Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 11.djvu/219

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Coenred
Coenred
213


at Delgany, not far off, and passed away on 3 June 618, in the 120th year of his age, according to the usual account (Ussher). Among the numerous remains at Glendalough, besides those already mentioned, may be noticed St. Coemgen's house, known to Irish writers as Cro Coemgin, which combined the purposes of oratory and house, like St. Columba's house at Kells, and another small house called the priest's house, so called from several priests having been buried there. The doorway of this building is surmounted by a triangular pediment, in the tympanum of which is a sculptured bas-relief, of which Dr. Petrie gives an engraving (p. 250). The central figure, in his opinion, represents St. Coemgen, the patron of the place. It bears on its head a 'notched band or fillet,' which he thought might be the base of a mitre, of which the upper part was obliterated; but a glance at the engraving will convince the reader that it is really a crown; for it is known now that the bishops of the primitive Irish church wore crowns after the manner of the Greek church, and not mitres. The meaning of his name is 'fair offspring,' but it seems also intended as a play on the word caom, 'fair,' treated as a family name; for his father, mother, and two brothers had also this prefix to their names. His father, as we have seen, was Coem-log, and then we have this stanza:

Coem-án, Coem-gin, mo-Coem-og,
Three choema (lovable) sons of Coem-ell;
Good was the triad of brothers,
Three sons of a delightful mother.

He belonged to the second order of Irish saints, and in the parallel list of Irish and foreign saints in the 'Book of Leinster' he is coupled with Paul, the Egyptian hermit. He was undoubtedly one of the most famous of the hermit saints of the sixth century.

[Bollandist's Acta Sanct. vol. xix., Junii 3, p. 406; Book of Leinster, 350 a, 351 c, 370 c, d; Todd's St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, p. 430; Ussher's Works, vol.' vi.; O'Donovan's Annals of the Four Masters, i. 219; Petrie's Essay on the Round Towers of Ireland, 169-73, 245-50; Calendar of Oengus Céle dé, p. xcviii; Lanigan's Eccles. Hist. ii. 43, 44; Martyrology of Donegal, p. 143; Olden's Epistles and Hymn of St. Patrick, with the Poem of Secundinus, pp. 105, 110.]

T. O.

COENRED or CENRED (reigned 704–709), king of Mercia, was the son of Wulfhere, king of Mercia, and his queen, Eormengild or Eormenhild. On Wulfhere's death in 675 the succession did not pass to Coenred, who was probably too young to rule, but to Wulfhere's brother Ethelred. The 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' tells us that in 697 the Southumbrians (Baeda says the chiefs of the Mercians) put Æthelred's queen Osthryth to death; that in 702 Coenred became king of the Southumbrians; and that in 704 Æthelred assumed the monastic habit, and was succeeded on the throne of Mercia by Coenred. The interpretation to be placed on these brief statements depends on the meaning of the name Southumbrians, which is of very rare occurrence. In the 'Chronicle' under the year 449 this name appears to be used as a synonym of Mercians. If it has that sense in the passages just quoted, the entry under the year 702 (which is found only in three, and those not the oldest, of the six manuscripts of the 'Chronicle,' and has nothing corresponding to it in Bæda) must have been inserted by mistake, being a misdated reference to the event afterwards recorded under the true date of 704. The later historians, as Florence of Worcester and Henry of Huntingdon, evidently take this view, as they ignore the accession of Coenred to the kingdom of Southumbria in 702. It seems, however, unlikely that the chronicler should have committed so obvious a blunder, and the more probable conclusion is that Southumbria is here the name of a portion only of the Mercian kingdom. Whether it denotes the territory of Bæda's 'Northern Mercians' (Hist. Eccl. iii. 24), which was bounded on the south by the Trent, or the province of Lindsey Lincolnshire), which Æthelred had recently recovered from the Northumbrians, there is not sufficient evidence to determine. We may reasonably infer from the statements of the 'Chronicle' that the Southumbrians, whoever they were, had revolted from Æthelred in 697, that in 702 they chose Coenred as their king, and that in 704 Æthelred was induced to yield up the kingdom of Mercia to Coenred. In 709, possibly owing to a reaction against the Southumbrian party, Coenred abdicated in favour of Æthelred's son Ceolred, and, in company with Offa, the young king of the East Saxons, went to Rome, where he received the tonsure, and spent the rest of his life in works of piety. The date of his death is unknown.

The few incidents of Coenred's reign which are recorded are all of a religious or an ecclesiastical nature, and it seems probable that his character was more suited for the cloister than for the throne. Bæda mentions that at the request of his predecessor Æthelred, who had then become abbot of Bardney, he gave an asylum and his friendship to Wilfrith, the banished archbishop of York. The same writer speaks of Coenred as having earnestly striven to effect the conversion of one of his chief nobles, who was a faithful servant to