Edgar the Peaceful

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Edgar
New Minster Charter 966 detail Edgar.jpg
A contemporary portrayal of King Edgar in the New Minster Charter.
King of the English
Reign1 October 959 – 8 July 975
Predecessor Eadwig
Successor Edward the Martyr
Born943 or 944
Died8 July 975 (aged 31/32)
Winchester, Hampshire
Burial
SpouseÆthelflæd [1]
Wulfthryth [1]
Ælfthryth
Issue Edward, King of England
Eadgyth [1]
Edmund [2]
Æthelred, King of England
House Wessex
Father Edmund, King of England
Mother Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury

Edgar (Old English :Ēadgār, [æːɑdɣɑːr] ; c.9438 July 975), known as the Peaceful or the Peaceable, was King of England from 959 until his death. He was the younger son of Edmund I and Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury, and came to the throne as a teenager, following the death of his older brother Eadwig. As king, Edgar further consolidated the political unity achieved by his predecessors, with his reign being noted for its relative stability. His most trusted advisor was Dunstan, whom he recalled from exile and made Archbishop of Canterbury. The pinnacle of Edgar's reign was his coronation at Bath in 973, which was organised by Dunstan and forms the basis for the current coronation ceremony. After his death he was succeeded by his son Edward, although the succession was disputed.

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.

Eadwig King of the English

Eadwig, also spelled Edwy, sometimes called the All-Fair, was King of England from 955 until his premature death.

Contents

Early years and accession

Edgar was the son of Edmund I and Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury. Upon the death of King Edmund in 946, Edgar's uncle, Eadred, ruled until 955. Eadred was succeeded by his nephew, Eadwig, Edmund's eldest son.

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.

Eadwig was not a popular king, and his reign was marked by conflict with nobles and the Church, primarily St Dunstan and Archbishop Oda. In 957, the thanes of Mercia and Northumbria changed their allegiance to Edgar. [3] A conclave of nobles declared Edgar as king of the territory north of the Thames. [4] Edgar became King of England upon Eadwig's death in October 959, aged just 16.

Oda, called the Good or the Severe, was a 10th-century Archbishop of Canterbury in England. The son of a Danish invader, Oda became Bishop of Ramsbury before 928. A number of stories were told about his actions both prior to becoming and while a bishop, but few of these incidents are recorded in contemporary accounts. After being named to Canterbury in 941, Oda was instrumental in crafting royal legislation as well as involved in providing rules for his clergy. Oda was also involved in the efforts to reform religious life in England. He died in 958 and legendary tales afterwards were ascribed to him. Later he came to be regarded as a saint, and a hagiography was written in the late 11th or early 12th century.

Government

One of Edgar's first actions was to recall Dunstan from exile and have him made Bishop of Worcester (and subsequently Bishop of London and later, Archbishop of Canterbury). Dunstan remained Edgar's advisor throughout his reign. While Edgar may not have been a particularly peaceable man[ citation needed ], his reign was peaceful. The Kingdom of England was well established, and Edgar consolidated the political unity achieved by his predecessors. By the end of his reign, England was sufficiently unified in that it was unlikely to regress back to a state of division among rival kingships, as it had to an extent under the reign of Eadred. William Blackstone mentions that King Edgar standardised measure throughout the realm. [5] According to George Molyneaux, Edgar's reign, "far more than the reigns of either Alfred or Æthelstan, was probably the most pivotal phase in the development of the institutional structures that were fundamental to royal rule in the eleventh-century kingdom". [6] Indeed, an early eleventh century king Cnut the Great states in a letter to his subjects that ''it is my will that all the nation, ecclesiastical and lay, shall steadfastly observe Edgar's laws, which all men have chosen and sworn at Oxford''. [7]

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.

Bishop of Worcester Diocesan bishop in the Church of England

The Bishop of Worcester is the head of the Church of England Diocese of Worcester in the Province of Canterbury, England.

Bishop of London third most senior bishop of the Church of England

The Bishop of London is the ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of London in the Province of Canterbury.

Benedictine reform

A coin of Edgar, struck in Winchcombe in Gloucestershire (c. 973-75). Edgard king of England 959 975.jpg
A coin of Edgar, struck in Winchcombe in Gloucestershire (c. 973-75).

The Monastic Reform Movement that introduced the Benedictine Rule to England's monastic communities peaked during the era of Dunstan, Æthelwold, and Oswald (historians continue to debate the extent and significance of this movement). [8]

English Benedictine Reform Re-emphasis of monastic rule at the expense of secular clergy in English religious communities in the late 10th century

The English Benedictine Reform or Monastic Reform of the English church in the late tenth century was a religious and intellectual movement in the later Anglo-Saxon period. In the mid-tenth century almost all monasteries were staffed by secular clergy, who were often married. The reformers sought to replace them with celibate contemplative monks following the Rule of Saint Benedict. The movement was inspired by European monastic reforms, and the leading figures were Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, Æthelwold, Bishop of Winchester, and Oswald, Archbishop of York.

Æthelwold of Winchester was Bishop of Winchester from 963 to 984 and one of the leaders of the tenth-century monastic reform movement in Anglo-Saxon England.

