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On this day in history in 1066, died Edward The Confessor.
Edward was the penultimate Anglo-Saxon king of England. He was famous for his religious fervour and benign administration but regrettably, he allowed the kingdom to decline into a state where foreign takeover was inevitable.
Edward was brought up at the Norman court for safety reasons, as England was undergoing turbulent fighting between Saxon and Danish lords. It was in Normandy that Edward was to develop the intense piety, which became his trademark. When the Dane, Harold Harefoot, seized the English throne in 1037, Edward’s bother, Albert, made an abortive attempt to displace him. Harold was deeply unpopular with the English nobility and in 1041 they invited Edward to rule jointly with Harold. In 1042, Harold died and Edward was crowned at Winchester amid great rejoicing.
Edward’s administration was reasonably efficient. The mints produced the requisite coinage, Courts of Justice operated well and trade prospered. However, Edward’s court resembled a religious house. Services and prayers were held at court and visitors remarked that the smell of incense was in the air. Edward was married twice but had taken a vow of celibacy, so his relationship with the queen was as brother and sister. And Edward did nothing to intervene when the rival earls fought amongst themselves. The kingdom degenerated into petty infighting.
When Edward died in 1066, he left England in a state of chaos. He had no heir and many of the contesting nobles claimed that Edward had promised the kingdom to them. Inevitably, the rival claimants to the throne fought out a series of battles, which eventually resulted in William the Conqueror snatching the throne.
Edward was canonised in 1161. He was the patron saint of England until replaced by St George. Edward is the patron saint of kings and of the Royal Family and also the patron saint of bad marriages!
Aelred of Rievaulx. Life of St. Edward the Confessor. translated by Rev. Fr. Jerome Bertram. St. Austin Press ISBN 1-901157-75-X
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