My new book, King of Kings, is a multi-viewpoint novel telling the story of events in Britain from 925-934. I thought it would be good to share details of the historical people my main characters are based on.
Owain of Strathclyde is perhaps the most difficult character in King of Kings to find in the historical record. Indeed, his place in the story is contested by historians, as we don’t know if the scribe of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of the time meant Owain of Strathclyde, or an Owain of one of the Welsh kingdoms. I decided to adopt the Owain of Strathclyde, but who exactly was he, and what was Strathclyde?
The kingdom of Strathclyde is also known by another name, that of Cumbria, and there is confusion in the sources and amongst historians about where it is and what it was. Alex Woolf suggests that by the events of 927, Strathclyde/Cumbria encompassed, ‘most of part of Lanarkshire, Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, Stirlingshire, Peebleshire, West and Mid-Lothian, eastern Dumfriesshire and Cumberland.’ (Woolf, A. From Pictland to Alba, 789-1070, Edinburgh University Press, 2007) p.155)
So who then were it’s kings? This again is far from as easy to state as might be thought. It’s believed that Owain of Strathclyde, succeeded his father, Donald II, to become king of Strathclyde, and in turn was succeeded by his son.
In 924, we are told that ‘the king of the Strathclyde Britons and all the Strathclyde Britons,’ (Swanton p.104) joined the king of Wessex, Edward the Elder’s alliance by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, but Owain isn’t named. Indeed, and as said above, when we do get mention of Owain in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, he’s named as ‘king of Gwent,’ (Swanton, M. trans and edit The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, (Orion Publishing Group, 2000) p.107) even though there was no Welsh king of Gwent named as Owain at the time. It’s therefore difficult to get a feel for who he was, and what he did, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t include him in King of Kings. If anything, it made it all the more intriguing.
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(released 10th February 2023)
Meet the Characters from King of Kings
Athelstan, king of the English
Ealdred, king of Bamburgh
Lady Eadgifu, wife of Edward the Elder