Bertha (DNB00)

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BERTHA, BERCTA, or (as Greg. Epp. xi. 29) ADILBERGA (d. before 616, the daughter of Haribert, king of the Franks, reigning in Paris and his wife Ingoberg, married Æthelberht, king of Kent, The dates of her birth and her marriage are not known, Haribert reigned 561-567 and seems to have married Ingoberg soon after his aceession. Bertha's parents are said to have consented to her marriage on the condition that she and the bishop who should come over with her should be allowed the free exercise of the rites of christianity. It is certain, however, that her father died before her marriage. Her mother died 589 (Greg. Turon. ix. 26). Bertha came over to England accompanied by Liudhard, bishop of Senlis, who was appointed to minister to her. She received St. Martins, an old Roman-British church, situated outside the walls, to the east of the newer Canterbury, for the purposes of her worship. The coming of Bertha and her bishop must, to some extent at least, have paved the way for the work of Augustine, and though Liudhard died before the arrival of the Roman missionaries (Breda, H. E.. ix. 27), it is probable that Gregory had some communication with the queen on the subject of the mission. And in coming to a heathen husband Bertha must have remembered the example set in her own family by Hlotehild (Clothilde), wife of her great ancestor Hlodowig (Clovis) whose marriage led to the conversion of the Franks. In Bertha's church Augustine and his companions worshipped and preached, and then doubtless her husband was baptised in 597. When, in 60l, Pope Gregory sent Mellitus, Paulinus, and others to England as additional workers in the new harvest-field, he wrote a letter to Bertha, in which he speaks of the conversion of the English as due to her, comparing her to Helena, the mother of Constantine; he also mentions her learning, and declares that her good works were spoken of not in Rome alone, but that they had reached Constantinople and had been heard of by the emperor. At the same time he implies that she might have done even more, and exhorts her to greater diligence by strengthening the faith of herhusband. This is the last record of Bertha's life, for the tradition which speaks of her as having been present at the foundation of St. Augustine's monastery is without historical basis. The date of her death is not known she certainly died before her husband Æthelberht, for he appears to have married a second wife. She was buried in the porch of St. Martin, in the church of SS. Peter and Paul. She left a son, Eanbald. who was still a heathen when he succeeded his father on the throne, and a daughter Æthelburh, who married Eadwine, king of the Northumbrians.

[Bæda, H. E. i. 25, ii. 5; Greg. Turon. iv. 26, ix. 26; S. Greg. Magni Epp. xi. 29; Thorne. ed. Twysden, 1761.]

W. H.