(c.962-978), King of England (975-978)
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Born c.962, the young Edward succeeded his father Edgar (959-975) as king of England on July 8th, 975.

He was murdered after less than three years on the throne at Corfe Castle on Dorset's Isle of Purbeck at the instigation of his step-mother Queen Elfrida. A good Christian, killed by "irreligious" opponents, Edward was canonised as Saint Edward the Martyr in 1001.

On the death of his father Edgar July 8th, 975, Edward's accession to the throne was contested by a party led by Queen Elfrida his stepmother who sought the throne for her son Ethelred. It was Edward however who had the greater support, including that of St Dunstan (arhcbishop of Canterbury), and was confirmed as king by the witan.

On march 18th, 978. the young king was hunting on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset whilst staying at Corfe castle, the home of his stepmother Elfrida and Ethelred. At Corfe, he was offered a cup of mead by Elfrida and, whilst drinking it, he was stabbed in the back by one of her servants. The young Ethelred, a child only tens years of age at the time, could not have been directly implicated in the murder of the king.

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Edward's Murder

According to legend, it was at her home at Corfe Castle on Dorset's Isle of Purbeck that the young King Edward, only sixteen years of age, was murdered by his step-mother Elfrida on March 18th, 978 so that her own son, Ethelred, might take the crown of England as his own.

The legend tells us that the young king stopped at Corfe while hunting on the Isle of Purbeck and was shown great hospitality by Elfrida during his stay who offered him a farewell cup of wine as he was departing having pre-arranged that one of her retainers would stab him in the back while he drank.

The young Ethelred, a child only tens years of age at the time, could not have been directly implicated in the murder of the king.

There is little to support this legend but much to discredit it; the hill on which the castle now stands was then in the possession of Shaftesbury Abbey; the Domesday Book of 1087 makes no mention of a castle on the site; and, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, in dealing with Edward's murder, records its site as 'domus Elfridae' at 'Corfes Geat';-

A.D. 979. This year was King Edward slain at even-tide, at Corfe-gate, on the fifteenth before the kalends of April, and then was he buried at Wareham, without any kind of kingly honours. There has not been 'mid Angles a worse deed done than this was, since they first Britain-land sought. Men him murdered, but God him glorified. He was in life an earthly king; he is now after death a heavenly saint. Him would not his earthly kinsmen avenge, but him hath his heavenly Father greatly avenged. The earthly murderers would his memory on earth blot out, but the lofty Avenger hath his memory in the heavens and on earth wide-spread. They who would not erewhile to his living body bow down, they now humbly on knees bend to his dead bones. Now we may understand that men's wisdom and their devices, and their councils, are like nought 'gainst God's resolves. This year Ethelred succeeded to the kingdom; and he was very quickly after that, with much joy of the English witan, consecrated king at Kingston.

To continue with the tradition; fataly wounded, the young king spurred his steed to gallop away towards Wareham but soon fainted and fell from his mount to be trapped in the stirrup. His body is said to have been found along the Wareham road where there is now a cottage called 'St Edward's Cottage', hidden for a time before being buried in the town.

On his canonisation in 1001 as Saint Edward the Martyr, his remains were removed amidst much ceremony to Shaftesbury Abbey where they remained, hidden throught the dissolution of the monasteries, until discovered in 1931.

The wicked step-mother? Well, some accounts say that she retired to a nunnery at Bere Regis to atone for her sins and ended her days there as abbess.

Her son did succeed the murdered Edward as Ethelred II (the Unready) but his was not a happy lot as his reign became a period of fierce conflict with the Danes who over-ran the country many times. His sons, Edmund Ironside and Edward the Confessor both became kings of England.

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Edward's Relics

Edward was canonised as Saint Edward the Martyr in 1001 and his remains were removed from his grave and intered in an elaborate shrine at Shaftesbury Abbey.

At Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, although Shaftesbury Abbey was dissolved, the remains of the saint king were so well hidden that they were preserved from desecration.

The king's remains were recovered during an archaeological excavation in 1931 by Mr Wilson-Claridge. They were donated to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia about 1982 and buried in the church now known as St Edward the Martyr Orthodox Church at Brookwood Cemetery, Woking, Surrey.

The St Edward Brotherhood of monks was also organised at Woking in Surrey.

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circa 962Birth of prince Edward (-978), later king Edward the Martyr (975-978) to King Edgar
975.Jul.08Death of Edgar, King of England at Winchester.
Edward the Martyr becomes King of England supported by St Dunstan and confirmed by the Witan but opposed by his step-mother, Queen Elfrida
976Establishment of a mint at Lydford, Devon
978Disaterous meeting of the Witan at Calne in Wiltshire as floor collapses leaving Archbishop Dunstan standing on a beam while many are motally injured
978.Mar.18Murder of King Edward the Martyr at Corfe Castle (village) on the Isle of Purbeck by his step-mother, Queen Elfrida to make way for her own son Ethelred
980Alderman Alfere carried the body of King Edward from Wareham to Shaftsbury (ASC)
1001Canonisation of the murdered king of England Edward the Martyr (975-978)
1931Remains of St Edward the Martyr, the murdered Saxon king of England (975-978) recovered during archaeological excavations by Mr Wilson-Claridge
The identity of the remains was confirmed by the osteologist Dr TEA Stowell

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ETHELRED II (the Unready, 978-1016)


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  Edward the Martyr

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Isle of Purbeck
The young king was hunting on the Isle of Purbeck in March 978 when he was murdered.
Corfe Castle
Traditionally the site of the seat of the king's step-mother, Queen Elfrida, by whose retainer he was murdered.

The parish church is dedicated to Edward the Martyr.

Shown on the right is the plaque commemorating the murder of the king in the market square.
The town where the king's horse came to rest dragging the body of his dead master, caught in his stirrup. Edward was buried here until his canonisation in 1001 when his remains were removed to Shaftesbury Abbey.
Shaftesbury Abbey
On Edward's canonisation in 1001, his body was moved from Wareham to the Abbey amidst great ceremony. Protected in hiding through the dissolution of 1539, it was discovered in 1931.

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