Ethelbert was born into Britain’s royalty in the year 552. He was the son of Eormenric, King of Kent. Ethelbert succeeded his father and later married Bertha, daughter of Charibert, King of the Franks. When they married, Ethelbert was an idol worshipper, and Bertha was a Christian. Out of respect for his wife, Ethelbert gave her the old Roman church of St. Martin in the capital of Canterbury and allowed her to practice her religion without any interference.
After the death of the Ceawlin, the king of Wessex, Ethelbert became supreme in southern Britian. In 597 Roman missionaries were sent to England by Pope Gregory the Great. Through the influence of his wife, Bertha, and these missionaries, Ethelbert decided to become a Christian and was baptized. This act had a tremendous influence on his countrymen. It is said that at least 10,000 followed his example and also converted to Christianity within a few months. Ethelbert founded the church which became later the first cathedral of England. He also started two other churches at Rochester and Canterbury.
Saint Ethelbert was the first Christian king of England. Ethelbert never compelled his subjects to accept baptism; however, through his example, thousands converted. Ethelbert also helped Saint Augustine of Canterbury convert a pagan temple into the Church of St. Pancras.
Father, we thank you today for St. Ethelbert and his example to his subjects and all he did to promote Christianity in England. We pray that those in authority today in areas of the world that do not know truth would also have a conversion like that of St. Ethelbert, and through them, others will come to know the truth. In Christ’s Name we pray. Amen.