Edward the Martyr

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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 England was contested, with some supporting Edward's claim to be king and other 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 reign began inauspiciously when a comet was sighted. A famine followed. The great nobles of the kingdom, ealdormen Ælfhere and Æthelwine quarrelled and civil war almost broke out. In the so-called anti-monastic reaction the nobles took advantage of Edward's weakness to dispossess the Benedictine reformed monasteries of lands and other properties which King Edgar had granted to them. Edward's short reign was brought to an end by his murder at Corfe Castle in circumstances which are not altogether clear.

Edward's body was reburied with great ceremony at Shaftesbury Abbey early in 980. In 1001 his remains were moved to a more prominent place in the abbey, probably with the blessing of his half-brother King Æthelred. Edward was already reckoned a saint by this time. A number of lives of Edward were written in the centuries following his death in which he was portrayed as a martyr, generally seen as a victim of his stepmother Queen Dowager Ælfthryth. He is today recognized as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Anglican Communion.



His date of birth is unknown, but it is likely that he was a teenager when he succeeded his father in 975, and was the eldest of Edgar's three children.[1] All that can be said with certainty of Edward's parentage is that he was King Edgar's son, but not the son of Queen Ælfthryth. This much and no more is known from contemporary charters.[2]

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