Æðelbeorht I OISCINGAS King of Kent (c.580-616) 1
- Born: 552, Kent, England
- Married: Abt 580
- Died: 24 Feb 615-616, Kent, England
King of Kent from about 558 or 560 (the earlier date according to Sprott, the latter according to William of Malmesbury Book 1.9 ) until his death. The eighth-century monk Bede, in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, lists Aethelberht as the third king to hold imperium over other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. In the late ninth century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Æthelberht is referred to as a bretwalda, or "Britain-ruler". He was the first English king to convert to Christianity.
Æthelberht was the son of Eormenric, succeeding him as king, according to the Chronicle. He married Bertha, the Christian daughter of Charibert, king of the Franks, thus building an alliance with the most powerful state in contemporary Western Europe; the marriage probably took place before Æthelberht came to the throne. The influence of Bertha may have led to the decision by Pope Gregory I to send Augustine as a missionary from Rome. Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet in east Kent in 597. Shortly thereafter, Æthelberht converted to Christianity, churches were established, and wider-scale conversion to Christianity began in the kingdom. Æthelberht provided the new mission with land in Canterbury not only for what came to be known as Canterbury Cathedral but also for the eventual St Augustine's Abbey.
Æthelberht’s law for Kent, the earliest written code in any Germanic language, instituted a complex system of fines. These can be found in the Textus Roffensis (circa 1120). Kent was rich, with strong trade ties to the continent, and Æthelberht may have instituted royal control over trade. For the first time following the Anglo-Saxon invasion, coins began circulating in Kent during his reign. Æthelberht later was canonised for his role in establishing Chalcedonian Christianity among the Anglo-Saxons, as were his wife and daughter. His feast day in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church was originally 24 February, but was changed to 25 February.
For further material, notes and source reference, refer to article.
Bede records that "Aedilbert tex Cantuariorum" was "filius Irminrici".
He succeeded his father as ÆTHELBERHT I King of Kent... In the early years of his reign according to Bede, he was "defeated in two battles, he could scarcely defend his frontier" but in the later years "subjugated every kingdom of the Angles, with the exception of the Northumbrians". The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that "Ceawlin and Cutha" fought against "Æthelberht" [King of Kent] in 568 and "drove him into Kent", and "slew two princes Oslaf and Cnebba at Wibbandun". Bede records that "rex Aedilberct in Cantia" had extended his authority as far as the river Humber when Augustine landed at Thanet island, Kent. Bede records that the king’s royal court was at Canterbury ("in civitate Doruuernensi"), where Augustine was allowed to settle after the king eventually allowed him to leave Thanet. King Æthelberht converted to Christianity, the first of the Anglo-Saxon kings to do so, presumably some time before 601, the date of the letter from Pope Gregory I welcoming him to the Christian faith. Bede quotes the text of this letter, dated "X Kal Jul" in the nineteenth year of the reign of Emperor Mauricius (601), addressed to "Aedilbercto regi Anglorum". Yorke suggests that the king's conversion by the Papal representative, rather than by his first wife's Frankish bishop Liudhard, represented an assertion of his independence from Frankish control. Augustine established his see at Canterbury, a second see being founded at Rochester in 604 with Justus as bishop, and a third in London at St Paul's under Mellitus. He promulgated laws, similar in form to the lex salica of Clovis King of the Franks, which represent the earliest body of law in any Germanic language. He granted land at Rochester to the church in a charter dated 28 Apr 604, the oldest surviving Anglo-Saxon charter.
Bede records the death in 616 "twenty one years after Augustine was sent to England" of "Aedilbert tex Cantuariorum" after a reign of 56 years, the third king who had authority over the southern provinces, adding in a later passage that he died 24 Feb twenty one years after converting to Christianity and was buried "in portico sancti Martini intro ecclesiam beatorum apostolorum Petri et Pauli" where "Berctæ regina" was buried. Assuming that the generally accepted date of 597 for St Augustine's landing is correct, both references are overstated. The Annales Lindisfarnenses et Cantuarienses record the death "618 VI Kal Mar" of "filius rex Edilbert Cantioriorum Irminrici". 2 3
Æðelbeorht married Bercta (Berthe, Aldeberge) MEROVING, daughter of Charibert I MEROVING King of Paris and Queen Ingoberge of Paris, about 580. (Bercta (Berthe, Aldeberge) MEROVING was born before 560 in Heristal, , Neustria and died about 601 in Metz, Austrasia.)