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Cuthburh [St Cuthburh, Cuthburga]locked

(fl. c. 700–718)
  • Barbara Yorke

Cuthburh [St Cuthburh, Cuthburga] (fl. c. 700–718), supposed abbess of Wimborne, was the daughter of Coenred (d. c.694), a minor king of Wessex, and sister of the powerful King Ine. She married King Aldfrith of Northumbria (d. 704/5), a godson of Aldhelm, abbot of Malmesbury, and the marriage should be seen in the context of other alliances between the West Saxon and Northumbrian royal houses. Aldfrith's children included Osred I, king of the Northumbrians, and it is thought that Cuthburh was his mother. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 718, Aldfrith and Cuthburh separated during their lifetimes (that is, before 704/5, when Aldfrith died) and Cuthburh founded the monastery of Wimborne. Presumably, like other widowed or separated queens, she held the position of abbess in her community, though that is not specifically stated in contemporary sources. It is often assumed that before she founded Wimborne, Cuthburh entered the monastery of Barking, since a Cuthburga appears among the nuns of Barking to whom Aldhelm dedicated his De virginitate; but there is no evidence to confirm this identification with the ex-queen. Cuthburh may have been joined at Wimborne by her sister Cwenburh, as both are known to have been venerated at Wimborne from the late Saxon period. The year of Cuthburh's death is not known, but 31 August was the day of her depositio in medieval calendars. She was buried in Wimborne Minster. The assumption which has sometimes been made, that she was still living in the second quarter of the eighth century and was the abbess Tetta who had charge of Leoba, is unlikely to be correct, especially as Leoba's biographer states that other abbesses had ruled between the foundation of the monastery and the appointment of Tetta.

Sources

  • ASC, s.a. 718 [text A]
  • Aldhelm: the prose works, trans. M. Lapidge and M. Herren (1979)
  • [Rudolf of Fulda], ‘Vita Leobae abbatissae Biscofesheimensis auctore Rudolfo Fuldensi’, [Supplementa tomorum I–XII, pars III], ed. G. Waitz, MGH Scriptores [folio], 15/1 (Stuttgart, 1887), 118–31
  • D. W. Rollason, ‘Lists of saints' resting-places in Anglo-Saxon England’, Anglo-Saxon England, 7 (1978), 61–93
  • J. M. J. Fletcher, ‘The marriage of St Cuthburga, who was afterwards foundress of the monastery at Wimborne’, Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club, 34 (1931), 167–85
  • P. H. Coulstock, The collegiate church of Wimborne Minster (1993)
  • B. Yorke, Nunneries and the Anglo-Saxon royal houses (2003)
D. Whitelock, D. C. Douglas, & S. I. Tucker, eds. and trans., (1961)
Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores [in folio]