Sigeberht of East Anglia

Sigeberht of East Anglia (also known as Saint Sigebert), (Old English: Sigebryht) was a saint and a king of East Anglia, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom which today includes the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. He was the first English king to receive a Christian baptism and education before his succession and the first to abdicate in order to enter the monastic life. The principal source for Sigeberht is Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, which was completed in the 730s.

Sigeberht was probably either a younger son of Rædwald of East Anglia, or his step-son from Rædwald's marriage to a pagan princess from the kingdom of Essex. Nothing is known of his life before he was forced into exile in Gaul, which was possibly done in order to ensure that Rædwald's own descendants ruled the kingdom. After his step-brother Eorpwald's assassination in about 627, Sigeberht returned to East Anglia and (perhaps in the aftermath of a military campaign) became king, ruling jointly with Ecgric, who may have been either a son of Rædwald's, or his nephew.

During Sigeberht's reign the cause of Christianity in East Anglia was advanced greatly, even though his co-ruler Ecgric probably remained a pagan. Alliances were strengthened between the Christian kingdoms of Kent, Northumbria and East Anglia. Sigeberht himself played an important part in the establishment of the Christian faith in his kingdom: Saint Felix arrived in East Anglia to assist him in establishing his episcopal see at Dommoc, he started a school for teaching Latin and he granted the Irish monk Saint Fursey a monastery site at Cnobheresburg (possibly Burgh Castle). He eventually abdicated his power to Ecgric and retired to his monastery at Beodricesworth. At an unknown date, East Anglia was attacked by a Mercian army led by its king, Penda. Ecgric and the East Anglians appealed to Sigeberht to lead them in battle, but he refused and had to be dragged from his monastery to the battlefield. He refused to bear arms during the battle, during which both kings were slain and the East Anglian army was destroyed.

Read more about Sigeberht Of East Anglia:  Family Background, Exile, Conversion and Education, Abdication and Martyrdom, See Also

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