Edward the Confessor, King of England, St.

views updated


Reigned 1042 to January 5, 1066, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England and refounder of westminster abbey; b. Islip, Oxfordshire, 1004. The son of Ethelred II and Queen Emma, he was reared at ely Abbey until the Danish invasions caused him to be exiled to Normandy. There he stayed until he was elected king of England in 1042. In a difficult situation, surrounded by hostile earls and a divided people, he contrived to keep his position by a mixture of gentleness and cunning. Pious, generous, and unambitious, he lacked the ruthlessness that the political situation required, but he was respected by all for his unworldliness and chastity: it was widely believed that his marriage to Earl Godwin's daughter Edith was never consummated. His patronage of Normans, often criticized, was not extensive, but he did make some promise of the throne to William, Duke of Normandy (william i), though on his deathbed, according to Anglo-Saxon sources, he gave it to Godwin's son, Harold, instead. Visions and miracles were attributed to him during his life; after his death his cult was limited to Westminster, political circumstances not favoring its development. His incorrupt body was translated in 1102 by Gundulf, bishop of Rochester, but in 1138 an attempt at obtaining papal canonization failed owing to the civil war. But in 1161 alexander iii canonized him, and from then onward he became one of the most popular of English saints, frequently represented in medieval art. The tradition of his personal appearance, a long, bearded face with fair or white hair, remains constant from the bayeux tapestry until the time of Henry VII. His feast was extended to the universal Church by innocent xi; his body rests at Westminster Abbey.

Feast: Oct. 13 (translation) in 1163; formerly Jan. 5.

Bibliography: h. r. luard, ed., The Lives of Edward the Confessor (Rerum Brittanicarum medii aevi scriptores 3; 1858). m.r. james, La Estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei (Roxburghe Club 1920). m. bloch, "La Vie de S. Édouard le Confesseur par Osbert de Clare," Analecta Bollandiana 41 (1923) 5131. l. e. tanner, "Some Representations of St. Edward the Confessor," Journal of the British Archaeological Association 15 (1952) 112. f. barlow, ed. and tr., The Life of King Edward, Who Rests at Westminster (London 1962, 2d. ed. Oxford 1992); Edward the Confessor and the Norman conquest (Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex 1966); Edward the Confessor (London 1970, 1979). aelred of rievaulx, Vita S. Edwardi regis et confessoris tr. as The life of Saint Edward, king and confessor, tr. j. bertram (Guildford, Surrey 1990).

[h. farmer]

About this article

Edward the Confessor, King of England, St.

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article