St. Etheldreda, commonly known as Audry, was born around 630, and while she was still young, she was given in marriage by her father, the king of East Anglia, to a subordinate prince. The prince gave Etheldreda a piece of land called the Isle of Ely. She remained a virgin even during her marriage, and after her husband died suddenly, she lived in isolation.
Etheldreda was forced to marry again for political reasons, this time to the heir of Oswy, king of Northumbria. She was married 12 years, again remaining chaste, and gave much of her time to charity work.
St. Wilfred was Etheldreda’s friend and spiritual guide, and helped her persuade her husband that Etheldreda should live as a sister of the Coldingham nunnery, founded by her aunt, St. Ebb.
While she lived with the sisters, Etheldreda only ate once a day, except on feast days or while she was sick, and she only wore wool clothing. After midnight prayers, she would go back into the church to pray until morning.
Etheldreda took pain and humiliation as a blessing. On her deathbed, she thanked God for an illness that had left her with a painfully swollen neck, which she considered punishment for wearing jeweled necklaces in vanity as a young woman.
St. Etheldreda died on June 23, 679, and was buried in a wooden coffin as she had asked. When her body was moved to a stone coffin, it was found incorrupt, and her neck had healed perfectly.