Kingdom of Bernicia
6th century–634
Capital Bamburgh
Languages Old English, Cumbric
Government Monarchy
Historical era Early Medieval
 •  Established 6th century
 •  Shared crown with Deira 604
 •  merged with Deira 634
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Sub-Roman Britain
Today part of   United Kingdom

Bernicia ( Old English: Bernice, Bryneich, Beornice; Latin: Bernicia) was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom established by Anglian settlers of the 6th century in what is now southeastern Scotland and North East England.

The Anglian territory of Bernicia was approximately equivalent to the modern English counties of Northumberland and Durham, and the Scottish counties of Berwickshire and East Lothian, stretching from the Forth to the Tees. In the early 7th century, it merged with its southern neighbour, Deira, to form the kingdom of Northumbria and its borders subsequently expanded considerably.

British Bryneich

Y Hen Gogledd or "The Old North"


Bernicia occurs in Old Welsh poetry as Bryneich or Brynaich and in the 9th-century Historia Brittonum, (§ 61) as Berneich or Birneich. This was most likely the name of the native Brittonic kingdom, whose name was then adopted by the Anglian settlers who rendered it in Old English as Bernice or Beornice. The counter hypotheses suggesting these names represent a Welsh adaption of an earlier English form remains unsupported, as it raises more questions as to why Brythonic would need a new foreign name for the area.

Local linguistic evidence suggests continued political activity in the area before the arrival of the Angles. Important Anglian centres in Bernicia bear names of British origin, or are known by British names elsewhere: Bamburgh is called Din Guaire in the Historia Brittonum; Dunbar (where Saint Wilfrid was once imprisoned) represents Dinbaer; and the name of Coldingham is given by Bede as Coludi urbs ("town of Colud"), where Colud seems to represent the British form, possibly for the hill-fort of St Abb's Head. [1]

Analysis of a potential derivation has not produced a consensus. The most commonly cited etymology gives the meaning as "Land of the Mountain Passes" or "Land of the Gaps" (tentatively proposed by Kenneth H. Jackson). [2] An earlier derivation from the tribal name of the Brigantes has been dismissed as linguistically unsound. [3] In 1997 John T. Koch suggested the conflation of a probable primary form *Bernech with the native form *Brïγent for the old civitas Brigantum as a result of Anglian expansion in that territory during the 7th century. [4]

Political history and memory

The Brythonic kingdom of the area was formed from what had once been the southern lands of the Votadini, possibly as part of the division of a supposed 'great northern realm' of Coel Hen in c. AD 420. This northern realm is referred to by Welsh scholars as Yr Hen Ogledd or, literally, "The Old North". The kingdom may have been ruled from the site that later became the English Bamburgh, which certainly features in Welsh sources as Din Guardi. Near this high-status residence lay the island of Lindisfarne (formerly known, in Welsh, as Ynys Metcaut), which became the seat of the Bernician bishops. It is unknown when the Angles finally conquered the whole region, but around 604 is likely.

Kings of British Bryneich

There are several Old Welsh pedigrees of princely " Men of the North" (Gwŷr y Gogledd) that may represent the kings of the British kingdom in the area, which may have been called Bryneich. John Morris surmised that the line of a certain Morcant Bulc referred to these monarchs, chiefly because he identified this man as the murderer of Urien Rheged who was, at the time, besieging Lindisfarne. [5]

Other Languages
العربية: برنيسيا
беларуская: Берніцыя
brezhoneg: Bernikia
català: Bernícia
Cymraeg: Brynaich
dansk: Bernicia
Deutsch: Bernicia
eesti: Bernicia
Ελληνικά: Βερνικία
Esperanto: Bernicia
français: Bernicie
galego: Bernicia
𐌲𐌿𐍄𐌹𐍃𐌺: 𐌱𐌴𐍂𐌽𐌹𐌺𐌾𐌰
hrvatski: Bernicija
Latina: Bernicia
lietuvių: Bernicija
norsk: Bernicia
polski: Bernicja
português: Bernícia
русский: Берниция
Scots: Bernicie
Simple English: Bernicia
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Bernicija
svenska: Bernicia
українська: Берніція
中文: 伯尼西亞