Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 42.djvu/327

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Earl of Bearhaven who died at Madrid in 1659 or 1660, leaving one daughter, a girl of twelve, and a fortune of a hundred thousand crowns.

[Little is known of his life beyond what is to be gleaned from his own writings, and especially the Compendium; Kelly's preface to the edit, of 1850 contains most of this. M'Gee's Irish Writers of the Seventeenth Century; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography.]

J. K. L.

OSWALD or OSUUALD, Saint (605?–642), king of the Northumbrians, born about 605, was second son of Ethelfrid or Æthelfrith [q. v.], king of the Northumbrians. His mother was Acca, sister of Edwin or Eadwine (585?–633) [q. v.], king of the Northumbrians, and daughter of Ælla (d. 588) [q. v.] Thus on his father's side he was of the line of Ida [q. v.] of Bernicia, and on his mother's of the royal house of Deira. His younger brother, Oswy (612?–670), is separately noticed. When his father was defeated and slain by Rædwald in 617, he and his brothers were driven out of Northumbria, and Oswald, accompanied by a band of young nobles, took shelter with the Scots in Iona, where he was converted to Christianity and baptised. On the death of Eadwine, who was slain in 633 at Heathfield by the joint forces of Cædwalla (d. 634) [q. v.] and Penda, Osric (d. 634) [q. v.] obtained the kingdom of Deira, and Oswald's eldest brother Eanfrid was accepted as king by the people of Bernicia. But when Eanfrid was treacherously slain as he was going to meet the British king Cædwalla to sue for peace in 634, Oswald advanced from the north with a small army and encamped at a place near the Roman wall, called by Bæda (Hist. Eccl. iii. c. 2) Hefenfelth or Heavenly Field, and by Nennius (c. 64) Catscaul, and supposed to be St. Oswald's, about seven miles to the north of Hexham in Northumberland (Priory of Hexham, Pref.) There, as Oswald told the Abbot Segine in the hearing of the Abbot Failbe, who told the story to Adamnan, St. Columba appeared to him in a vision, and bade him give his enemies battle the following night, promising him the victory (Vita Columbani, i. c. 1). He set about raising a cross, and, the time being short, held it with his own hands while his men fixed it in the ground. As the day was breaking he joined battle with Cædwalla (see Skene, Celtic Scotland,, i. 246, for the possibility that Oswald's opponent was not Cædwalla himself, but a certain British king called Catlon), and defeated him with great slaughter. Cædwalla was slain at a stream called Deniseburn, a tributary of the Rowley water. Oswald's cross was long an object of veneration. The brethren of Hexham used each year to make a procession to it on the day before that of the king's death to pray for his soul and celebrate mass before it, and they built a church there which was held in special honour; for there was not, until Oswald's cross was erected, any symbol of Christianity, any church or altar, in the Bernician land (Bæda, iii. c. 2).

Oswald's victory put an end to the short period of Welsh success in the north. It gave him the kingship of both the Northumbrian lands, and it opened a way into England to the Scottish missionaries. He dwelt chiefly at Bebbanburg or Bamborough, the capital of the Bernician kings, and invited his early teachers, the monks of Iona, to send him a bishop to preach the gospel to his people. The first missionary sent to him had little success, for he was an austere man, and the people did not like him. On his return to Iona, Aidan [q. v.] was sent to take his place. Oswald laboured with him to spread the gospel, gave him the island of Lindisfarne, which he chose for his see, attended his ministrations, and, as Aidan was not thoroughly master of the English tongue, used to translate the bishop's discourses to his nobles and thegns (ib. c. 3). Christianity spread rapidly, churches were built, and lands were given to monasteries, which were peopled by Scottish monks. In Deira Oswald completed the church which Eadwine had begun to build at York (ib. ii. c. 14). There too the Scottish rite was widely accepted, though James, the deacon of Paulinus, remained at his post and had much success as a missionary. Oswald was humble, gracious, and charitable to the poor. One Easter when Aidan was dining with him, and a silver dish laden with royal dainties had been set before him, just as the king and bishop had raised their hands to say grace, the thegn, whose special duty it was to relieve the distressed, came in and told the king that the streets were thronged with a multitude of poor crying out for alms. Oswald ordered that the food prepared for him should be given to them, and that the silver dish should be broken into small pieces and distributed among them. Seizing the king's right hand, Aidan said ‘May this hand never decay.’ Bede believed that the bishop's prayer was answered (ib. iii. c. 6). Oswald is said to have had wider dominions than any of his ancestors, and to have received into his lordship peoples of the four tongues spoken in Britain—Britons, Picts, Scots, and English (ib.). He must therefore have had great power in the north-west, and was probably owned as over-lord by the Welsh of Strathclyde (Green, Making