Chapter 113 of the Golden Legend by Jacobus Voragine (1275), translated by William Caxton, 1483. This "reader's version" of the text provides section headings, paragraph breaks, and explanatory notes.

In the province of England of old time were divers kings, for the land was departed; divided up 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.

The Danish Kings Invade

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 asked 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, planned in advance 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 this wise:
Our most dread feared 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 spend the winter in these marches, sendeth to thee his commandment that thou incontinent immediately come and make alliance and friendship with him. And that thou depart cede, give 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 immediately he sighed and called to him one of his bishops and demanded asked 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 thought it over 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 praise 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 prayers 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 by the christian men.

His Body is Restored

But by the purveyance providence of Almighty God there came a wolf which diligently kept the holy head from devouring of by 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 immediately 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 not at all 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, Benedict which be richly endowed. In which place Almighty God hath showed many miracles for the holy king and martyr.

St. Edmund and St. John

The following story is told in the Latin text of the Golden Legend, in the section on St. John the Evangelist (IX ¶ 12, Graesse 62, Ryan I, 55):
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.

Golden Legend Table of Contents

Christian Iconography Home Page

Arrows shot into his body are St. Edmund's attribute. (See the description page for this image and the page explaining the iconography of images of this saint.)

This text was taken from the Internet Medieval Source Book. E-text © by Paul Halsall. Annotations, formatting, and added rubrics by Richard Stracke. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the sources. No permission is granted for commercial use.