Edgar (Old English: Ēadgār [ˈæːɑdɡɑːr]; c. 943 – 8 July 975), known as Edgar the Peaceful or Edgar the Peaceable, was King of the English from 959 until his death. He was the younger son of Edmund I and Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury, and came to the throne as a teenager, following the death of his older brother Eadwig. As king, Edgar further consolidated the political unity achieved by his predecessors, with his reign being noted for its relative stability. His most trusted advisor was Dunstan, whom he recalled from exile and made Archbishop of Canterbury. The pinnacle of Edgar's reign was his coronation at Bath in 973, which was organised by Dunstan and forms the basis for the current coronation ceremony. After his death he was succeeded by his son Edward, although the succession was disputed.
One of Edgar's first actions as king was to recall Dunstan from exile and have him made Bishop of Worcester and Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, subsequently Bishop of London and later, Archbishop of Canterbury. Dunstan remained Edgar's advisor throughout his reign. While Edgar may not have been a particularly peaceable man, his reign was peaceful. The Kingdom of England was well established, and Edgar consolidated the political unity achieved by his predecessors. By the end of his reign, England was sufficiently unified that it was unlikely to regress back to a state of division among rival kingships, as it had to an extent under the reign of Eadred.
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Edgar was crowned at Bath and along with his wife Ælfthryth was anointed, setting a precedent for a coronation of a queen in England itself. Edgar's coronation did not happen 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 King of Scots and the King 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, and what actually happened is unclear.
Edgar is known to have had 3 relationships that produced children. His first wife (or consort) was Æthelflæd Eneda (the 'white duck'), daughter of Ealdorman Ordmaer, who acquired land in Devon. They married sometime before he became king, about 957. Together they had one son:
Edward the Martyr (born c. 962 - died 978)
Wulfthryth of Wilton, who was educated at Wilton Abbey became his second consort. It is disputed whether they married, but Barbara Yorke argues that they did. Edgar removed Wulfthryth from Wilton Abbey, some sources say abducted, in 962 and returned her to Wilton Abbey by 964, she then took vows and became Abbess. Edgar and Wulfthryth had one daughter, who is said to have returned with her mother to the abbey:
Edith of Wilton also known as Saint Edith.
About 964/965 Edgar married again, his third relationship, to Ælfthryth, widow of Æthelwald, Ealdorman of East Anglia, Edgar's adopted brother. Ælfthryth was the daughter of Ealdorman Ordgar and his wife, a member of the royal family of Wessex. Legend has it that Edgar heard of Ælfthryth's great beauty and sent Æthelwald to arrange marriage for him (Edgar) but Æthelwald instead married her himself. In retaliation Æthelwald was killed 'in a hunting accident' and Edgar married her as he had wanted. It is not known if this is true or simply romantic fiction. Edgar and Ælfthryth had two sons:
Edmund Atheling (born c. 966 - died c.970)
Æthelred the Unready (born c. 968 - d. 23 April 1016)
After the death of Edward the Martyr in 978, Æthelred was not yet old enough to rule on his own and Ælfthryth acted as regent.
Edgar died on 8 July 975 at Winchester, Hampshire. He was buried at Glastonbury Abbey.
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