GALLERY: Crowds watch the story of Ely’s foundress St Etheldreda told in drama and music

CROWDS turned out on Saturday to watch a re-enactment of the life of the Saxon princess Etheldreda, the foundress of Ely, and the first abbess of a monastery in the city.

The St Etheldreda’s Day procession began with the princess arriving in Ely with her father by boat. Her entourage then made its to the cathedral, via Jubilee Gardens and Cherry Hill, stopping along the way for various events to be portrayed by adults and children.

Ely Cathedral Canon Missioner Alan Hargrave said: “It was a really lovely event, and enjoyed by everyone. We re-enacted Etheldreda’s life in music and drama.” Musical contributions came from the children’s choir Ely Imps, and the City of Ely Waits medieval music group.

Canon Hargrave added: “Without Etheldreda there would not be an Ely Cathedral. After she became Queen she ran away from her husband to set up a monastery of men and women, and she was the Abbess.”

The re-enactment told how Etheldreda, the daughter of King Anna, was first married to Tombert, the king of the Fen man, and was she was given the Isle of Ely as a wedding present. After Tombert died, Etheldreda married Prince Egfrid of Northumbria. When Egfrid became king and wanted children, Etheldreda ran away to set up the monastery in 673AD and she died in 679AD.

The procession ended with candles being lit at Etheldreda’s shrine in the cathedral, before a communion service took place.

Canon Hargrave added: “The story of Etheldreda’s life still has a resonance for us today. She had a very interesting life, and was the foundress of the city.”