St. Mildred was the daughter of King Merewald of Magonset and
his wife, St. Ermenburga (alias Aebbe
of Minster-in-Thanet); and therefore sister of Saints Milburga and Milgitha.
At an early age, her mother sent her to be educated at Chelles
in France, where many English ladies were trained to a saintly
A young nobleman, related to the Abbess of
Chelles, entreated her to arrange that he might marry this
English princess. The abbess tried to persuade her, but Mildred
said her mother had sent her there to be taught, not to be
married, and all the abbess's advice, threats and blows failed
to persuade her to accept the alliance offered to her. At last
the abbess shut her up in an oven in which she had made a great
fire; but after three hours, when she expected to find not only
her flesh but her very bones burnt to ashes, the young saint
came out unhurt and radiant with joy and beauty.
The faithful, hearing of the miracle,
venerated Mildred as a saint; but the abbess, more infuriated
than ever, threw her on the ground, beat, kicked and scratched
her and tore out a handful of her hair. Mildred found means to
send her mother a letter, enclosing some of her hair, torn from
her head by the violence of the abbess; and Queen Ermenburga
soon sent ships to fetch her daughter.
The abbess, fearing that her evil deeds
should be made known, would, on no account, give permission for
her departure. Mildred, however, fled by night; but, having in
her haste forgotten some ecclesiastical vestments and a nail of
the cross of Christ which she valued extremely, she managed to
return for them and brought them safely away.
Upon her arrival back in England, she landed
at Ebbsfleet where she found a great square stone, miraculously
prepared for her to step on from the ship. The stone received,
and retained, the mark of her foot and was afterwards removed to
the Abbey of Minster-in-Thanet (below) and kept there in memory
of her. Many diseases are said to have been cured for centuries
after, by water containing a little dust from this stone. It was
often removed from its first situation, until an oratory was
built for it.
With her mother's consent, Mildred joined her
at her foundation of Minster-in-Thanet. She was given the veil
by Theodore, Archbishop of
Canterbury, at the same time as seventy other nuns. On St.
Ermenburga's death, Mildred succeeded her as Abbess of the
community, to whom she set a holy example and by whom she was
much beloved. An old story is recorded that one night, while she
was praying in the church of her monastery, the devil blew out
her candle, but an angel drove him away and re-lit it for her.
Mildred died of a lingering and painful
complaint, around AD 732.
reliquary of St. Mildred's grace-bearing relics at Thanet
She was succeeded by St.
Edburga of Minster-in-Thanet.
During the latter's rule, it apparently happened that the bell-ringer
fell asleep before the altar. The departed Mildred awoke him
with a box on the ear, exclaiming, "This is the oratory, not the
She continued to be an extremely popular
saint, eclipsing the fame of St. Augustine, in the immediate
neighbourhood of her monastery, where the place that used to be
proudly pointed out as that of his landing came to be better
known as "St Mildred's Rock."
In 1033, St. Mildred was translated to St.
Augustine's Abbey in Canterbury and minor relics also passed
from here to Deventer in Holland where she was honoured on 17th
July; though her feast, in England, is three days earlier. There
was, however, a rival set of relics which were said to have been
hidden at Lyming, with those of her sister, Milgitha, during the
Viking devastation. These were given to the Religious Hospital
of St. Gregory in Canterbury, by Archbishop Lanfranc in 1085.
Mildred is represented in art holding a
church and accompanied by three geese, as she was protector
against damage by such wild birds.