Biography of King Æthelberht of Kent 550-616

Paternal Family Tree: Oisingas

568 Battle of Wibbandun

616 Death of Æthelberht King of Kent

Around 550 King Æthelberht of Kent was born to Eormenric King of Kent.

Battle of Wibbandun

In 568 Ceawlin King Wessex and Cutha Wessex fought against King Æthelberht of Kent (age 18) at the Battle of Wibbandun and drove him into Kent. The location of the battle is unknown.

In 580 King Æthelberht of Kent (age 30) and Bertha Merovingian Queen Consort Kent (age 15) were married. She the daughter of Charibert King Paris Merovingian and Ingoberga Unknown Queen Consort Paris (age 60). He the son of Eormenric King of Kent.

580. St Martin's was the private chapel of [his wife] Queen Bertha of Kent (age 15). Her pagan husband, King Æthelberht of Kent (age 30), facilitated her in continuing to practise her religion by renovating a Romano-British building around 580.

In 589 King Æthelberht of Kent (age 39) succeeded King of Kent. [his wife] Bertha Merovingian Queen Consort Kent (age 24) by marriage Queen Consort Kent.

Bede. AUGUSTINE, COMING INTO BRITAIN, FIRST PREACHED IN THE ISLE OF THANET [Map] TO KING ETHELBERT (age 47), AND HAVING OBTAINED LICENCE, ENTERED THE KINGDOM OF KENT, IN ORDER TO PREACH THEREIN. [A.D. 597.]

Augustine (age 57), thus strengthened by the confirmation of the blessed Father Gregory (age 57), returned to the work of the word of God, with the servants of Christ, and arrived in Britain. The powerful Ethelbert (age 47) was at that time king of Kent; he had extended his dominions as far as the great river Humber, by which the Southern Saxons are divided from the Northern. On the east of Kent is the large Isle of Thanet [Map] containing according to the English way of reckoning, 600 families, divided from the other land by the river Wantsum, which is about three furlongs over, and fordable only in two places, for both ends of it run into the sea. In this island landed the servant of our Lord, Augustine (age 57), and his companions, being, as is reported, nearly forty men. They had, by order of the blessed Pope Gregory (age 57), taken interpreters of the nation of the Franks, and sending to Ethelbert (age 47), signified that they were come from Rome, and brought a joyful message, which most undoubtedly assured to all that took advantage of it everlasting joys in heaven and a kingdom that would never end with the living and true God. The king (age 47) having heard this, ordered them to stay in that island [Map] where they had landed, and that they should be furnished with all necessaries, till he should consider what to do with them. For he had before heard of the Christian religion, having a Christian wife of the royal family of the Franks, called [his wife] Bertha (age 32); whom he had received from her parents, upon condition that she should be permitted to practice her religion with the Bishop Luidhard, who was sent with her to preserve her faith. Some days after, the king (age 47) came into the island, and sitting in the open air, ordered Augustine (age 57) and his companions to be brought into his presence. For he had taken precaution that they should not come to him in any house, lest, according to an ancient superstition, if they practiced any magical arts, they might impose upon him, and so get the better of him. But they came furnished with Divine, not with magic virtue, bearing a silver cross for their banner, and the image of our Lord and Saviour painted on a board; and singing the litany, they offered up their prayers to the Lord for the eternal salvation both of themselves and of those to whom they were come. When he had sat down, pursuant to the king's (age 47) commands, and preached to him and his attendants there present, the word of life, the king (age 47) answered thus:—"Your words and promises are very fair, but as they are new to us, and of uncertain import, I cannot approve of them so far as to forsake that which I have so long followed with the whole English nation. But because you are come from far into my kingdom, and, as I conceive, are desirous to impart to us those things which you believe to be true, and most beneficial, we will not molest you, but give you favourable entertainment, and take care to supply you with your necessary sustenance; nor do we forbid you to preach and gain as many as you can to your religion." Accordingly he permitted them to reside in the city of Canterbury [Map], which was the metropolis of all his dominions, and, pursuant to his promise, besides allowing them sustenance, did not refuse them liberty to preach. It is reported that, as they drew near to the city, after their manner, with the holy cross, and the image of our sovereign Lord and King, Jesus Christ, they, in concert, sung this litany: "We beseech Thee, O Lord, in all Thy mercy, that thy anger and wrath be turned away from this city, and from the holy house, because we have sinned. Hallelujah."

