ST. ETHELBERT, KING OF THE EAST-ANGLES, M.
IN his childhood, after the hours of his studies,
he stole away from his schoolfellows when they went to play, and
spent most of the time allotted to recreation in prayer. He succeeded
young his father Ethelred in his kingdom, which he ruled forty-four
years, according to the maxims of a perfect saint. It was his usual
saying, that the higher a station is in which a man is placed, the
more humble and benevolent he ought to be. And this was the rule of
his own conduct. To secure the tranquillity of his kingdom by an
heir, he was persuaded to marry; and having heard much of the virtue
of Alfreda the daughter of Offa, the powerful king of the Mercians,
he thought of making her his royal consort. In this design he paid a
visit to that king, who resided at Sutton-Wallis, on the river Lugg,
four miles from the place where Hereford now stands. He was
courteously entertained, but after some days, treacherously murdered
by Grimbert, an officer of king Offa, through the contrivance of
queen Quendreda, that his kingdom might be added to their own. This
happened in 793. He was privately buried at Maurdine or Marden; but
his body being glorified by miracles, it was soon after removed to a
fair church at Fernley, that is, Heath of Fern, now called Hereford;
which town had its rise from this church, which bore the name of St.
Ethelbert when Wilfrid king of Mercia much enlarged and enriched the
same. Quendreda died miserably within three months after her crime.
Her daughter Alfreda devoted herself to God, and led a penitential
solitary life at Croyland, amidst the fens Offa endeavored to atone
for the sin of his queen by a pilgrimage to Rome, where he founded a
school for the English after the example of king Ina, who had erected
one in that city in 726, when he established the Peter-pence among
the West-Saxons, which Offa on this occasion extended to the Mercians
in 794. Egfrid, the only son of Offa, died after a reign of some
months, and the Mercian crown was translated into another family of
the posterity of Penda. How sharp are the thorns of ambition! whereas
virtue finds its peace and crown whether in adversity or in
prosperity. See Harpsfield, Malmesbury, and Leland, Itiner. t. 8, p.
56, who quotes the Life of St. Ethelbert written by Giraldus
Cambrensis; also by Osbert de Claro.