edward martyr

Hey Koizumi, I was wondering if you could explain why is Edward ‘Longshanks’ called “King Edward I” if he was actually the fourth King of England named “Edward”.

There are several reasons for this Hinata-kun. The short answer is that all previous “King Edwards of England” had reigned during the Anglo-Saxon period and by the time Longshanks had risen to the throne they were a distant memory. So there was a clear distinction between him and earlier Edwards. However this is only the beginning of a more clear anser. 

We need to remember that just because historians today are in general agreement and consistent when it comes to labels, that doesnt meant his was the case for then contemporary writers. Actually there are a few sources towards the end of King Edwards life that give him a regnal number but they mistakingly call him Edward the Third because they had overlooked the brief and unfortunate reign of the teenage king Edward the Martyr. For most of Edward I’s reign he was simply referred to as “King Edward” and if people felt the need to specify him it was usually as “King Edward, son of King Henry”.

The regnal numbering of “Edward the First” started to become popular in 14th century accounts. This is because by that point there had been two more King Edwards, namely the son of Longshanks and his grandson. Specifying which “Edward” one was talking about by identifying his father was no longer practical because you now have two kings who were “Edward, son of Edward”. Writers thus decided to specify them by “1st, 2nd and 3rd” and on occasion might add “Since the [Norman] Conquest” to specify they were not referring to the Anglo-Saxon kings 

You can sorta compare it to how he wouldve been unfamiliar with the modern names for his dynasty, Plantagenet. The word “Plantagenet” was only coined in reference to a dynasty in the 14th century and it was only during histories written during the Tudor period that you start to see it used more generally.

The other thing thats interesting about the name “King Edward” however is that its actually the only name that you see with both Anglo-Saxon kings as well as post-Conquest kings. Back in the 1200s the name “Edward” was seen as a rough Anglo-Saxon name and would be seen as somewhat alien the way names like “Æthelred” seem alien to modern English-speakers. But King Henry III was known to be a rather religious person and in particular was devoted to the saintly cult of his predecessor Edward the Confessor. He adopted Edward the Confessor as his patron saint and built shrines and churches in his name so naming his firstborn son after him was seen as yet another way for Henry to honor his favorite saint.  

Ghosts of Corfe Castle, Dorset

Corfe Castle, built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, has a few ghostly tales attached to its history. Before the current castle was built, the site where it sits was the location of the assassination of King Edward (Edward the Martyr) on March 18th 978, on the orders of his scheming stepmother Queen Alfthryth. Edward was stabbed while he was on his horse and then helplessly dragged along to his death by his own steed. The Queen Alfthryth’s son Athelred “the Unready”, was crowned in his place. Since then there have been reports of hearing a phantom horse’s galloping hooves at the bottom of the hill below the castle. Witnesses hear the horse approach and ride by but never see the ghostly animal.

Another tragic tale is that of Eleanor the “Fair Maid of Brittany” (1184 - 1241). In 1203 she was captured since she posed a threat to John, King of England, as she had a legitimate claim to the throne. The beautiful Eleanor was thus taken to Corfe Castle where she remained a prisoner until her death in 1241.  William de Braose, 4th Lord of Bramber (1144/1153? – 1211), also found ill favor with the king and as a result, his poor wife and child were starved to death at Corfe Castle. The disembodied sounds of a crying child can sometimes be heard around the castle grounds when there is no child to be found anywhere.

During the English Civil War, Corfe Castle was successfully defended by the leadership of Lady Bankes, a Royalist, in the absence of her husband who was away on business.  However in February of 1646, she was betrayed by one of her own people and the Parliamentary soldiers were then able to take control of the structure. Cromwell’s soldiers destroyed the castle,  reducing it quickly to the ruin that we see today. Soon after, stories began to circulate of ghostly occurrences. The best-known apparition is that of the headless ‘White Lady’ who sends chills down the spine of anyone who crosses her path. She has been seen mostly near the castle gate where she then fades away into nothingness, leaving witnesses shocked and shaken. It is believed that she could be the ghost of Lady Bankes, Eleanor “the Fair Maid of Brittany” or possibly even William de Braose’s wife.

Floating, flickering lights have also been reported moving around the castle at night. One popular explanation for this is that these are the spirits of the Royalists killed while defending Corfe against Cromwell’s forces. Whatever the reason, it just adds to the mysterious and creepy charm of this old Norman ruin.


Medieval Gold ‘All My Heart’ Posy Ring, found at Corfe Castle, England, War of the Roses era, 14th-15th Century

Engraved with reserved acanthus leaves separating three reserved scrolls inscribed in Black Letter French script 'tout mou couer’ (with 'mou’ being a variant spelling for 'mon’ and thus reading 'All my Heart.’

The ring dates to the Wars of the Roses period, at a time when English was the Common tongue and Latin the language of the Church and law but French was still the language of the Court, of chivalry and of love; its French inscription embodies the Medieval ideals of love and it would have been the gift to a noble lady from her future husband on their betrothal. The story of this ring and its finding has been filmed, interviewing the late finder and others, under the title 'Revealing Secrets’ (Watch video ).

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Corfe Castle was one of the first stone castles in England and of great importance throughout history. It sits above the village of the same name in Dorset, atop a hill. It was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, on a site where there was once an old Saxon hall; it is thought that it was where King Edward the Martyr disappeared while visiting his step-mother Aelfthryth in November of 978. The castle was often in use and was near the royal hunting forest of Purbeck. Many kings added to it: Henry I built a stone keep by 1105, and John and Henry III added halls, walls, and towers. During the War between Stephen and Matilda, it withstood a siege by King Stephen. During the Wars of the Roses, Edmund Beaufort used it as a holdfast. In 1572, Elizabeth I sold it to her Lord Chancellor, Sir Christopher Hatton. His family sold it in 1635 to Sir John Bankes, Attorney General of Charles I. During the English Civil War, Parliamentary forces struggled to invade it, and once succeeding, mostly demolished it. After 1660, with the restoration of the monarchy, the Bankes family regained the castle and in the 1980’s, bequeathed it to the National Trust. It is now open to visitors.