Believing Thomas

musings on the church calendar from one who seldom doubts

John Henry Hobart,  Public Domain,

The penultimate Saxon king before the invasion of England by the Norman known as William the Conqueror in 1066 was the one who is called Edward the Confessor. Edward was born in Islip, Oxfordshire, about the year 1003, to King Ethelred II (known as Ethelred the Unready because of the poor quality of his advisors) and Emma who was the daughter of Duke Richard I of Normandy. The addition of the words “the Confessor” to describe his identity is said not only because of his very active, pious and humble participation in mass and other religious ceremonies, but also to indicate that he was not a martyr. At the age of ten Edward was sent along with his brother Alfred to live with their uncle the Duke of Normandy because the Vikings controlled the throne in England at the time. He lived in Normandy until 1041 when the Vikings were no longer in control of England. Partly because of his saintly life up to that time, which appealed to the Saxons, Edward was elected King in 1042, an unusual way to succeed to the throne in England.

Edward’s reign was highlighted by his discontinuance of excessive taxation, his abiding interest in the welfare of his subjects even at times to the detriment of his own fortune, peaceful relations with other kingdoms except for the defense of England from raids by Vikings and the Welsh and to help Malcom II retake the Scottish throne which had been wrested from King Duncan by Macbeth. Other aspects of his efficient rule included his just mediation of disputes among his subjects, his generosity to charities and his support of the construction of what became known as Westminster Abbey which excused him from an earlier vow to visit St. Peter’s tomb. The laws passed during his reign were so popular with the citizenry that for years afterward the English people desired similar legislation. In fact, his love for the Normans seemed to be the principal source of any displeasure with him in his realm.

Although he had taken a vow of celibacy during the time he lived in Normandy and had been so active religiously, he was persuaded by his advisors to marry Edith, the daughter of Godwin, Earl of Essex, in 1045. She had agreed with him not to have children, which made for some confusion when Edward died in early 1066, only a week after the dedication of the just completed Westminster Abbey. He is buried there along with many other noted figures in English history. In the confusion following Edward’s death, others appeared to have a claim to the throne, but just before his death, Edward designated Harold, the son of Earl Godwin as his successor. Even with the challenge of the lack of royal blood, Harold ultimately succeeded Edward on the throne. This resulted in two invasions, one by the Viking King Harald, who was defeated at great cost in the Battle of Stamford Bridge and the second by William of Normandy resulting in the death of Harold, son of Earl Godwin, at the battle of Hastings, after which William the Conqueror became king.

Edward was canonized in 1161 by Pope Alexander III. As with other ancient persons who became saints, there are stories of miraculous curings by Edward. He is venerated on October 13th and is the patron saint of kings, difficult marriages and separated spouses. +

(c) 2016 Thomas H. Peterson


Wikipedia. "Edward the Confessor." Web. Accessed September 2016.

St. Edward the Confessor Anglican Church. "St. Edward the Confessor." Web. Accessed September 2016.

Catholic Encyclopedia Online. "St. Edward the Confessor." Web. Accessed September 2016.

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