Sunday, 20 September 2009

Character in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Series: Eadgyth

Saint Edith of Wilton (also known as Eadgyth or Ediva) was born at Kemsing, Kent in 961.
She was the illegitimate daughter of King Edgar the Peaceful. Her mother was Wulfthryth, a nun of noble birth, whom Edgar forcibly carried off from her monastery at Wilton. Under St. Dunstan's direction, he did penance for this crime by not wearing his crown for seven years.
As soon as Wulfthrith could escape from him, she returned to her cell and, there, Edith was born. Edith took the veil very early, with her father's consent. He made her abbess of three different communities, but she chose to remain under her mother at the convent at Wilton.
In AD 979. Edith dreamt that she lost her right eye and knew the dream was sent to warn her of the death of her brother King Edward the Martyr , who, in fact, was murdered at that very time, while visiting his stepmother, Queen Ælfthryth, at Corfe Castle, Dorset.
She was allegedly offered the crown of England by nobles who had supported her murdered brother Edward against her young half-brother, Ethelred, but refused it. Notwithstanding her refusal of all Royal honours and worldly power, she always dressed magnificently and, as Bishop Æthelwold of Winchester remonstrated, she answered that purity and humility could exist as well under Royal robes as under rags.
She built a church at Wilton, and dedicated it in the name of Saint Denis. Saint Dunstan was invited to the dedication and wept much during mass. Being asked the reason, he said it was because Edith would die in three weeks, which actually happened, on 15 September AD 984.

Edith of Wessex, (c. 1029 – 19 December 1075), married King Edward the Confessor of England in 1045. The marriage produced no children. Later ecclesiastical writers claimed that this was either because Edward took a vow of celibacy, or because he refused to consummate the marriage because of his antipathy to Edith's family, the Godwins. However, in the view of Edward's biographer, Frank Barlow, "The theory that Edward's childlessness was due to deliberate abstention from sexual relations lacks authority, plausibility and diagnostic value."
Edith was the daughter of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, one of the most powerful men in England at the time of King Edward's rule. Her mother Gytha Thorkelsdóttir was sister of Ulf Jarl, and by tradition descended from saga hero Styrbjörn Starke and king Harold I of Denmark.
When Godwin and his family were expelled from the country in 1051, Edith was put aside by Edward and sent to a nunnery. When the Godwins effected their return through force in 1052, Edith was reinstated. In later years, she became one of Edward's inner group of advisers. In the contemporary Life of King Edward who rests at Westminster, according to Barlow, "although she is always placed modestly behind the throne, the author does not minimize her power or completely conceal her will. Whenever we catch sight of her elsewhere, we see a determined woman, interfering, hard, probably bad-tempered".
Upon Edward's death, on 4 January 1066, he was succeeded by Edith's brother, Harold Godwinson. At the Battle of Stamford Bridge (25 September, 1066) and the Battle of Hastings (14 October, 1066), Edith lost four of her remaining brothers (Tostig, Harold, Gyrth and Leofwine). Her brother Wulfnoth, who had been given to Edward the Confessor as a hostage in 1051 and soon afterwards became a prisoner of William the Conqueror, remained in captivity in Normandy. Edith was therefore the only senior member of the Godwin family to survive the Norman conquest on English soil, the sons of Harold having fled to Ireland.
Carola Hicks, an art historian, has recently put her forward as a candidate for the author of the Bayeux Tapestry.
In 2002, she was portrayed by Sue Wallace in the Doctor Who audio adventure Seasons of Fear.

Further reading
Stafford, Pauline (1997). Queen Emma and Queen Edith: Queenship and Women's Power in Eleventh-Century England, Blackwell ISBN 0-631-16679-3

Saint Editha was an early English abbess, who lived in the 10th Century. She is often said to have been the daughter of the Anglo-Saxon king Egbert of Wessex, and although scholars seem to agree that she was of Royal lineage, there are differing opinions as regards her actual ancestry. Her feast day is July 15.
She was the first abbess of the Benedictine settlement founded at Polesworth Abbey by St. Modwena and King Egbert. The abbey exists to the present day and is still used for regular services.
The saint is commemorated in a number of churches around the Midlands, the most notable of these being Polesworth Abbey Church and the Collegiate Church of Tamworth, which bears her name. Other churches dedicated to St. Editha include Church Eaton in Staffordshire, Amington Parish Church (in Tamworth), as well as a number of churches in Louth, Lincolnshire.

A statue in the Cathedral of Magdeburg that is often assumed to represent Otto and Edith

Edith of England (Old English: Ēadgȳð; 910 - 26 January 946), also spelt Eadgyth or Ædgyth, was the daughter of Edward the Elder, King of England and Ælfflæd, and the wife of Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor.
Her paternal grandparents were Alfred the Great, King of Wessex and his wife Ealhswith.
King Athelstan of England sent two of his sisters to Germany, instructing Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor to choose whichever one pleased him best.

Otto 1 Manuscript

Otto chose Edith and married her in 929. The remaining sister Algiva or Adiva was married to a "king near the Jupiter mountains" (the Alps). The precise identity of this sister is debated. She may have been Eadgifu of England who married King Charles III of France, or another sister otherwise unknown to history. (According to the entry for Boleslaus II of Bohemia, Adiva was his wife.)

Cathedral of Magdeburg

Like her brother, Athelstan, Edith was devoted to the cult of Saint Oswald, and was instrumental in introducing this cult into Germany after her marriage to the emperor.
Edith and Otto's children were:
Liutgarde, married Conrad the Red Liudolf, Duke of Swabia (930-September 6, 957) Her tomb is located in the Cathedral of Magdeburg; a lead sarcophagus with her name on it was found and opened in 2008 and is currently (as of 2009) being examined.

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