Around 640, there was an English princess named Ethelreda, but she was known as Audrey. She married once, but was widowed after three years, and it was said that the marriage was never consummated. She had taken a perpetual vow of virginity, but married again, this time for reasons of state. Her young husband soon grew tired of living as brother and sister and began to make advances on her. She continually refused. He eventually attempted to bribe the local bishop, Saint Wilfrid of York, to release Audrey from her vows.

Saint Wilfrid refused, and helped Audrey escape. She fled south, with her husband following. They reached a promontory known as Colbert’s Head, where a heaven sent seven day high tide separated the two. Eventually, Audrey’s husband left and married someone more willing, while Audrey took the veil, and founded the great abbey of Ely, where she lived an austere life.

She eventually died of an enormous and unsightly tumor on her neck, which she gratefully accepted as Divine retribution for all the necklaces she had worn in her early years. Throughout the Middle Ages, a festival, “St. Audrey’s Fair”, was held at Ely on her feast day. The exceptional shodiness of the merchandise, especially the neckerchiefs, contributed to the English language the word “tawdry”, a corruption of “Saint Audrey.”

Photo credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
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  1. I do not know why this woman is being recognized as a Saint? She married but did not fulfill her marriage vows. I feel she disobeyed Scripture “Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will cling to his wife and they will be one flesh.” Genesis 2:24 & she should have honored her marriage vows, or not gotten married at all.. It is her husbands that are the Saints in my eyes. This troubles me that she would be an example of a Saint.

  2. MiMi –

    She is likely a Saint because she probably had little choice but to marry – women at this time did not often have the ability to say ‘no’ if they were sent off to marry for ‘reasons of state’ (meaning a higher noble, or even the king, makes the arrangement to secure an alliance with another kingdom or noble and tells the couple about it later).

    The marriage was likely arranged and she may not have even met her husband until their wedding day (I do not know that this is true in this case, but it was very very common for much of human history) It was unusual but not unheard of for a man and woman to be committed by politics or family honor to marriage, but not to have marital relations – there are a number of Saints who had this very arrangement through the history of the Church. Here, they fulfill their vows by remaining chaste and living lives of prayer dedicted to works of mercy and charity. Another example of this kind of arrangement is St Cecelia and her husband St Valerianus (both martyred)

    Christians in the earliest centuries, considered the words of St Paul “1Cor:7:5:
    5 Defraud not one another, except, perhaps, by consent, for a time, that you may give yourselves to prayer: and return together again, lest Satan tempt you for your incontinency.6 But I speak this by indulgence, not by commandment. 7 For I would that all men were even as myself. But every one hath his proper gift from God: one after this manner, and another after that. [ST Paul is advocating celibacy in marriage, although not commanding it, in this verse.]

    Further, St Paul said in the same letter: 1Cor:7:29: This therefore I say, brethren: The time is short. It remaineth, that they also who have wives be as if they had none: 30 And they that weep, as though they wept not: and they that rejoice, as if they rejoiced not: and they that buy as if they possessed not: 31 And they that use this world, as if they used it not. For the fashion of this world passeth away. (DRV) Being celebate within a marriage is NOT unscriptural, and not unChristian, although it is unusual.

    If her husband agreed initially to Ethelreda’s vow of virginity (had he not, he could have secured an anullment the very next day, especially had they not met until their wedding day). He changed his mind after many years after agreeing to the arrangement, the breaking of a promise was actually his, not hers and a Bishop could not force her to break the vow she kept to Jesus for the sake of a change of mind of her husband.

    • Shana,
      Thank you for your outstanding explanation. You are a gifted writer. I am in the process if learning about the Saints and I couldn’t understand the reason behind her Sainthood. I now have a much better explanation because of your comment. I will google “St. Ethelreda” to learn more about her. Thank you for your explanation and your time.
      God Bless You,

      • I believe that Joseph and Mary had consecrated their own life to God, with the Gift of Celebacy (in answer to prayer granted by God Himself!) Mary of Agreda

  3. sna po mtpos n problema ko s mga gmot risdin rivotril syclop xanor serenace akineton zyproc sandoz altrox sna wg n po un gmulo s isip ko pls sna wla n bmulong kalain bakekang panget pg umiinom ako gmot umaga at gabi pls sna wg n tmambay s lbas cla gami aldrin chris kalbo pls sna tmhmk n pristina pls sna wg n kmi mgkailangan ni pyt wg n rn sna sya mglakwatsa sna umuwi n sya maaga plgi pls sna wg nko mlgasan ng ngipin kht kelan pls sna wg nko mhilo mtrnta matense kht kelan pls sna wg nko guluhin ng taong nkklsmuha ko pls sna mgnda araw ko plgi pls sna mklipat nko trece nxt yr pls sna mkbyd kmi monthly trece pls sna mkuha ng lakers c durant pls sna mlakas mkuha nla bkas s draft pls sna mgswa nmn kklakwatsa cla pyt at manas pls ptwd po s mga kslanan ko tnx amen

  4. Saint Audrey, pray for us. Protect virgins, male and female, and elevate the gift of personal chastity to God as an offering in reparation for the sin and corruption in the world. Bless my Auntie Audrey and release her soul from Purgatory if she’s there. She was not a Catholic, married to my mother’s brother (Uncle Alan), but she lived an honest devout Christian life. Bless her two adopted children, Jeff and Alison. Reunite her with the soul of her husband so both may rain down blessings on their family from within the Gates of Heaven. Amen.

  5. Dear St. Audrey: It is not my place to question or speak ill of you. I only wish to ask that you pray for the world today in it’s struggles with the coronavirus. Please as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to come to our aid. Many have died and others have suffered, and continue to suffer. Amen.


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