(ORDO NEWS) — Edmund ruled the kingdom of East Anglia in the second half of the ninth century. It is not known what family he comes from and how many years he spent on the throne. But we know that he was nicknamed Edmund the Martyr , which was a reminder of the terrible ending of his life.
In 869, East Anglia was overwhelmed by the powerful forces of Scandinavian warriors. The so-called “great army of the infidels”, consisting mainly of Danes, as well as Vikings from Sweden and Norway, won an undeniable victory over the defenders.
The Danes won by killing the king
An Anglo-Saxon chronicle written shortly after the events read:
“The Viking army reached East Anglia via Mercia and wintered in Thetford. And this winter King Edmund fought her. And the Danes won by killing the king and taking his lands.”
As Dorothy Whitelock, professor of history at the University of Cambridge, who has carefully researched the traditions associated with King Edmund, explained, the superficiality of the stories should come as no surprise. The work cited was written in Wessex and the author knew little of East Anglia.
Late but reliable score?
An accurate account of the death of Edmund Martyr was written almost 120 years later. The monk Abbon, from a monastery in Fleury, France, wrote it.
Despite such a long delay, Whitelock found the story highly credible. Abbon could color or make mistakes in some details. However, he himself claimed that he was repeating a story known to the hierarchs of the English Church, and that he heard it personally in his youth from a man who was Edmund’s squire and was with him at the time of his death.
The story was detailed and extremely dramatic. Abbon knew nothing about the battle involving Edmund. However, it seems that the king first lost the armed conflict mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon chronicles, and only then did he receive an ultimatum from the Vikings.
Chieftain Ivar the Boneless , demanded that Edmund acknowledge his sovereignty and “share his treasury with him”. The king presented the proposal to the court of his advisers. One of the bishops advised him to accept the terms and either surrender or go into exile. Edmund chose the third option. He simply refused.
The narrative claimed that the monarch did so because he had no intention of living longer than his slain aides-de-camp. And because he did not want to obey a pagan. Religious issues could really matter. It seems highly likely that the Vikings expected Edmund to renounce the Christian faith and accept the primacy of the Norse gods. However, the monarch said no.
The king was captured in his own place, in a town called Hellesdon , in present-day Norfolk. This happened on November 20, 869. Edmund was tied up and dragged in front of Ivar the Boneless. In the presence of the Viking leader, the king was mercilessly beaten. The half-dead, bleeding body was then tied to a tree. Invar’s warriors took turns shooting arrows at him for fun, as if he were a shield and not a man.
So many arrows were fired at him that, according to Abbon, he resembled “a hedgehog or a thistle.” After Edmund’s death, Ivar the Boneless cut off his head and took it with him. However, he left the body at the place of execution. To make it clear to everyone what happens to people who dare to oppose the invaders
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