The conversion of Britain to Christianity (largely during the 7th century) was achieved through a mixture of faith and political expediency. The key to the spread of Christianity was the conversion of monarchs and nobility in the various British kingdoms, often a result of marriage negotiations or a declaration of allegiance between kingdoms. Many of the evangelists had a dual role, preaching the Gospel but also acting as diplomats and emissaries of their home kingdoms.
St Cedd, whose feast day is on the 26th October, held both roles in his evangelisation of the Mercian and East Saxon kingdoms. Monk, priest and bishop, Cedd was born into a noble family in the Kingdom of Northumbria and educated by St. Aidan at Lindisfarne along with his three brothers. It was during his lifetime that Northumbria became truly powerful and his king, Oswiu became Overlord of Britain.
Cedd was initially sent to evangelise the Middle Angles of Mercia, whose sub-king, son of the King of Mercia, had agreed to be baptised in order to marry Oswiu’s daughter. Cedd’s efforts were only moderately successful, though the kingdom became Christian after the death of the King of Mercia and enthronement of his sub-king, now a tributary of Oswiu.
Cementing an alliance with the kingdom of the East Saxons, Oswiu sent Cedd on a re-conversion mission there and his success led to him being consecrated as a Bishop. Cedd founded monasteries and churches, and wielded considerable influence over the king and his nobles, though this faded on the death of the king.
Cedd ended his life back in Northumbria as Abbot of a monastery, attending the Synod of Whitby as a senior cleric and interpreter. Accepting the Roman Rite, Cedd returned to his monastery, where he died of the plague in 664. His funeral was attended by East Saxon monks who, sadly, also contracted the plague and died.
Cedd successfully spread the faith among the Middle Angles and East Saxons, greatly aided by the power of the kingdom of Northumbria.