Æbbe (also known as Domne Eafe), Princess of Kent

 

Æbbe was the daughter of Eormenred, a younger son of King Eadbald of Kent, and consequently was a niece of St Eanswythe.  The kingship of Kent passed from Eadbald to his son Eorcenberht,  Æbbe's uncle, and then in 664 to Eorcenberht’s son Ecgberht.  Æbbe was thus the cousin of the king.

 

It seems that Ecgberht did not feel secure in his throne and, depending on the version of the story, either procured, or at least connived at, the murder of his cousins Æthelred and Æthelberht, Æbbe’s brothers.  The two murdered boys were initially buried in the royal hall at Eastry, but the story as recorded in the Kentish Royal Legend, is that the burial place was miraculously revealed by a heavenly light.  Faced with the evidence of his crime, King Ecgberht under Kentish law had to pay a blood-price to the boys’ sister Æbbe.

It is recorded that Æbbe claimed as the blood-price for her brothers the amount of land that her tame hind could run around in a single lap.  In the event, either through divine guidance, or because the hind went where Æbbe led it, she was able to claim an estate amounting to some 200 acres on the Isle of Thanet.  There at Minster she founded an abbey dedicated to St Mary the Virgin.

Thanet Map from Thomas of Elmham 

Map of Thanet showing the estate that belonged to AEbbe's abbey at Minster, illustrated in the early 14th Century by Thomas of Elmham in his History of St Augustine's Abbey (© Trinity Hall, Cambridge)

 

 

St Mary, Minster

St Mary the Virgin, Minster-in-Thanet, founded as an abbey by AEbbe but now the parish church (© Rob Baldwin)