Home  »  Volume II: February  »  St. Mildred, Virgin and Abbess

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume I: January. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

February 20

St. Mildred, Virgin and Abbess

EORMENBURGA, 1 pronounced Ermenburga, otherwise called Domneva, was married to Merwald a son of King Penda, and had by him three daughters and a son, who all consecrated their whole estates to pious uses, and were all honoured by our ancestors among the saints. Their names were Milburg, Mildred, Mildgithe, and Mervin. King Egbert caused his two nephews, Etheldred and Ethelbright, to be secretly murdered in the isle of Thanet. Count Thunor, whom he had charged with that execrable commission, buried the bodies of the two princes under the king’s throne, in the royal palace at Estrange now called Estria. The king is said to have been miraculously terrified by seeing a ray of bright light dart from the heavens upon their grave, and in sentiments of compunction he sent for their sister Eormenburga, out of Mercia, to pay her the weregild, which was the mulct for a murder, ordained by the laws to be paid to the relations of the persons deceased. In satisfaction for the murder, he settled on her forty-eight ploughs of land, which she employed in founding a monastery, in which prayers might be continually put up to God for the repose of the souls of the two princes. This pious establishment was much promoted by the king, and thus the monastery was founded about the year 670; not 596, as Leland 2 and Speed mistake. The monastery was called Menstrey, or rather Minstre, in the isle of Thanet. Domneva sent her daughter Mildred to the abbey of Chelles, in France, where she took the religious veil, and was thoroughly instructed in all the duties of that state, the perfect spirit of which she had imbibed from her tender years. Upon her return to England she was consecrated first abbess of Minstre in Thanet, by St. Theodorus, archbishop of Canterbury, and at the same time received to the habit seventy chosen virgins. She behaved herself by humility as the servant of her sisters, and conducted them to virtue by the authority of her example, for all were ashamed not to imitate her watching, mortification, and prayer, and not to walk according to her spirit. Her aunt, Ermengitha, served God in the same house with such fervour, that after her death she was ranked among the saints, and her tomb, situated a mile from the monastery, was famous for the resort of devout pilgrims. St. Mildred died of a lingering painful illness, towards the close of the seventh century. This great monastery was often plundered by the Danes, and the nuns and clerks murdered, chiefly in the years 980 and 1011. After the last of these burnings, here were no more nuns but only a few secular priests. In 1033, the remains of St. Mildred were translated to the monastery of Austin’s at Canterbury, and venerated above all the relics of that holy place, says Malmesbury, 3 who testifies frequent miracles to have been wrought by them: Thorn and others confirm the same. Two churches in London bear her name. See Thorn’s Chronicle, inter Decem Scriptores, coll. 1770. 1783. 1906. Harpsfield; an old Saxon book entitled, Narratio de Sanctis qui in Angliâ quiescunt, published by Hickes, Thesaur. t. 1. in Dissert. Epistolari, p 116. Monast. Anglic. t. 1. p. 84. Stevens Supplem. vol. 1. p. 518. Reyneri Apostolat. Bened. t. 1. p. 61. and Lewis’s History of the Isle of Thanet, (printed at London in 1723, in 4to.) p. 51. 62. and in Append. n. 23.  1
Note 1. Eadbald, king of Kent, had by his queen Emma, daughter to a king of the French, St. Eanswithe (whose relics were venerated at Folkstone, till the change of religion,) and two sous, Eorcombert (afterwards king) and Eormenred, surnamed Clito. This last left four children by his wife Oslave, namely, Eormenburga and St. Eormengitha, with two sons, St. Ethelred and St. Ethelbright. King Eorcombert had, by his queen Sexburga, Egbert and Lothaire, successively kings, and St. Eormenilda, and St. Ercongota. Eormenburga was surnamed Moldeva, as we are assured by the ancient English Saxon account of these saints, published by Hickes; though Capgrave frequently speaks of them as different women. [back]
Note 2. Leland, Collec. t. 1. p. 97. [back]
Note 3. L. 2. de Reg. Angl. c. 13. [back]