Story time! As son of a pagan Dane, from Bury St Edmunds, you can see my interest!
I wrote this years ago – in places I use Suffolk dialect, and it’s written from the perspective of someone in 1220 Bury St Edmunds….
‘This is the tale of Saint Edmund, long regarded as the Patron Saint of England, though I understand some Crusaders pay reverence to St. George who slayed the dragon’ he announces… ‘though I have heard that owd George was foreigner!’
‘Some say four hundred years ago King Alcmund was King of Saxony, across the North Sea from here. He had no heir on account of the fact he kicked his missus when she was pregnant, and needing a son decided to go on pilgrimage to Rome and make amends. While there he was a staying in the house of a widow of noble estate, and she did see a brilliant burst of light like the sun burst from his chest and prophesied that he would give birth to a child whose fame should like the sun reach all four corners of the Earth. When he got back his missus Siawara got with sprog roight quick and gave birth to young Edmund.
Over ‘ere King Offa of East Anglia, for we was a nation in our own right then, had no son because his heir Fremund had got it into his head to become an hermit! Thus Offa had to go a looking for an heir, and went off on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. On the way he stopped at Alcmund’s, and thought Edmund a fine fellow, so when he died on his way back he left word and his ring that Edmund was to be the new King.
Young Edmund took leave of his father who was right sad to see the young bor go, and sailed to England landing at Hunstanton in Norfolk. Where he
landed he gave praise to God for his safe journey and twelve sweet crystal springs sprung up out of the ground; to this very day they cure the sick
and folks take the water away in skins for those who be a needing it.
He was a good and wise King – by the time he was thirteen he knew his Latin Psalter off by heart, and at fourteen he came to be crowned King of East Anglia. During the year he prepared for his crowning he lived at Attleborough, and his crowning was carried out by Bishop Humbert who anointed him on Christmas Day with the Holy Oil, he having scarce a month turned fifteen.
The coronation was held at Bures near Sudbury, where a royal palace stood in those days… The site where he was crowned is now the Church of St.Stephen on the hill overlooking the River Stour.
For ten whole years he ruled justly and well, as it is said –
‘Against poor folk shut not was his gate,
His wardrobe open all needs to relieve,
Such royal mercy did his heart move
To clothe the naked and the hungry feed,
And sent he alms to folk that lay bed ridden.’
Then two Danish brothers, evildoers and Pagans, named Hubba and Inguar invaded and landed at King’s Lynn with a huge army. This is how that came to be –
Some years before King Lothparck., the father of the Danish brothers was blown in a gale to the coast of East Anglia. He was received at Edmund’s
court and treated royally as his status deserved, and taken hunting by Edmund and his huntsman Beorn. Lothparck was a brilliant huntsmen and
every one admired him; this fair put Edmund’s hunter Beorn’s nose out of joint! When Lothparck went off to take a ship home Beorn waylaid him in
the woods and murdered him.
Lothparck’s faithful greyhound uncovered his master’s body, and Edmund was furious. He sentenced Beorn to be set adrift in a boat, and this was done
Fate however blew the exiled Beorn straight across the North Sea to Denmark. There he laid the blame for Lothparck’s death not on himself but
on Good King Edmund! The Brothers swore to avenge their father and set off for England.
The Danes rampaged up to Scotland, burning York and sacking Ely. Then
they made their way down to Thetford, where they made a great camp, and prepared to finish the business that had brought them here in the first
place. The King’s army fought well, but they were few, and the Danish
army thousands strong. Finally there was a great battle and to avert
further killing Edmund was forced to flee. He hid under Hoxne bridge, but a bride and groom crossing to their wedding saw him and betrayed him to the Danes, and as a result the bridge is cursed so no newlyweds will cross it to this day. Edmund was surrounded and meekly surrendered himself to their mercy, but they had none.
They demanded he should surrender his treasure, and reign as a subordinate King. Bishop Humbert tried to persuade him to give up, but he refused, unless Inguar accepted Christ as his Saviour and became a Christian. Edmund was tied to a tree and shot full of arrows, and then “haggled all over by the sharp points of their darts, and scarce able to draw breath, he actually bristled with them like a hedgehog.” He continued to call upon Christ, so they struck off his head and carried it into Haeglisdun Wood where they threw it in a thicket.
The following Spring the Danes had left and the East Anglians went looking for the head. They found it miraculously preserved, with a wolf guarding it
who led them the head by it’s howls. The wolf gave up the head, and it was carried off to join the body – when the two were put together they
miraculously reunited with only a thin thread like red seam showing where he had been martyred. The saint’s body was brought to Bury, and the
pilgrims visit the Shrine to this day.
Many kings have paid tribute to Edmund – Edward the Confessor took him as his personal saint, and too many miracles have happened to tell ye all now. Canute was a great follower of the Saint; his own father was struck dead by the wrath of the Saint when he threatened to lay hands on the shrine, and that is how it came to be that Canute gave the Liberty of Saint Edmund to the Abbey at Bury and that the Abbot rules us as the rest of the land is ruled by the King, on behalf of the King.
I think I have shown that Saint Edmund was a Glorious Saint and Martyr andmuch better than anything London town can provide talk of!’