Posted by: anna | September 22, 2010

St Wulfhild

Today (9 September) we commemorate St. Wulfhild, abbess of Barking and Horton (c. 1000). From Miss Dunbar:
St. Wulfilda, WULFHILD, or WULFHIDE, Dec. 10, V. + c. 980 or 990. Abbess of Barking. Founder and abbess of Horton. She was brought up in the monastery of Winchester. The king fell in love with her. It is generally said this king was Edgar; Butler calls him Edward. Presents, messages, offers being of no avail, he gained over an aunt of the young saint, and she feigned illness and sent for her niece to attend on her. When Wulfilda arrived at the house, she found she had been entrapped there only to meet the king, and his fervour so alarmed her that she fled, leaving her sleeve in his hand. Immediately after this she took the veil, and the king, convinced of her enthusiastic goodness, thenceforth ‘held her as a thing enskied and sainted’ and made her abbess of Barking, giving to that monastery considerable estates. Wulfilda bestowed upon it twenty villages of her own and founded another monastery at Horton. Both these houses she governed with great ability and set an excellent example to the inmates. Queen Elfleda or Elthrida became envious, and on the death of the king ejected her from her monasteries, as she had herself foretold. She was restored under Ethelred II. and died at Barking, in his reign. Her virtues in life and the cures wrought at her tomb at Barking raised her to the level of her two great predecessors there, ETHELBURGA (2) and HILDELID. She is confounded with ST. WULFRIDA. The Bollandists think they are the same ; Butler and Stanton consider them two different persons. The point cannot be settled by referring to William of Malmesbury and the twelfth-century writers, for the stories are inextricably mixed; Parker says that Horton church in Dorsetshire still retains its dedication in her name, Wolfrida or Wulfhild; she may have had Wolfrida for an alias.
– and for the sake of completeness, compare –
St. Wulfrida, July 22, perhaps Sept. (WlLFREDA, WlLFRIDA, WlLFRITH, WOLFRIDA, VlLEFRETRUIT, VlLEFRETUIT, perhaps VILFETRUY, VULFETRUDIS, VULFRIDIS), died about 998 or 1000. She was a member of a noble family among the Anglo-Saxons, and was mother of ST. EDITH (6) by King Edgar. Wulfrida was a nun at Winchester and was seduced by the king. Great was the scandal, for the nun’s habit was the one thing that must be respected. St. Dunstan condemned the king to abstain from wearing his crown for seven years. After the death of his wife, Edgar tried to persuade Wulfrida to leave her convent and be married to him, but she preferred to remain with her daughter at Wilton, and became abbess there. Butler, ‘St. Edith,’ Sept. 16. Britannia Sancta. Hill, English Monasteries. Stanton, Menology. In Watson’s English Mart, she is called the ‘wife of the holy King Edgar.’ (Compare ST. WULFILDA).
  • celt-saints, which cites St Patrick’s in Washington, DC, as the source of its excellent Lives, so it’s about time I did – with an updated link, because the one on celt-saints is no longer correct: here is St Patrick’s saints index
  • Wulfhilda is one of the saints in the icon of the Synaxis of the Saints of London, shown here
  • Baring-Gould alters his usual style considerably for the story of Wulfhilda, using two variants of her name indiscriminately, conflating Wulfhilda and Wulfrida, entertaining aspects of the legend he cheerfully dismisses as sheer fiction, and adopting informal narrative devices such as ‘Anyhow,…’! An entertaining read – I cannot account for his sudden lack of seriousness!
  • I have just discovered Claude Lopez-Ginisty’s other blog,, where he provides translations of all sorts of Orthodox texts, particularly I notice from Russian and Greek. Mille mercis a M. L-G for making these so much more accessible to western readers!
Holy St Wulfhilda, pray to God for us.

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