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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Edgar the Peaceful
King of the English
Reign 1 October 959 – 8 July 975
Predecessor Eadwig
Successor Edward the Martyr
Spouse Ælfthryth
Edward the Martyr
Æthelred the Unready
Edith of Wilton
Father Edmund I
Mother Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury
Born 943/944
Wessex, England
Died July 8, 975
Winchester, Wessex, England
Burial Glastonbury Abbey

Edgar the Peaceful (Old English: Ēadgār; c. 7 August 943 – 8 July 975), also called the Peaceable, was a king of England (r. 959–75). Edgar was the younger son of Edmund I of England.



His cognomen, "The Peaceable", was not necessarily a comment on the deeds of his life, for he was a strong leader, shown by his seizure of the Northumbrian and Mercian kingdoms from his older brother, Eadwig, in 958.[citation needed] A conclave of nobles held Edgar to be king north of the Thames, and Edgar aspired to succeed to the English throne.[citation needed]


Though Edgar was not a particularly peaceable man, his reign was a peaceful one. The kingdom of England was at its height. Edgar consolidated the political unity achieved by his predecessors. By the end of Edgar's reign, England was sufficiently unified that it was unlikely to regress back to a state of division among rival kingships, like it had to an extent under Eadred's reign.

Edgar and Dunstan

Upon Eadwig's death in October 959, Edgar immediately recalled Dunstan (eventually canonised as St. Dunstan) from exile to have him made Bishop of Worcester (and subsequently Bishop of London and Archbishop of Canterbury). Dunstan remained Edgar's advisor throughout his reign.

Coins of Edgar I (959–975).

Benedictine Reform

The Monastic Reform Movement that restored the Benedictine Rule to England's undisciplined monastic communities peaked during the era of Dunstan, Æthelwold, and Oswald. (Historians continue to debate the extent and significance of this movement.)

Coronation at Bath (AD 973)

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. (See History of Chester.)

Death (AD 975)

Edgar died on 8 July 975 at Winchester, and was buried at Glastonbury Abbey. He left two sons, the elder named Edward, who was probably his illegitimate son by Æthelflæd (not to be confused with the Lady of the Mercians), and Æthelred, the younger, the child of his wife Ælfthryth. He was succeeded by Edward. Edgar also had a daughter, possibly illegitimate, by Wulfryth, who later became abbess of Wilton. She was joined there by her daughter, Edith of Wilton, who lived there as a nun until her death. Both women were later regarded as saints.[1]

From Edgar’s death to the Norman Conquest, there was not a single succession to the throne that was not contested. Some see Edgar’s death as the beginning of the end of Anglo-Saxon England, followed as it was by three successful 11th-century conquests — two Danish and one Norman.


For a more complete genealogy including ancestors and descendants, see House of Wessex family tree.

Diagram based on the information found on Wikipedia


Further reading

  • Scragg, Donald (ed.). Edgar, King of the English, 959–975: New Interpretations. Publications of the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies. Manchester: Boydell Press, 2008. ISBN 1843833999. Contents (external link).
  • Williams, Ann. "Edgar (943/4–975)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • Keynes, Simon. "England, c. 900–1016." In The New Cambridge Medieval History III. c.900–c.1024, ed. Timothy Reuter. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 456-84.

External links

Preceded by
King of the English
Succeeded by
Edward the Martyr


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