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Edward the Martyr

St. Edward the Martyr
Rank: 14th
Ruled: July 8, 975-March 18, 978
Predecessor: Edgar
Date of Birth: 962
Place of Birth: Wessex, England
Wife: Never married
Buried: Brookwood Cementery
Date of Death: March 18, 978
Parents: Edgar and Ethelfleda

King Edward the Martyr (circa 962 - March 18, 978) succeeded his father Edgar as King of England in 975, but was murdered, hence the epithet, "the Martyr". While hunting one day, Edward was murdered. He had been calling his half-brother Ethelred the Unready and his step-mother Elfrida. Elfrida offered Edward wine and while he was drinking it, two servants stabbed him on the back. Ethelred was only ten years old then, so he clearly was not implicated in the murder. Edward was buried in Dorset, and was canonised in 1001.

Information submitted 17/11/03

King of England, son to Edgar the Peaceful, and uncle to St. Edward the Confessor; b. about 962; d. 18 March, 979. His accession to the throne on his father's death, in 975, was opposed by a party headed by his stepmother, Queen Elfrida, who was bent on securing the crown for her own son Ethelred, then aged seven, in which she eventually was successful. Edward's claim, however, was supported by St. Dunstan and the clergy and by most of the nobles; and having been acknowledged by the Witan, he was crowned by St. Dunstan. Though only thirteen, the young king had already given promise of high sanctity, and during his brief reign of three years and a half won the affection of his people by his many virtues. His stepmother, who still cherished her treacherous designs, contrived at the last to bring about his death. Whilst hunting in Dorsetshire he happened (18 March, 979) to call at Corfe Castle where she lived. There, whilst drinking on horseback a glass of mead offered him at the castle gate, he was stabbed by an assassin in the bowels. He rode away, but soon fell from his horse, and being dragged by the stirrup was flung into a deep morass, where his body was revealed by a pillar of light. He was buried first at Wareham, whence three years later, his body, having been found entire, was translated to Shaftesbury Abbey by St. Dunstan and Earl Alfere of Mercia, who in Edgar's lifetime had been one of his chief opponents. Many miracles are said to have been obtained through his intercession. Elfrida, struck with repentance for her crimes, built the two monasteries of Wherwell and Ambresbury, in the first of which she ended her days in penance. The violence of St. Edward's end, joined to the fact that the party opposed to him had been that of the irreligious, whilst he himself had ever acted as defender of the Church, obtained for him the title of Martyr, which is given to him in all the old English calendars on 18 March, also in the Roman Martyrology.

History of his relics

In 1001, his relics were removed from his grave and placed in an elaborate shrine in Shaftesbury Abbey. Witnesses at the time reported that the relics were fragrant. During the sixteenth century, under King Henry VIII, monasteries were dissolved and many holy places were demolished, but St. Edward's remains were hidden so as to avoid desecration. In 1931, the relics were recovered by Mr. Wilson-Claridge during an archaelogical excavation; their identity was confirmed by Dr. T.E.A. Stowell, an osteologist. In about 1982, Mr. Wilson-Claridge donated the relics to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, which placed them in a church in Brookwood Cemetery, in Woking, Surrey. The St. Edward Brotherhood of monks was organized there as well. The church is now named St. Edward the Martyr Orthodox Church.

Preceded by:
List of British monarchs Succeeded by:
Ethelred II