Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"The Fairest Lily of the English"

From A Clerk of Oxford:
The very last word here, stille, is an interesting word to describe her - it's not commonly used for people, I think. It's almost synonymous with mild, the first element of Mildred's name, but with an added suggestion of quietness or stillness. 'Mild' today has unfortunate overtones of weakness, perhaps of excessive softness, but the Old English word doesn't - it's a thoroughly regal word, its sense something like 'gentle, kindly, moderate' and (when applied to rulers or to God) 'merciful, gracious'. Mildred's full name (Mildþryð) means 'gentle strength' - as Etheldreda, Æþelðryþ, means 'noble strength' - and it's not supposed to be an oxymoron.

Mildred is Thanet's only saint, and she seems to have been genuinely popular in the area; even operating in the same general sphere as the much more glorious St Augustine, she managed to outshine him. For instance, legend said when she returned to Thanet from France to join her mother's nunnery, she landed at Ebbsfleet (the same place Augustine had landed - that's the ancient Ebbsfleet and not the modern one) and left the print of her foot permanently in the rock where she disembarked. That rock was considered a relic and kept in its own chapel, where miracles of healing took place. (Read more.)

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