The saintly daughters of King Anna of East Anglia




(public domain)

King Anna of East Anglia was King of East Anglia from circa 636 to circa 654. With his consort Sæwara, he had four or five children. All of his children were eventually canonised, including his three (or possibly four) daughters.

By Wolfgang Sauber - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
By Wolfgang Sauber – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Seaxburh

Seaxburh was married to Eorcenberht of Kent, and through this marriage, she was the mother of King Ecgberht, and King Hlothhere and both her daughters were saints, Saint Eormenhild and Ercengota. Her husband was King of Kent from 640 to 664, when he died during an outbreak of the plague. She acted as regent for her son Ecgberht until he came of age. After this, she became a nun and founded the abbey of Minster-in-Sheppey. She moved to the monastery at Ely where her sister was the abbess. She eventually succeeded her sister as abbess. When she moved her sister’s body from a common grave to the new church at Ely sixteen years after her death, her body was found to be uncorrupted. An exact date for Seaxvurh’s death is not known, but it is recorded it was at “a good, late age”. She was later canonised and her feast day is on 6 July.

st-aethelthryth
(public domain)

Æthelthryth

Æthelthryth’s first marriage was around 652 to Tondberct, who was either a chief or a prince of the South Gyrwe. Before her marriage, she had made a vow of perpetual virginity, which she persuaded her new husband to accept. He died just three years later, and she retired to the Isle of Ely. She was used as a political pawn in a second marriage to Ecgfrith of Northumbria in 660. Though it appears he initially accepted her vow of perpetual virginity, he wished to consummate their marriage around 672. She managed to flee from her him, apparently with the help of a magical rising of the tide. She founded the monastery at Ely and was its abbess. After her death, her bones were found to be uncorrupted.

Her feast day is on 23 June.

st_ethelburga-all_hallows
CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

Æthelburg

Æthelburg was probably an illegitimate daughter of King Anna. She was sent to the nunnery of Faremoutiers in France to be educated. She became a nun and also eventually became an abbess. At her own request, she was buried in the church upon her death in 664. Seven years after her death her bones were to be moved to the nearby church of Saint Stephen, but her body was found to be uncorrupted.

Her feast day is 7 July.

By Rob Farrow, CC BY-SA 2.0
The site of Withburga’s tomb in East Dereham by Rob Farrow, CC BY-SA 2.0

Wihtburh

Wihtburh is not certainly King Anna’s daughter. After her father’s death, she had a convent built in Norfolk. Apparently, during the building, they had only dry bread to eat, and Wihtburh prayed to the Virgin Mary and was told to send her maids to a local well. They found two wild does who were gentle enough to be milked. A local overseer did not like Wihtburh, and he decided to hunt down the does, but he was thrown from his horse and broke his neck.

Wihtburh died in 743 and was buried in the cemetery of Ely Abbey. Fifty-five years later her body was found to uncorrupted. Her remains were moved to a church in Dereham. Her body was stolen in 974 and returned to Ely. A spring arose in her tomb in Dereham and pilgrims continued to come to the Dereham.

 






About Moniek 1968 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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