Bede, the early eighth-century monastic author, discusses many kings as well as bishops in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People. In this History, Bede assumed his earlier delineation of Christian kingship in his commentary On Ezra and Nehemiah: that a Christian king ought to protect and promote the church and be deferential with the clergy as he cooperates with them to regulate the Christian people. However, Bede’s claim in Books IV and V of his History that the age of Bishop Theodore was “the happiest time for the English people” because, in part, they benefitted from “the most powerful Christian kings,” is startling, since the kings discussed do not measure up to Bede’s claim. After clarifying Christian kingship according to Bede and then examining Bede’s discussion of each king in Books IV and V, this article’s author draws on the scholarship of N.J. Higham, Claire Stancliffe, and Walter Goffart to offer irony as the key for understanding Bede’s claim. Thus, Bede was being ruefully ironic about the age of Theodore: if only this happiest of ages had enjoyed the benefit of powerful Christian kingship! The best that Bede would say about the “most powerful kings” of the age was that they retired from their kingship.
"Lessons from Lesser Kings: Irony and Kingship in Books IV and V of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History,"
Northwestern Review: Vol. 4
, Article 5.
Available at: https://nwcommons.nwciowa.edu/northwesternreview/vol4/iss1/5