St Edward the Confessor

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King of England. Born in 1003, Edward was the son of Ethelred the Unready and his Norman wife Emma. He was educated at Ely and then in exile in Normandy, while two Scandinavian kings claimed the English throne in succession.

In 1042 he became king. In 1045 he married Edith, daughter of the powerful Earl Godwin. Some historians describe him as a weak ruler who paved the way for the Norman Conquest. Others praise his wisdom which kept the country at peace while Danish and Norman factions struggled for power.

He developed a reputation for holiness, familiarity with his subjects and generosity to the poor. He strengthened links between the English church and Rome.

On 28 December 1065, Edward's new abbey church was consecrated at Westminster. One week later he was dead. Nothing remains of the original building. In the 13th century it was demolished to make way for the present Gothic church. But Edward the Confessor's tomb remains well preserved - one of the few mediaeval shrines to survive the Reformation.

Many miracles were attributed to Edward the Confessor during his lifetime. In the centuries after his death a cult around him spread across the whole country. At least 17 churches are dedicated to him and he is depicted in numerous stained glass windows and church carvings - notably at Westminster Abbey, Trinity College Cambridge, York Minster and Faversham in Kent. He also features in many screen paintings in East Anglia and Devon.

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