SAINT KENELM – PRINCE OF MERCIA
St. Kenelm was the son of Kenwulf, who was King of Mercia from 796 to 820.
There is a strong local tradition that identifies a particularly steep and narrow valley in the Clent Hills as the place where Kenelm was murdered. The site is marked by a medieval church which is dedicated to him. A two-line Anglo-Saxon verse which probably represents the folk-memory of the event can be translated:
On the Clent Hills in the cow valley under a hawthorn tree
Kenelm is there, born to be king, a headless corpse lies he
An eleventh-century Life of St. Kenelm in Latin contains many fanciful legends but reflects the belief that the Prince was killed as a result of dynastic quarrels within the Mercian royal family; in fact his uncle Kelwulf succeeded to the throne. In an age when politics were conducted according to the maxim ’Kill or be killed’, it is probable that Kenelm’s reputation for holiness came from his refusal to adopt such methods to obtain power. He was remembered by the people of the West Midlands as a faithful follower of Christ in particularly difficult circumstances. Kenelm was buried with his father in the crypt of St. Pancras’ Abbey at Winchcombe (Gloucestershire) which became a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages.
In the nineteenth century, Cardinal Newman was eager to encourage devotion to English saints. He would walk on pilgrimage from the Oratorian house at Rednal to St Kenelm’s Church on the Clent Hills.
This is taken from the Roman Missal for the Archdiocese of Birmingham.