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The Canon of John Lydgate Project

The Lives of Ss. Edmund and Fremund: Introduction

Sigebert, King of East Anglia
The story of Sigebert, first Christian king of the East Angles, and founder of a monastery at Beodericsworth (later called Bury St. Edmunds), according to Bede, A History of the English Church and People (written in 731), Book 3, Chap. 18 (trans. Leo Sherley-Price; pp. 170-171):
About this time [A.D. 635], after the death of Earpwald, successor to Redwald, the kingdom of the East Angles was ruled by his brother Sigbert, a good and religious man who had been baptized long previously in Gaul while he had been living in exile to escape the hostility of Redwald. When he returned home and became king, he wished to copy what he had seen well contrived in Gaul, and he was quick to found a school for the education of boys in the study of letters [this school was probably at Dunwich]. In this project he was assisted by Bishop Felix, who had come to him from Kent and provided him with teachers and masters according to the practice of Canterbury.

King Sigbert became so ardent in his love for the kingdom of heaven that he abandoned the affairs of his earthly kingdom, and entrusted them to his kinsman Egric, who had already governed part of the kingdom. He then entered a monastery [at Beodericsworth] that he had founded and, after receiving the tonsure, devoted his energies to winning an everlasting kingdom. A considerable while later, the Mercians led by King Penda attacked the East Angles who, finding themselves less experienced in warfare than their enemies, asked Sigbert to go into battle with them and foster the morale of the fighting men. When he refused, they dragged him out of the monastery regardless of his protests, and took him into battle with them in the hope that their men would be less likely to panic or think of flight if they were under the eye of one who had once been a gallant and distinguished commander. But, mindful of his monastic vows, Sigbert, surrounded by a well-armed host, refused to carry anything more than a stick, and when the heathen charged, both he and King Egric were killed and the army scattered.

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© 1995 Stephen R. Reimer
English; University of Alberta; Edmonton, Canada
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Last revised: 9 Nov. 1995

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