Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Kenelm, King and Martyr


Kenulph, a prince of the blood royal of Mercia, was in the fourth degree of descent from Wibba, father of King Penda, and Egfert the son of Offa, having reigned only half-a-year, was called to the throne of Mercia, which he filled twenty-two years. Dying in 819, he left his son Kenelm, a child only seven years old, heir to his crown, under the tutelage of his sister Quindride. This ambitious woman committed his person to the care of one Ascobert, whom she had hired to make away with him. The wicked minister decoyed the innocent child into an unfrequented wood, cut off his head, and buried him under a thorn-tree. His corpse is said to have been discovered by a heavenly ray of light which shone over the place, and by the following inscription:

In Clent cow-pasture, under a thorn,
Of head bereft, lies Kenelm king born.

Higden, in his Polychronicon, says the body was thrown into a well, the place was called Cowdale Pasture, and situate in the south part of Staffordshire, on the borders of Worcestershire, where in following ages he was honoured with great devotion, but with greater resort of pilgrims at the abbey of Winchelcombe in Gloucestershire, which his father had founded, and in which his relics were enshrined, having been translated thither immediately after their discovery. The unnatural sister seized the kingdom, but was ousted by her uncle Ceolwulph, (pronounced Colwulph,) and in penance became a nun, as appears from the council of Cloveshoe in 822. Saint Kenelm‘s death happened in 820. See Higden, William of Malmesbury, Tyrrell. Cowper in the life of Saint Werburge.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Kenelm, King and Martyr”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 5 December 2013. Web. 29 November 2021. <>