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Sunday, 9 October 2011

Saint Audrey

St Audrey (otherwise Etheldreda, Abbess of Ely) (c636-679) was one of four daughters of King Anna of East Anglia all of whom eventually retired from secular life and founded abbeys. She founded a monastery at Ely in Cambridgeshire, England, and served as its abbess till her death in 679.

Though twice married, St Audrey had taken a vow of perpetual virginity and remained celebiate all her life.

Audrey developed a breast tumour, which she blamed on wearing rich necklaces of jewels as a child, and she died of it in 679.

The most venerated of all Anglo-Saxon female saints, she was honoured with the passing of years by the establishment of many sanctuaries, among them a shrine in Ely, now the site of the city's cathedral.

Her admirers bought modestly concealing lace goods at an annual fair held in her name in Ely, which they called “St Audrey’s lace”. As years passed, this lacework came to be seen as gaudy as unscrupulous hawkers palmed off the cheapest of wares. From this came the word “tawdry” meaning “cheap; trashy.”

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