Life of St.Edward the Confessor
King of England (1003-1066 AD)
Feast Day of October 13th
Edward the Confessor was King of England from 1042 – 1066 AD – the last king of the Anglo-Saxon line – founder of Westminster Abbey. The son of King Ethelred II, known as the “Unready,” and his second Norman wife, Emma, Edward was educated at Ely and then in Normandy, during the time when two Scandinavians, Sweyn and Cnut, ruled in succession as kings of England. Edward was proclaimed king in 1042. His political record is a matter of some debate within the historical community, but he was accessible to his subjects, generous to the poor, and had a reputation for visions and healings. He also had a close working relationship with the papacy. He appointed diocesan priests, sometimes from abroad, to bishoprics, thereby diminishing the near monopoly of monastic bishops. Nevertheless, he was the virtual founder of Westminster Abbey, which he richly endowed. His decision to do so was the result of a vow he had once made to visit Rome as a pilgrim, if his family fortunes were restored. Later the pope released him from the vow when he could not fulfill it, but on condition that he would endow a monastery dedicated to St.Peter. Edward chose an existing monastic house at Thorney, to the west of London, and that became Westminster Abbey. He also built a huge Romanesque church alongside it, 300 feet long, with a nave of twelve bays. It was completed and consecrated just before Edward’s death on January 5, 1066, and it has since been used for the coronations and burials of English kings and queens. Edward himself is buried there and his relics remain undisturbed to this day. His body was found to be incorrupt in 1102.
Edward was canonized a saint at the request of King Henry II in 1161, but only after Henry gave his support to Alexander III against an antipope. Edward’s relices were solemnly transferred to a new shrine in the abbey on October 13, 1163, which became his principal feast (replacing January 5th, his day of death). In the Middle Ages Edward was widely regarded as the patron saint of England, but by about 1450 St.George was accorded that distinction. Edward’s depiction in art is consistent with the details of his biography, namely, that he was a tall man with a long face, blond hair and beard, ruddy complexion, and long, thin fingers. His feast is celebrated on this day by the Church of England, but it is not in the General Roman calendar. It was on the universal Roman calendar from 1689 until its revision in 1969.