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Title: Guthred  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Rædwulf of Northumbria, Ecgberht I of Northumbria, Eowils and Halfdan, Æthelred II of Northumbria, Ceolwulf of Northumbria
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Guthfrith (or Guthred) (Old Norse: Guðroðr) (died 24 August 895) was the king of Northumbria from circa 883 until his death.

The first known king of Viking York, Halfdan, was expelled in 877. In c. 883, Symeon of Durham's History of the Kings simply states, "Guthred, from a slave, was made king", but his History of the Church of Durham gives a longer account. Here he writes that after Halfdan was driven out:
During this time the [Viking] army, and such of the inhabitants as survived, being without a king, were insecure; whereupon the blessed Cuthbert himself appeared in a vision to abbot Eadred [of the monastery at Carlisle]...[and] addressed him in the following words:—"Go to the army of the Danes," he said, "and announce to them that you are come as my messenger; and ask where you can find a lad named Guthred, the son of Hardacnut, whom they sold to a widow. Having found him, and paid the widow the price of his liberty, let him be brought forward before the whole aforesaid army; and my will and pleasure is, that he be elected and appointed king at Oswiesdune, (that is, Oswin's hill), and let the bracelet be placed upon his right arm.[1]
Æthelweard the historian, whose tenth-century Chronicon is a more reliable source for this period than the later works of Symeon, records that in 895:
Obiit et Guthfrid, rex Northhymbriorum, in natalitis sancti Bartholomæi apostoli; cuius mausoleatur Euoraca corpus in urbe in basilica summa.
There also died Guthfrith. king of the Northumbrians, on the feast of the apostle St Bartholomew [24 August]; his body is entombed in the city of York in the chief church.[2]

It is not clear whether Guthfrith was a Christian, but his relations with the community of Saint Cuthbert, which was a major force in the former Bernicia, and which had lain outside the influence of Halfdan, whose authority was limited to the former Deira—approximately Yorkshire—were good. He granted much land between the River Tyne and the River Wear to the community. This had once belong to the Wearmouth-Jarrow monastery, and formed the core the lands of the church of Durham. Other lands, at the mouth of the River Tees, Guthred allowed Eadred to purchase for the church.[3]

Symeon recounts that Guthred faced a large invasion by the Scots, which was defeated with the aid of Saint Cuthbert.[4]

Guthred died on 24 August 895 (or perhaps 894) and was buried at York Minster.[5]

In contemporary literature

Guthred appears as a character in author Bernard Cornwell's The Saxon Stories series, figuring particularly in The Lords of the North (published 2006).


  1. ^ Symeon of Durham, History of the Church of Durham, Chapter XXVIII.
  2. ^ "The Fourth Book of the Chronicle of Aethelweard". Retrieved 23 January 2009. 
  3. ^ Higham, Northern Counties, pp. 310–311.
  4. ^ Symeon of Durham, History of the Church of Durham, Chapters XXVIII–XXIX.
  5. ^ Stenton, pp. 262–263.


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