King Edward the Martyr, 3

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The first miracle occurred the night Edward died, when the old blind woman, in whose hut the body was laid out suddenly was able to see. Then a spring bubbled up near Edward’s grave in Wareham, and it was reported that people were cured who prayed and bathed in the water. Due to the growing recognition of Edward’s sanctity, his body was translated with great ceremony in 981 to the convent in Shaftesbury founded by King Alfred the Great. The healings continued even during the procession, the largest ever seen in that part of England.

Over the next 20 years, Edward’s tomb was the widespread object of devotion and pilgrimage. On June 20, 1001, Edward’s stepbrother, King Ethelred, ordered the body to be moved into a shrine in Shaftesbury Abbey. In his proclamation, King Ethelred referred to Edward as a Saint “whom the Lord deigns to exalt in our days by many signs of virtue, after his blood was shed.” In 1008, Alphege, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was himself later martyred, officially canonized St Edward the Martyr on behalf of the Church in England.

From all over England, and even from the Continent, pilgrims came to St Edward’s shrine to venerate his relics. Many were healed of their infirmities. The convent became known as St Edward’s Abbey. The town of Shaftesbury itself was called “Edwardstowe” for many years. Until the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century, St Edward the Martyr was known throughout the country and prayed to by Christians everywhere.

King Ethelred ruled for 38 years, until he died in 1016. His second wife, Emma of Normandy, bore him a child whom they named Edward, and who became the last descendant of Alfred the Great to be crowned as King of England. St Dunstan played no part in Ethelred’s affairs, concentrating instead on his spiritual flock. He died in 988, the same year that Christianity was born on the other side of Europe, as Prince Vladimir of Kiev was baptized, along with, symbolically, the land of Rus. And the former queen Aelfreda, who was deeply implicated in the murder of her guest, stepson, and King on that spring day in 979? She did not enjoy the royal life as Queen Mother during her son Ethelred’s reign but instead, in apparently sincere repentance, founded two convents, one in Amesbury and another in Wherwell, where she died, a poor nun, in 999.

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