Ermengild came from a royal family. Her father was Erconbert, King of Kent, and her mother was Queen Sexburga, who is also on the roll of Saints.
Ermengild married King Wulfhere of Mercia, a pagan. She brought her husband into the Faith and through her zeal and piety influenced him to spread Christianity in his dominions. She also bore him two children – St. Werburga, who entered the religious life, and Coenrad, who became King of Mercia (704-709) and later a monk at Rome.
Upon the death of her husband, Ermengild became a nun in an abbey at Minster-in-Sheppey, founded and ruled by Sexburga. She then replaced her mother as abbess when the latter went on to the abbey of Ely to succeed Sexburga’s sister St. Ethelreda who had founded it. After a few years Ermengild also retired to Ely, where her daughter Welburga was a nun. When Sexburga died, Ermengild became the third successive royal abbess of Ely. Little is known of her death, which occurred on February 13, 703.
A woman of royalty and wealth, St. Ermengild nonetheless spurned the trappings of royalty in order to follow Christ more closely. Her life exemplifies the Gospel suggestion to sell what one has, give to the poor, and follow Christ. Her example remains appropriate in modern times.
Lord God, Your servant St. Ermengild clearly chose Your love over that of this world’s goods. Grant that we may follow You on the narrow road to detachment. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.