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Article: June 23 + Saint Etheldreda

June 23 + Saint Etheldreda - VENXARA®

June 23 + Saint Etheldreda

Etheldreda, also known as Audrey, was Queen of Northumbria. While still very young, she was given in marriage by her father, King of East Anglia, to a prince, who gave her a piece of land locally known as the Isle of Ely. She became a widow after three years of marriage but the marriage was never consummated as Etheldreda had taken a vow of perpetual virginity.

She was forced to marry again due to political reasons, this time to the heir of Oswy, King of Northumbria. Throughout her 12 years of marriage, she kept her virginity, as if living with her brother, not her husband, and she gave much of her time to devotion and charity.

Her husband knew of her vow, but grew tired of living as brother and sister, and began to make advances on her, but she refused him. He tried to bribe the local bishop, Saint Wilfrid of York, to release her from her vow but Wilfrid refused, and instead helped Etheldreda escape to a promontory called Colbert’s Head. A high tide then came in – and stayed high for seven days — it kept her separated from her husband and was considered divine intervention. Her husband finally gave up, the marriage was annulled, and Etheldreda took the veil. She spent a year with her niece, Saint Ebbe the Elder and founded the great abbey of Ely, where she lived an austere life.

During this time, Etheldreda only ate once a day, except on feast days or while she was sick, and wore only clothes made of wool. After midnight prayers, she would always go back to the church and continue praying until morning.

Etheldreda took pain and humiliation as a blessing – on her death bed, she thanked God for an illness that had painfully swollen her neck, which she considered to be punishment for having vainly worn necklaces with jewels as a young lady.

She died on June 23, 679, and was buried in a wooden coffin, as she had asked. When Etheldreda’s body was moved to a stone coffin, it was found incorrupt and her neck was perfectly healed, according to physicians.

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