The Northern Kingdom was one of the large domains in a country "whose name doesn't matter" (The Face in the Frost, vii). The kingdom was north of the Southern Kingdom, with the Brown River serving as the border. Off its shores were a series of islands known as the Out Isles ("The Dolphin Cross"; Magic Mirrors; 160).
The kingdom was split early in its history into seven lesser kingdoms, whose kings - or heptarchs - met once a year at Feasting Hill, a circular plot of land that touched all the boarders of the Heptarchy. During the festivities, a High King of the Northern Kingdom was elected of the seven, whose reign lasted until the next festival.
Residents of the land were not Christians: five of the tribes worshiped trees and two honored herbs and mushrooms (Dolphin, 206).
- Bishop Bowes
InspirationBellairs’s use of the term Heptarchy to describe the North Kingdom makes it fairly clear the term originated with the collective name applied to the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of south, east, and central Great Britain during late antiquity.
Prior to the Ninth Century Viking invasions, England was a patchwork of small territories under control of various warlords who invaded Roman Britain largely in the Fifth Century. Following the Anglo-Saxon invasions, these territories consolidated into seven kingdoms (the traditional number; there were often more or less) with seven kings, one of which would sometimes serve as a high king, or Bretwalda, with nominal dominion over all the territory. The seven kingdoms - Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Wessex - would eventually unify into the Kingdom of England.
While the Northern Kingdom Heptarchy appears cooperative, the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy fought constantly amongst themselves.