Buku The King’s Body: Burial and Succession in Late Anglo-Saxon England (Toronto Anglo-Saxon Series) by Marafioti Nicole

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The King’s Body: Burial and Succession in Late Anglo-Saxon England (Toronto Anglo-Saxon Series) by Marafioti Nicole

Author:Marafioti, Nicole [Marafioti, Nicole]

Language: eng

Format: azw3

ISBN: 9781442668706

Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division

Published: 2014-04-03T16:00:00+00:00

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The King’s Body: Burial and Succession in Late Anglo-Saxon England (Toronto Anglo-Saxon Series) by Marafioti Nicole

Cnut and the West Saxon Royal Past

Edmund was not the only royal saint with whom Cnut was concerned. The generation before the Danish conquest saw two English saints rise to prominence: Edward the Martyr and Edith of Wilton, Æthelred’s saintly half-siblings. As individuals who had died in the recent past, their histories had not been lost to legend, as St Edmund’s had, and as members of the West Saxon dynasty, their memories were inherently political. To date, Æthelred himself had been the most prominent patron of both cults, evoking his kinship ties to win support – earthly and divine – for his increasingly harried regime.74 Once Cnut became king, however, the saints’ relics would have become reminders of the legitimate spiritual authority of their deposed dynasty and, like the bodies of other English saints, had the potential to become rallying points for resistance.75 In a post-conquest environment, it would have been risky for Cnut to ignore the political potential of Edward and Edith’s cults or to leave their monastic custodians to their own devices. At the same time, any perceived offence against these West Saxon saints on Cnut’s part would have recalled his family’s tumultuous relations with the displaced native dynasty. Accordingly, rather than trying to extinguish their cults or disenfranchise their communities, the king harnessed the saints’ political and spiritual potential. Cnut claimed to be the rightful heir to the West Saxon dynasty by virtue of his treaty with Edmund Ironside, and by identifying himself as Edmund’s adoptive brother, he also became the honorary kinsmen of these royal saints.76

The challenge Cnut faced was to exploit the saints’ authority without diluting his own claim to royal legitimacy. In Edward’s case, this may have been accomplished in part by recalling his martyrdom as part of a broader narrative of conquest.77 In 1018, Cnut’s laws decreed that by the agreement of the witan, “St Edward’s mass-day must be celebrated throughout England on 18 March,” the anniversary of his death.78 While it is debated whether this mandate originated during Cnut’s reign, it is significant that the king included Edward in an early law code which mentioned no other English saint by name.79 Celebration of this particular martyrdom drew attention to the succession dispute of the 970s and Æthelred’s role in his brother’s death: he may have been remembered as complicit, if not for the regicide itself then for his inaction after the fact.80 If Æthelred could be construed in Cnut’s reign as an enemy of the saint and the beneficiary of his martyrdom, then his eventual deposition by Danish kings could be portrayed as just. By this logic, Cnut’s accession restored royal dignity to a kingdom whose previous ruler was contemptuous of human and divine law.

 

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The King’s Body: Burial and Succession in Late Anglo-Saxon England (Toronto Anglo-Saxon Series) by Marafioti Nicole

Author:Marafioti, Nicole [Marafioti, Nicole] , Date: June 6, 2019

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Author:Marafioti, Nicole [Marafioti, Nicole]

Language: eng

Format: azw3

ISBN: 9781442668706

Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division

Published: 2014-04-03T16:00:00+00:00
Cnut and the West Saxon Royal Past

Edmund was not the only royal saint with whom Cnut was concerned. The generation before the Danish conquest saw two English saints rise to prominence: Edward the Martyr and Edith of Wilton, Æthelred’s saintly half-siblings. As individuals who had died in the recent past, their histories had not been lost to legend, as St Edmund’s had, and as members of the West Saxon dynasty, their memories were inherently political. To date, Æthelred himself had been the most prominent patron of both cults, evoking his kinship ties to win support – earthly and divine – for his increasingly harried regime.74 Once Cnut became king, however, the saints’ relics would have become reminders of the legitimate spiritual authority of their deposed dynasty and, like the bodies of other English saints, had the potential to become rallying points for resistance.75 In a post-conquest environment, it would have been risky for Cnut to ignore the political potential of Edward and Edith’s cults or to leave their monastic custodians to their own devices. At the same time, any perceived offence against these West Saxon saints on Cnut’s part would have recalled his family’s tumultuous relations with the displaced native dynasty. Accordingly, rather than trying to extinguish their cults or disenfranchise their communities, the king harnessed the saints’ political and spiritual potential. Cnut claimed to be the rightful heir to the West Saxon dynasty by virtue of his treaty with Edmund Ironside, and by identifying himself as Edmund’s adoptive brother, he also became the honorary kinsmen of these royal saints.76

The challenge Cnut faced was to exploit the saints’ authority without diluting his own claim to royal legitimacy. In Edward’s case, this may have been accomplished in part by recalling his martyrdom as part of a broader narrative of conquest.77 In 1018, Cnut’s laws decreed that by the agreement of the witan, “St Edward’s mass-day must be celebrated throughout England on 18 March,” the anniversary of his death.78 While it is debated whether this mandate originated during Cnut’s reign, it is significant that the king included Edward in an early law code which mentioned no other English saint by name.79 Celebration of this particular martyrdom drew attention to the succession dispute of the 970s and Æthelred’s role in his brother’s death: he may have been remembered as complicit, if not for the regicide itself then for his inaction after the fact.80 If Æthelred could be construed in Cnut’s reign as an enemy of the saint and the beneficiary of his martyrdom, then his eventual deposition by Danish kings could be portrayed as just. By this logic, Cnut’s accession restored royal dignity to a kingdom whose previous ruler was contemptuous of human and divine law.

Edward’s cult was not used exclusively to tarnish Æthelred’s reputation, however. The saint’s relics also assumed a new ideological message under the Danish regime, as Cnut sought to honour the remains while defusing any political threat they may have posed. This objective seems to have been achieved through

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