St. Bertha, Queen of Kent
(c. AD 565-612)
Bertha was the daughter of Caribert, one of the four brothers who became Kings of the Franks in AD 561. Her mother was the pious Ingoberga. She married the pagan Aethelbert, King of Kent, who promised her the freedom to exercise her own Christian religion. She took as her chaplain to England, Liudhard, a bishop. Ethelbert gave him a little church at Canterbury, built as a Christian mausoleum during the Roman occupation of Britain and still standing. Liudhard restored the building and dedicated it in the name of St. Martin. It is the oldest church in England (excluding Welsh foundations in Cornwall, Herefordshire & Cumbria) and has been used continuously since that time. Bertha was happy with Aethelbert and the couple had at least three children, the future King Edbald and SS. Ethelburga & Edburga. Her character and conduct predisposed her husband in favour of Christianity and when, in AD 596, St. Gregory the Pope, sent a band of missionary monks to England, under Augustine, they were received with respect. The king and many others listened to their teaching. On Whitsunday AD 597, Aethelbert declared himself a Christian and was baptized; and his example was quickly followed by many of his people. He gave his own palace at Canterbury over to Augustine, who founded a church there, now the Cathedral. Aethelbert and Bertha, standing between Augustine and Liudhard, appear in the windows of the nave of Canterbury Cathedral, among the early English saints. Bertha died in AD 612 and, although spoken of in Canterbury as 'St. Bertha,' it is not clear that she has ever been worshipped and she has no dedications.
Edited from Agnes Dunbar's
"A Dictionary of Saintly Women" (1904).
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