(Eadwine) was the son of Alla, King of Deira, and was
born around 584. When his father died, Edwin was cheated
out of his kingdom by King Ethelred of Bernicia, who
united Bernicia and Deira into a single kingdom of
Edwin fled to East Anglia and took refuge with King
Redwald. Redwald, because of the threats and promises he
had received, was persuaded to give Edwin up to his
enemies. Edwin was warned by a friend of the danger he
faced. That night, a stranger promised that his kingdom
would be restored to him if Edwin would do as he taught
him. Edwin agreed, and the stranger laid his hand on
Edwin's head, telling him to remember the gesture.
In time, Edwin became ruler of the entire north of
England and, by force of arms, obliged the other kings
to acknowledge him as sovereign. He married Ethelburga,
the daughter of St Ethelbert (February 25), the first
Christian king in England. Ethelburga was also the
sister of King Ealbald of Kent.
There was an attempt on Edwin's life in 626, on the eve
of Pascha. That night the queen gave birth to a baby
girl, and King Quichelm of the West Saxons sent an
assassin named Eumer to kill Edwin with a poisoned
dagger. Eumer was admitted to Edwin's presence and tried
to stab him. He would have succeeded if it had not been
for Lilla, King Edwin's faithful minister, who placed
himself between the king and the assassin. The blade
passed through his body, however, and wounded the king.
The assassin was killed, and Lilla saved Edwin's life at
the cost of his own. This event is commemorated by a
stone cross which stands on Lilla Howe near Flyingdales
Ballistic Missle Early Warning System on the North
Yorkshire Moors. Before the Pickering-Whitby road was
built in 1759, this cross served as a guide for those
who walked across the moors from Robin Hood's Bay to
Edwin thanked his
that he had been spared, but he was told by Bishop
Paulinus of York (October 10) that he had been saved by
the prayers of his queen.
The bishop said that he should show his gratitude to
by allowing his newborn daughter to be baptized.
The child was baptized on Pentecost, and was given the
The king, who had been slightly wounded in the attack,
promised Bishop Paulinus that he would become a
Christian if he were restored to health, and if he would
triumph over those who conspired to kill him.
As soon as his wound healed, King Edwin marched against
the King of the West Saxons with an army. He vanquished
the opposing army, killing or capturing those involved
in the plot against him. He no longer followed the pagan
religion, but he put off his promise to embrace
Christianity, and it was many years before Edwin
He would sit alone for hours trying to decide which
religion he should follow. St Paulinus, informed by a
revelation about the stranger's promise to the king,
went to Edwin and laid his hand upon his head. "Do you
remember this gesture?" he asked.
The king trembled with astonishment, and would have
fallen at the bishop's feet. St Paulinus gently raised
him up and said, "You see that God has delivered you
from your enemies. Moreover, He offers you His
everlasting Kingdom. See that you fulfill your promise
to become a Christian and keep the commandments of God."
King Edwin said that he would seek the counsel of his
advisers and urge them to convert with him. He asked
them what he should do.
Coifi, a pagan priest, said it was readily apparent that
their gods had no power.
Another person said that this brief life was
inconsequential, compared to eternity.
St Paulinus addressed the gathering, and when he had
Coifi told the king that the altars and temples of their
false gods should be burned.
The king asked him who should be the first to profane
them. Coifi replied that he should be the first, since
he had been foremost in leading their worship. The chief
priest of the pagans was not permitted to bear arms or
to ride a horse. It was customary that he ride a mare.
Coifi, however, asked for a horse and for arms. Mounted
on the king's own horse, Coifi threw a spear into their
temple, commanding the others to pull it down and set it
afire. This place was not far from York, and today it is
known as Goodmanham. (Photo
below of All Hallows church that was later built on the
site of the pagan temple)
In 627, the eleventh year of his reign, St Edwin was
baptized by St Paulinus of York in the wooden church of
Saint Peter. St Edwin began the construction of a new stone
church, which was completed by his successor
St Oswald (August
St Edwin ruled his kingdom in peace for six more years,
and continued to practice and promote Christianity. He
was killed in a battle with Penda of Mercia and Cadwalla
of Wales in 633, when he was forty-eight years old, at a
place now known as Hatfield.
St Edwin's body was buried at Whitby, but his head was
buried at York in the church he had built.
Most of the early English calendars list St Edwin as a
After the death of St Edwin, his wife St Ethelburga (April
5) returned to Kent, where she became the abbess of a
monastery which she founded at Lyminge. (below)