The Ghost of St. Edmund Kills a King: The 1000th Anniversary!

St. Edmund kills Sweyn Forkbeard

Edmund, King and Saint, was killed in a conflict with the Danes in 869, and afterward his cult grew, perhaps helped along by a legend (or was it!?) found in Archdeacon Hermann’s Miracles of St. Edmund (1096), and repeated and embellished thereafter.

After the death of Edmund, the Danes continued to harass England, with Sweyn Forkbeard eventually becoming king by driving Æthelred the Unready and his sons into exile. Sweyn seized the crown on Christmas Day, 1013, but would enjoy it only for five weeks.

On this day February 3, 1014 (1000 years ago today), after attempting to extract a tribute from St. Edmund’s Abbey,

All at once there stepped into his room an unknown knight of wondrous comeliness, clad in shining armour. And he addressed the king by name, saying, “You want to get your tribute, O King, from the lands of St. Edmund? Get up, then, and come get it!” The king rose, but at once fell back on catching sight of the arms, and started howling in the most terrible way. Immediately, the knight lunged forward, and pierced him with his lance; he then departed, leaving the king behind. Roused by his cries, we flocked together and went to find him sullied with his own blood, just as he gave up the ghost.

Other records say Sweyn died of “apoplexy.” Yeah, right.

Sweyn’s son had better luck on the throne.

Anyway, it all happened on this day, 1000 years ago.

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