St Etheldreda

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Nun and foundress. Etheldreda was a seventh century queen, the daughter of Anna, King of East Anglia. In her younger days she had two arranged marriages before following her true desire, to be a nun. In 673 she founded the double monastery of Ely.

Etheldreda lived an austere life of fasting and prayer. She died in 679, together with several other members of her community, of the plague which caused a swelling on her neck. She attributed this to her earlier vanity of wearing necklaces.

She became one of the most popular Anglo Saxon women saints. At St Audrey's Fair, necklaces of silk and lace were sold. Her shrine at Ely attracted many pilgrims. Her shrine was destroyed in 1541, but some of her relics are claimed by St Etheldreda's in Ely Place in London, one of the few pre-Reformation churches that is now Roman Catholic again.

At least 12 ancient churches were dedicated to her. She is a patron of those suffering throat and neck problems.

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