Ruled but not Conquered: Adaptation and Survival of the Cornish Identity

Following his victory at Hingston Down, Ecgberht seems to have had at least some hand in starting Anglo-Saxon settlement in north Cornwall. This potentially could be seen as a measure meant to protect the overland route between Devon and Cornwall so that a breakout, such as that which happened at Gafulford earlier in his rule, would not be repeated.

According to the records of Sherborne, he endowed the Church with holdings in Maker, ‘Kelk’ and ‘Ros’. Both Kelk and Ros are more difficult to identify, although it is likely that Kelk relates to Kilkhampton (the English suffix becoming added as settlers arrived) in north Cornwall, reinforcing his interests there [Finberg, 1953]. Maker is obviously at the very far south of the border, just over the Tamar from Devon. However, it is likely in this case that either Ecgberht, or the Sherborne scribes, were attempting to reassert the claim of the Church over the parcel of land granted by King Geraint. Given the collapse of Dumnonia and the fierce fighting that followed, it seems extremely likely that any direct control of the site had long reverted to more local control. It may well be, with this in mind, that the estate at Ros relates to Rame Head close to Maker.

It would be tempting to see the grants at Maker as another response to learned experience, hopefully placing friendly eyes and ears at the mouth of the Tamar to warn of any new Viking fleets entering the river. This very southern outpost would perhaps have felt somewhat lonely, though in truth it was likely manned and managed by local Cornish people. The place-name evidence we have overwhelmingly supports a clustering of immigration in the northern half of the border region, with almost no Anglo-Saxon incursion further west than the River Lynher, itself only a short distance inland from the border at the Tamar.

If we compare place-name evidence for the northernmost ‘Hundred’ of Cornwall, Stradneth, with the easternmost Hundred of Ryslegh, this pattern is made extremely clear. In Stradneth up to 90 per cent of the place names are either English or have English place name components in them, either a prefix or a suffix, while the density of English place names varies widely across Ryslegh, from as little as 40 per cent in the southernmost section up to 60 per cent in the central body of the region. However, the vast majority of the area is in the lower bracket for percentages [Finberg, 1953].

Of note is that this place-name evidence comes to us largely from modern sources, albeit with some items like the Domesday Book able to corroborate the names and their evolution. As such it represents the sum total of Saxon occupation throughout the remaining 200 or so years prior to the Norman conquest. The strong clustering in the northern area, combined with the previously noted tendency to avoid the coastal settlements, shows that the increasing population of Anglo-Saxons, or English speakers at any rate, were still very much on the outside of Cornish life and power.

One area where unity seems to have proceeded a little more smoothly is in the ecclesiastical realm, with the Bishop of Cornwall, Kenstec, professing obedience to Canterbury sometime between 830 and 874. Additionally the Welsh priest Asser, writing in his biography of King Alfred the Great, states that Alfred passed the control of the Cornish Church to him:

For in the course of time he unexpectedly gave me Exeter, with the whole diocese which belonged to him in Wessex and in Cornwall, besides gifts every day without number of every kind of worldly wealth; these it would be too long to enumerate here, lest it should weary my readers.

However, when Edward the Elder created the Bishopric of Crediton, he included a stipend in order to support the bishop regularly visiting Cornwall to correct Cornish practices [Charles-Edwards, 2015] as the source puts it: ‘For previously they resisted the truth as much as they could and did not obey papal decrees.’

It seems clear from this that the old contentions regarding local Church practice were still going on. Given that both Bede and Aldhelm seemed particularly concerned with the calculation of Easter, and the singular importance of this date to the Early Medieval Church, it is probable that in this, at least, they were now in communion with the wider Church but that perhaps they continued other practices which the wider Church had abandoned or frowned upon. It’s difficult to say with any certainty what these disagreements or ‘errors’ were; however, the tonsure is likely to be amongst them and potentially differences in monastic life and rules.

It may also be that Asser’s control of the Cornish Church was only ever nominal at best. As we have seen, there is little to suggest that he was able to stamp an orthodoxy upon the reluctant Cornish clergy and there is reason to believe that Alfred’s ability to give that control was also extremely limited.

In the period following Ecgberht’s death, his son Athelwulf ascended the throne. Although he was historically viewed as a lesser king, he was able to defeat Viking raiders in battle at Aclea in 851:

three and a half hundred ships came into the mouth of the Thames and stormed Canterbury and London and put to flight Beorhtwulf, King of Mercia with his army, and then went south over the Thames into Surrey and King Æthelwulf and his son Æthelbald with the West Saxon army fought against them at Aclea, and there made the greatest slaughter of a heathen raiding-army that we have heard tell of up to the present day, and there took the victory.

