Edmund, King of East Anglia, 870

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, and then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About the Commemoration

Edmund ascended the throne of East Anglia at the age of fifteen, one of several monarchs who ruled various parts of England at that period in her history. The principal source of information about the martyrdom of the young king is an account by Dunstan, who became Archbishop of Canterbury ninety years after Edmund’s death. Dunstan had heard the story many years before from a man who claimed to have been Edmund’s armor bearer.

Edmund had reigned as a Christian king for nearly fifteen years when Danish armies invaded England in 870. Led by two brothers, Hinguar and Hubba, the Danes moved south, burning monasteries and churches, plundering and destroying entire villages, and killing hundreds. Upon reaching East Anglia, the brothers confronted Edmund and offered to share their treasure with him if he would acknowledge their supremacy, forbid all practice of the Christian faith, and become a figurehead ruler. Edmund’s bishops advised him to accept the terms and avoid further bloodshed, but the king refused. He declared that he would not forsake Christ by surrendering to pagan rule, nor would he betray his people by consorting with the enemy.

Edmund’s small army fought bravely against the Danes, but the king was eventually captured. According to Dunstan’s account, Edmund was tortured, beaten, shot through with arrows, and finally beheaded. By tradition, the date of his death is November 20, 870.

The cult of the twenty-nine-year-old martyr grew very rapidly, and his remains were eventually enshrined in a Benedictine monastery in Bedericesworth—now called Bury St. Edmunds. Through the centuries Edmund’s shrine became a traditional place of pilgrimage for England’s kings, who came to pray at the grave of a man who remained steadfast in the Christian faith and loyal to the integrity of the English people.

Collects

I. O God of ineffable mercy, thou didst give grace and fortitude to blessed Edmund the king to triumph over the enemy of his people by nobly dying for thy Name: Bestow on us thy servants, we beseech thee, the shield of faith, wherewith we may withstand the assaults of our ancient enemy; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

II. O God of ineffable mercy, you gave grace and fortitude to blessed Edmund the king to triumph over the enemy of his people by nobly dying for your Name: Bestow on us your servants the shield of faith with which we can withstand the assaults of our ancient enemy; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Psalm  21:1–7 2

Lessons

 Samuel 1:17–27

1 Peter 3:14–18

Matthew 10:16–22

Preface of Baptism

12 Responses to Edmund, King of East Anglia, 870

  1. Philip Wainwright says:

    In the collect, it might be good to replace ‘the assaults of our ancient enemy’ with ‘the assaults of the devil’—someone might think it’s referring to the Danes.

  2. Michael Hartney says:

    Though it is correct in the HWHM print edition, the name of our commemorated Holy One today is Edmund, not Endmund.

    New Hebrew reading: This seems to fit the commemoration, ‘brave soldiers’ and all.

  3. John LaVoe says:

    Edmund, King of East Anglia, 870 — November 20
    .
    1st sentence: “who ruled various parts of England at that period in her history” – could be consolidated in various ways.
    .
    In the remainder of paragraph 1, both remaining sentences give the source of the martyrdom information before we are told he was martyred. That’s like putting the footnote in the text but omitting the sentence.
    .
    My main overriding concern — The whole write-up tells the story ONLY of the martyrdom, not the life. King at age 15, nothing about him prior, then 15 years as king with absolutely no comment. The martyrdom story then kicks in for the grand finale – but of what? I’d like to know there was a “person” who lived a Christian life, who goes with this almost formulaic “noble death” legend. I don’t think this commemoration fits with the genre HWHM follows. I wouldn’t include it this way. Theologically, this supports the spiritualized distortion that earthly life doesn’t matter except as a hazing test for entrance to heaven.
    .
    It’s nothing short of ironic that the Preface of Baptism is selected for someone about whom nothing illustrating the baptismal covenant is told – except an idealized version of a model martyr’s death.

  4. Celinda Scott says:

    James Kiefer, who does the bios on a Lectionary site I’ve accessed for a few years, includes two links to other sources of info about Edmund. This, from Abbo of Fleury, is about the man as king before the Danish invasion and the defense of the faith which led to his martyrdom:

    ” Edmund the Blessed, King of East Anglia, was wise and worthy, and exalted among the noble servants of the almighty God. He was humble and virtuous and remained so resolute that he would not turn to shameful vices, nor would he bend his morality in any way, but was ever-mindful of the true teaching: “If you are installed as a ruler, don’t puff yourself up, but be among men just like one of them.” He was charitable to poor folks and widows, just like a father, and with benevolence he guided his people always towards righteousness, and restrained the cruel, and lived happily in the true faith.”

    • John LaVoe says:

      I was hoping the lack of detail in our write-up would be supplemented from elsewhere, but as I read this (from Abbo of Fleury) I still don’t see anything specific. It reads like eulogy, i.e., generalizations — a litany of virtues — but nothing to call biographical data. Thank you for finding it and sharing what was available to find.

  5. Suzanne Sauter says:

    King Edmund of East Anglia seems to be know primarily for his martyrdom. His death at the hands of the Danes is his only mention in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. It is not clear why he is included in the calendar for the Episcopal Church of the United States.

  6. Cynthia Gilliatt says:

    “He was humble and virtuous and remained so resolute that he would not turn to shameful vices,” ….I’d not vote for this going in unless the shameful vices were specified. It sounds a little alarming. What counted as ‘shameful vices?’

    More seriously, “a man who remained steadfast in the Christian faith and loyal to the integrity of the English people” is a anachronistic. There were yet no “English people” during his time. Anglo-Saxons, yes. English? not so much.

  7. Celinda Scott says:

    Maybe “shameful vices” is simply an example of stylistic redundancy, like “lift up your hearts” (where can you lift other than up). Lots of redundancy in scripture, also.– I liked the part in Abbo’s paragraph about his being “not puffed up” although a ruler. And the fact that he “restrained the cruel” and didn’t “bend his morality” (plenty of rulers from many times and places who did not restrain the cruel, and did bend their morality–people tend to be grateful to rulers who didn’t). –I think Abbo lived not more than a century later. –Maybe that last line about “loyalty to the integrity of the English people” in the recent bio, however, should have the wording changed, as Cyntha suggests.

  8. Leonel L. Mitchell says:

    There is an obvious misprint in both the printed book and the on-line version.
    there is an extra 2 after the notice Psalm 21:1-7. I assume the “2” belongs with Samuel 1:17-27, which is Daid’s lament for Johothan, which seems a rather long reach for King Edmond the Martyr.

    • Michael Hartney says:

      Ah, the eagle eye of Dr. Mitchell … the one place it was correct was in the Blue Book for the General Convention 2009 (page 549) Yes, it is 2 Samuel 1: 17-27.

  9. Nigel Renton says:

    The sub-title would be improved if it read “Christian Monarch and Martyr”.

    Edmund was born in 841: this should be shown. I haven’t found his birthplace: it may be unknown.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: