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Some Early English (and Other) Saints, Kings and Queens


Saint George   Saint Colomba   Saint Augustine of Canterbury   Saint Oswald   Saint Aidan   Saint Cedd   Saint Chad   Saint Hilda   Saint Etheldreda   Saint Cuthbert   Saint Bede the Venerable   East Angle King & Saint Ethelbert II   King Offa   Vikings   King Alfred   King Athelstan   King Cnut   Saint Edward (King Edward the Confessor)   King William the Conqueror   Saint Aelred of Rievaulx   Saint Thomas (Becket)   Queen Eleanor of Castile (Eleanor Crosses)


List of all the English Kings and Queens and their Burial Places        Magna Carta



Saint George

c275 - c303 (28)


Thought to have been a Palestinian who was a senior officer in the Roman army of  Roman Emperor Diocletian (c236 - 284 - 305 - c316 (80)), who was responsible for the last great Christian persecution before Constantine's Edict of Milan (313) made Christians the flavour of the month.  George secretly converted to Christianity and had his head chopped off in Lydda, Palestine, after he outed himself. 


His memory was rediscovered when there was a need for military models in and after crusading times (c1100 - c1300), and he slipped into the role of Patron Saint of England (replacing England's only sainted King - Edward, who was neither knight nor dragon killer - see below) after King Edward III, who wanted more knighthood,  had formed the Order of the Garter in 1350 and associated George's name with it as Patron. 


A seemingly strange choice for England, especially as they share him with freemasons, scouts, the US Armoured Brigade, the Greek Army, Portugal, Aragon & Catalonia, Georgia, Moscow, Beirut, and numerous other places and causes including the UNESCO World Books and Copyright day (what?).  A utility rather than special saint - George also has a slot in Islam.


Link to illustrated page about Saint George & the Archangel Michael (and their Dragons)


Link to Wikipedia page



Where Angles and Saxons came from in the first wave of invasions after the Romans left .  Ida, the first English (= Anglo Saxon) King of Northumbria, reigned from 547 from Bamburgh castle, but it took several decades to move the frontiers inland.




Exhibit in the Museum of Lindisfarne Priory


Saint Colomba

c523 - 597 (74)


Irish monastic promoter "The Dove of the Church" who left Ireland for the remote Island of Iona full of remorse after causing a very bloody war over an intellectual property dispute.  He developed Iona into a major centre of monasticism and learning.  Coincidentally he died in the same year that Augustine got going in Canterbury.  Amongst many other places, his name was adopted by the Cistercian Abbey of Chiaravalle della Colomba in Lombardy, after his spirit (as a dove) assisted in the relocation of the abbey buildings.


Saint Augustine of Canterbury

? - 604


In 597 Pope Gregory the Great (the Gregorian Chanter) ordered a reluctant Augustine off to England to convert the Brits to Christianity.  Augustine based himself with a monastic community known by the name of "Saints Peter and Paul" in Canterbury, and quickly persuaded King Aethelbert of Kent to become the first of the (Germanic) Anglo-Saxon Kings to be  baptized, which happened on Whitsunday (Pentecost) 597.


As the conversion process started rolling across the other Anglo Saxon kingdoms, Augustine set about a codification of the law for the first time.  As well as the usual injunctions against murder, adultery etc, the code contained an extensive list of the tariffs applicable for each crime .... with regard to delimbing the most expensive crime by a factor of ten was to wipe out a bloke's tackle.  If you want to wipe out the bloke himself, then the best bargain by far  was to pick a Welshman. 


Saint Oswald (King Oswald)

c605 - 642 (37)


Northern English King, convert, martyr, whose skull ended up packaged with Cuthbert's remains by the time the latter got to his shrine in Durham.


Saint Aidan

?? - 651


An Irish monk from Saint Colomba's monastery on the Island of Iona, Aidan established a monastery on the Island of Lindisfarne at the invitation of King Oswald in 635.  Lindisfarne is a low lying island on the north-eastern seaboard of England near the Scottish border.


Saint Cedd

?? - 664


Chad's elder brother, who amongst other things founded a monastery at Lastingham.


Saint Chad

?? - 672


Originally one of Aidens lads from Lindisfarne / Northumbria.  He eventually became the first Bishop of Mercia, based in Lichfield.  His relics were translated to Lichfield Cathedral in 1148 and moved to a bigger shrine structure in the cathedral's Lady Chapel in 1296.  The shrine was one of the few to be left intact by Henry VIII's men in the 1530/40s after a successful plea by the Bishop, Rowland Lee.  But the reprieve was not a lasting one and the shrine and Chad's remains disappeared.  A few bones claimed to be Chad's (including two left femurs) resurfaced much later, and are now in Saint Chad's (Roman Catholic) Cathedral in Birmingham.


Saint Hilda

614 -680 (66)


Abbess of Whitby who was the leading light of the famous Synod of Whitby, which took place in 664.  This addressed various conflicts (including the date of Easter) between the Celtic church (which had come with people like Saint Aidan from never Romanized Ireland to convert northern England and particularly the Kingdom of Northumberland), and the Roman church (which had filtered north after the conversion successes of the Romanized Augustine in Canterbury).  Differences were mostly resolved in favour of the Roman church's viewpoint, as a result of which many of the "Irish school tradition" monks at places like Lindisfarne went home.


Over a thousand years later, the ships Endeavour, Resolution, Adventure and Discovery were built at Whitby, and manned by men of the town when they undertook three epic voyages of discovery under the command of Captain James Cook in the 1770s.  Amongst other things, these resulted in the "discovery" of Australia.


Saint Etheldreda

c630 - 679 (49)


Queen and heroine of the Norfolk Broads whose shrine was in Ely Cathedral.


Saint Cuthbert

c635 - 687 (52)


The ultimate Northumbrian (and indeed English) holy man who started life as a Scot in Melrose (in a predecessor of the later great Cistercian Abbey of Melrose) and later became Bishop of Lindisfarne, based at the priory on the island founded by Aidan.  Happiest as a recluse, his stature and management skills rarely allowed this.  His shrine (reduced to sepulchral plate post Henry VIII) in Durham Cathedral was for a few hundred years pre Becket the richest and  most visited shrine in England.




Venerable Bede (aka Saint Bede the Venerable)

c673 - 735 (62)


Historian monk based at Jarrow, who wrote "The Ecclesiastical History of the English Peoples" which did for the lasting memory of  early English / Celtic saints what Giorgio Vasari was later to do for Renaissance artists.  The only English Doctor of the Church, and the only Englishman to rate a mention in Dante's Paradiso (alongside Saint Isidore of Seville).  His tomb, reduced from a much grander affair pre-Henry VIII, is in the Galilee Chapel of Durham Cathedral.


Ethelbert II - Saint and King of the East Angles

? - 794


Ethelbert may already have been King of the East Angles for some time when he made what proved to be a fateful journey west to seek the hand of Aelfryth, daughter of the powerful King Offa of Mercia.   For some reason Offa had him killed instead, and he was buried in Hereford - probably somewhere in what is now Hereford Cathedral.  His life had been accompanied by "supernatural events" and his shrine attracted a brisk pilgrim trade for many years.   In the early 1300s Hereford, which had for a long time possessed one of the many Limoge made Becket (d1170) reliquary chasses, invented its very own Saint Thomas in the form of Bishop Thomas Cantilupe (d1282), and his shrine (whose tomb, most unusually, is still there), took over from Ethelbert's as a pilgrim honeypot, though today's Cathedral remains half dedicated to the sainted King.   


Offa, King of Mercia

? - 757 - 796


The most powerful of the Anglo Saxon Kings, Offa, is mainly remembered today because of "Offa's Dyke" - a long defensive trench he built to keep out the Welsh.   He produced some fine coins (including a copy of an Abbasid Dinar which he thought had the right sort of look) and also persuaded the Pope to set up a new Archdiocese based on Lichfield which covered all the Midlands and East Anglia.






King Offa in the gallery of Mercian, Norman and Plantagenet Kings gracing the west facade of Lichfield Cathedral - presumably holding the mitre of the new Archbishop of Lichfield he had created.






By 800, the numerous tribes of Angles and Saxons who had moved into England from mainland Europe after Roman Britain collapsed (see top of page), had settled down and consolidated mostly into the kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Wessex and Kent - then the Vikings arrived.





First Viking attacks on Northumbria.  The Vikings were to end up destroying most of the church and civic infrastructure of England and Ireland that was within striking distance of the coast like Lindisfarne and Whitby.  Then, as in Normandy, they settled down as long term residents of eastern England (see below).  


King Alfred (The Great)

 849-871-899 (50)


The only English King known as "the Great"





The Treaty between Alfred and (Viking) Guthrum formalized a boundary between Anglo Saxon jurisdictions and the areas in the North East (including East Anglia) where Danish law and kings ruled.




King Athelstan

895 - 925 - 939


Brought Northumbria into his sort of united English Kingdom and thus became the first "King of Britain", although it took the arrival of the Normans in 1066 to consolidate everything on a lasting basis.  Athelstan's tomb is in Malmesbury Abbey




Tomb of King Athelstan in Malmesbury Abbey


King Cnut (aka Canute)

c990 - 1035 (45)


King of England, Denmark, Norway and bits of Sweden.


Saint Edward

(King Edward the Confessor)

c1004-1042-1066 (62)


The only Sainted English King, and Patron Saint of England until, oddly, he was usurped by the foreigner Roman / Palestinian Utility Saint George.  His shrine, reduced to a tomb, is in Westminster Abbey.


King William I - William the Conqueror

c1027-1066-1087 (50)


The Normans take over and nothing is ever the same again.  List of all English Kings and Queens and their Burial Places.


Durham Cathedral


more photos from 2011

Built from 1093 onwards


The masons who built Durham were the first in Europe to have the skill and courage to throw a full stone roof over a large choir and nave (1093 - 1133), and to do so they invented ribbed vaulting (and also concealed flying buttresses).  Durham housed the shrine of Saint Cuthbert and the tomb of the Venerable Bede, and was the most visited pilgrimage destination in England before Becket mania took over in the south in the 1200s.


Saint Aelred of Rievaulx

c1110 - 1147 - 1167 (57)


Rievaulx was founded in 1131 - Yorkshire's first Cistercian abbey.  Its third Abbot - Saint Aelred - was one of the leading European ecclesiastics of the 1100s both in terms of holiness, scholarship and statesmanship.  He was also responsible for building many of the abbey and monastery buildings whose ruins can still be seen today.









Saint Thomas (Becket)


Link to boxes for Becket's bits (aka Reliquary Chasses)


Link to images of Becket's life and murder

1118 - 29/12/1170 (52)


Lord Chancellor of Plantagenet Henry II's England, and later Archbishop of Canterbury, who was famously murdered (beheaded and brained or vice-versa) in his cathedral by four knights plus retainers on 29 December 1170. 


Becket was not a popular, saintly or even particularly nice person, but the manner of his death fired up huge public interest, and within two years he had become a Euro Celebrity and was canonised.  Graphic representations of his killing appeared in places as far away as Sicily (Mosaic in Monreale Cathedral), Spoleto (Umbria - fresco in the church of Saints John and Paul) and the pilgrimage churches of France such as Chartres (an entire window sponsored by the Guild of Tanners dedicated to Becket's life), as well as many English churches.  His tomb and shrine in Canterbury Cathedral and the dozens of Limoge Chasses containing Becket "relics" gave new meaning to the commercial possibilities of pilgrimage and medieval celebritydom. 


Before his fateful return to England, Becket had sheltered in Sens, then been put up for three years by the monks of the Cistercian Abbey of Pontigny, in Burgundy and whilst there had dumped on Henry big time from the pulpit of the Abbaye Ste-Madeleine in nearby Vézelay.



Eleanor of Castile


c1240 - 1290 (50)


 Was the Queen Consort of the (most) powerful Plantagenet King Edward 1 of England ("Longshanks") (1239 - 1272 - 1307 (68)).  She is the Eleanor of "Eleanor Crosses" fame.





Eleanor Cross - Geddington



List of all English Kings and Queens




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