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Queen of Northumbria
Abbess of Whitby
Born: Easter AD 626 in Northumbria
Died: 11th December AD 704 at Whitby, Yorkshire North Riding
Princess Enflaeda was the daughter of King Edwin of Northumbria, by his
second Wife, St. Ethelburga
of Lyming. She was born at Easter AD 626, and
baptised at Pentecost by St.
Paulinus, her mother's chaplain. On the defeat of
her father in AD 633, she shared the flight of her mother and Bishop Paulinus to
Kent and was brought up partly at the court of her uncle, King Edbald, and
partly at the first nunnery built in England, at Lyming, where her mother was
Oswiu succeeded his brother, St.
Oswald, as King of Bernicia, and by
conquest, became King of Deira, the other part of Northumbria. In AD 642, he
married the young Enflaeda, who was his maternal cousin. Like his wife, he was a
Christian and during his twenty-eight years' reign did so much for the advance
of Christianity in his own and the neighbouring kingdoms, despite some
inexcusable actions, chief among which was the assassination of his rival, King
Oswin of Deira. At the instigation of Enflaeda, and in expiation of the murder
of Oswin, Oswiu built a monastery at Gilling, the scene of the tragedy; so that
holy men might make constant intercession for the souls of the murdered and the
murderer. Enflaeda's piety and good works were well known to the Pope and, in
appreciation of her virtues, he sent her a cross made out of the chains of St.
Peter and St. Paul, with a gold key to it.
Queen Enflaeda became a friend and patron of St. Wilfred
(the Elder), a man
very famous in the annals of the early Anglo-Saxon Church. It was through
Enflaeda's influence that, as a boy of thirteen, Wilfrid was enabled to become a
monk and, five years afterwards, she assisted him in making his first journey to
Rome. It was largely because of such continental trips that Wilfred began the
Roman versus Celtic Easter calendar debate which divided the English Church in
the mid-7th century. To resolve the ensuing arguments, a conference was held, in
AD 664, at St.
Hilda's monastery at Whitby. It was widely attended by both
clergy or laity, all who had a right to vote in national affairs. St. Enflaeda
was on the side of St. Wilfrid, the champion of the Roman cause. The result of
the conference was a decree, by King Oswiu, that Easter should be everywhere
observed according to the Roman calendar.
After King Oswiu's death on a pilgrimage to Rome in AD 670, Enflaeda spent
the rest of her life as a nun at Whitby, to where his body was returned. She
ruled as Abbess along with her
Elflaeda of Whitby. She died on 11th December AD 704 was buried beside her
Edited from Agnes Dunbar's "A Dictionary of Saintly Women" (1904).