Hun of East Anglia

Hun is the name of a supposed ruler of East Anglia during the eighth century, who may have begun ruling with Beorna and Alberht at the division of the kingdom in 749.

The unique source for Hun

Hun is barely a historical figure, depending upon one's reading of the unique late annal which appears to mention him. This is in the compilation of Roger of Wendover, in material which it is suggested may derive from the work of Byrhtnoth of Ramsey (c.1000). The annal states that in 749 (after the death of King AElfwald), 'Hunbeanna and Alberht divided the kingdom of East Anglia between themselves.'

In recent years some aspects of this statement have been verified by the discovery of coins of King Beorna and of Alberht or AEthelberht. The recognition of Beorna's reality as a historical figure leaves the 'Hun' element in the annal word 'Hunbeanna' detached, because Beanna or Beorna is itself a shortened or hypocoristic form of a diathematic (two-part) name from which the second part has been reduced to '-a', with a hardening of the preceding consonants (sc. 'Jonathan', 'Jonny').

An East Anglian context for the name

'Hun' could therefore be an epithet for Beorna (like Aethelwold Moll or Eadbert Praen), or possibly a third person whose name has been run together with Beonna's by a scribal copyist. The name Hun is familiar as an element in eighth and ninth century England, though usually as part of a diathematic name. AEthelhun, for instance, was among the West Saxons involved in the turmoil leading to the Battle of Burford Bridge in 752, and during the ninth century there were northern East Anglian bishops of Helmham named Hunferth and Hunberht: it also occurs as part of a moneyer's name. There are several placenames in East Anglia using this as a personal name element, such as Hunton and Hundon Suffolk, or Hunston and Hunstanton, Norfolk.

An alternative theory is that this annal, which is written in Latin, was derived from an Old English source and that the translator scribe misread the opening word 'Here' for part of the name of Beorna. 'Her', (i.e. 'In this year') is the usual opening for an Old English annal, and the typical form of the letter r might easily be misread for an n. The person of Hun is therefore possible, but not quite substantial.

Sources

* M.M. Archibald, 1985, The coinage of Beonna in the light of the Middle Harling hoard, "British Numismatic Journal" 55, 10-54.
* M.M. Archibald, V.H. Fenwick and M.R. Cowell, 1996, A sceat of Ethelbert I of East Anglia and recent finds of coins of Beonna, "British Numismatic Journal" 65, 1-19.
* J. Campbell (Ed.), "The Anglo-Saxons" (Oxford 1982).
* V.H. Fenwick, 1984, Insula de Burgh: Excavations at Burrow Hill, Butley, Suffolk 1978-1981, "Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History" 3, 35-54.
* J.A. Giles, "Roger of Wendover's Flowers of History" (Translation - 2 Vols.) (London 1849).
* D.P. Kirby, "The Earliest English Kings" (London 1991).
* S.J. Plunkett, "Suffolk in Anglo-Saxon Times" (Tempus, Stroud 2005).
* B. Yorke, "Kings and kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England" (London 1990).


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