Sexburga (d.699?) (DNB00)

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SEXBURGA, Saint (d. 699?), queen of Kent and second abbess of Ely, was the eldest daughter of Anna (d. 654), king of the East-Angles. Her sisters were St. Etheldreda [q. v.], first abbess of Ely; Ethelburga, abbess of Faremontier in Brie; and St. Witburga, a nun of Ely. Saethryd, abbess of Faremontier, was her half-sister. She married Earconbert, king of Kent, about 640, the year of his succession to his father Eadbald [q. v.], and lived with him twenty-four years until his death in 664, having by him two sons, Egbert (d. 673?) and Hlotheri or Lothar (d. 685?), both successively kings of Kent, and two daughters, St. Earcongota, a nun of Faremontier, and St. Ermenhilda or Eormenhild, queen of Wulfhere, king of Mercia, and abbess of Ely. After her husband's death she is said to have ruled for a time for her son Egbert. She founded a monastery for nuns in the isle of Sheppey, it is said for, or in memory of, her husband, which came to be called Minster, and, having received the veil from Archbishop Theodoric, ruled it as abbess. After a while—about 675—she entered the monastery of Ely, desiring to be instructed by her sister Etheldreda, then abbess there. The Ely historian records a speech that she is supposed to have made to her nuns in Sheppey, bidding them farewell, and appointing her daughter Ermenhilda to succeed her as abbess. On the death of Etheldreda, probably in 679, Sexburga was chosen to succeed her. Sixteen years later, in 695, she built a shrine for Etheldreda's body, which she laid in a white marble coffin, procured from the ruined city of Grantchester. After a long life she died, and was buried near her sister, the supposed year of her death being 699, and her day in the calendar 6 July. Her daughter Ermenhilda succeeded her as abbess, being herself succeeded at Sheppey by her own daughter, St. Werburga or Werburh [q. v.] The life of Sexburga, printed in Capgrave's ‘Nova Legenda’ and the ‘Acta Sanctorum,’ is taken from Cotton. MS. Tib. E. 1. There is another Latin life in a twelfth-century manuscript, Cotton MS. Calig. A. viii., and a fragment of an English life of two folios in Lambeth MS. 427.

[Bede's Hist. Eccl. iii. c. 8, iv. cc. 19, 22, Flor. Wig. i. 261 (both in Engl. Hist. Soc.); Liber Elien. i. cc. 18, 25–6, 28, 35 (Angl. Chr. Soc.); A. SS. Bolland. Jul. ii. 346–9; Hardy's Cat. of Mat. i. 360–2 (Rolls Ser.); Montalembert's Monks of the West, iv. 401–4, ed. Gasquet; Dict. Chr. Biogr. art. ‘Sexburga’ (2), by Bishop Stubbs.]

W. H.