I’ve been reading Bede’s V. Cuthbert and parts of the History over the last week. It really strikes me how many deathbed prophets he uses and how all of those that I can think of died of the plague. My memory could be a little biased here.
He has four deathbed prophets that I can think of offhand: Boisil, Aethelthryth, the Sussex child with visions of Peter and Paul, and the child calling Eadgyth at Barking (marginal prophet). They all have the plague and prophecy about the plague. Perhaps I’m missing others? I am wondering if this is particular to the plague in Bede, or is it just a coincidence that they all had the plague. It could be that the plague just provided so many opportunities for deathbed prophecies that it is disproportionately represented.
I suppose the use of deathbed prophets is not that unusual, maybe even a device. To this day we give extraordinary weight, legally and otherwise, to ‘last words’ and deathbed conversations. It seems to me that the child calling Eadgyth is there just to prove the accuracy of deathbed prophecies. His use of two children in this way further drives it home. He directly says the are too young and innocent to lie making their last words doubly unquestionable.
If you know of any deathbed prophecies that I’ve missed from the plague or otherwise, leave and comment below.