|The Sutton Hoo helmet -- Raedwald's?|
While in France, Sigeberht was baptized as a Christian. That was sort of a big deal, because the Angles and Saxons and Jutes who swarmed over Britain's shores brought all their gods like Wednesday and Thursday with them, driving Christianity west into Cornwall and Wales. Raedwald had once been a Christian, but the politics of the time demanded a certain amount of paganism and kings who wanted to survive went with the flow. Raedwald's second marriage was to a pagan princess from Essex, the mother of Sigeberht.
|East Anglian Coat of Arms|
Sig returned to Britain, raised an army, defeated Ricbehrt, and claimed the East Anglian throne. As expected, he drove the country back to Christianity. He was actually the senior partner in a co-monarchy (or rather a biarchy) with Ecgric, his nephew, half-brother, or step-brother. Sig made alliances with the other Christian English kingdoms, which plugged him into the Frankish network. He invited Felix of Burgundy (March 8) to come across the Channel and become Felix of Dunwich, first bishop of East Anglia. Felix set up schools for the propagation of both faith and literacy. It was a bully good time.
Sig built a monastery. Lots of kings did that. It was considered a good thing for kings to do. Then he moved into the monastery, accepted the tonsure, and stopped being king. That was unusual, and not very nice for anyone else. Ecgric was still the king, but apparently not as well respected, since Penda of Mercia launched an invasion.
Ecgric asked Sig to leave the monastery and help out with the defense of the country. He declined. A mob hauled him out of the monastery and dragged him to the military encampment. He announced that as a monk, he would not carry a sword and would not fight. He did carry a staff, but it did little to protect him from Mercian swords. He, Ecgric, and too many East Anglians lost their lives when Penda's army overran their country.
Let me repeat for emphasis: grabbing a saint might make you think God is on your side, but remember that martyrdom is a fast-track to sainthood.