Eadwig

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Eadwig
Eadwig - MS Royal 14 B VI.jpg
Eadwig in the early fourteenth-century Genealogical Roll of the Kings of England in the British Library
King of the English
Tenure23 November 955 – 1 October 959
Predecessor Eadred
Successor Edgar
Bornc.940
Wessex, England
Died1 October 959 (aged around 19)
Gloucester, England
Burial
Spouse Ælfgifu (annulled)
House Wessex
Father Edmund, King of England
Mother Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury

Eadwig, also spelled Edwy (died 1 October 959), sometimes called the All-Fair, [1] was King of England from 955 until his premature death.

Contents

The elder son of Edmund I and Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury, Eadwig became king in 955 aged 15 following the death of his uncle Eadred. Eadwig's short reign was tarnished by disputes with nobles and men of the church, including Archbishops Dunstan and Oda. He died in 959, having ruled less than four years. He was buried in the capital Winchester. His brother Edgar the Peaceful succeeded him.

Edmund I Anglo Saxon monarch

Edmund I was King of the English from 939 until his death. His epithets include the Elder, the Deed-doer, the Just, and the Magnificent.

Saint Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury, also known as Saint Elgiva was the first wife of Edmund I, by whom she bore two future kings, Eadwig and Edgar. Like her mother Wynflaed, she had a close and special if unknown connection with the royal nunnery of Shaftesbury (Dorset), founded by King Alfred, where she was buried and soon revered as a saint. According to a pre-Conquest tradition from Winchester, her feast day is 18 May.

Eadred King of the English

Eadred was King of the English from 946 until his death. He was the son of Edward the Elder and his third wife Eadgifu of Kent, and a grandson of Alfred the Great. Eadred came to the throne following the assassination of his older brother, Edmund I. The chief achievement of his reign was to bring the Kingdom of Northumbria under total English control, which occurred with the defeat and expulsion of Eric Bloodaxe in 954. Eadred died at the age of 32 having never married, and was succeeded by his 15-year-old nephew, Eadwig.

King of England

Feud with Dunstan

According to the earliest life of St Dunstan, written around the year 1000, Eadwig left the banquet which followed his coronation in Kingston upon Thames, and was found cavorting with a noblewoman named Æthelgifu and her daughter. Dunstan dragged him back to the banquet, earning the enmity of Eadwig and the two women, and at Æthelgifu's instigation Dunstan was deprived of his abbacy of Glastonbury and forced into exile. [2]

Dunstan 10th-century Archbishop of Canterbury and saint

Dunstan was successively Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, Bishop of Worcester, Bishop of London, and Archbishop of Canterbury, later canonised as a saint. His work restored monastic life in England and reformed the English Church. His 11th-century biographer, Osbern, himself an artist and scribe, states that Dunstan was skilled in "making a picture and forming letters", as were other clergy of his age who reached senior rank.

Kingston upon Thames principal settlement of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames in southwest London

Kingston upon Thames, frequently known as Kingston, is an area of southwest London, England, 10 miles (16.1 km) southwest of Charing Cross. It is the administrative centre of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, and identified as a major metropolitan centre in the London Plan.

Glastonbury Abbey former Benedictine abbey at Glastonbury

Glastonbury Abbey was a monastery in Glastonbury, Somerset, England. Its ruins, a grade I listed building and scheduled ancient monument, are open as a visitor attraction.

The contemporary record of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports Eadwig's accession and Dunstan fleeing England, but does not explain why Dunstan fled. Thus this report of a feud between Eadwig and Dunstan could either have been based on a true incident of a political quarrel for power between a young king and powerful church officials who wished to control the king and who later spread this legend to blacken his reputation, or it could be mere folklore; the Chronicle also tells of Oda putting aside the King's marriage on the grounds Eadwig and his wife were "too related". [3]

<i>Anglo-Saxon Chronicle</i> Set of related medieval English chronicles

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collection of annals in Old English chronicling the history of the Anglo-Saxons. The original manuscript of the Chronicle was created late in the 9th century, probably in Wessex, during the reign of Alfred the Great. Multiple copies were made of that one original and then distributed to monasteries across England, where they were independently updated. In one case, the Chronicle was still being actively updated in 1154.

Folklore Legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales, etc.

Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture or group. These include oral traditions such as tales, proverbs and jokes. They include material culture, ranging from traditional building styles to handmade toys common to the group. Folklore also includes customary lore, the forms and rituals of celebrations such as Christmas and weddings, folk dances and initiation rites. Each one of these, either singly or in combination, is considered a folklore artifact. Just as essential as the form, folklore also encompasses the transmission of these artifacts from one region to another or from one generation to the next. Folklore is not something one can typically gain in a formal school curriculum or study in the fine arts. Instead, these traditions are passed along informally from one individual to another either through verbal instruction or demonstration. The academic study of folklore is called Folklore studies, and it can be explored at undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D. levels.

