Early British Saints and Kings
Disclaimer: I do not wish this topic to become an issue for criticizing or poking fun at religion but just to gather popular traditions about kings and saints from the early days of post-Roman Britain up to the Conquest.
Disclaimer: I do not wish this topic to become an issue for criticizing or poking fun at religion but just to gather popular traditions about kings and saints from the early days of post-Roman Britain up to the Conquest. I’ll add someting as often as possible and I hope many of you will contribute since this is an absolutely fascinating topic and part of the rich heritage of the British Isles.
I’ll start off with the story of three siblings, all of whom became saints: St Aebbe (also known as Ermenburga), St Aethlred and St Aethelbert. St Aebbe was the eldest child of Prince Eormenred of Kent and she married King Merewahl of Magonset. Together they had four children: three daughters, all of whom became nuns of saintly reputation, and a boy who died young.
In 664 AD one of her cousins, Egbert, succeeded to the Kentish throne, despite the royal claims of Aebbe’s two younger brothers, Aethlred and Aethelbert. Encouraged by a ruthless nobleman named Thunor he had the two boys murdered and buried in secret under the great hall of his palace. However his plan was short lived: a miracolous light shone day and night over the spot where the two princes had been buried. King Egbert took this as a sign from God and, full of remorse, confessed his crime in public. He had the two bodies buried behing the high altar in the church of Wakering with royal honours. Here miracles soon started to happen and were taken as a sign of the two murdered princes’ innocence and sanctity. The bodies were later translated to the Ramsey cathedral so that more people could worship the two saints.
After Egbert admitted his responsability he was forced by Germanic laws to pay weregild or "price of blood" to the victims’ closest living relative, who happened to be Aebbe. Aebbe asked for as much land as her tame doe could run in one course and this was accepted: the spot chosen was the Island of Thanet. There, in presence of a great crowd of noblemen, clergymen and peasants, Aebbe let loose her doe. Thunor laughed at the idea of turning so much good land over to a "witch" and set in pursue of the doe with the intent of killing her. He had scarcely put spurs to his horse when the earth opened up and swallowed him with his steed: the place has been know as Thunner’s Leap ever since.
Everybody fell to his knees at this sign of Divine wrath.
In the end the doe circled forty eight ploughs of land: this was duly turned over to Aebbe.
Upon King Merewahl’s death Aebbe took the veil and retired to her lands on the Island of Thanet with other women of saintly reputation: they founded a monastery dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and the two murdered princes in 673 AD which later became known as Minster-on-Thanet.