King Edward the Martyr, 2

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King Edgar’s first wife had died shortly after giving birth to Edgar’s first son, Edward. Later, Edgar married a widow named Aelfreda and by her had a second son, Ethelred. After Edward was crowned as King, Aelfreda, ambitious for her son, formed an alliance with noblemen who were antagonistic to St Dunstan’s religious reforms. During King Edward’s short reign, the opposition between the two political groups became more distinct. On one side were the former queen and her allies, who supported Prince Ethelred, and more or less overtly resisted the King and his policies. On the other side were King Edward and his advisors, who included St Dunstan, the Archbishop of Canterbury; Oswald, the well-respected Archbishop of York and fellow Benedictine reformer; and Bryhtnoth, alderman of Essex and hero of the great Old English poem The Battle of Maldon. On March 18, 979, the party supporting Prince Ethelred decided to act.

The King, still a teenager, was invited to the royal residence in Corfe, Dorset, where the young Prince and his mother were staying. As Edward approached, Aelfreda’s servants came out to greet him. Gathering around in apparent welcome, suddenly some of them seized his arms, and one of them plunged a dagger into his chest. Edward slumped from the saddle, and his horse bolted and raced into the woods near the castle. As Edward fell, his foot got caught in the stirrup, and the horrified onlookers saw the mortally wounded King dragged on the ground behind his horse. When the King’s men finally reached and stopped the horse, Edward was dead. On the insistence of Aelfreda, the body was buried without ceremony in the churchyard at Wareham, a few miles from the place it had fallen.

Everyone knew who had ordered the murder, and for whose sake it took place. No one was ever charged with the crime. No one stood trial or was brought to justice. The murder of the King, the murder of the new King’s brother, was hushed and covered up.

But things have a way of coming to the light. For at once, the miracles began.

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