St. Audrey of Ely
Old English ETHELDREDA
Born c. 630, Etheldreda was the daughter of King Anna of the Mercians and
St. Hereswyda. As a child, Etheldreda was betrothed to the Gyrvian prince,
Tondbehrt, who gave her the isle of Ely as a wedding gift; their
three-year marriage ended when he died. She retired to Ely and spent five
years in prayer before conceding to her family's wishes that she marry
Egfrid, the youngest son of Oswiu, King of Northumbria. Her second husband
was considerably younger than she, and he eventually consented to her
becoming a nun at Coldingham under the direction of Bishop/St. Wilfrid.
From Coldingham, she returned to Ely, where she established c. 672/673 a
double monastery that was a popular pilgrim's destination in the Middle
Ages. She is said to have predicted her own death during a plague in 679,
and seventeen years later, her sister and successor Sexburga translated
her incorrupt relics from the graveyard to a shrine, which was destroyed
in the Reformation, inside the church. Etheldreda is the patron of
Cambridge University, and the artifacts sold at her shrine gave English a
new word, tawdry.
Karen Rae Keck
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