Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sebbi

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SEBBI, SAEBBI, or SEBBA (d. 695?), king of the East-Saxons, was the son of Saeward. The father was, jointly with his two brothers, Sexred [q. v.] and another, king of the East-Saxons; he was a heathen, and was slain in battle by the West-Saxons in or about 626 (Mon. Hist. Brit. p. 637; Bede, Hist. Eccl. ii. c. 5; Henry of Huntingdon, p. 57). Sebbi became king about 665, succeeding his kinsman Swithelm, the brother and successor of Sigebert the Good [q. v.], who succeeded his cousin, Sigebert the Little [q. v.], who was the brother of Sebbi; he reigned conjointly with his nephew, Sighere [q. v.], son of Sigebert the Little, under the overlordship of the kings of Mercia (Mon. Hist. Brit. u.s.; Hist. Eccl. iii. c. 30). In the early years of his reign the great pestilence of 664 was raging, and under the pressure of this calamity a large number of the East-Saxons, with Sighere at their head, relapsed into heathenism (ib.; Hist. of Epidemics in Britain, i. 4–5). Sebbi, however, remained faithful to Christianity. On hearing of the relapse of the East-Saxons, Wulfhere [q. v.], king of Mercia, sent Bishop Jaruman (d 667?) to recall them to the faith. His success was complete. Erkenwald [q. v.], who was appointed bishop of London in or about 675, was no doubt supported in his work by Sebbi, who appears as attesting a charter granted by one of his kinsmen to the nunnery of Barking, founded by the bishop (Codex Diplomaticus, vol. i. No. 35). Sebbi, who was much given to prayer, acts of charity, and good works, and whose character, men said, was more befitting a bishop than a king, desired to abdicate, and become a monk, but was prevented by his wife, who refused to be separated from him. When, however, he had reigned for thirty years, and had fallen into great weakness from the disease of which he died, he told his wife that he could no longer live with her in the world, and, having with difficulty obtained her consent, went to Waldhere [q. v.], the bishop of London, and received from him the monastic habit, giving him a large sum for the poor, and reserving nothing for himself. As he lay in sickness upon his bed with his thegns around him, who had come to ask about his health, he saw in a vision three men in shining garments, one of whom told him that on the third day his soul should pass from his body without pain and in the midst of glorious light. He died at the ninth hour of the third day following (in or about 695). A stone coffin had been prepared for him; it was found to be too short inside; the length of the cavity was increased; it was still too short, but suddenly, in the presence of Bishop Waldhere, one of the king's sons, and many others, was found to have been lengthened miraculously (Hist. Eccl. iv. 11). Sebbi was buried in St. Paul's Church, London, where his tomb in the north aisle was shown until the great fire of 1666. He left two sons, Sighard and Suefred, who succeeded him.

[Bede's Hist. Eccl. iii. c. 30, iv. cc. 6, 11; Kemble's Codex Dipl. vol. i. Nos. 35, 38 (both Engl. Hist. Soc.); Mon. Hist. Brit. p. 637; Henry of Huntingdon, p. 57; Will. of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum, i. 98 (both Rolls Ser.); Dict. Chr. Biogr. s.v. ‘Sebbi,’ by Bishop Stubbs; Dugdale's Monasticon, i. 438–9; Dugdale's Hist. of St. Paul's, ed. Ellis, pp. 32, 64; Creighton's Hist. of Epidemics, i. 4–5.]

W. H.