mercredi 18 mars 2015

Saint ÉDOUARD le MARTYR, roi

Représentation de la préparation de l'assassinat d'Édouard :
 sa belle-mère Ælfthryth lui tend une coupe, 
tandis qu'un de ses serviteurs se prépare à le frapper 
(illustration de James William Edmund Doyle1864).

Saint Edouard le Martyr

Le prince Edouard est le fils d’Edgar, roi de Wessex et d’Engelflède, sa seconde épouse. Baptisé par saint Dunstan, archevêque de Cantorbéry, il est pressenti par son père pour lui succéder mais à sa mort, en 972, une querelle dynastique tente de lui barrer le trône. Les évêques, abbés, ducs et seigneurs du royaume délibèrent et l’ayant choisi, le font sacrer. Le nouveau roi qui n’a que treize ans s’attire le respect de tous grâce à sa bonté et à son habile gouvernement. Il meurt cependant poignardé dans un guet-apens tendu par la troisième femme d'Edgard, en 978. Mais sa mort n'éteignit pas dans le peuple la mémoire de ce jeune et éphémère roi, tant fut grande sa bonté et sa sagesse et qu’on continue d’appeler « le Martyr ».   

Miniature d'Édouard le Martyr dans une généalogie royale du XIVe siècle.

Saint Édouard le Martyr

Roi de Wessex ( 978)

Le prince Édouard se fit baptiser par saint Dunstan, archevêque de Cantorbery. Il était le fils du roi Edgard le Pacifique, qui, par la suite, se remaria trois fois. Succédant à son père à l'âge de treize ans, il fut l'objet de la haine de la troisième femme d'Edgard. Sa belle-mère, lors d'une fête où elle l'avait invité, lui fit donner un coup de poignard. Mais sa mort n'éteignit pas la mémoire d'Édouard II dans son peuple, tant fut grande sa bonté et sa sagesse.

Près de Wareham en Angleterre, l’an 978, la passion de saint Édouard, roi d’Angleterre. Encore adolescent il fut poignardé par un domestique de sa belle-mère, qui l’avait attiré dans un guet-apens.

Martyrologe romain


St. Edward the Martyr

Edward was the eldest son of King Edgar of England and his first wife, Ethelfleda who died shortly after her son's birth. He was baptized by St. Dunstan and became King in 975 on his father's death with the support of Dunstan but against the wishes of his stepmother, Queen Elfrida, who wished the throne for her son Ethelred. Edward ruled only three years when he was murdered on March 18 while hunting near Corfe Dastle, reportedly by adherents of Ethelred, though William of Malmesbury, the English historian of the twelfth century, said Elfrida was the actual murderer. In the end, Elfrida was seized with remorse for her crime and, retiring from the world, she built the monasteries of Amesbury and Wherwell, in the latter of which she died. Edward was a martyr only in the broad sense of one who suffers an unjust death, but his cultus was considerable, encouraged by the miracles reported from his tomb at Shaftesbury; His feast day is March 18 and still observed in the diocese of Plymouth.


Penny du règne d'Édouard frappé à Stamford.P

St. Edward the Martyr

King of England, son to Edgar the Peaceful, and uncle to St. Edward the Confessor; b. about 962; d. 18 March, 979. His accession to the throne on his father's death, in 975, was opposed by a party headed by his stepmother, Queen Elfrida, who was bent on securing the crown for her own son Ethelred, then aged seven, in which she eventually was successful. Edward's claim, however, was supported by St. Dunstan and the clergy and by most of the nobles; and having been acknowledged by the Witan, he was crowned by St. Dunstan. Though only thirteen, the young king had already given promise of high sanctity, and during his brief reign of three years and a half won the affection of his people by his many virtues. His stepmother, who still cherished her treacherous designs, contrived at the last to bring about his death. Whilst hunting in Dorsetshire he happened (18 March, 979) to call at Corfe Castle where she lived. There, whilst drinking on horseback a glass of mead offered him at the castle gate, he was stabbed by an assassin in the bowels. He rode away, but soon fell from his horse, and being dragged by the stirrup was flung into a deep morass, where his body was revealed by a pillar of light. He was buried first at Wareham, whence three years later, his body, having been found entire, was translated to Shaftesbury Abbey by St. Dunstan and Earl Alfere of Mercia, who in Edgar's lifetime had been one of his chief opponents. Many miracles are said to have been obtained through his intercession. Elfrida, struck with repentance for her crimes, built the two monasteries of Wherwell and Ambresbury, in the first of which she ended her days in penance. The violence of St. Edward's end, joined to the fact that the party opposed to him had been that of the irreligious, whilst he himself had ever acted as defender of the Church, obtained for him the title of Martyr, which is given to him in all the old English calendars on 18 March, also in the Roman Martyrology.


Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in R. S. (London, 1861); Malmesbury, Gesta Regum, ibid. (London, 1872); Tynemouth and Capgrave, Nova Legenda Angliae (Oxford, 1901); Challoner, Britannia Sancta (London, 1745); Lingard, History of England (London, 1883); Butler, Lives of the Saints (Dublin, 1872); Stanton, Menology of England and Wales (London, 1892).

Phillips, George. "St. Edward the Martyr." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 18 Mar. 2015 <>.

St. Edward the Martyr,

King of the English

(AD 962-978)

Edward was the eldest son of King Edgar the Peacemaker by his first wife, the beautiful Ethelflaeda Eneda (White-Duck). The lady died shortly after the birth of her son and, after her death, Edgar remarried Aelfthrith, daughter of Ealdorman Ordgar of Devonshire. She bore him two sons, Edmund, who died young, and Aethelred. Edward was thirteen years old when his father died in AD 975. An admirable youth, upright in all his dealings and fearing God, he was elected to the throne by the Witan, largely under the influence of St. Dunstan and Ealdorman Aethelwin of East Anglia.

On 18th March AD 978, when Edward was only sixteen, he was assassinated under controversial circumstances. In reality, this surrounded a magnetic power struggle, led by the Mercian anti-monastic party who favoured Edward’s half-brother. However, legend tells a very different story. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle does not record the King’s assassin, only that he was killed at eventide at Corfe Castle in Dorset. Henry of Huntingdon says that King Edward was killed by his own people. Florence of Worcester, that he was killed by his own people by order of his step-mother, Queen Aelfthrith. William of Malmesbury says he was killed by Ealdorman Aelfhere of Mercia; but in recording his death, Malmesbury also attributes the crime to Aelfthrith and tells the now traditionally accepted story:

Queen Aelfthrith hated Edward because he had been elected King when she had hoped her own son, Aethelred, would take the throne; and she plotted to have him murdered. One day, the young King was hunting near the Royal Palace of Corfe, in Dorset, where Queen Aelfthrith and Prince Aethelred were staying. Being weary and thirsty, King Edward turned away from his hunting party and rode off to drop in on them and take a rest. When he rode up to the palace gate, Aelfthrith herself came out to greet him with a kiss. The two were on friendly terms as far as the King knew and, without dismounting, he asked his step-mother for a drink. Queen Aelfthrith sent for a cup of wine and the exhausted Edward drank eagerly. But as he drank, Aelfthrith gave a sign to one of her servants, who stepped forward, drew his dagger and stabbed the King in the back! The King cried out in pain, but managed to set his spurs to his horse in an attempt to escape to the safety of his comrades. He slipped from his horse though and, with his leg caught in the stirrup, he was dragged along until the combination of the knife-wound and inflicted head injuries killed him.

Queen Aelfthrith sent out her men to follow the King’s bloody trail and retrieve the body. She ordered it buried in Wareham Priory, but not in holy ground or with any Royal pomp. A light from heaven is later said to have shone over King Edward’s humble grave and many miracles were reported there. As a good youth, unjustly and cruelly killed, people looked on him as a saint and called him Edward the Martyr. On 20th June AD 980, St. Dunstan translated the body to Shaftesbury Abbey. Relics excavated amongst the ruins, and believed to be his, were for many years the subject of a legal dispute. However, they now reside in the Eastern Orthodox Church in Brookwood (Surrey).
St. Edward is usually depicted with a youthful countenance, having the insignia of royalty, with a cup in one hand and a dagger in the other. Sometimes he has a sceptre instead of the cup; and at other times a falcon, in allusion to his last hunt.