He also seems to reorganise Wessex, and helps to stabilise the gains in southern England that his father had won. In regards to Cornwall, though, there are very few recorded interactions during Aethelwulf’s reign. He does issue charters granting land in western Devon, including in the South Hams [S298] and in Halstock [S290] which serves to confirm that the Tamar is now the effective border between the two realms even if it has not been proclaimed as such.

Given the fighting in western Devon in the years of Ecgberht’s reign, it is conceivable that Athelwulf sought to improve his hold on this region rather than attempting to gain greater control of the sub-kingdom that Cornwall had become.

This also seems to be reflected in the growth of tin mining on Dartmoor, which increases rapidly over the ninth century [Meharg et al., 2012]. It is possible that whatever accommodation or peace that was negotiated in Ecbert’s time had at least some components about the continued support for mining and access to the tin trade. As covered previously, tin mining is a highly specialised industry and it is unlikely that the Saxons would have had their own expertise to bring to bear, so they would, at least initially, have still been reliant upon local miners. Probably these mining families would have over time mixed with incoming Saxons and passed on their knowledge; however, the craft itself retained a sort of isolated prestige as the establishment of the Stannary Laws and Parliaments in Devon and Cornwall in the Middle Ages makes clear.

While control of Cornwall seems to remain with the local royal line rather than in the household of Wessex, it does seem that Athelwulf believes it safe enough to allow his youngest son to take a journey there on a hunting expedition. As Asser records in his life of Alfred:

On a certain occasion it had come to pass by the divine will that when he had gone to Cornwall on a hunting expedition, and had turned out of the road to pray in a certain church in which rests Saint Gueriir [and now also St Neot reposes there], he had of his own accord prostrated himself for a long time in silent prayer—since from childhood he had been a frequent visitor of holy places for prayer and the giving of alms—and there he besought the mercy of the Lord that, in his boundless clemency, Almighty God would exchange the torments of the malady which then afflicted him for some other lighter disease.

Cornwall here is identified as a separate region, so it does seem that Alfred is likely journeying in the lands controlled by the Britons. The fact that he was able to do so unmolested suggests that the Cornish kings and their lords, even if not wholly pacified, were no longer eager for an armed conflict with Wessex. This may particularly be true with Athelwulf being in a powerful military position, able to drive off raids from the Cornishmen’s former allies amongst the Viking raiding fleets.

On Athelwulf’s eventual death, his sons each become king for only a short time. By now the Great Heathen Army of the Vikings is rampaging through Anglo-Saxon England. Unfortunately, a series of West Saxon Kings meet their ends, until Athelwulfs youngest son, Alfred, is acclaimed king in 871.

It should be considered here that a few years after Alfred’s coronation, in 875, the Welsh Annals have the following entry: ‘Dungarth king of Cernyw ‡that is of the Cornish was drowned.’

Dungarth has popularly been linked to the Doniert commemorated on King Doniert’s stone in the village of St Cleer. The inscribed stone there includes an inscription: ‘Doniert has asked [for this to be made] for his soul[’s sake’]’ (translation taken from English Heritage).

While he is the last documented King of Cornwall that we know of, there are significant gaps in the royal record prior to his death as well, so it should not be taken as fact that he is the last of the semi-independent client kings of Cornwall. For one thing, the fact that the stone was raised to commemorate him strongly suggests there was at least some family left after him to oversee the memorial’s construction. As we will see, very little in Alfred’s later actions suggests his control of Cornwall was any more firm than that of his father.

While much could be written, and much has been, about Alfred’s reign and his wars with the Vikings, there are only some elements of it that are of immediate concern to us.

Principally we should acknowledge that, for most of his early reign, Alfred’s immediate concern was events to the north and east of his kingdom where the Great Heathen Army was conquering and plundering much of the established Anglo-Saxon order.

The Viking forces had not only killed his brothers, but by now were tearing their way through the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia, subjucating the first two and dividing the third in half, with the greater proportion under Danish control. In such an environment, where it seemed very likely that all of Saxon England may have been wiped out in the near future, Alfred simply would not have had much time to spend attending to the work needed to bring closer unity between Wessex and Cornwall.

The fact that the fighting had ended in Devon and Saxon settlement was limited to the north-east would have left the local elites still in a strong position to govern their areas without the interference of Wessex. To complete the transition of power, Alfred, or another King of Wessex, would need to either forcefully replace that elite or entice them to tie themselves to Wessex voluntarily.

