The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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October 5, 2001 Issue
Saint of the Day

Edward had a troubled marriage

Saintly king of England lived in treacherous times


By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

Most canonized saints were priests, bishops, monks, women religious or consecrated virgins. Few were married. So when we come across a married saint, it goes without saying that it must have been a model marriage that all couples need to emulate.

Not so fast. St. Edward the Confessor and his wife, Edith, didn't have a model marriage. Rather, he's one of several patron saints for troubled marriages.

Edward was born in 1003 in Islip, England, to King Ethelred III and Emma, the daughter of Duke Richard I of Normandy.

When Edward was 10, he and Emma were sent to Normandy to flee the Danish invasion led by Sweyn and his son, Canute. Ethelred died in 1016 and the next year, Canute became King of England by marrying Emma, who had returned to England.

Edward stayed in Normandy until 1042 when the powerful Earl Godwin helped engineer his return to England after the death of Hardicanute, the son of Canute and Emma. Upon his return, the tall, well-built, ruddy-faced Edward was named King.

In 1044, Edward married Godwin's daughter, Edith. Although Edward's reign was considered largely peaceful, there were tensions. These were caused mainly by Edward's tendency to favor the Norman barons over Godwin and his Saxon allies.

In 1051, Edward appointed a Norman, Robert of Jumièges, Archbishop of Canterbury and banished Godwin. He took refuge in Flanders and returned the next year with a rebel fleet. Fortunately, Edward and Godwin peacefully resolved their differences. The settlement included naming Stigand as Archbishop of Canterbury and sending Robert back to Normandy.

Meanwhile, the marriage of Edward and Edith seems not to have gone well. Some said the two never had physical contact and that he didn't love her. Others said he loved and respected her, but was honoring her request to dedicate her life to God and live in chastity. Whatever the case, they had no children and Edward even sent Edith to a convent for a time.

As a result, Godwin's sons, Harold and Tostig, had their eye on the throne. But in 1065, Tostig was banished to Europe after a revolt in Northumbria. Edward then named Harold as his successor.

Whatever the state of his marriage, Edward was generous to the poor and was known for his devoutness -- hence the name "the Confessor." He often would go hunting and hawking for several days, but still attended daily Mass.

He then turned his attention to building St. Peter's Abbey at Westminster, his burial site. He died on Jan. 5, 1066, and was canonized in 1161. We celebrate his feast on Oct. 13.

Having troubles with a marriage or know someone who is? Why not direct a prayer toward Edward the Confessor and hope for a solution better than the one he found.


(Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints and Patron Saints.)


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