Edwy of England

Edwy of England

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Eadwig, more rarely Edwy (941? – 1 October 959), sometimes nicknamed All-Fair or the Fair, was King of England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

 from 955 until his death four years later. The eldest son of King Edmund
Edmund I of England
Edmund I , called the Elder, the Deed-doer, the Just, or the Magnificent, was King of England from 939 until his death. He was a son of Edward the Elder and half-brother of Athelstan. Athelstan died on 27 October 939, and Edmund succeeded him as king.-Military threats:Shortly after his...

 and Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury, Eadwig was chosen by the nobility to succeed his uncle Eadred as King. His short reign was marked by ongoing conflicts with his family, thegn
Thegn
The term thegn , from OE þegn, ðegn "servant, attendant, retainer", is commonly used to describe either an aristocratic retainer of a king or nobleman in Anglo-Saxon England, or as a class term, the majority of the aristocracy below the ranks of ealdormen and high-reeves...

s, and especially the Church, under the leadership of Saint Dunstan
Dunstan
Dunstan was an Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, a Bishop of Worcester, a Bishop of London, and an Archbishop of Canterbury, later canonised as a saint. His work restored monastic life in England and reformed the English Church...

 and Archbishop
Archbishop
An archbishop is a bishop of higher rank, but not of higher sacramental order above that of the three orders of deacon, priest , and bishop...

 Odo
Oda the Severe
Oda , called the Good or the Severe, was a 10th-century Archbishop of Canterbury in England.-Early career:...

.

Feud with Dunstan


According to one legend, the feud with Dunstan began on the day of Eadwig's consecration, when he failed to attend a meeting of nobles. When Dunstan eventually found the young monarch, he was cavorting with a noblewoman named Æthelgifu and refused to return with the bishop. Infuriated by this, Dunstan dragged Eadwig back and forced him to renounce the girl as a "strumpet". Later realizing that he had provoked the king, Dunstan fled to the apparent sanctuary of his cloister, but Eadwig, incited by Æthelgifu, followed him and plundered the monastery. Though Dunstan managed to escape, he refused to return to England until after Eadwig's death. The contemporary record of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collection of annals in Old English chronicling the history of the Anglo-Saxons. The original manuscript of the Chronicle was created late in the 9th century, probably in Wessex, during the reign of Alfred the Great...

reports Eadwig's accession and Dunstan fleeing England - but does not explain why Dunstan fled. Thus this report of a feud between Eadwig and Dunstan could either have been based on a true incident of a political quarrel for power between a young king and powerful church officials who wished to control the king and who later spread this legend to blacken his reputation, or it could be an urban legend
Urban legend
An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true...

; the Chronicle also tells of Odo putting aside the King's marriage on the grounds Eadwig and his wife were "too related".

The account of the quarrel with Dunstan and Cynesige, bishop of Lichfield
Kynsy
Cynesige was a medieval Bishop of Lichfield.Cynesige was consecrated between 946 and 949 and died between 963 and 964. He was a relative of Dunstan and left the king's court soon after the coronation of King Eadwig of England in January 956, along with Dunstan who was Abbot of Glastonbury at the...

 at the coronation feast is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and in the later chronicle of John of Worcester
John of Worcester
John of Worcester was an English monk and chronicler. He is usually held to be the author of the Chronicon ex chronicis.-Chronicon ex chronicis:...

 and was written by monks supportive of Dunstan's position. The "cavorting" in question consisted of Eadwig (then only 16) being away from the feast with Ælfgifu and her mother Æthelgifu. He later married Ælfgifu, who seems to have been the sister of Æthelweard the Chronicler.

Æthelweard describes himself as the "grandson's grandson" of King Æthelred I. Eadwig was the son of King Edmund the Magnificent
Edmund I of England
Edmund I , called the Elder, the Deed-doer, the Just, or the Magnificent, was King of England from 939 until his death. He was a son of Edward the Elder and half-brother of Athelstan. Athelstan died on 27 October 939, and Edmund succeeded him as king.-Military threats:Shortly after his...

, grandson of King Edward the Elder
Edward the Elder
Edward the Elder was an English king. He became king in 899 upon the death of his father, Alfred the Great. His court was at Winchester, previously the capital of Wessex...

, great-grandson of King Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from 871 to 899.Alfred is noted for his defence of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of southern England against the Vikings, becoming the only English monarch still to be accorded the epithet "the Great". Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself...

, and therefore great-great-nephew of King Æthelred I. Eadwig and Ælfgifu were therefore third cousins once removed.

Annulment of marriage


The annulment
Annulment
Annulment is a legal procedure for declaring a marriage null and void. Unlike divorce, it is usually retroactive, meaning that an annulled marriage is considered to be invalid from the beginning almost as if it had never taken place...

 of the marriage of Eadwig and Ælfgifu is unusual in that it was against their will and clearly politically motivated by the supporters of Dunstan. The Church at the time held that any union within 9 degrees of consanguinity was incestuous. In a population of 1-1.5 million people most of the marriages within England at the time would have been void, but only amongst the aristocracy would such a full family tree be known. Edgar's relationship with his wife was precisely the same as Eadwig's and the consanguinity
Consanguinity
Consanguinity refers to the property of being from the same kinship as another person. In that respect, consanguinity is the quality of being descended from the same ancestor as another person...

 of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip is slightly closer.

Division of the Kingdom


Dunstan, whilst in exile became influenced by the Benedictine
Benedictine
Benedictine refers to the spirituality and consecrated life in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century for the cenobitic communities he founded in central Italy. The most notable of these is Monte Cassino, the first monastery founded by Benedict...

s of Flanders
County of Flanders
The County of Flanders was one of the territories constituting the Low Countries. The county existed from 862 to 1795. It was one of the original secular fiefs of France and for centuries was one of the most affluent regions in Europe....

 and a pro-Dunstan, pro-Benedictine party began to form around Athelstan Half-King's domain of East Anglia
East Anglia
East Anglia is a traditional name for a region of eastern England, named after an ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom, the Kingdom of the East Angles. The Angles took their name from their homeland Angeln, in northern Germany. East Anglia initially consisted of Norfolk and Suffolk, but upon the marriage of...

 supporting Eadwig's younger brother Edgar.
Frustrated by the king's impositions and supported by Archbishop Odo, the Thanes of Mercia
Mercia
Mercia was one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. It was centred on the valley of the River Trent and its tributaries in the region now known as the English Midlands...

 and Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

 switched their allegiance to Eadwig's brother Edgar
Edgar of England
Edgar the Peaceful, or Edgar I , also called the Peaceable, was a king of England . Edgar was the younger son of Edmund I of England.-Accession:...

. In 957 rather than see the country descend into civil war, an agreement was reached among the nobles by which the kingdom would be divided along the Thames, with Eadwig keeping Wessex
Wessex
The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty. It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest...

 and Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

 in the south and Edgar ruling in the north.

Gifts of Land


Eadwig is known for his remarkable generosity in giving away land. In 956 alone, his sixty odd gifts of land make up around 5% of all genuine Anglo-Saxon charters. No known ruler in Europe matched that yearly total before the twelfth century, and his cessions are plausibly attributed to political insecurity.

Eadwig died at a young age in 959, in circumstances which remain unknown. He was succeeded by his brother Edgar the Peaceful, who reunited the kingdom.