Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bamburgh Castle - Part I

I have, once more, discovered another gem, a jewel of history of which I had previously been completely unaware. My dear mother sent me a link saying that there was a cool castle that I would like to see, so I went and looked at it and, being intrigued, decided to do a blog post about it. When I decided this, I had no clue that it would have such an amazing history.

I speak of Bamburgh Castle.
Bamburgh Castle (pronounced /ˈbæmbrə/ BAM-brə ) is located on the coast England at Bamburgh in Northumberland. I have noticed that wherever there is a fortress of some sort, very often the land that it is on has been occupied for several thousands of years. Bamburgh is no exception: in (roughly, I suppose) 12,000 - 4,000 BC nomadic hunter-gathers roamed the land, and in 800 BC The Votadini, one of Britain's first organized tribes lived at the natural fortress of Bamburgh. (Is is a very high, rocky mound by the ocean, it sounds cold and windy to me but I guess they liked it. And they probably had to be "organized" so the didn't freeze to death.)

During the Roman conquest, in AD 43 - AD 410, Bamburgh was occupied by solders. And in in 547, Northumbria, then known as Bernicia, in the heart of Anglo Saxon England, was the largest and most powerful of seven kingdoms. The 6th century Kings of Northumbria chose for their Royal capital Bamburgh, due to its formidable position 150 feet above the sea and by a natural harbor. The called this city Din (Fortress) Guayrdi.

In 607 King Ida (a good king, I suppose) died and the fortress fell into the hands of Aethelfrith. My dear mother cracks up every time I say his name, and tharth thaying thilly thingth. The Venerable Bede, a monk and England's first historian, likens Aethelfrith to a "ravening wolf." Due to the fact that Aethelfrith caused much mayhem and destruction, he was given the name Flesaurs, meaning The Destroyer. Aethelfrith gave the fortress to his wife, Bebba, and it was renamed Bebbanburgh after her. Its present name, Bamburgh, originates from this, but you probably guessed that.

Fortunately, in 634, Oswald, Aethelfrith's son, became Northumbria's new king after his father's death. Oswald, very unlike Aethelfrith, was a Saint King, a moral and generous man who built a monastery, converted his people to Christianity etc... He was the first to do this, really, so Northumbria is often called "the cradle of Christianity.''

But, alas, Oswald was slain in battle in 642 by his old enemy, King Penda of Mercia. After his death, things didn't go too well: 700-800 was The Bloody Century. Long story short: lots of people were killed, lots of little war lords ran each other through, etc... And the Northumbria Kingdom started to fall. And on top of it all, in 993, The Vikings came and started killing every one, burning buildings, and all those other unfriendly things that Vikings do. The Kingdom of Northumbria fell even more. Then, in 1066, William the Conqueror came and more people got killed. (Oddly enough, there were still people left
to get killed.) Anglo Saxon earls were replaced by Normans, and Bamburgh was used as a base while they went to go attack Scotland.

William Rufus, the Red King (called so due to his hair color and unfortunate personality, very irritable, you know.) the third son of William the conqueror, caused lots of problems for Bamburgh in 1095. He tried to take the fortress from Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria, that didn't work. William must have been unhappy about this: he started building a "Malvoisin," ("evil neighbor") a wooden tower alongside Bamburgh. Mowbray made an attempt to escape through a secret tunnel (cool, huh?) but he got captured and was made a prisoner (not cool). Mowbray's brave young wife (dude cool), Matilda and his nephew Morel continued to defend the castle (way dude cool). But, alas, William Rufus declared that he would blind Mowbrey unless Bamburgh yields. So, Matilda gave up the castle and Henry I took ownership of Bamburgh.

To be continued...


Anonymous said...

Very cool! ;) And entertaining. I'll look forward to the continuation.

~ A. K. ~

Anonymous said...


I love the narrative. Did you know that William the Conqueror is one of your long lost relatives? (At least that is what I have been told repeatedly since I married David.) What a lovely notoriety to have. *grin* Maybe a little geneology research would add a lot more flavor to this little saga (!)


Anonymous said...

The picture with the city below the castle reminds me of Luxembourg. I cannot remember if Luxembourg city was technically a castle or not though...