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Penda, d. 654, king of Mercia (c.632–654). A noble of the Mercian royal house, he fought (629) the king of Wessex for lands along the Severn River. He then allied himself with Cadwallon of Wales, defeated (632) Edwin of Northumbria, and made himself king of Mercia. A great fighting king, he was the central figure in the history of Anglo-Saxon England for nearly a generation thereafter. He defeated and killed (641) Oswald of Northumbria and extended his power over Wessex and East Anglia. His Greater Mercia included all the Midlands. However, he still had an enemy in the new king of Northumbria, Oswy; Penda attacked him in 654 and was killed in the battle. Penda himself remained heathen, but at the time of his son Peada's marriage he consented to that son's Christian baptism. Eight of Penda's descendants ruled Mercia, beginning with his son Wulfhere.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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