(also Æthelbert, Aethelberht, Aethelbert, or Ethelbert) (c. 560 – February 24, 616) was King of Kent from about 580 or 590 until his death. In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, the monk Bede lists Aethelberht as the third king to hold imperium over other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. In the late 9th century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Æthelberht is referred to as a bretwalda, or "Britain-ruler". He was the first English king to convert to Christianity.
He was the son of Eormenric, whom he succeeded as king, according to the Chronicle. He married Bertha, daughter of Charibert, king of the Franks, thus building an alliance with the most powerful state in Western Europe at that time; the marriage probably took place before Æthelberht came to the throne. The influence of Bertha may have led to Pope Gregory I’s decision to send Augustine as a missionary from Rome. Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet in east Kent in 597. Shortly thereafter, Æthelberht was converted to Christianity, churches were established and wider-scale conversion to Christianity began. Æthelberht provided the new church with land in Canterbury, at what came to be known as St Augustine's Abbey, thus establishing one of the foundation-stones of what ultimately became the Anglican church.
Æthelberht’s code of laws for Kent, the earliest written code in any Germanic language, instituted a complex system of fines. Kent was rich, with strong trade ties to the continent, and it may be that Æthelberht instituted royal control of trade. Coinage began circulating in Kent during his reign for the first time since the Anglo-Saxon invasion.
Æthelberht was later canonised for his role in establishing Christianity among the Anglo-Saxons. His feast day was originally February 24, but was changed to February 25.
Propers for Æthelbert - 25 February - King and Confessor
O ALMIGHTY God, who didst call thy servant Ethelbert of Kent to an earthly throne that he might advance Thy heavenly kingdom, and didst give him zeal for Thy Church and love for Thy people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of Thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Epistle - Hebrews 12:1-2.
SEEING we also are compassed about with so great a of cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Gospel - St. Matthew 25:31-40.
WHEN the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the lease of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
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