Last updated January 2016 Copyright © Green Branch 2004 -
Composer: Tim Porter. Opera,1966
“The Dark Ages” is based on the mediaeval legend of St Coenhelm (more usually spelt Kenelm), and also on the Angle-
The foundation of Winchcombe Abbey was asserted to have been as early as 798, and its founder to have been Kenulph, King of Mercia. In or after 821 it became the resting-
Various embellishments occur in some version of the story -
796 Rising of Endbert in Kent.
798 Coenwulf invades Wales. Defeats Welsh at Rhuddlan. Subdues Kent, putting out Endbert’s eyes and cutting off his hands. Appoints his brother, Cathred, puppet King of Kent.
816 War with Wales. “The Saxons overran Rhuweniog (Denbighshire) and carried their devastations as far as Mount Ereyri (Snowdon).”
818 “Wasted all the provinces of Demetia (South Wales).”
821 Coenwulf dies.
It is thought he was killed in battle against the Welsh at Basingwerk, Flintshire. A glance at the map shows what probably happened (i.e. that he was forced into the peninsular West of the Dee and trapped there). The Chronicle makes no mention of Coenhelm, and speculation has arisen as to whether he ever exited. However, it is quite likely that Coenwulf did have a son, and scholars think that if so, he was probably killed in battle: whether he ever in fact succeeded to the throne is not known. Quendreda in real life was an abbess, and can hardly have done the deed. She presumably did not ascend the throne either, and I have taken license with this, as with two of the Chronicle dates (816 to 814 and 818 to 821) to give the story more coherence.
The Chronicler, a monk -
Chorus of monks, soldiers and women