Wednesday, 13 October 2021

The Saint Who Ruled England

Today is the Feast of St Edward the Confessor, penultimate King of the English. He is the Patron of kings, difficult marriages, and separated spouses. Until he was superseded by St George, he was Patron of England as well. He is also the Patron Saint of the Royal Family.

He died on 5 January 1066, but his Feast is kept on the day of the translation of his relics in 1163.

Here is a short post from a friend's blog, posted eight years ago. I have edited only the date, to bring it into line with it now being 2021, not 2012.

From Modern Medievalism

St Edward
858 years ago, the incorrupt body of Edward, last of the Anglo-Saxon kings of [Update: penultimate if you count the brief reign of Harold Godwinson], was translated from its original tomb and re-interred at a special shrine in Westminster Abbey. The event was presided over by Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the presence of King Henry II. The occasion: earlier that year, Edward had been canonized in Rome as a saint, an act which (whether by coincidence or otherwise) strengthened Henry II's legitimacy to the throne by associating him with the Saxon monarchs, as well as greatly contributing to the Abbey's wealth and prestige.

On October 13, 1163, Edward was also officially granted the epithet of "the Confessor". He was given this title to distinguish him from his predecessor, King Edward the Martyr, while still recognizing his service and suffering on behalf of Christendom. He gave generously to the poor people of the realm and kept England out of war the entire length of his reign: no mean feat for the Middle Ages. Edward the Confessor's feast day also made me realize that we've lost the art of referring to our heads of state and other important figures by epithet. True, the first Norman king is known best as William "the Conqueror", or "the Bastard". A few English monarchs have since gained nicknames like "Edward Longshanks", "Bloody Mary", and "Good Queen Bess" for the sisters Mary I and Elizabeth I (though a second look at history might require a reversal of those monikers). But otherwise, the Norman Conquest imposed the ordinal system: an impersonal number beside a name.

The Saxon kings, to the contrary, all earned epithets based on their deeds, for good or ill. The Confessor's father was Aethelred the Unready, so-called for his stubborn refusal to heed his ministers' advice. Before him, there were Edward the Martyr, Edgar the Peaceful, Eadwig All-Fair, Eadred the Excellent, Edmund the Deed-doer, and Æthelstan the Glorious.

The shrine of Saint Edward the Confessor at Westminster Abbey, 
restored by Mary I during her brief reign

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