A King's Comrade
Charles Watts Whistler
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Hereford Cathedral bears the name of Ethelbert of East Anglia, king and martyr, round whose death, at the hands of the men of Offa of Mercia, this story of his comrade centres, and dates its foundation from Offa's remorse for the deed which at least he had not prevented. In the sanctuary itself stands an ancient battered statue somewhat hard to find of the saint, and in the pavement hard by a modern stone bears a representation of his murder. The date of the martyrdom is usually given as May 20, 792 A. D. A brief mention of the occurrence is given under that date in the "Anglo Saxon Chronicle", and full details are recorded by later historians, Matthew of Westminster and Roger of Wendover being the most precise and full. The ancient Hereford Breviary preserves further details also, for which I am indebted to my friend the Rev. H. Housman, B. D. , of Bradley. These authorities I have followed as closely as possible, only slightly varying the persons to whom the portents, so characteristic of the times, occurred, and referring some as is quite possible, without detracting from their significance to men of that day to natural causes. Those who searched for the body of the king are unnamed by the chroniclers, and I have, therefore, had no hesitation in putting the task into the hands of the hero of the tale. The whole sequence of events is unaltered. Offa's own part in the removal of the hapless young king is given entirely from the accounts of the chroniclers, and the characters of Quendritha the queen and her accomplice Gymbert are by no means drawn here more darkly than in their pages. The story of her voyage and finding by Offa is from Brompton's Annals.