998), pages 38–39.
  4. D. P. Kirby, The Earliest English Kings (1991), revised edition (2000), pages 55 and 61.


Preceded by:
Pybba
King of Mercia
c. 606–c. 626
Succeeded by:
Penda

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