Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Edward, King and Martyr

[Saint Edward the Martyr]Article

He was monarch of England, and succeeded his father, the glorious King Edgar, in 975, being thirteen years old. He followed in all things the counsels of Saint Dunstan; and his ardour in the pursuit of all virtues is not to be expressed. His great love of purity of mind and body, and his fervent devotion, rendered him the miracle of princes, whilst by his modesty, clemency, prudence, charity, and compassion to the poor, he was the blessing and the delight of his subjects. His stepmother, Elfrida, had attempted to set him aside that the crown might fall on her own son, Ethelred, then seven years old. Notwithstanding her treasonable practices, and the frequent proofs of her envy and jealousy, Edward always paid her the most dutiful respect and deference, and treated his brother with the most tender affection. But the fury of her ambition made her insensible to all motives of religion, nature, and gratitude. The young king had reigned three years and a half, when being one day weary with hunting in a forest near Wareham, in Dorsetshire, he paid a visit to his step-mother at Corfesgeate, now Corfe-castle, in the isle of Purbeck, and desired to see his young brother, at the door. The treacherous queen caused a servant to stab him in the belly whilst he was stooping out of courtesy, after drinking. The king set spurs to his horse, but fell off dead, on the 18th of March, 979, his bowels being ripped open so as to fall out. His body was plunged deep into a marsh, but discovered by a pillar of light, and honoured by many miraculous cures of sick persons. It was taken up and buried in the church of our Lady, at Wareham; but found entire in three years after, and translated to the monastery at Shaftesbury. His lungs were kept at the village called Edwardstow, in 1001: but the chief part of his remains were deposited at Wareham, as the Saxon Chronicle and Florence of Worcester say: but part was afterwards removed to Shaftesbury, not Glastenbury, as Caxton mistakes. The long thin knife with which he was stabbed, was kept in the church of Faversham, before the suppression of the monasteries, as Hearne mentions. His name is placed in the Roman Martyrology. The impious Elfrida, being awaked by the stings of conscience, and by the voice of miracles, retired from the world, and built the monasteries of Wherwell and Ambresbury, in the first of which she lived and died in the practice of penance. The reign of her son Ethelred was weak and unfortunate, and the source of the greatest miseries to the kingdom, especially from the Danes.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Edward, King and Martyr”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. Saints.SQPN.com. 17 March 2013. Web. 21 September 2014. <>