|Edgar the Peaceful|
|King of England|
|Reign||October 1,959 – July 8,975|
|Successor||Edward the Martyr|
|Consort||Ethelflaed and Elfrida|
King Edgar or Eadgar I (c. 942 – July 8, 975) was the younger son of King Edmund I of England. He won the nickname, "the Peaceable", but in fact was a stronger king than his elder brother, Edwy, from whom he took the kingdoms of Northumbria and Mercia in 958. Edgar was acclaimed king north of the Thames by a conclave of Mercian nobles in 958, but officially succeeded when Edwy died in October 959. Immediately Edgar recalled Dunstan (eventually canonised as St. Dunstan) from exile and made him successively Bishop of Worcester, then of London and finally Archbishop of Canterbury, The allegation that Dunstan at first refused to crown Edgar because he disapproved of his way of life is a discreet reference in popular histories to Edgar's mistress Wulfthryth (later a nun at Wilton), who bore him a daughter Eadgyth in 961. Dunstan remained Edgar's advisor throughout his reign, nevertheless.
Edgar's reign was a peaceful one, and it is probably fair to say that it saw the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the English at its height. Although other previous kings have been recorded as the founders of 'England', it was Edgar who consolidated this. By the end of Edgar's reign there was little chance of it receding back into its constituent parts, as it had begun to do during the reign of Edwy.
The Monastic Reform Movement that restored the Benedictine Rule to England's undisciplined monastic communities saw its height during the time of Dunstan, Aethelwold and Oswald. However, the extent and importance of the movement is still debated amongst academics.
Edgar was crowned at Bath, but not until 973, in an imperial ceremony planned not as the initiation, but as the culmination of his reign (a move that must have taken a great deal of preliminary diplomacy). This service, devised by Dunstan himself and celebrated with a poem in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle forms the basis of the present-day British coronation ceremony. The symbolic coronation was an important step; other kings of Britain came and gave their allegiance to Edgar shortly afterwards at Chester. Six kings in Britain, including the kings of Scotland and of Strathclyde, pledged their faith that they would be the king's liege-men on sea and land. Later chroniclers made the kings into eight, all plying the oars of Edgar's state barge on the River Dee. Such embellishments may not be factual, but the main outlines of the "submission at Chester" appear true.
Edgar had several children. He died on July 8, 975 at Winchester, and was buried at Glastonbury Abbey. He left two sons, the eldest named Edward, the son of his first wife Ethelfleda (not to be confused with Ethelfleda, Lady of the Mercians), and Ethelred, the youngest, the child of his second wife Elfrida. He was succeeded by his oldest son, King Edward the Martyr.
From Edgar’s death to the Norman Conquest there was not a single succession to the throne that was not contested. Although perhaps a simplification, Edgar’s death did seem to be the beginning of the end for Anglo-Saxon England that resulted in three 11th century successful conquests, two Danish and one Norman.
- Medieval Sourcebook: Anglo-Saxon Dooms: laws of King Edgar, a fragment
- Edgar of England At Find A Grave
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry