Bamburgh Castle, then called Din Guardi, may have been the capital of the Brythonic kingdom of
Bryneich between about AD 420 and 547. In 547 the castle was taken by the invading
Angles led by
Ida son of Eoppa
 and was renamed Bebbanburgh by one of his successors,
Æthelfrith, after his wife Bebba, according to the
Historia Brittonum. From then onwards the castle became the capital of the Anglian kingdom of
Bernicia until it merged with its southern neighbour,
Deira, in 634. After the two realms united as Northumbria the capital was moved to
Bamburgh was again the capital of local Bernician rulers after the Viking destruction of the old Northumbrian kingdom in 867. Initially puppets of the Vikings, they later had more autonomy under either the Vikings or Kings of united England. The rulers of Bernicia held the title of
High Reeve of Bamburgh from at least 913 until 1041, when the last was killed by
Harthacnut; sometimes – 954–963 and 975–1016 – they also served as Earls of York. The castle was destroyed in a renewed Viking attack in 993 and in 1018 the
Lothian part of Bernicia was ceded to
Scotland, significantly reducing the area controlled from Bamburgh.
Edward IV ruled all England in 1464, during the
Wars of the Roses, in which time the Percy family, Earls of Northumberland, were based at
Sir Thomas Malory considered Bamburgh to be
Lancelot's castle Joyous Gard. The Victorian poet
Algernon Charles Swinburne agreed and called it "The noblest hold in all the North."
- "They saw the help and strength of Joyous Gard,
- The full deep glorious tower that stands over
- Between the wild sea and the broad wild lands..."
Swinburne swam here, as did the novelist
E. M. Forster who adopted the Forsters of Bamburgh as his ancestors.