Anna of East Anglia
b.ABT 590 East Anglia, England
Facts and Events
Anna (or Onna; killed 653 or 654) was king of East Anglia from the early 640s until his death. He was a member of the Wuffingas family, the ruling dynasty of the East Angles. He was one of the three sons of Eni who ruled the kingdom of East Anglia, succeeding some time after Ecgric was killed in battle by Penda of Mercia. Anna was praised by Bede for his devotion to Christianity and was renowned for the saintliness of his family: his son Jurmin and all his daughters – Seaxburh, Æthelthryth, Æthelburh and possibly a fourth, Wihtburh – were canonised.
Little is known of Anna's life or his reign, as few records have survived from this period. In 631 he may have been at Exning, close to the Devil's Dyke. In 645 Cenwalh of Wessex was driven from his kingdom by Penda and, due to Anna's influence, he was converted to Christianity while living as an exile at the East Anglian court. Upon his return from exile, Cenwalh re-established Christianity in his own kingdom and the people of Wessex then remained firmly Christian.
Around 651 the land around Ely was absorbed into East Anglia, following the marriage of Anna's daughter Æthelthryth. Anna richly endowed the monastery at Cnobheresburg. In 651, in the aftermath of an attack by Penda on Cnobheresburg, Anna was forced to flee into exile, perhaps to the western kingdom of the Magonsæte. He returned to East Anglia in about 653, but soon afterwards the kingdom was attacked again by Penda and at the Battle of Bulcamp the East Anglian army, led by Anna, was defeated by the Mercians, and Anna and his son Jurmin were both killed. Anna was succeeded by his brother, Æthelhere. Botolph's monastery at Iken may have been built in commemoration of the king. After Anna's reign, East Anglia seems to have been eclipsed by its more powerful neighbour, Mercia.