Saint Edward the Confessor
Jul 16, 2015 / Written by: America Needs Fatima
Feast October 13
Edward the Confessor was the second son of King Ethelred II and his Norman wife, Emma. After King Ethelred's death, Emma married Canute, the son of the Danish king who had overthrown her husband in 1017.
Hardly ten years old, Edward and his elder brother, Alfred, were sent to Normandy. The Danes having gained the complete mastery of England, the succession, with Emma’s consent, was settled upon Hardicanute, her son by Canute. Upon Canute’s death in 1035, however, his illegitimate son, Harold, taking advantage of Hardicanute’s absence in Denmark, seized the throne for himself.
Edward and Alfred were persuaded to make an attempt to regain the English crown, but this resulted in the cruel death of Alfred who had fallen into Harold's hands, while Edward was obliged to return to Normandy. Edward was only able to reclaim the throne after Canute’s son and heir’s death in 1042. The people were eager for their legitimate ruler to return to the throne, and Edward's accession was received with wide acclaim.
Brought up in the ducal court of his Norman uncle, Edward’s sympathies and loyalties always rested strongly with the Norman people – a trait which would cause him considerable trouble later.
Yielding to the entreaty of his nobles, he took the powerful Earl Godwin’s daughter, Edith, for his wife in 1044. Out of love for God and a desire for greater perfection, Edward had taken a vow of chastity in his youth. With Edith's consent prior to their marriage, he continued to live a life of absolute continence with her.
Edward’s reign was a peaceful one. He was a wise and just ruler, well respected and favored for his revocation of many exorbitant taxes. However, conflict arose between Edward and his father-in-law, Godwin, when the latter accused Edward of bias in his ecclesiastical nominations, appearing to show favoritism to candidates of Norman origin and in rejecting the election of a relative of Godwin’s to the archbishopric of Canterbury.
As tension rose to crisis level and violent friction became imminent, Godwin and his sons’ position disintegrated due to the unwillingness of their men to fight the King. Consequently, Edward seized the opportunity to bring the over-mighty Earl to heel and he and his family were banished. Within a year though, Godwin returned, and he and the King were able to reconcile.
During his early exile in Normandy, Edward had bound himself by vow to make a pilgrimage to St. Peter’s tomb in Rome. However, as he could not leave his kingdom without doing injury to his people, Pope St. Leo IX commuted its fulfillment into the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Abbey at Westminster. The King endowed it in a superb manner out of his own patrimony and it is to him that we owe the magnificence of Westminster Abbey.
Edward was the first King of England to use the “royal touch,” a form of laying on of hands by which many suffering from diseases were cured by him.
The saintly King was taken ill while attending the dedication of Westminster Abbey on December 28, 1065. He died the following week on January 5, 1066 and was buried within its walls the next day.
Numerous miracles took place at his tomb, wherein his incorrupt body was enshrined, and he was canonized by Pope Alexander III in 1161.
He is the only saint buried in Westminster Abbey and one of the few whose relics were not destroyed by Henry VIII.