Partly Edited from S. Baring-Gould's "The Lives of the Saints" (1877)..


Ælfthryth regardant l’assasinat d’Edouard. Illustration d’une édition victorienne du Foxe's Book of Martyrs

St Edward the Martyr (c959-978/9)
"Men murdered him but God has magnified him" 

(The Anglo Saxon Chronicle)

St Edward was the son of Edgar, by his first wife Ethelfleda (died c963/4). King Edgar (c944-975) reigned from 959 to 975 and on his death Edward became king. Edward was supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury, St Dunstan, as he was only in his mid-teens. The succession was disputed because King Edgar's second wife, Aelfthryth (c945-1000), wished her son Ethelred to be king. (Ethelred is known to history as Ethelred the Unready or "the Redeless".) Two or three years later, on 18 March 978 or 979, Edward was murdered near the site of Corfe Castle, Dorset, almost certainly the victim of his stepmother's intrigues.

Edward's initial burial was hurried. Soon miraculous cures were attributed to Edward by visitors to the site of his grave. In 980 his body was moved to Shaftesbury Abbey, the relics were enshrined in 1001, and he was officially canonised in 1008. St Edward's shrine survived until the Dissolution of the Monasteries, when it was stripped of its wealth. However, St Edward's remains had previously been removed and hidden in the Church.

In 1931 a crude casket was unearthed during an archaeological investigation of the site. The remains were studied and pronounced consistent with the injuries received by St Edward. The Director of the Excavations, John Wilson-Claridge (1905-1993), whose family then owned the site, began years of painstaking negotiations with all the major churches in order to fins a suitable resting place for the relics. He imposed three conditions: (1) that they were recognised as the relics of a saint, (2) that a shrine would be established for their reception, and (3) that his feast days would be observed. These conditions were met only by the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile, which entered into detailed negotiations with Mr Wilson-Claridge in the late 1970s.

At about the same time the Orthodox Church purchased the site now owned by the St Edward Brotherhood, with the intention of using the larger of the two mortuary chapels for the reception of St Edward's bones. The formal ceremony of enshrinement took place on 15/16 September 1984. Thus for the first time in nearly 450 years the remains of St Edward (arguably England's least important king) have a fitting resting place within a Church whose doctrine is closest to that which he knew in his lifetime.

2001 marked the one thousandth anniversary of the glorification of St Edward. In 1001, it was decided to enshrine his relics at Shaftesbury Abbey in a costly and elaborate shrine. This decision was based on the continued slight levitation of the cover of his grave in the Abbey, and from the dreams of a devout man to whom St Edward is said to have appeared and indicated that he no longer wished to lie in this grave. The man told the Abbess of his dreams, she referred the matter to King Ethelred (St Edward's step-brother), and the King ordered the relics to be enshrined in a suitable place in the Abbey Church. A Royal Charter dated 1001 states that "I, King Ethelred, King of the English, with humble prayer, offer the monastry ... my brother Edward, whom the Lord himself deigns to exault in our days by many signs of virtue, after his blood was shed."

A special service was held in the St Edward the Martyr Church on 31 March 2001 to celebrate this event. The Hierarchical Liturgy was led by Archbishop Mark who has pastoral oversight of the parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in the British Isles. 

An article by Father Alexis describing the life of St Edward the Martyr and the foundation of the St Edward Brotherhood appeared in the Society's bi-annual magazine Necropolis News vol 2 no 1 (1996).

An article on St Edward the Martyr appeared in the March 2003 issue of the BBC History Magazine.
For further information about St Edward and the St Edward Brotherhood contact the St Edward Brotherhood, St Cyprian's Avenue, Brookwood, Woking, Surrey  GU24 0BL. Tel or Fax (01483) 487763.

