He tells us too, how Aidan, wishing, it may be supposed, for greater solitude, went away and lived on the rocky isle of Farne, some two miles out at sea, off Bamborough Castle; and how, when he saw Penda and his Mercians, in a second invasion of Northumbria, trying to burn down the walls of Bamborough which were probably mere stockades of timber he cried to God, from off his rock, to "behold the mischief:" whereon the wind changed suddenly, and blew the flames back on the besiegers, discomfiting them, and saving the town.
"As speaks my brother of Canterbury, speak I," said William, Bishop of London, another Norman. But then there rose up a form at whose rising all murmurs were hushed. Grey and vast, as some image of a gone and mightier age towered over all, Siward, the son of Beorn, the great Earl of Northumbria. "We have naught to do with the Normans.
He thought then of his own prayer: "Let there be peace between thine and mine!" and looking at their fair and stately youth, and noble carriage, he could not but feel that the men of Northumbria and of Mercia had chosen well. The discourse, however, was naturally brief, since thus made general; the visit soon ceased, and the brothers attended Harold to the door with the courtesy of the times.
Oswin, conspicuous on its bold headland, could not hope to escape their ravages. It was destroyed by the fierce invaders; but King Ecgfrith of Northumbria restored the shattered shrine. Again, in the year 865, it was sacked and burnt, and the poor nuns of St. Hilda, who had already fled from Hartlepool to Tynemouth hoping to find safety, were ruthlessly slain and earned the crown of martyrdom.
There were the Welsh, who were always turbulent; the Danes of Northumbria, who were still a distinct people, although throughout the rest of England their identity was fast being merged into that of the Saxons. There were the Norsemen, still ready to take every opportunity of interfering in the affairs of England, or, if none offered, to plunder and harry the coast.
In the end it was agreed that this should be so, and that, in the event of their success, they were to divide the kingdom of England between them Sweyn taking the Northern half, including Northumbria and the upper part of Mercia, and Olaf the Southern half, including East Anglia and the whole of Wessex.
To this island came King Ecgfrith of Northumbria with Archbishop Trumwine and other representatives of the Synod to beg the hermit to accept the Bishopric of Hexham; and it was on this island that St. Cuthbert died, the monks who had gone to look after him signalling the news of his death to his brethren at Lindisfarne by means of torches.
The greater the sphere of a subject's jurisdiction, the more it menaced the monarchy and national unity; and after Canute's empire had fallen to pieces under his worthless sons, the restoration of Ecgberht's line in the person of Edward the Confessor merely provided a figurehead under whose nominal rule the great earls of Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria, and East Anglia fought at first for control of the monarchy and at length for the crown itself.
Aldyth, the sister of Edwin and Morcar, is Lady of England; and that union shuts thee out from Northumbria for ever." At these words, as if stricken by some deadly and inexpressible insult, the Earl recoiled, and stood a moment mute with rage and amaze. His singular beauty became distorted into the lineaments of a fiend. He stamped with his foot, as he thundered a terrible curse.
Not far away, Edwin, the Saxon King of Northumbria, was slain in battle fighting against Penda, King of Mercia, and Cadwallader, King of Wales; and in all probability his body was buried at the village of Edwinstowe. The earliest definite notice of Sherwood dates from the days of Henry the Second, when William Peverel had control and profit of the district under the Crown.