The first option would seem intensely unappealing in an environment where there were already Viking invaders hammering at the door. Not only would it mean diverting forces from the defence of Wessex and sending them on a campaign that they might not necessarily win (the landscape of Eastern Cornwall, particularly in the early Medieval period, would not have been a friendly one, for an unfamiliar army to cross), but it would also risk pushing the Cornish to once again directly throw their lot in with the Vikings. While there is no guarantee that the Cornish elite would survive the latter option, it would become much more appealing if they were being militarily threatened by Wessex once again.

At the same time, bringing the Cornish onside diplomatically would require time and effort that most likely could not be spared in the face of the pressing conflict with the Danes.

The Cornish, for their part, seem to remain neutral in the vast conflict raging to the east. As we have noted previously, we continue to see Viking artefacts in Cornwall well past 838, with the Trewhiddle hoard dating very closely to the peak of Alfred’s fighting with the Danes in the 870s. The number of artefacts, the likelihood of Trewhiddle being a Viking treasure and the lack of recorded raids in Cornwall even while other attacks occur in Devon and Somerset, all strongly suggest that the Cornish were still on somewhat friendly terms with at least some of the Viking raiders now frequenting both the Channel and the Irish Sea.

At the same time, it doesn’t seem that the Cornish are in any hurry to return to a military confrontation with Wessex.

We can see this most clearly when Alfred faces defeat in the winter of 878. As the Chronicle records:

This year about mid-winter, after twelfth-night, the Danish army stole out to Chippenham, and rode over the land of the West-Saxons; where they settled, and drove many of the people over sea; and of the rest the greatest part they rode down, and subdued to their will; – all but Alfred the King. He, with a little band, uneasily sought the woods and fastnesses of the moors. And in the winter of this same year the brother of Ingwar and Healfden landed in Wessex, in Devonshire, with three and twenty ships, and there was he slain, and eight hundred men with him, and forty of his army.

There also was taken the war-flag, which they called the raven. In the Easter of this year King Alfred with his little force raised a work at Athelney; from which he assailed the army, assisted by that part of Somersetshire which was closest to it.

Not only is Wessex overrun and Alfred isolated at this point, but the fighting also reaches Devon. If there was ever a moment for the Cornish to go on the offensive against Wessex, as they had done only some forty years previously, then this was almost certainly it. However, there is no mention of fighting further west and neither the Chronicle nor Asser ever mentions much happening in Cornwall at this time.

The temptation was almost certainly there, particularly if we look closer at the fighting in Devon. Asser provides more details then the Chronicle, although not every scholar agrees that they are describing the same events, writing:

In that same year the brother of Inwar and Halfdene, with twenty-three ships, came, after many massacres of the Christians, from Dyfed, where he had wintered, and sailed to Devon, where with twelve hundred others he met with a miserable death, being slain, while committing his misdeeds, by the king’s thanes, before the fortress of Cynwit, in which many of the king’s thanes, with their followers, had shut themselves up for safety.

The heathen, seeing that the fortress was unprepared and altogether unfortified, except that it merely had fortifications after our manner, determined not to assault it, because that place is rendered secure by its position on all sides except the eastern, as I myself have seen, but began to besiege it, thinking that those men would soon surrender from famine, thirst, and the blockade, since there is no water close to the fortress.

But the result did not fall out as they expected; for the Christians, before they began at all to suffer from such want, being inspired by Heaven, and judging it much better to gain either victory or death, sallied out suddenly upon the heathen at daybreak, and from the first cut them down in great numbers, slaying also their king, so that few escaped to their ships.

The brother is usually assumed to be Ubbe, although there is much that isn’t clear about his movements if that is the case. Given the little information we do have to go on, particularly that the fleet overwintered in Dyfed which at the time was the principality in the far south-west region of Wales, it seems likely that the fleet may have been made up of Vikings active in the Irish Sea rather than fresh arrivals from Denmark.

This makes the lack of Cornish support for their attack even more striking, as we have already demonstrated the continuing close contacts between Cornwall and the Hiberno-Norse settlements in Ireland. It seems unlikely that they would have been completely unaware of such a large force active in the Irish Sea.

Of course, there is also the possibility that the Ealdorman of Devon and his men moved to fortify Cynwit and engage the fleet precisely to stop them continuing further south-west and into Cornwall. However, this seems unlikely; given the proximity of Countisbury Hill to the border with Somerset it is likely that the Danes were instead hoping to cut off Alfred and his followers in the marshes from any support that the men of Devon could offer.

