Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Eanflæd

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EANFLÆD (b. 626), queen of Northumbria, daughter of Eadwine, king of Northumbria, and Æthelburh (St. Ethelberga) of Kent, was born on Easter Sunday, 17 April 626, the day of her father's escape from assassination. When Eadwine heard of her birth he gave thanks to his gods; but Paulinus, the Roman bishop who had come to his court with Æthelburh, told him that the safety of the queen had been granted in answer to his prayers to Christ, and Eadwine allowed him to baptise the child on the following Whitsunday, 5 June. Eanflæd was thus the first Northumbrian who received baptism (Bædæ Hist. Eccl. ii. 9). On the death of her father in 633 she was taken by her mother and Paulinus to the court of her uncle Eadbald [q. v.], king of Kent, and in 643 married Oswiu, king of Northumbria. She persuaded her husband to grant Gilling, near Richmond, for a monastery which she wished to build in memory of her kinsman, King Oswini, who had been slain there (ib. iii. 24; Monasticon, vi. 1626). When Wilfrith left his home hoping to enter monastic life, he went to Eanflæd, who sent him to Lindisfarne, and later to her cousin Earconbert, king of Kent, in order that he might help him to carry out his wish to visit Rome (Eddi). As Eanflæd had been brought up at the Kentish court, she naturally adhered to the Roman ritual, and had brought with her to Northumbria her own chaplain, named Romanus, while her husband, who had been taught and baptised by Scottish monks, practised the Celtic usages, and so it came to pass that when the king was keeping his Easter feast the queen was still in the Lenten fast and was observing Palm Sunday, a state of things that had much to do with bringing about the synod of Whitby. Eanflæd retired to the monastery of Strenæshalch, probably after her husband's death in 670, and became joint abbess with her daughter Ælflæd. She was alive in 685, and was buried at Whitby. Her day in the calendar is 5 Dec.

Ælflæd (654–714?) abbess of Whitby, daughter of Oswiu and Eanflæd, was born in 654, and when scarcely a year old was dedicated to the service of God by her father in thankfulness for the victory he gained over Penda in 655. She was accordingly sent with a dower of twelve hides (‘possessiones familiarum’) to the monastery of Hartlepool, Durham, over which the abbess Hild was then presiding. After about two years she moved with Hild to Whitby, and on Hild's death in 680 succeeded her as abbess of that house (Hist. Eccl. iii. 24). In 685 Bishop Trumwini with a few of his monks came to Whitby after his monastery at Abercorn had been seized by the Picts, and Æflæd, who at that time shared the government of the abbey with her mother Eanflæd, was much strengthened and comforted by his counsel (ib. iv. c. 26). When Archbishop Theodore was reconciled to Wilfrith in 686 he wrote to Ælflæd, exhorting her to be at peace with him also (Eddi, c. 43). Æflæd evidently followed his orders, for at the Northumbrian synod held on the Nidd in 705 to decide on his claims she solemnly declared that when she was with her brother, King Ealdfrith [see Aldfrith], during his last sickness that same year, he had vowed to God and St. Peter that if he lived he would obey the apostolic see in Wilfrith's matter, and had bidden her if he died to charge his heir to do so. Ælflæd died in 714, at the age of sixty. She was buried at Whitby, and William of Malmesbury records the finding and translation of her body. Her day is 11 April (Acta SS. Bolland. Feb. ii. 186).

[Bædæ Historia Ecclesiastica, ii. 9, 20, iii. 24, 25, iv. 26 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Eddius, c. 60; Historians of York, i. (Rolls Ser.); Acta SS. Feb. ii. p. 178 sq.; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontiff. 234, 242, 254 (Rolls Ser.)]

W. H.