Bede. ST. AUGUSTINE IN KENT FOLLOWED THE DOCTRINE AND MANNER OF LIVING OF THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH, AND SETTLED HIS EPISCOPAL SEE IN THE ROYAL CITY. [A.D. 597.]

As soon as they entered the dwelling-­place assigned them they began to imitate the course of life practiced in the primitive church; applying themselves to frequent prayer, watching and fasting; preaching the word of life to as many as they could; despising all worldly things, as not belonging to them; receiving only their necessary food from those they taught; living themselves in all respects conformably to what they prescribed to others, and being always disposed to suffer any adversity, and even to die for that truth which they preached. In short, several believed and were baptized, admiring the simplicity of their innocent life, and the sweetness of their heavenly doctrine. There was on the east side of the city a church dedicated to the honour of St. Martin, built whilst the Romans were still in the island, wherein the [his wife] queen (age 32), who, as has been said before, was a Christian, used to pray. In this they first began to meet, to sing, to pray, to say mass, to preach, and to baptize, till the king (age 47), being converted to the faith, allowed them to preach openly, and build or repair churches in all places.

When he, among the rest, induced by the unspotted life of these holy men, and their delightful promises, which, by many miracles, they proved to be most certain, believed and was baptized, greater numbers began daily to flock together to hear the word, and, forsaking their heathen rites, to associate themselves, by believing, to the unity of the church of Christ. Their conversion the king (age 47) so far encouraged, as that he compelled none to embrace Christianity, but only showed more affection to the believers, as to his fellow-­citizens in the heavenly kingdom. For he had learned from his instructors and leaders to salvation, that the service of Christ ought to be voluntary, not by compulsion. Nor was it long before he gave his preachers a settled residence in his metropolis of Canterbury, with such possessions of different kinds as were necessary for their subsistence.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 604. This year Augustine (age 64) consecrated two bishops, Mellitus and Justus. Mellitus he sent to preach baptism to the East-Saxons. Their king was called Seabert, the son of Ricola, Ethelbert's (age 54) sister, whom Ethelbert (age 54) placed there as king. Ethelbert (age 54) also gave Mellitus the bishopric of London; and to Justus he gave the bishopric of Rochester, which is twenty-four miles from Canterbury, Kent [Map].

Charter S1. 28 Apr 604. Regnante in perpetuum domino nostro Iesu Christo saluatore . mense Aprilio . sub die iiii . kalendas Maias . indictione vii . ego Æthelberhtus (age 54) rex filio meo Eadbaldo admonitionem catholice fidei optabilem. Nobis est aptum semper inquirere . qualiter per loca sanctorum pro anime remedio uel stabilitate salutis nostre aliquid de portione terre nostre in subsidiis seruorum dei deuotissimam uoluntatem debeamus offerre . Ideoque tibi Sancte Andrea tueque ecclesiae que est constituta in ciuitate Hrofibreui ubi preesse uidetur Iustus episcopus . trado aliquantulum telluris mei .

Hic est terminus mei doni . Fram suðgeate west andlanges wealles oð norðlanan to stræte . 7 swa east fram st'r'æte oð Doddinghyrnan ongean bradgeat .

Siquis uero augere uoluerit hanc ipsam donationem; augeat illi dominus dies bonos . Et si presumpserit minuere aut contradicere; in conspectu dei sit damnatus et sanctorum eius hic et in eterna secula . nisi emendauerit ante eius transitum quod inique gessit contra Christianitatem nostram . Hoc cum consilio Laurentii episcopi et omnium principum meorum signo sancte crucis confirmaui . eosque iussi ut mecum idem facerent . Amen .