Edward the Martyr


At his death, King Edgar the Peaceful had left two sons, the elder of these, Edward, was the child of his first marriage to Elfleda, the daughter of Ealdorman Ordmaer.

Elfleda had been divorced in around 964 to enable Edgar to marry his second wife, Elfrida, a notorious character and widow of Ethelwald, Ealdorman of East Anglia, who was said to have had an adulterous affair with the King prior to her first husband's death. This second marriage produced two further sons, Edmund and Ethelred , but the elder of these had predeceased his father.

Elfrida was crowned Queen on 11th May, 973, at Bath Abbey, which was the first instance of a coronation of a Saxon Queen of England. She was the first consort to be termed Queen since the infamous Judith, daughter of Charles the Bald, in the previous century.

His father's will named his elder son, Edward, (or Eadweard in Old English) as his heir and he had the support of the influential but now aged St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury. Many of the nobility of the realm, including the powerful Alfere, Ealdorman of Mercia were in favour of the seven year old Ethelred succeeding, as they themselves had much to gain from the crown being subjected to a long minority government. The nation was divided over the issue of which of his sons should suceed King Edgar. A meeting of the witan was arranged at Calne, in Wiltshire were the matter was debated at length. Eventually, the influence of Dunstan prevailed and accordingly Edward was elected King

Edward was crowned by St. Dunstan at Kingston upon Thames in 975, at the age of thirteen. After recording Edward's succession, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports that a comet appeared, and that famine and "manifold disturbances" followed.
Despite what had passed, the two brothers, Ethelred and Edward themselves seem to have remained attached to each other. Queen Elfrida, however, thoroughly detested her step-son. At her instigation, plot was hatched to murder the young King.

Edward visit his half-brother Ethelred at Corfe, in the Purbeck Hills of Dorset, probably at or near the mound on which the ruins of Corfe Castle now stand, in the evening of 18 March 978, at the invitation of his step-mother. Elfrida met him at the door with a kiss of welcome. He was then offered the traditional drink to refresh him. As the young King heartily refreshed his thirst after the dusty journey, one of the Queen's attendants treacherously stabbed the sixteen year old in the back. Though severely wounded, he managed to spur his horse and escaped, making an attempt to re-join his companions, but died on the road. His bloody corpse, dragged in the stirrups by the terrified animal, revealed his fate to his attendants.

Edward was buried at Wareham and his murder went unpunished. Said to deeply repent this deed, Queen Elfrida became a nun at Wherwell Abbey in Hampshire. She died in 1002.

The Cult of Edward the Martyr

Edward's body lay at Wareham for a year before being disinterred. Ælfhere initiated the reinterment, perhaps as a gesture of reconciliation. According to the life of Oswald, Edward's body was found to be incorrupt when it was disinterred (which was taken as a miraculous sign). The body was taken to Shaftesbury Abbey in Dorset, a nunnery with royal connections which had been endowed by King Alfred the Great and where Edward and Æthelred's grandmother Ælfgifu had spent her latter years. A cult dedicated to the martyred King sprang up, bringing pilgrims flocking to Shaftesbury to seek miracles at his shrine. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Edward's relics were hidden by the monks to escape desecration.

During the course of an excavation of the Abbey in 1931, they were unearthed by a Mr. Wilson-Claridge. An examination of the relics took place in 1970, when Edward's skeletal remains, remarkably intact, were examined by the forensic pathologists of the British Home office. They concluded that the remains were those of a young man of about 20, (Edward was 17 when he died) and were able to detail with remarkable accuracy all of his injuries, from his broken ribs and ankle and fractured skull due to the dragging, to the nick from the assassins' blades on his spinal column, thus confirming the historical account of his death.

Wilson-Claridge wanted the relics to go to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. His brother, however, wanted them to be returned to Shaftesbury Abbey. For decades, the relics were kept in a bank vault in Woking, Surrey because of the unresolved dispute about which of two churches should have them They were later donated to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, which had Edward's remains reburied at Brookwood Cemetery, Woking, Surrey.