King Aethelbert (Ethelbert) of Kent

552-616

Aethelbert was a king of Kent, who ruled from about 550 until his death in 616. He married a Frankish princess named Bertha, who was already a Christian. In 597 St Augustine landed in Kent with the aim of converting the English to Christianity. Augustine had the support of Bertha, who convinced Aethelbert to give Augustine an audience (though according to legend the king was wary of the 'magic' that Augustine might bring, and insisted on meeeting the missionary in the open air).

Aethelbert was converted to Christianity - at least nominally - and, perhaps more importantly, gave Augustine permission to settle in Kent and proceed with his missionary work. As a result, Christianity became established in south east England within only a few short years. His contemporaries may have been more impressed by Aethelbert's legal reforms, and the king's written legal code is the earliest known Saxon code to survive.

Time period(s): Saxon

Tags: Aethelbert   Bertha   St Augustine  


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