King of Northumbria (705-716)
born 697 died 716

In the words of the Venerable Bede

In the year of our Lord 705, Aldfrith, king of the Northumbrians, died before the end of the twentieth year of his reign. His son Osred, a boy about eight years of age, succeeding him in the throne, reigned eleven years.

Aldfrith's death created a crisis in Northumbria as a rival claimant to the throne appeared, one Eadwulf, about whom little or nothing is known. (1) Eadwulf laid siege to the fortress of Bamburgh but without success as Osred obtained the support of the Northumbrian nobility, in particular that of the ealdorman Beorhtfrith as well as the church in the form of Bishop Wilfrid. After two months, the siege was lifted and Eadwulf captured and beheaded for treason.

Beorhtfrith (2) seems to have acted as Osred's guardian and therfore the effective ruler of Northumbria during Osred's minority. (3)When the Picts sought to take advantage of his youth and made repeated incursions into Northumbrian held Lothian, it was Beorhtfrith who led the Northumbrian army and defeated the Picts in 711 in a battle somehwere on the plain of Manaw.

Not a great deal more is known of Osred. Bede in particular has little to say about him other than that he succeeded to the throne in 705 and was killed in 716. Other (but later) sources state that Osred, having freed himself from Berhtfrith, entered into a life of immorality and debauchery. He is alleged to have killed or driven into exile many of the Northumbrian nobility, engaged in sexual relations with nuns and according to St Boniface was "driven by the spirit of wantoness".

It was probably as a result of this general all round misbehaviour that he was assasinated by his distant cousins Coenred and Osric. In such circumstances one can imagine Bede's reticence to provide details; ever the Northumbrian patriot he preferred to gloss over the less savoury details.

Osred was the last in the long line of Aethelfrith's direct descendants to rule Northumbria. After his death the crown of Northumbria passed into the hands of Coenred.


(1) The normal comment is to suggest that Eadwulf was from a different branch of the Bernician royal family, which is quite possible, but also confirms that no one knows anything about him.
Some versions of the Northumbrian king lists place Eadwulf between Alfrith and Osred on the basis of his brief attempt at usurping the throne, although the scope of his authority over Northumbria must have been very limited.

(2) Also known as Berhtfrith or Brithric and described by Eddius Stephanus as "a nobleman, second in rank only to the king"

(3) The only certain minority recorded for Anglo-Saxon England before 900, apparently.


A Biographical Dictionary of Dark Age Britain by Ann Williams, Alfred P Smyth and DP Kirby (BA Seaby 1991)

Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum by the Venerable Bede

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

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