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A murdered English saint

Sunday was the feast day of Edward the Martyr, who on March 18, 979 was murdered. Hunting with dogs and horsemen, Edward decided to visit his young brother Ethelred at Corfe Castle, but he was separated from his retinue, and arrived alone at the castle. Still on his horse, he was offered a cup of mead, and while he was drinking it, he was stabbed with a dagger by one of the queen's party, or by his stepmother herself.

Edward is one of several English kings and queens who were regarded as saints because they died violently and were associated with miracles. He had been crowned by St Dunstan, who created the Coronation Oath so important to the British Constitution.

Dunstan depended on the king to help establish and defend monasteries. Monasteries were the charities of the time, educating children and providing for the poor and the sick. Nobles were also interested - either in expanding monasteries or taking their lands for themselves and this caused some of the animosity that led to Edward's death. His half-brother AEthelred succeeded him.

Edward's bones had quite a time of it after his death. They kept causing lights to spring up, and fountains, and were moved from place to place until, during Henry VIII's heavy-handed dissolution of the monasteries they were hidden, and lost. In 1931 they were recovered, and have finally found a resting place in St Edward the Martyr Orthodox Church in Woking, Surrey.

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