Open main menu

CYNEGILS or KINEGILS (d. 643), king of the West Saxons, the son of Ceol [q. v.], succeeded his uncle Ceolwulf in 611 (A.-S. Chron. sub an.). His accession was followed by an inroad of Britons into the West-Saxon kingdom. In 614 the invaders, probably striking over the Cotswolds by Cirencester, and perhaps, as in early years, in alliance with the Hwiccan, advanced as far as Beandûn, which has been identified with Bampton, about two miles north of the Isis. It may be taken for granted that this inroad was connected with the fact that in this year Cwichelm [q. v.], the son of Cynegils, was associated with his father in the kingship. The two kings met the Britons at Bampton, and defeated them with great slaughter. The rapid growth of the power of Eadwine, the Northumbrian king, endangered the independence of the West-Saxon monarchy. Already master of the Trent valley, Eadwine, by his marriage with the sister of Eadbald, king of Kent, while threatening the dominion of Cynegils from the north, cut him off from the chance of an alliance in the south. How fully conscious the West-Saxon kings were of their danger is proved by the attempt of Cwichelm to procure the assassination of Eadwine. The attempt failed, and in 626 Eadwine made war on Cynegils, defeated him, and compelled him to acknowledge his supremacy (Bæda, H. E. ii. 9). About this time Cynegils overthrew the two kings of the East Saxons who had succeeded their father Sæberht; the two kings were slain in the battle, and it is said that almost their whole army, which was far inferior in strength to the enemy, was destroyed (Hen. Hunt. p. 716). A fresh danger threatened the West-Saxon kingdom when Penda of Mercia had established his power in the central portion of the island. In 628 the Mercian king invaded the dominions of Cynegils, and a fierce battle was fought at Cirencester. After a day's fighting, in which neither side gained any decisive advantage, the kings the next morning made a treaty. The terms of this treaty are not known. The site of the battle shows that the immediate purpose of Penda's invasion was to gain the land of the Hwiccan, and it is probable that this treaty handed it over to Mercia, for it certainly formed part of the dominions of Penda's son Wulfhere. During the reign of Cynegils, Birinus preached the gospel to the West Saxons, and in 635 the king became his convert. Cynegils was baptised at Dorchester in Oxfordshire, Oswald, the Northumbrian king, who was about to marry his daughter, standing his sponsor. After his baptism he founded the West-Saxon see at Dorchester, acknowledging Birinus as the bishop. Oswald took part in the grant of Dorchester to the bishop, and this fact illustrates the continuance of the Northumbrian supremacy. The work of Birinus prospered during the rest of the reign of Cynegils, several churches were built, and many converts were made. Cynegils died in 643, and was succeeded by his son Cenwalh [q. v.]

[Bæda's Hist. Eccl. ii. 9, iii. 7; Anglo-Saxon Chron. sub ann.; Florence of Worcester, i. 12, 16, 17 (Eng. Hist. Soc.); Henry of Huntingdon, pp. 715, 716, 719 (Mon. Hist. Brit.); Green's Conquest of England, pp. 238, 239, 259, 267.]

W. H.