If they had designs on retaking the lands lost in Devon, or even to drive out the West Saxons settled in north-east Cornwall, it would appear that this was the moment. The complete lack of evidence showcasing any fighting, either against Vikings or against Wessex, seems to support a neutral stance by the Cornish. They were biding their time and making sure they had no enemies in either camp so that, regardless of who won in the clash between Dane and Saxon, they might still have Cornwall safe and secure.

This pragmatism would serve them well, particularly once Alfred defeated the Danes at Ethandun and began to reorganise Wessex to improve its ability to repel future aggression and, eventually, take the offensive against the Danes in order to establish a kingdom of the English, and so achieve his great ambition.

It’s from this period that we have the clearest evidence that Alfred did not believe Cornwall to be part of his holdings. Or at least, he did not believe it to be defensible or easily taxable.

This evidence comes from the Burghal Hildage, a list of all the burghs (or fortified settlements) that had been constructed by Alfred and his son, Edward the Elder, in Wessex and Mercia as it stood at the start of the tenth century.

There is not a single burgh in Cornwall, despite its alliance with the Danes in 838. If Wessex was in control of the region, as is often assumed, you would assume that Alfred would seek to protect it, at least in the regions around the Tamar Valley where longships could easily navigate inland. Instead, the most western of the burghs is at Lydford, around 10 miles from the Tamar and the border with Cornwall.

Interestingly, the Hildage lists the lands which Lydford owns in order to support and sustain itself as 150 hides. This is the smallest amount of any of the burghs other than Southampton, which is also listed as 150 [Hill,1969]. This suggests that Lydford was only able to draw upon a relatively small tax base. Certainly the comparison with Southampton is notable, as Southampton obviously is pressed right against the south coast, physically limiting the amount of land it could call upon. In the same way it would appear Lydford’s position, close to a border with a still separate and at least semi-independent Cornwall, limited its ability to raise taxation.

Lydford’s position is also interesting. It is, of course, situated fairly close to the Tamar, potentially offering a defence against raiders sailing up the river, but it is also far enough back that this seems unlikely to be its only purpose. The fact that it sits essentially in mid-Devon makes it most useful as a blocking position if one expects an attack from the west. While certainly this could be from Viking raiders using the Tamar, it also perhaps hints that Alfred and his descendants were still not entirely certain of Cornwall’s loyalties, making the natural ridge defences at Lydford an ideal spot to fortify.

Indeed, Lydford is not attacked for nearly a century after its construction, and when the attack does come, in 997, it is by Vikings specifically seeking to sack the mint that had been established there by that time rather than being intent on plunder elsewhere. It is not hard to infer, therefore, that the siting at Lydford had more than just Viking raiders in mind.

While the pragmatic gamble of the Cornish certainly goes some way to explaining the lack of conflict between Wessex and Cornwall in this time period, it perhaps is unfair to completely discount the hand of Alfred in it as well.

Alfred’s vision of a single ‘kingdom of the English’ was, without doubt, his strongest motivator in the years following Ethandun and the reorganisation of Wessex. But it was not his only goal or indeed his only method of achieving success. He also was a fervently devout Christian who saw value in the Church as an instrument both of God’s will and of political expediency.

This perhaps explains his ‘gift’ of the Cornish Church to Asser. He may even have hoped that a Welsh bishop would have more success in pulling the erstwhile reluctant Briton clergy into closer accommodation with the Saxon Church. As noted, it seems he was incorrect in this assumption, and that is perhaps unsurprising, given, as noted earlier in this text, that the Cornish were culturally less similar to their Welsh cousins than they were to other Celtic peoples from the Continent. This situation is unlikely to have been improved by the physical separation between the groups in the time since.

Still, the increasing evidence for closer ties between Cornwall’s Church and that of the West Saxons shows that these early pushes were at least bearing some modest success. It is possible that this growing closeness worked to check any potential pushes for more aggressive actions against Wessex during the latter half of the ninth century.

In fact, upon Asser’s death in the tenth century the south-west Church was reorganised with a new bishopric established in Crediton to oversee Devon and Cornwall. However, as noted previously, there were still divisions between the two.

Alfred is also an active diplomat in Wales. Asser records that several of the southern Welsh princes swore him allegiance even relatively early in his reign:

At that time, and long before, all the countries in South Wales belonged to King Alfred, and still belong to him. For instance, King Hemeid, with all the inhabitants of the region of Dyfed, restrained by the violence of the six sons of Rhodri, had submitted to the dominion of the king.

