Five hundred years before Henry VIII, there was a king of England who strove to follow the laws of the Catholic Church and pledged to remain chaste for the rest of his life. This king, known as Edward the Confessor (because he publicly professed his faith), was lauded by his subjects for his gentleness, humility, and piety. They called him “good King Edward,” and his ascension to the throne was largely supported by the people.
According to BBC History, “Much of his reign was peaceful and prosperous. Skirmishes with the Scots and Welsh were only occasional and internal administration was maintained. The financial and judicial systems were efficient and trade was good.” King Edward was devoid of personal ambition, and his one aim was the welfare of his people. During his reign he abolished unjust taxes, was generous in alms to the poor and spent much money for religious purposes. It is said that Edward would spend much time with his people, standing at the palace gates, conversing with the poor and beggars. Some even said he cured their maladies by his holy touch.
One of Edward’s best known achievements during his reign was the rebuilding of Saint Peter’s Abbey, a church that would serve as his burial place and location of future coronations. The site would later on be selected by Henry III to become Westminster Abbey.
Edward eventually married Edith, the daughter of Godwine, the Earl of Essex and the most powerful of the English earls at the time. His marriage was designed to placate the people as well as win the affection of Godwine. However, before Edward married Edith he asked her to agree to live with him as “brother and sister,” respecting his desire to remain celibate. It is believed that Edith assented to this request freely and did so out of her own piety. However, historians also believe Edith was a tough woman and at times bad-tempered. Edith died nine years after Edward passed away and was buried next to him.
It is likely because of this separation within the union of marriage and Edith’s temperament that Edward is now invoked by those who have difficult marriages or are separated.
Most glorious St. Edward,
you showed your devotion to God
with patience, gentleness and generosity.
Like you, may I serve to strengthen the Kingdom of God
through patient prayer and charity. Amen.