Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Eadbald

EADBALD, ÆODBALD, ÆTHELBALD, or AUDUWALD (d. 640), king of Kent, son of Æthelberht, refused to accept christianity during his father's lifetime, was a heathen when he succeeded him as king of the Kentishmen in 616, and, according to heathen custom, took his father's wife to be his wife. He was subject to occasional fits of madness. The bishops Mellitus and Justus fled to Gaul to escape persecution; Laurentius of Canterbury was warned in a dream against following their example, and succeeded in converting the king to christianity. Eadbald broke off his incestuous connection, was baptised, and sent for Mellitus and Justus to return. Justus he reinstated at Rochester, but he could not prevail on the Londoners to receive back Mellitus, and he could not force them to do so, for he was not as strong as his father had been and had lost the supremacy over the East-Saxons. Nor was he able to insist on the destruction of idols even among his own people, a work that was carried out by his son Earconberht (Hist. Eccles. iii. 8). Nevertheless, he did what he could to promote the spread of christianity. He is said to have built a church at Canterbury and another church for a nunnery that his daughter Eanswith founded at Folkestone; he was claimed as a benefactor by both Christ Church and St. Augustine's at Canterbury, and it has been suggested that the ancient church in Dover Castle dates from his time (Norman Conquest, iii. 535 n.). When the Northumbrian king Eadwine asked his sister Æthelburh or Tata in marriage, he refused the request on the ground of Eadwine's heathenism, but finally agreed on being assured that she and her attendants should be allowed to practise their religion, and that Eadwine would embrace it if he was convinced of its excellence (Hist. Eccles. ii. 9). He sent Paulinus with Æthelburh. When she and Paulinus fled from Northumbria on the death of Eadwine in 633, he received them with great honour, and appointed Paulinus to the see of Rochester (ib. 20). He married Emma, a daughter of a Frankish king, probably of Theodeberht, king of Austrasia (Pagi, Baronius, Ann. Eccl. xi. 345), who survived him two years. He died on 20 Jan. 640, and was buried in the church of SS. Peter and Paul (St. Augustine's) at Canterbury. A gold coin of Eadbald with the legend avdvarld rege is described in Kenyon's ‘Gold Coins of England,’ p. 8. Two spurious charters are ascribed to him.

[Bædæ Hist. Eccles ii. 5–9, 20, iii. 8 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Thorn's Chron. col. 1767–8, Twysden; Florence of Worcester, i. 258–9 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Hasted's Hist. of Kent, iii. 382–3; Freeman's Norman Conquest, iii. 535; Dugdale's Monasticon, iv. 672; Kemble's Codex Dipl. 6, 983; Haddan and Stubbs's Councils and Eccl. Docs. iii. 69, 70, 239; Dict. of Christian Biog., art. ‘Eadbald.’]

W. H.