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The Cult of St Edmund, King and Martyr, and the Medieval Kings of England

Webster, Paul ORCID: 2020. The Cult of St Edmund, King and Martyr, and the Medieval Kings of England. History 106 (367) , pp. 636-651. 10.1111/1468-229X.13029

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Two notable late‐medieval images depicting St Edmund King and Martyr, or his shrine, associate his cult with prayers and intercession for the king. In Lydgate's illustrated verse life of the saint, Henry VI is shown kneeling before the shrine, while on the Wilton Diptych, Edmund is one of three saints presenting Richard II to the Virgin Mary. This article explores royal devotion to Edmund, examining efforts of kings to sustain a religious aura linked to saintly predecessors. The article considers evidence for royal visits to Bury St Edmunds abbey and gift‐giving in honour of the saint. Rulers from the eleventh century onwards venerated Edmund, including Edward the Confessor (himself later canonised). Twelfth‐ and thirteenth‐century royal pilgrimages combined visits to shrines at Westminster, Canterbury, Bury and East Anglian holy sites. Henry III named his second son in honour of the saint. Meanwhile, Edmund's banner was carried, and gifts made in intercession or thanks, for success in battle. Despite emerging interest in the martial cult of St George, kingly giving in honour of Edmund continued in the fourteenth century, with the saint honoured alongside others, notably the Confessor and Becket. This combined devotion, it is argued, was the predominant way in which kings of England invoked the saints. St Edmund's importance in kingly religious activity linked sanctified kingship with appeals to the attributes of a range of saints.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0018-2648
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 August 2020
Date of Acceptance: 20 August 2020
Last Modified: 04 May 2023 21:32

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