The account of the quarrel with Dunstan and Cynesige, bishop of Lichfield at the coronation feast is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and in the later chronicle of John of Worcester and was written by monks supportive of Dunstan's position. The "cavorting" in question consisted of Eadwig (then only 16) being away from the feast with Ælfgifu and her mother Æthelgifu. He later married Ælfgifu, who seems to have been the sister of Æthelweard the Chronicler. Æthelweard describes himself as the "grandson's grandson" of King Æthelred I. Eadwig was the son of King Edmund the Magnificent, grandson of King Edward the Elder, great-grandson of King Alfred the Great, and therefore great-great-nephew of King Æthelred I. Eadwig and Ælfgifu were therefore third cousins once removed.

John of Worcester English monk and chronicler

John of Worcester was an English monk and chronicler who worked at Worcester Priory. He is usually held to be the author of the Chronicon ex chronicis.

Ælfgifu was the consort of King Eadwig of England for a brief period of time until 957 or 958. What little is known of her comes primarily by way of Anglo-Saxon charters, possibly including a will, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and hostile anecdotes in works of hagiography. Her union with the king, annulled within a few years of Eadwig's reign, seems to have been a target for factional rivalries which surrounded the throne in the late 950s. By c. 1000, when the careers of the Benedictine reformers Dunstan and Oswald became the subject of hagiography, its memory had suffered heavy degradation. In the mid-960s, however, she appears to have become a well-to-do landowner on good terms with King Edgar and, through her will, a generous benefactress of ecclesiastical houses associated with the royal family, notably the Old Minster and New Minster at Winchester.

Edward the Elder English king, son of Alfred the Great

Edward the Elder was King of the Anglo-Saxons from 899 until his death. He was the elder son of Alfred the Great and his wife Ealhswith. When Edward succeeded to the throne, he had to defeat a challenge from his cousin Æthelwold, who had a strong claim to the throne as the son of Alfred's elder brother and predecessor, Æthelred.

Annulment of marriage

The annulment of the marriage of Eadwig and Ælfgifu is unusual in that it was against their will, clearly politically motivated by the supporters of Dunstan. The Church at the time regarded any union within seven degrees of consanguinity as incestuous. [4] At the time, "degree" was reached by counting up to the common ancestor: a second cousin would have been related within the third degree.

Annulment is a legal procedure within secular and religious legal systems for declaring a marriage null and void. Unlike divorce, it is usually retroactive, meaning that an annulled marriage is considered to be invalid from the beginning almost as if it had never taken place. In legal terminology, an annulment makes a void marriage or a voidable marriage null.

Consanguinity property of being from the same kinship as another person; quality of being descended from the same ancestor as another person

Consanguinity is the property of being from the same kinship as another person. In that aspect, consanguinity is the quality of being descended from the same ancestor as another person.

Division of the Kingdom

Dunstan, whilst in exile, became influenced by the Benedictines of Flanders. A pro-Dunstan, pro-Benedictine party began to form around Athelstan Half-King's domain of East Anglia and supporting Eadwig's younger brother Edgar.

Frustrated by the king's impositions and supported by Archbishop Oda of Canterbury, the Thanes of Mercia and Northumbria switched their allegiance to Eadwig's brother Edgar. [3] In 957, rather than see the country descend into civil war, the nobles agreed to divide the kingdom along the Thames, with Eadwig keeping Wessex and Kent in the south and Edgar ruling in the north.

Eadwig died at a young age in 959, in circumstances which remain unknown, and was buried in the New Minster in Winchester. He was succeeded by his brother Edgar, who reunited the kingdom.

Charter evidence

A charter created during the reign of Eadwig dated 956 S 594 Diploma of King Eadwig for AElfwine AD 956.tif
A charter created during the reign of Eadwig dated 956

Eadwig is known for his remarkable generosity in giving away land. In 956 alone, his sixty odd gifts of land make up around 5% of all genuine Anglo-Saxon charters. No known ruler in Europe matched that yearly total before the twelfth century, and his cessions are plausibly attributed to political insecurity. [5]

In art and literature

The history of Eadwig's reign caught the British imagination in the later 18th century, and was represented in paintings and drama, in particular, by numerous works to 1850. Artists who tackled the subjects it suggested included William Bromley, William Hamilton, William Dyce, Richard Dadd, and Thomas Roods. Literary works were written by Thomas Sedgwick Whalley, Thomas Warwick, and Frances Burney, who wrote a play entitled Edwy and Elgiva. [2]

See also

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References

  1. Britain Express - English Monarchs
  2. 1 2 Keynes, Simon. "Eadwig". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/8572.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. 1 2 Cavendish, Rishard. "Death of King Eadwig of the English", History Today, Vol. 59 Issue 10 October 2009
  4. Constance B. Bouchard, 'Consanguinity and Noble Marriages in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries', Speculum, Vol. 56, No. 2 (Apr., 1981), pp. 269-70
  5. Chris Wickham, 'Problems in Doing Comparative History', pp. 19-20, in Challenging the Boundaries of Medieval History: The Legacy of Timothy Reuter, Patricia Skinner, ed, Brepols 2009.
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Eadred
King of the English
955–959
Succeeded by
Edgar