Oswald of Worcester 10th-century Archbishop of York and saint

Oswald of Worcester was Archbishop of York from 972 to his death in 992. He was of Danish ancestry, but brought up by his uncle, Oda, who sent him to France to the abbey of Fleury to become a monk. After a number of years at Fleury, Oswald returned to England at the request of his uncle, who died before Oswald returned. With his uncle's death, Oswald needed a patron and turned to another kinsman, Oskytel, who had recently become Archbishop of York. His activity for Oskytel attracted the notice of Archbishop Dunstan who had Oswald consecrated as Bishop of Worcester in 961. In 972, Oswald was promoted to the see of York, although he continued to hold Worcester also.

Dead Man's Plack

In 963, Edgar allegedly killed Earl Æthelwald, his rival in love, near present-day Longparish, Hampshire. [9] The event was commemorated by the Dead Man's Plack, erected in 1825. [9] In 1875, Edward Augustus Freeman debunked the story as a "tissue of romance" in his book, Historic Essays; [10] however, his arguments were rebutted by naturalist William Henry Hudson in his 1920 book Dead Man's Plack and an Old Thorn. [4]

Æthelwald, Ealdorman of East Anglia Ealdorman of East Anglia

Æthelwald was ealdorman of East Anglia. He is mentioned in Byrhtferth's life of Oswald of Worcester along with other members of his family.

Longparish village in United Kingdom

Longparish is a village and civil parish in Hampshire, England. It is composed of the four hamlets of Middleton, East Aston, West Aston and Forton that over time have expanded and effectively joined up to become one village. Longparish is situated on the northwest bank of the River Test. In 2011 the population was 716.

Dead Mans Plack monument to Æthelwald, Ealdorman of East Anglia

Dead Man's Plack is a Grade-II listed 19th-century monument to Æthelwald, Ealdorman of East Anglia, who, according to legend, was killed in 963 near the site where it stands by his rival in love, King Edgar I. The name is more probably derived from a corruption of "Dudman's Platt", from Dudman — who is recorded as a resident in 1735 — and platt, meaning a plot of land. The monument was erected in 1825 at Harewood Forest, between the villages of Picket Twenty and Longparish, Hampshire, by Lt. Col. William Iremonger.

Coronation at Bath

Edgar was crowned at Bath and along with his wife Ælfthryth was anointed, setting a precedent for a coronation of a queen in England itself. [11] Edgar's coronation did not happen until 973, in an imperial ceremony planned not as the initiation, but as the culmination of his reign (a move that must have taken a great deal of preliminary diplomacy). This service, devised by Dunstan himself and celebrated with a poem in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle , forms the basis of the present-day British coronation ceremony.

The symbolic coronation was an important step; other kings of Britain came and gave their allegiance to Edgar shortly afterwards at Chester. Six kings in Britain, including the King of Scots and the King of Strathclyde, pledged their faith that they would be the king's liege-men on sea and land. Later chroniclers made the kings into eight, all plying the oars of Edgar's state barge on the River Dee. [12] Such embellishments may not be factual, and what actually happened is unclear. [13]

Death

Edgar died on 8 July 975 at Winchester, Hampshire. He was buried at Glastonbury Abbey. [14] He left behind Edward, who was probably his illegitimate son by Æthelflæd (not to be confused with the Lady of the Mercians), and Æthelred, the younger, the child of his wife Ælfthryth. He was succeeded by Edward. Edgar also had a possibly illegitimate daughter by Wulfthryth, who later became abbess of Wilton. She was joined there by her daughter, Edith of Wilton, who lived there as a nun until her death. Both women were later regarded as saints. [15] [16]

Appearance

"[H]e was extremely small both in stature and bulk..." [17]

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 Pauline Stafford, Queen Emma & Queen Edith, Blackwell 2001, pp. 324-325
  2. Stafford, op. cit., p. 91
  3. "Edgar the Peaceful (c943 - 975) - King of England", BBC, January 13, 2005
  4. 1 2 Hudson, William Henry (1920). Dead Man's Plack and an Old Thorn.
  5. Blackstone, "Of the King's Prerogative" Bk. 1, Ch. 7
  6. Molyneaux, George (2015). The Formation of the English Kingdom in the Tenth Century. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 193. ISBN   978-0-19-871791-1.
  7. Trow, Cnut, pp.168–69.
  8. Lehmberg, Stanford (2013). A History of the Peoples of the British Isles: From Prehistoric Times to 1688. Routledge. p. 29. ISBN   1134415281.
  9. 1 2 "Deadman's Plack Monument - Longparish - Hampshire - England". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  10. Freeman, Edward Augustus (1875). Historic Essays. MacMillan & Co. pp. 10–25.
  11. Honeycutt, Lois (2003). Matilda of Scotland: a Study in Medieval Queenship. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press. p. 35.
  12. Huscroft, R (2013). The Norman Conquest: A New Introduction. Routledge. p. 21. ISBN   1317866274.
  13. Scragg, D. G. (2008), Edgar, King of the English, 959-975: New Interpretations, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, p. 121, ISBN   1843833999, Precisely what happened at Chester has been irretrievably obscured by the embellishments of twelfth-century historians
  14. ODNB
  15. Yorke, Barbara (2004). "Wulfthryth (St Wulfthryth) (d. c.1000), abbess of Wilton". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/49423 . Retrieved 17 November 2012.(subscription or UK public library membership required)
  16. Williams, Ann (2004). "Edgar (called Edgar Pacificus) (943/4–975)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/8463 . Retrieved 16 May 2012.(subscription or UK public library membership required)
  17. From the Gesta Regum Anglorum of William of Malmesbury (c.1080–1143)

Further reading

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Eadwig
King of the English
959–975
Succeeded by
Edward the Martyr

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