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Saint Edward the Confessor

st edward the confessorFeast Day:  October 13
Patron Saint of:  difficult marriages, kings, separated spouses
Major Shrine:  Westminster Abbey

St. Edward the Confessor, King of England was born in 1003, son of Ethelred II and Emma, daughter of Duke Richard of Normandy, being thus half-brother to King Edmund Ironside, Ethelred’s son by his first wife, and to King Hardicanute, Emma’s son by her second marriage with Canute. When he was just ten years old, he was sent with his brother Alfred to Normandy to be raised at a court of the duke, his uncle, the Danes having gained control in England. He spent nearly 30 years here in exile, the crown having been settled with Canute, with Emma’s consent, upon his own offspring by her. Early misfortune taught Edward the folly of ambition and he grew up in innocence, delighting chiefly in assisting at Mass and the church offices, and in association with religious, while not disdaining the pleasures or recreations suited to his station. Upon Canute’s death, in 1035 his illegitimate son, Harold, seized the throne. Edward and Alfred were persuaded to make an attempt to gain the crown, which resulted in the cruel death of Alfred who had fallen into Harold’s hands, while Edward returned to Normandy. On Hardicanute’s sudden death in 1042, Edward was called by acclamation to the throne at the age of about forty.  He was welcomed by even the Danish settlers due to his gently saintly character. His reign was one of almost unbroken peace. He undertook no wars except to repel an inroad of the Welsh and to assist Malcolm III of Scotland against Macbeth. Being devoid of personal ambition, Edward’s one aim was the welfare of his people. He remitted the odious “Danegelt”, which had needlessly continued to be levied; and though profuse in alms to the poor and for religious purposes, he made his own royal patrimony suffice without imposing taxes. Such was the contentment caused by “the good St. Edward’s laws” that their enactment was repeatedly demanded by later generations.

Yielding to the entreaty of his nobles, he accepted as his wife the virtuous Editha, Earl Godwin’s daughter. However, having made a vow of chastity, he first required her agreement to live with him only as a sister. As he could not leave his kingdom without injury to his people, a pilgrimage to St. Peter’s tomb was commuted by the pope into the rebuilding at Westminster of St. Peter’s abbey, the dedication of which took place just a week before his death in January 1066, and in which he was buried.

St. Edward was the first King of England to touch for the “king’s evil”; many sufferers from the disease were cured by him. He was canonized by Alexander III in 1161. His feast day is the 13th of October, his incorrupt body having been solemnly translated on that day in 1163 by St. Thomas of Canterbury in the presence of King Henry II.

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ST. EDWARD