Edward the Martyr

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Edward the Martyr (d.978), king of England (975-979), is known more for his death than his life. He was a strongly religious teenager who attained the throne after his father’s sudden death with the support of St. Dunstan, against the wishes of a sizable clique that preferred his younger half-brother, Ethelred.

Whilst devout, and, it seems, fiscally cautious, there is evidence of instability in his character. His short reign suffered from continued ill-feeling between the two royal camps; and ended when he was murdered whilst visiting his brother and step-mother at Corfe Castle and his body buried without ceremony.

His remains were later reinterred at Shaftsbury Abbey. His devotion during life (at least when compared to the supposedly irreligious Edward) and miracles at his grave, stories of which were enthusiastically disseminated by the nuns at Shaftsbury, led to his assuming cult status. With the support of the co-conspirator in his murder, king Ethelred - no doubt as a show of public contrition - his sanctity was acknowledged and the first steps taken towards Edward’s sainthood within a few years of his death.

Reference: “Anglo-Saxon Chronicle” trans. Anne Savage