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Æthelbert

(d. 616)


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(d. 616),

king of Kent (560–616), was the king who welcomed the Christian missionaries led by St Augustine to England in 597. He exercised overlordship over all the English peoples south of the Humber, and as a direct result of his support the Christian mission was firmly established in the south‐east, with bishoprics set up at his principal centre, Canterbury, Rochester, and London. Sources suggest that he began his reign as early as 560 or 565, but it is more likely that his reign commenced in the late 570s or early 580s. Sometime before 589 Æthelbert married Bertha, daughter of Charibert, a Frankish king of Paris. She was a Christian, and brought a Christian priest, the bishop Liudhard, with her. They practised their faith in a church on the site of St Martin's. Æthelbert allowed Augustine to preach, allotting him the church at St Martin's and a site in the city which became the cathedral church. The king was quickly converted and many of his people with him. The new faith drew him into yet closer contact with Francia and ultimately with Rome. Æthelbert continued to exercise effective authority in the south‐east but Kentish pre‐eminence weakened after his death in 616.


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