A.D. 604 (28 April). Æthelberht (age 54), king, to St Andrew and his church at Rochester; grant of land at Rochester. Latin with English bounds.

Archive: Rochester

MSS: 1. BL Harley 1866, 9rv (s. xviii)

Note 2. Maidstone, Kent Archives Office, DRc/R1 (Textus Roffensis), 119rv (s. xii1; facsimile)

Note 3. Maidstone, Kent Archives Office, DRb/Ar2 (Liber Temporalium), 3v (s. xiv)

Printed: Mon. Angl., i. 27; Hearne, Textus Roffensis, pp. 62-3; Thorpe, Reg. Roff., pp. 13-14; K 1 ex MS 2; Mon. Angl. (rev. edn), i. 162 (no. 3); HS, p. 52; B 3 ex HS, Hearne, K, and Mon. Angl.; Earle, pp. 3-4 ex K and Hearne; Pierquin, Recueil, pt 1, no. 1; Pierquin, Conciles, p. 43; Campbell, Rochester, no. 1, ex MS 2; Morris 1995, pp. 101-2, ex B.

Comments: Wallenberg, KPN, p. 3, on place-names and bounds; Deanesly 1941, pp. 101-4; Deanesly 1941/1, pp. 53-69; Deanesly 1942, p. 110, authentic; Levison 1946, pp. 174, 223-5, suspicious features; Ward 1949, on topography; Campbell, Rochester, pp. xv, xxii, fabricated, partly based on S 266; Brooks 1974, p. 217, possibly some authentic basis; Tatton-Brown 1984, p. 14, cited in discussion of topography; Scharer 1982, pp. 59-60, spurious; Morris 1995, pp. 89-98, authentic.

Charter 3. 605. In nomine Domini nostri Iesu Christi. Notum sit omnibus tam presentibus quam posteris quod ego Æthelbertus (age 55) Dei gratia rex Anglorum, per euangelicum genitorem meum Augustinum de idolatra factus Christicola, tradidi Deo per ipsum antistitem aliquam partem terre iuris mei sub orientali muro ciuitatis Dorobernie [Map], ubi scilicet per eundem in Christo institutorem monasterium in honore principum apostolorum Petri et Pauli condidi, et cum ipsa terra et cum omnibus que ad ipsum monasterium pertinent perpetua libertate donaui, adeo ut nec mihi nec alicui successorum meorum regum nec ulli unquam potestati siue ecclesiastice siue seculari quicquam inde liceat usurpare, sed in ipsius abbatis sint omnia libera dicione. Si quis uero de hac donatione nostra aliquid minuere aut irritum facere temptauerit, auctoritate et beati pape Gregorii nostrique apostoli Augustini simul et nostra imprecatione sit hic segregatus ab omni sancte ecclesie communione et in die iudicii ab omni electorum societate. Circumcingitur hec terra his terminibus: in oriente ecclesia sancti Martini, et inde ad orientem be sywenne dune, et sic ad aquilonem be wykenge mearce, iterumque ad orientem et ad austrum be burnware mearce, item ad orientem et ad austrum be suth burnware mearke, et sic ad austrum et occidentem be kynges mearke, item ad aquilonem et orientem be kynges mearce, sicque ad occidentem to riðere ceape, et ita ad aquilonem to druting stræte. Actum est hoc in ciuitate Dorouernie, anno ab incarnatione Christi .dcv., indictione .vi.

Ego Athelbertus (age 55) rex Anglorum hanc donationem meam signo sancte crucis propria manu confirmaui.

Ego Augustinus gratia Dei archiepiscopus libenter subscripsi.

Ego [his son] Eadbaldus regis filius faui.

Ego Hamigisilus dux laudaui.

