‘England’s darling’ and Scotland’s saint

Everyone knows what happened 950 years ago this month, don’t they? William the Conqueror killed Harold and became King of England.

Not quite. Harold and the flower of his army died at Hastings on 14 October 1066. But the magnates of England then proclaimed Edgar the Aetheling as King.

Edgar the who? “A forgotten prince… but one of the builders of a new England” is how the historical novelist Stewart Binns describes him.

John Speed in his History of Great Britaine (1611) said Edgar was “In such esteem with the people, that he was called England’s darling.”

The English leaders then turned to the 14-year-old Edgar.He “came close to winning back his throne and reversing the Norman Conquest… He deserves to be better remembered,” says Martin Lake, who has written four novels centred on him. But for most he really is a forgotten prince (Aetheling in Anglo-Saxon means prince).

While England forgot him, Scotland took his sister Margaret to its heart. As Queen she is credited with important reforms; as a saint her works of charity and the miracles of her shrine were recorded in great detail – some of them legendary, perhaps.

But where is Edgar’s legend? There are many remarkable stories about him. That he led a party of knights errant into Italy – that he was showered with gifts by the Byzantine emperor, allegedly including an elephant. Legends have been built on less. For a historian the stories need “ifs” and “abouts” and “perhapses” but for a legend they are fine.

Read the whole story here: ‘England’s darling’ and Scotland’s saint

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