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St. Sexburga, Abbess of Ely
(AD 636-c.700)

Sexburga was the eldest daughter of King Anna of East Anglia and his second wife, Saewara: one of four saintly sisters. She married King Erconbert of Kent and became mother of the future Kings Egbert I and Hlothere, as well as SS. Ermengilda and Ercongota. Further holy relatives included her grandchildren: St. Werburga of Chester, St. Wulfade & St. Rufinus. Within her husband's lifetime, Sexburga began to build a religious house at Sheppey, in that kingdom, where holy virgins might attend divine service for her, day and night. Erconbert died of the "yellow plague" that desolated England in AD 664 and, in widowhood, Sexburga was regent, for a time, on behalf of her son, Egbert I. When he had no further need of her, she retired to her nunnery and assembled seventy-four nuns there. However, hearing of the great sanctity of her sister, Etheldreda of Ely, and desiring to live in more obscurity than she could enjoy as head of her own monastery, she chose to became a nun under the latter (before AD 679). Eventually, she succeeded her as Abbess of Ely and, during her rule, she translated her sister's body into an old Roman sarcophagus brought from nearby Grantchester. She lived to a considerable age, dying on 6th July around AD 700.

Edited from Agnes Dunbar's "A Dictionary of Saintly Women" (1904).

 

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