St. Elfleda (1), Feb. 8 (AELBFLED, AELFLAED, ELSFLEDA, ELSFLEDT, ETHELFLETA), V. c. 713. Abbess of Whitby. Daughter of King Oswy of Northumbria and ST. EANFLEDA. Niece of St. Oswald.
Elfleda, when scarcely a year old, was vowed by her father to the service of God in perpetual virginity, as a thank-offering for his victory over the pagan Mercians, which liberated his country and established Christianity in it. She was at once consigned to the care of the holy abbess HILDA, then living at Hartlepool. Two years later, Hilda built the famous double monastery of Streaneshalch, afterwards Whitby, with the dowry bestowed on Elfleda by her father Oswy. There Elfleda, never regretting her destiny, lived for sixty years, first as a learner, and afterwards as a teacher of monastic holiness. She succeeded Hilda as abbess in 680. St. Trumwin, formerly a missionary bishop among the Picts, assisted her in the management of her monastery, where he rested from his labours and where he was buried. Once when deprived by illness of the use of her limbs, she was cured by the girdle of St. Cuthbert, which he sent to her. This girdle also cured one of the nuns of an intolerable pain in the head. Elfleda worked a winding-sheet for him and sent it to him.
Theodore, archbishop of Canterbury, wrote to Elfleda, abbess of Whitby, ask ing her to befriend St. Wilfrid when he was recalled from exile by King Ealdfrith. The king again quarrelled with Wilfrid, but on his deathbed he sent for Elfleda, and she afterwards declared at a council of prelates that her brother in his last hours desired a reconciliation.
Elfleda outlived Wilfrid. Her friend, Cuthbert, died in 687 ; she was present at his translation in 698, and wrapped him in a linen cloth.