Bernicia was an early British kingdom, established sometime in the sixth century by Germanic, Anglian settlers. The name is probably derived from the Brythonic Bernaccia, the name of the preceding Romano-British kingdom.
The kingdom was geographically located along the north east coast of what is now England, between the Tweed valley (to the north) and the valley of the river Tees to the south, with its capital at Bamburgh. Or roughly the modern counties of Northumberland and Durham at its fullest extent.
- Ida (c545-c565)
- Theodric or Theobald
- Aethelfrith (593-616)
Ruled by Edwin of Deira between 616 and 632
Interregnum, kingdom occupied by Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd
It is one Ida (sometimes known as Ida the Flamebearer) who occupied the fortress at Bamburgh, an event traditionally dated to 547, who is normally given the credit for the foundation of the kingdom. Very little is known of Ida or of the six kings, all generally presumed to be his sons, who succeeded him; even the sequence of succession is unclear.
The first real historical king of Bernicia was Aethelfrith who came to power sometime in 592/593, although whether by succession or force is not known. Various versions of regnal lists exist for the period between Ida and Aethelfrith, listing anything between two and six rulers, with regnal years allocated on the basis of educated guesswork.
The best that can be said is that Ida died sometime in the period 560 to 570 and was succeeded by an uncertain number of his sons, until the time of Aethelfrith. The lack of clarity in the intervening period suggests there may have been a certain amount of strife between the various sons as they squabbled for power.
It was Aethelfrith's vigorous leadership that led to Bernicia became the dominant force in the north of Britain taking over neighbouring Deira to the south and expanding agressively westwards across the Pennines early in the seventh century.
In 616 the royal house of Deira returned in the form of Edwin who, after disposing of Aethelfrith, ruled the two kingdoms, until he too met his death at the hands of the unlikely alliance of Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd and Penda of Mercia. Eanfrith, being the old king Aethelfrith's eldest son, briefly returned to rule Bernicia, before he too, met his death at the hands of Cadwallon.
It was Oswald the restored the royal line of Ida to power and re-united Bernicia with its southern neighbour. Deira reasserted some semblance of autonomy under Oswine, but the last vestiges of Deiran independance disappeared when Oswiu had the Deiran king Oswine killed in 651. Thereafter Bernicia separate history came to an end as it became subsumed within the political entity known as Northumbria.