Glastonbury Abbey, rebuilt by Dunstan in the 10th century and ruined in the 16th century. Dunstan established the constitutional covenant between leader and people that remains fundamental to
The Devil is in the Details
When he was a boy, Dunstan was educated by Irish monks, or, some say, by the books that Irish monks left behind at Glastonbury. The monastery was crumbling, and the boy dreamed of rebuilding Glastonbury Abbey. This was not his only dream. His most extraordinary vision would be the constitutional covenant between leader and people that remains crucial to democracies today.
Dunstan became a scholar, craftsman, monastic, and political reformer who played the harp. We imagine his harp, which he carried with him when he travelled, was a solace. Before he was thirty he had survived savage beatings and court intrigue, and he had his hands full trying to educate troublesome young kings.
The most interesting of these boys was a great-grandson of Alfred the Great by the name of Edgar. When his brother, the unfortunately named Eadwig, died, Edgar became King of Wessex. That is, Edgar was confirmed king by a conclave of nobles, but he was not crowned. In AD 973 Dunstan created a coronation ceremony for Edgar that is still used today. The people affirmed their willingness to acclaim him King; and he in turn swore an Oath to the people. The Coronation Oath that Edgar swore embodied the practical ideals of justice -
“First, that the church of God and the whole Christian people shall have true peace at all time by our judgment; second, that I will forbid extortion and all kinds of wrong-doing to all orders of men; third, that I will enjoin equity and mercy in all judgments.”
It's easy to overlook the Oath's radical importance - anyway, it was easy for us. This is the thousand-year-old foundation for holding leaders accountable to their people and to principle. It arose out of the Judaeo-Christian concept of the servant king.
Building other foundations in stone and art, community and purpose, Dunstan restored the ruined abbey of Glastonbury, and founded the abbey on Thorney Island that became Westminster Abbey. May 19th is his feast day. He is one of the faithful, brave and eccentric men and women in the Anglican Calendar of saints.
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THE STORY of
Freedom & justice walk hand in hand
Love of freedom inspires adventurous and happy Brits.
THE SERVANT KING
Dunstan's irrepressible spirit is remembered in British folklore -
St. Dunstan, as the story goes,
MARGARET THATCHER ON
CHRISTIANITY & DEMOCRACY
This wonderful book describes Britain's gifts to the world. Adults will refresh their understanding of profound events in British history, and young people will find inspiration. Warning: This book defies aggressive secularism and unthinking multiculturalism. Written by the co-editors of this website, Share the Inheritance is beautifully illustrated with 125 colour images and a timeline. Available at Amazon UK and at Amazon USA.