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Edward the Martyr
EDWARD, "The Martyr" (c. 926-978), king of the English, was the son of Edgar by his wife Æthelflaed. Edward's brief reign was marked by an anti-monastic reaction. Ælfhere, earl of Mercia, once more expelled many of the monks whom Bishop Æthelwold had installed. There seems also to have been some change in administrative policy, perhaps with regard to the Danes, for Earl Oslac, whom Edgar had appointed to Northumbria, was driven from his province. In ecclesiastical matters there were two parties in the kingdom, the monastic, which had its chief hold in Essex and East Anglia, and the anti-monastic, led by Ælfhere of Mercia. Conferences were held at Kirtlington in Oxfordshire and at Calne in Wiltshire in 977 and 978, but nothing definite seems to have been decided. On the 18th of March 978 Edward's reign was suddenly cut short by his assassination at Corfe Castle in Dorsetshire. The crime was probably inspired by his stepmother, Ælfthryth, who was anxious to secure the succession of her son Ælthelred. The body was hastily interred at Wareham and remained there till 980, when Archbishop Dunstan and Ælfhere of Mercia united in transferring it with great ceremony to Shaftesbury. Edward seems to have been personally popular, and the poem on his death in the chronicle calls his murder the worst deed in English history. Very shortly after his death he was popularly esteemed to be both saint and martyr.

See Saxon Chronicle; Vita S. Oswoldi (Hist, of Ch. of York, Rolls Series); Memorials of St Dunstan (ed. Stubbs, Rolls Series). (A. Mw.)

Contributed by Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911
8 April 2006

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