Howel also, son of Ris, King of Glywyssing, and Brochmail and Fernmail, sons of Mouric, kings of Gwent, compelled by the violence and tyranny of Ealdorman Æthelred and of the Mercians, of their own accord sought out the same king, that they might enjoy rule and protection from him against their enemies.

Helised, also, son of Teudubr, King of Brecknock, compelled by the violence of the same sons of Rhodri, of his own accord sought the lordship of the aforesaid king; and Anarawd, son of Rhodri, with his brothers, at length abandoning the friendship of the Northumbrians, from whom he had received no good, but rather harm, came into King Alfred’s presence, and eagerly sought his friendship

These relations largely seem to be oaths of fealty, with Alfred acting as an over-king while the Welsh rulers retained their lands and title in exchange for agreeing to support and obey Alfred. It is unclear how far that support went in practical terms, but certainly, according to Asser, he continued to be an active diplomat:

He bestowed alms and largesses both on natives and on foreigners of all countries; was most affable and agreeable to all; and was skilful in the investigation of things unknown. Many Franks, Frisians, Gauls, heathen, Welsh, Irish, and Bretons, noble and simple, submitted voluntarily to his dominion; and all of them, according to their worthiness, he ruled, loved, honored, and enriched with money and power.

The image we are left with, at least from Asser, is that Alfred sought to establish a metropolitan court similar to that his grandfather may have encountered in Frankia with Charlemagne, bringing together Christian peoples from all corners of Britain (and, notably, Brittany) under his banner. While Asser is obviously writing a hagiography here rather than a more passive history, it is worth noting that this ‘hearts and minds’ approach certainly seems to be something Alfred’s descendants both understand and embrace. It is arguably the greatest tool his grandson, Aethelstan, will deploy on his way to being Rex Totius Britanniae, as we will see a little later on.

Certainly, Alfred seems to become something of a magnet for learned figures from around the British Isles. One of the few sources to mention Cornwall in his reign is an entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 891 which illustrates this:

And three Scots came to king Alfred in a boat without any oars from Ireland, whence they had stolen away, because they desired for the love of God to be in a state of pilgrimage, they recked not where. The boat in which they came was made of two hides and a half; and they took with them provisions sufficient for seven days; and then about the seventh day they came on shore in Cornwall, and soon after went to king Alfred. Thus they were named: Dubslane, and Macbeth, and Maelinmun. And Swinney, the best teacher among the Scots, died.

The other interesting thing about this entry is that Cornwall is again mentioned separately from Wessex. While we do see some regional mentions throughout the Chronicle, it normally serves a specific purpose. The fact that the three monks journey onwards from Cornwall to Alfred, and that they had not landed where they hoped, suggests that Cornwall at this point was still considered separate enough to distinguish it from Wessex as a whole.

It may also give us some hint of how Alfred dealt with Cornwall. He may well have been active, not militarily, but in extending a hand of friendship to both the Church and important families and nobles in Cornwall in order to bring them into his influence.

Given the level of success he seems to enjoy in southern Wales, there is nothing to say he was not able to employ the same tactics, including leaving a local elite in place, in Cornwall. However, it is notable that Asser does not mention any specific supplication of the Cornish or their leaders – this may mean that the neutrality we have documented earlier was more firmly established.

Of particular interest is the way the southern Welsh mostly submit due to pressures from their fellow Welsh leaders. The lack of any mention of the Cornish appealing to Alfred for protection again raises many questions about whether they were particularly worried by the Vikings roving in the Irish Sea, or indeed felt the need to attend to the King of Wessex with any urgency.

Upon Alfred’s death he seems to control at least some lands in Cornwall directly, leaving Edward the Elder lands in north Cornwall: ‘These lands at Straetneat on Triconshire.’

This is usually interpreted as Stratton in the historic Hundred of Trigg. Triconshire is the ‘land of three warbands’ mentioned earlier in a saint’s story. Additionally, he left his youngest son Aethelweard: ‘Liwtune and the lands belonging thereto, that is, all that I have among the West-Welsh except Trigg.’

