Sebert, King of the East Saxons & Ethelgoda
Just inside the gates of the south ambulatory in Westminster Abbey is an arched recess containing the supposed tomb of a legendary founder of an earlier church on the site, Sebert (or Sebbe) King of the East Saxons (the area of Essex, Middlesex and part of Hertfordshire) who died around AD 616. His parents were Sledd and Ricula (sister of King Ethelbert of Kent). The story goes that his uncle Ethelbert had founded a church dedicated to St Paul in London so Sebert founded a monastery dedicated to St Peter in the west of London in AD. 604. His wife Ethelgoda (died around 615) is said to be buried with him.
This tomb consists of a coffin of Purbeck marble with a Tournai black marble slab on the top but there is no inscription. At the back of the recess is 15th century cusped panelling enclosing flowers and a rose en soleil. The soffit and ends of the recess have traces of painting including the head of a woman, a Catherine wheel and vine foliage.
John Flete, a monk of Westminster, who died in 1465, says in his history of the Abbey that the bones of Sebert (with others) were moved from the church (which was Edward the Confessor's re-foundation) by Henry III to a marble tomb on the south side of the entrance of the Chapter House while the building of his new Gothic church was going on, from 1245-1272. Above this on the wall was an epitaph which included Ethelgoda, saying she died on the 13th September 615. Apparently the King's coffin was opened at this time and inside were seen part of his royal robes and a thumb ring set with a valuable ruby. The monks moved Sebert's bones to the present location in 1308.
This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library
Image © 2023 Dean and Chapter of Westminster