Ego Hocca comes consensi.

Ego Augemundus referendarius approbaui.

Ego Graphio comes benedixi.

Ego Tangisilus regis optimas confirmaui.

Ego Pinca consensi.

Ego Geddi corroboraui.


A.D. 605 (Canterbury). Æthelberht, king of the English, to St Augustine for the minster of SS Peter and Paul (St Augustine's), Canterbury; grant of land to the east of Canterbury. Latin with bounds.

Archive: Canterbury, St Augustine's

MSS: 1. Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, 111, pp. 310-11 (s. xvi)

Note 2. Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, 189, 46rv (s. xiv)

Note 3. Cambridge, Trinity Hall, 1, 22r (facsimile of lost single sheet, s. xv; Deanesly 1942, pl. facing p. 114)

Note 4. Cambridge, Trinity Hall, 1, 22r (s. xv)

Note 5. BL Add. 53710, 2v-3r (s. xiv)

Note 6. BL Add. 53710, 254r (s. xvi)

Note 7. BL Cotton Claud. D. x, 9r (s. xiii)

Note 8. BL Cotton Jul. D. ii, 84r (s. xiii)

Note 9. BL Cotton Tib. A. ix, 107v-108r (s. xiv)

Note 10. BL Cotton Vesp. B. xx, 277rv (s. xii; Gem 1997, p. 53)

Note 11. BL Cotton Vitell. A. ii, 6v (s. xii)

Note 12. BL Harley 358, 47v-48r (s. xvi)

Note 13. BL Lansdowne 447, 23v-24r (s. xvii)

Note 14. BL Lansdowne 863, 90v (s. xvi)

Note 15. Bodleian, Add. C. 296, 77r (s. xvii; ex 11)

Note 16. Bodleian, Dugdale 11, 20v (s. sxvii)

Note 17. Bodleian, Tanner 165, 97r (s. xv)

Note 18. Winchester, Cathedral Library, XXB, 157rv (s. xvi)

Printed: Spelman, Concilia, i. 119, ex MS 3; Twysden, X Scriptores, cols 1761-2 ex MS 5; Mon. Angl., i. 24, ex ? MS 10; Alford 1663, ii. 3; Wilkins, Concilia, iv. 728 ex Spelman; K 3 ex MS 3 etc.; Mon., Angl. (rev. edn), i. 110 (no. 36) ex MS 17, i. 126-7 (no. 2) ex 1st edn; Hardwick, Elmham, pp. 111-13, ex MS 3; HS, pp. 55-6, ex K etc.; B 5; Pierquin, Recueil, pt 1, no. 3; Kelly, St Augustine's, no. 2, ex MSS 3, 8, 10; Morris 1995, pp. 103-4, ex B.

Translated: Davis, Thorne, pp. 8-9 (ex Twysden, X Scriptores).

Comments: HS, pp. 55-6, questionable or spurious; Stevenson 1891, p. 742 n. 22, spurious, forged after 1066; Turner 1915, pp. xx-xxi; Wallenberg, KPN, p. 5, on place-names; Deanesly 1941/1, pp. 55-69; Deanesly 1942, pp. 104-10, authentic; Levison 1946, pp. 174-233, spurious, forged in late 11th century; Hunter 1973, on MS 3; Scharer 1982, p. 59, spurious; Sparks and Tatton-Brown 1987, p. 204, on bounds; Kelly 1988, perhaps forged soon after Conquest; Kelly, St Augustine's, pp. 11-13, spurious, forged on the basis of S 2; Morris 1995, pp. 89-98, some authentic basis.

