Wednesday 2 September 2009

Edward the Confessor

English history can be confusing - especially when it comes to the names by which monarchs are known. Edward is a particular problem. Edward I (1239-1307) was not the first English King of that name. He was preceded by Edward the Elder (c870-924), son of Alfred the Great; Edward the martyr (c962-978) and Edward the Confessor (c1003-1066).

It is this last Edward who was to play a key role in the development of Westminster. While there had been temples, monasteries and churches on Thorney Island in the centuries before Edward - it was he who set about being the Abbey. In order to oversee the building he build an adjacent palace.

Simon Thurley says "It was Edward the Confessor who founded Westminster as the political and religious capital of England. He built a palace and a great church more or less where Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament stand today." He lived, and died, in the Palace of Westminster.

He is known for his holiness. He was canonised in 1161 - and was for almost 150 years regarded as the patron saint of England. [today he is regarded as patron saint of kings, difficult marriages, and separated spouses].

He had no son to succeed him (this may be related to the fact that he took a vow of celibacy) - and as has happened so often in history, this led to a fight for the succession. 1066, the year Edward died is the greatest "memorable date" in English history. Later that year William of Normandy launched his invasion; defeated and killed (or is it the other way round?) King Harold - and then, after the English finally surrended at Berkhamsted, was crowned in Edward's Abbey.