July 21, 625: Consecration of Paulinus as bishop for Northumbria

The most famous part of the conversion of the Northumbrians, the council with the sparrow speech followed by the king's baptism, is discussed under April 12, 627. After that, King Edwin (616-33) established a bishopric at York for Paulinus. But there was no one in Northumbria who could consecrate a bishop (bishops have to be consecrated by other bishops, otherwise it breaks the apostolic succession), so Paulinus was consecrated in Kent, before he went north.

It came about like this: King Edwin, while still a pagan, asked to marry Æthelburh (also called Tate), the daughter of the powerful King Æthelberht of Kent (580s-616). Æthelberht was a Christian (he received Augustine's mission in 597), and so after a brief reversion to paganism was his son Eadbald (616-40). In Bede's account (HE ii.9), Eadbald objected to his sister marrying a pagan, and Edwin said that he would not prevent Tate from following her own religion, and indeed he might convert himself. So Tate was betrothed to Edwin, and as part of the agreement Paulinus was consecrated bishop (by Archbishop Justus) and sent with her to Northumbria so that the new queen could still enjoy Christian sacraments.

Almost the same plan was followed in the late 570s, when Æthelberht of Kent, still a pagan and not yet king, wanted to marry Bertha, a Christian Frankish princess. One of the conditions for the marriage is that she brought a bishop Liudhard with her. Liudhard made no visible progress in converting the people of Kent in the twenty years he was there before Augustine came from Rome in 597. For whatever reasons, Paulinus was much more successful with the Northumbrians, gaining the king's conversion within two years of his consecration.