Liwtune is traditionally cited as Lifton in Devon [Finberg, 1953], which was potentially the site of a temporary burgh closer to the Cornish border [Hill, 1969]. It’s interesting that only the lands at Stratton are definitely within Cornwall. Lifton is the only named area he passes to Athelweard, the interpretation of him holding lands in Cornwall relying largely on the latter half of the line: ‘all that I have among the West-Welsh’. However, when we take a longer look at the history of Wessex in Devon, and in particular western Devon, it could well be that the majority of the population in the region were still Briton or at least came from Briton families.

As such, it seems this reinforces the view that only north Cornwall sees particularly strong Saxon settlement, and potentially Stratton is the only royal estate within Cornwall itself. The monastery at Bodmin, or Bosvenna, is however starting to grow in importance around this time, so it’s possible that it was among the beneficiaries of grants given out ‘to the church’ in Alfred’s will, as he was known to frequently give alms to churches outside of Wessex, potentially as part of his diplomatic campaigns as outlined earlier.

With Alfred gone it fell to his son, Edward, and his daughter Athelflaed, ‘Lady of the Mercians’, to push back the Danes and start the work of building England as we would come to understand it.

Edward suffers somewhat from a bad press, largely because very few primary sources survive from during his reign. This also makes understanding any actions he may have taken in Cornwall even more difficult than with Alfred.

From what little does survive, Edward seems less academic and religiously inclined then his father. William of Malmesbury describes him as ‘much inferior to his father in the cultivation of letters’. However, he is apparently ‘incomparably more glorious in the power of his rule’.

Certainly, Edward’s accomplishments are impressive. Between his efforts and those of his sister, Mercia and East Anglia are completely reclaimed from the Danes and eventually united under the throne of Wessex. This unification is not without some controversy, though it also serves to provide a brief glimpse into the personality of Edward. While his sister was alive she had both the loyalty of the Mercians and rule of the country, maintaining a separate Saxon identity from that of Wessex. On her death she installed her daughter to rule after her (itself an impressive feat in Early Medieval society); however, Edward quickly arranged to remove the girl and bring Mercia’s holdings into his own.

It seems clear that Edward was both driven and determined to see his father’s vision carried out. A childhood spent on the battlefields of Early Medieval England must have had a serious impact on the growing Edward too, and we can picture a much rougher and more warlike king, ironically probably more in keeping with his ancestors then the more studious Alfred, whose success comes to us unheralded because he did not enjoy the same level of praise from the Church as his father.

It is interesting that the years of Edward’s rule, the early half of the tenth century, are also the years when many of the Norse-influenced monuments in Cornwall are being raised. Of course, Edward is a conqueror in many respects, but he also was willing to accept the surrender of settled Danes throughout Mercia and East Anglia; the monuments in Cornwall may well represent one facet of a wider societal acknowledgement that the Danes, in some form or other, were here to stay. Though we talk mostly of the ‘Great Heathen Army’ as a single rampaging horde, the reality was a much more complicated patchwork of different groups, large and small, and many of these brought their families with them. The erstwhile invaders had put down roots and any attempt now to rip them out would have been a huge undertaking with allegedly limited reward – a fact that Aethelred the Unready would perhaps discover to his cost at the turn of the eleventh century.

In terms of charter evidence, we don’t appear to have any issued by Edward granting lands in Cornwall. We can assume he retains control of the estate at Stratton granted to him by Alfred, but beyond this we can only guess how much land may or may not be in royal control.

Diplomatically, Edward still seems to be active in the politics of other regions in Britain, forging alliances with Hywel Dda, Idwal Foel and Clydog. All of them had previously been subject to Athelflaed, and Edward continued to build on these ties much as his father had done [Charles-Edward, 2015]. Hywel Dda in particular was to form an integral part of Athelstan’s later efforts to unite all of Britain, so Edward’s work here in building these ties (Hywel becomes a frequent witness of Edward’s charters) can be seen as absolutely crucial to the later success of his son.

It may be notable that there is no similar presence of a Cornish king witnessing charters during this time. However, as Kevin Halloran [2011] notes, much of the diplomatic pressure on the Welsh, and on other Saxon entities, came from the continuing threat of Viking raiders. This effectively caused a split where the Welsh rulers could either ally themselves with the Vikings, who may prove untrustworthy and who were still unrepentantly heathen, or they could tie themselves to the ascendant Wessex and the Saxons in order to gain support to resist Viking incursions.

Viewed in this context, it may well be that the rulers of Cornwall during this time period were still more in the Viking camp than Edward was entirely comfortable with. However, as we have noted, there seemed to be little desire for a return to armed conflict from the Cornish, and as such Edward may well have chosen to leave well enough alone or to hope his continuing efforts in the Church would bear fruit.

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