Charter S2. 605. In nomine Domini nostri Iesu Christi. Omnem hominem qui secundum Deum uiuit et remunerari a Deo sperat et optat, oportet ut piis precibus consensum hilariter ex animo prebeat, quoniam certum est tanto facilius ea que ipse a Deo poposcerit consequi posse, quanto et ipse libentius Deo aliquid concesserit. Quocirca ego Æthilberhtus (age 55) rex Cantie, cum consensu uenerabilis archiepiscopi Agustini ac principum meorum, dabo et concedo Deo in honore sancti Petri aliquam partem terre iuris mei quæ iacet in oriente ciuitatis Dorobernie [Map], ita dumtaxat ut monasterium ibi construatur, et res quæ supra memoraui in potestate abbatis sit, qui ibi fuerit ordinatus. Igitur adiuro et precipio in nomine Domini Dei omnipotentis qui est omnium rerum iudex iustus1 ut prefata terra subscripta donatione sempiternaliter sit confirmata, ita ut nec mihi nec alicui successorum meorum regum aut principum siue cuiuslibet conditionis dignitatibus et ecclesiasticis gradibus de ea aliquid fraudare liceat. Si quis uero de hac donatione nostra aliquid minuere aut irritum facere temptauerit, sit in presenti separatus a sancta communione corporis et sanguinis Christi, et in die iudicii ob meritum malitie suæ a consortio sanctorum omnium segregatus. Circumcincta est hec terra his terminibus: in oriente ecclesia sancti Martini, in meridie uia oþ burhgat, in occidente et in aquilone drutingestræte. Acta in ciuitate Dorouerni anno ab incarnatione Christi .dcv., indictione .vi.

Ego Æthelbertus (age 55) rex Cancie sana mente integroque consilio donacionem meam signo sancte crucis propria manu roboraui confirmauique.

Ego Ægustinus gratia Dei archiepiscopus testis consenciens libenter subscripsi.

[his son] Eadbald. Hamigils. Augemund referendarius. Hocca. Grafio. Thangil. Pinca. Geddi.

Note 1. Ps. vii. 12: qui est omnium iudex iustus


A.D. 605 (Canterbury). Æthelberht (age 55), king of Kent, to St Peter; grant of land to the east of Canterbury for the foundation of a minster. Latin with English bounds.

Archive: Canterbury, St Augustine's

MSS: 1. Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, 111, p. 310 (s. xvi)

Note 2. Cambridge, Trinity Hall, 1, 21v (facsimile of lost single sheet, s. xv; Hunter 1973, pl. 1; Kelly, St Augustine's, pl. 1)

Note 3. Cambridge, Trinity Hall, 1, 21v (s. xv)

Note 4. Canterbury, City Archives, Roll I/Z/1 m. 3 (s. xvi)

Note 5. BL Add. 53710, 221v (s. xiv)

Note 6. BL Add. 53710, 253v-254r (s. xvi)

Note 7. BL Cotton Claudius D. x, 61r (s. xiv)

Note 8. BL Cotton Cleop. F. i, 236r (s. xvi)

Note 9. BL Harley 358, 47v (s. xvi)

Note 10. BL Lansdowne 447, 23v (s. xvii)

Note 11. PRO Ch.R 20 Edw. II, m. 2

Note 12. PRO Ch.R. 36 Edw. III, m. 7

Note 13. PRO Ch.R. 8 Hen. IV, m. 6

Note 14. PRO Pat. R. 2 Hen. VI, pt 3, m. 5

Note 15. PRO Pat. R. 4 Edw. IV, pt 4, m. 29

Note 16. PRO Pat. R. 14 Hen. VII, pt 1, m. 16

Note 17. Bodleian, Dodsworth 10, 7r (s. xvii)

Note 18. Bodleian, Dodsworth 120, 115rv (s. xvii)

Note 19. Bodleian, Dugdale 11, 20r (s. xvii)

Note 20. Bodleian, Engl. Hist. C. 241, 21v (s. xvi)

Note 21. Winchester, Cathedral Library, XXB, 157r (s. xvi)

Printed: Spelman, Concilia, i. 118-19; Twysden, X Scriptores, col. 2123 ex MS 5; Mon. Angl., i. 23, ex ? MS 7; Alford 1663, ii. 76; Somner 1703, Appendix, p. 6, ex ? MS 5; Wilkins, Concilia, iv. 728, ex Spelman; K 2 ex MS 3; Mon. Angl. (rev. edn), i. 126 (no. 1); Hardwick, Elmham, pp. 109-10, ex MSS 2, 3; HS, pp. 54-5, ex K etc.; B 4 ex K, HS etc.; Pierquin, Recueil, pt 1, no. 2; Kelly, St Augustine's, no. 1, ex MSS 2, 7, 21; Morris 1995, pp. 102-3, ex B.

