Englished by William Caxton, First Edition 1483
From the Temple Classics Edited by F.S. Ellis
113// HERE FOLLOWETH THE LIFE OF S. EDMUND, KING AND MARTYR
In the province of England of
old time were divers kings, for the land was departed; among
whom there was S. Edmund, king of Norfolk and Suffolk, which
took his birth of the noble and ancient lineage of the Saxons,
and was from the beginning of his first age a blessed man,
soft, virtuous, and full of meekness, and kept truly the very
religion of christian faith, and governed his kingdom full
well to the pleasure of Almighty God.
In his time it happed that two
wicked tyrants, that one named Hingvar, and that other Hubba,
came out of Denmark and arrived in the country of
Northumberland, and robbed and destroyed the country and slew
the people without mercy in every place where they came. Then
the one of them named Hingvar came into the country where this
most christian S. Edmund reigned, and understood that he was
in his flowering age, strong and mighty in battle, and
demanded of the people where their king was resident and
dwelled, which that was most abiding in a town named then
Eglesdon, and now is called Bury.
Now the Danes had always custom
that they would never fight battle set ne [nor] appointed, but
ever lie in wait how they might by sleight and deceit
prevented, fall on good christian men, and so slay and destroy
them, like as thieves lie in await to rob and slay good true
men. Wherefore, when he knew where this holy king was, he
addressed one of his knights to him for to espy what strength
he had, and what people about him. And Hingvar himself
followed with all his host to the end that suddenly he should
fall upon this king unadvised, and that he might subdue him
unto his laws and commandments. Then this said knight came to
this holy king S. Edmund, and made his legation and message in
Our most dread lord by land and by sea, Hingvar, which hath subdued divers countries and lands in this province unto his seigniory [rule] by strength of arms, and purposeth with all his ships and army to winter him in these marches, sendeth to thee his commandment that thou incontinent [immediately] come and make alliance and friendship with him. And that thou depart to him thy paternal treasures and riches in such wise that thou mayst reign under him, or certainly thou shalt die by cruel death.
And when the blessed king, S.
Edmund, had heard this message, anon he sighed and called to
him one of his bishops and demanded counsel of him, what and
how he should answer upon this demand that was asked of him.
Which bishop, sore dreading for the king's life, exhorted him
by many examples for to consent and agree to this tyrant
Hingvar, and the king a while said nothing but remembered him
well, and after many devout words at the last, he answered to
the messenger in this wise and said:
This shalt thou say
to thy lord: know thou for truth, that for the love of
temporal life, the christian king Edmund shall no subdue him
to a paynim [pagan] duke.
Then unnethe [hardly] was the
messenger gone out, but Hingvar met him and bade him use short
words and tell him his answer, which message told unto
Hingvar, anon the cruel tyrant commanded to slay all the
people that were with S. Edmund and destroy them, but they
should hold and keep only the king, whom he knew rebel unto
his wicked laws.
The Death of King Edmund
Then this holy king was taken
and bounden, his hands behind him, and is brought tofore the
duke, and after many opprobrious words, at the last they led
him forth unto a tree which was thereby. To which tree his
adversaries bound him, and then shot arrows at him, so thick
and many that he was through wounded, and that one arrow smote
out another, and always this blessed king ceased not, for all
his wounds, to give laud and praising unto Almighty God. Then
this wicked tyrant commanded that they should smite off his
head, which they so did, he always praying, and saying his
orisons to our Lord God. Then the Danes left the body there
Iying, and took the head and bare it into the thick of the
wood, and hid it in the thickest place among thorns and
briars, to the end that it should not be found of the
His Body is Restored
But by the purveyance of
Almighty God there came a wolf which diligently kept the holy
head from devouring of beasts and fowls. And after, when the
Danes were departed, the christian men found the body, but
they could not find the head, wherefore they sought it in the
wood. And as one of them spake to another: Where art thou?
Which were in the thick of the wood, and cried: Where art
thou? the head answered and said: Here! here! here ! and anon
then all they came thither and saw it and also a great wolf
sitting and embracing the head between his forelegs, keeping
it from all other beasts. And then anon they took the head and
brought it unto the body and set it to the place where it was
smitten off, and anon they joined together, and then they bare
this holy body unto the place where it is now buried. And the
wolf followed humbly the body till it was buried, and then he,
hurting no body, returned again to the wood.
And the blessed body and head be so joined together that there appeareth nothing that it had been smitten off, save as it were a red shining thread in the place of the departing where the head was smitten off. And in that place where he now lieth so buried is a noble monastery made, and therein monks of the order of S. Benet, which be richly endowed. In which place Almighty God hath showed many miracles for the holy king and martyr.
Saint Edmund, a King in England, never said no to anyone asking something in the name of St. John the Evangelist. So it happened that while the king’s chamberlain was absent a pilgrim asked the king for alms. The king gave him a costly ring, as he had nothing else to give. But after many days an English knight who had gone across the sea on the same pilgrimage brought the ring to him and said, “He who, and for whose love you gave this ring, returns it to you.” Thus it was clear that blessed John had appeared to the king in the form of a pilgrim.Caxton includes the story in his life of John but corrects "Saint Edmund" to "St. Edward." The episode does indeed belong to Edward, not Edmund.
For other saints, see the index to this Golden Legend website.
Scanned by Robert Blackmon, email@example.com.
This text was taken from the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.
Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.
E-text © Paul Halsall, September