Sunday, 6 June 2010

Saint Edward the Martyr

Edward the Martyr (Old English: Eadweard) (c. 962 – 18 March 978), was king of the English from 975 until he was murdered in 978. Edward was the eldest son of King Edgar, but not his father's acknowledged heir. On Edgar's death, the leadership of the England was divided, some supporting Edward's claim to be king and others supporting his much younger half-brother Æthelred the Unready. Edward was chosen as king and was crowned by his main clerical supporters, Archbishops Dunstan and Oswald of Worcester.
Edward's short reign was brought to an end by his murder at Corfe Castle in circumstances which are not altogether clear. His murder is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: No worse deed for the English race was done than this was, since they first sought out the land of Britain. Men murdered him, but God exalted him. In life he was an earthly king; after death he is now a heavenly saint. His earthly relatives would not avenge him, but his Heavenly Father has much avenged him.
Edward's body lay at Wareham for a year before being disinterred. This was initiated by Ælfhere, perhaps as a gesture of reconciliation. According to the life of Oswald, Edward's body was found to be incorrupt when it was disinterred. The body was taken to the Shaftesbury Abbey, a nunnery with royal connections which had been endowed by King Alfred the Great and where Edward and Æthelred's grandmother Ælfgifu had spent her latter years. Edward's remains were reburied with lavish public ceremony. In 1001, Edward's relics, for by now he was reckoned a saint, were translated to a more prominent place within the nunnery at Shaftesbury. A 13th century calendar of saints gives the date of this translation as 20 June.