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Sunday, 14 December 2014

Saint Edward The Confessor

Edward The Confessor (c1004-1066), the eldest son of Ethelred II, was brought up in Ely Monastery.

He lived at the Court of the Duke of Normandy from 1014 after his parents had fled from England as the Danes had gained mastery there.

Edward became King of England on June 8, 1041 after his predecessor Hardicanute died of convulsions at a drinking party. His coronation was on April 3, 1043.

Bayeux Tapestry - Scene 1 : King Edward the Confessor and Harold Godwinson at Winchester.

The saintly king was ascetic and a man of great prayer. He was nicknamed “The Confessor”, that is one who bears witness to Christ by his life.

According to the Anglo Saxon Chronicle Edward was "of full face and rosy with hair and beard as white as snow."

Wikipedia Commons 

In 1045 Edward the Confessor married Edith, the daughter of Godwin, the Saxon Earl of Wessex, who had been Canute’s closest advisor. Having made a vow of chastity the  king first required her agreement to live with him only as a sister.

During his reign, power was held by his father in law, Earl Godwin and his brother in law, Harold, while the king devoted himself to a life of religious devotion. At heart Edward the Confessor was more of a French monk than an English king.


His wife, Edith, managed to remove the dubious practice whereby bishops and abbots could claim kisses from women.

As he dared not leave his kingdom, Edward the Confessor’s original intention to make a pilgrimage to St Peter's Tomb in Rome was substituted by the rebuilding at Westminster of an abbey dedicated to St Peter for the Benedictine monks.

Edward the Confessor abolished the taxes to maintain the navy after he saw a vision of the devil dancing on the money bags. Having put his English fleet out of commission by abolishing them, his alliances with neighbors across the channel kept the Vikings away. His reign was one of almost unbroken peace.

Due to Edward the Confessor’s vow of chastity, his marriage was childless and the question of succession became a prominent one as he neared the end of his reign. One of the claimants was his cousin William of Normandy whom Edward promised would succeed him.

Edward the Confessor died on January 5, 1066 at his new palace at Westminster which was built so he could be close to his beloved abbey. He passed away within ten days of the consecrating of Westminster Abbey and the Benedictine monks buried him within its walls.
Edward's funeral depicted in scene 26 of the Bayeux Tapestry

Edward disinherited William of Normandy on his deathbed and appointed Harold, the second son of Godwin, instead as his successor.

The shrine of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey was laid in its final resting place after the translation of his body to a newly built chapel east of the sanctuary on October 13, 1269 by King Henry III

Edward the Confessor was canonized in 1161 in Rome by Pope Alexander III. He was the first Anglo-Saxon and the only king of England to be canonized. The day of his translation, October 13th (his first translation had also been on that date in 1163), is regarded as his feast day.

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