The St Ethelburga rose in my garden opened this morning, so I thought I would share this image with you as we continue to endure Covid lock-down.
Before I am inundated with complaints that this isn’t named for Ethelburga of Lyminge, that is quite correct. This rose was named for the medieval church of St Ethelburga in Bishopsgate, London, that was destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1993. The church was subsequently restored and reopened as a Centre for Peace and Reconciliation.
The Ethelburga in the dedication was St Ethelburga of Barking. Her brother St Earconwald, later Bishop of London, founded a monastery for her at Barking in the late 660s or 670s, and she became the first abbess. This is recounted by Bede in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, completed in 731, but we know very little about either her or her brother. However, her brother’s name does hint that they both may have been members of the Kentish royal family, and thus related to Ethelburga of Lyminge. Name forms often repeated within families, and King Earconberht ruled in Kent from 640 to 664, and was the first king to ascend the throne as a Christian. He was the nephew of Ethelburga of Lyminge, and the brother of St Eanswythe whose bones were almost certainly revealed in Folkestone earlier this year. It was Earconberht who ordered the pagan shrines in Kent to be destroyed, imposing Christianity as the single religion of the kingdom where previously it had been a choice. Earconberht’s daughter St Earcongota became a nun in France. This shows how the same name element could repeat within families, and given the proximity of both time and place, there is a fair chance that Ethelburga of Lyminge and Ethelburga of Barking were related. In any event, she probably wouldn’t object to sharing her rose with her namesake. I hope you enjoy!