Translated: Davis, Thorne, pp. 565-6 (ex Twysden, X Scriptores).

Comments: HS, pp. 54-5, spurious or questionable; Turner 1915, p. xx, suspicious; Wallenberg, KPN, pp. 4-5, on place-names; Deanesly 1941/1, pp. 53-9; Deanesly 1942, p. 104 n. 7; Levison 1946, pp. 174-233, spurious, probably forged in late 11th century; Hunter 1973, on MS 2; Scharer 1982, p. 59, spurious; Kelly 1988, perhaps forged shortly before Conquest; Kelly, St Augustine's, pp. 4-9, fabrication partly modelled on a lost charter of Æthelberht II (725-62), witness-list may derive from a lost 7th-century source; Morris 1995, pp. 89-98, some authentic basis.

In 605 [his daughter] Æthelburh Oiscingas Queen Consort Northumbria was born to King Æthelberht of Kent (age 55) and [his wife] Bertha Merovingian Queen Consort Kent (age 40).

After 605 [his former wife] Bertha Merovingian Queen Consort Kent (age 40) died.

Death of Æthelberht King of Kent

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 616. This year died Ethelbert (age 66), king of Kent, the first of English kings that received baptism: he was the son of Ermenric. He reigned fifty-six winters, and was succeeded by his son [his son] Eadbald. And in this same year had elapsed from the beginning of the world five thousand six hundred and eighteen winters. This Eadbald renounced his baptism, and lived in a heathen manner; so that he took to wife the relict of his father. Then Laurentius, who was archbishop in Kent, meant to depart southward over sea, and abandon everything. But there came to him in the night the apostle Peter, and severely chastised him19, because he would so desert the flock of God. And he charged him to go to the king, and teach him the right belief. And he did so; and the king returned to the right belief. In this king's days the same Laurentius, who was archbishop in Kent after Augustine, departed this life on the second of February, and was buried near Augustine. The holy Augustine in his lifetime invested him bishop, to the end that the church of Christ, which yet was new in England, should at no time after his decease be without an archbishop. After him Mellitus, who was first Bishop of London, succeeded to the archbishopric. The people of London, where Mellitus was before, were then heathens: and within five winters of this time, during the reign of Eadbald, Mellitus died. To him succeeded Justus, who was Bishop of Rochester, whereto he consecrated Romanus bishop.

Note 19. Literally, "swinged, or scourged him." Both Bede and Alfred begin by recording the matter as a vision, or a dream; whence the transition is easy to a matter of fact, as here stated by the Norman interpolators of the "Saxon Annals".

On 24 Feb 616 King Æthelberht of Kent (age 66) died. His son [his son] King Eadbald of Kent succeeded King of Kent. Emma Austrasia Queen Consort Kent by marriage Queen Consort Kent.

Before 24 Feb 616 King Æthelberht of Kent (age 66) converted to Christianity.

[his son] King Eadbald of Kent was born to King Æthelberht of Kent and Bertha Merovingian Queen Consort Kent.

King Æthelberht of Kent 550-616 appears on the following Descendants Family Trees:

Octa King of Kent 500-543

Royal Descendants of King Æthelberht of Kent 550-616

King Eadbald of Kent x 1

Æthelburh Oiscingas Queen Consort Northumbria x 1

Ancestors of King Æthelberht of Kent 550-616

King Æthelberht of Kent