31 Facts About Eadwig


Eadwig became king in 955 aged about fifteen and was no more than twenty when he died in 959.


Eadwig clashed at the beginning of his reign with Dunstan, the powerful Abbot of Glastonbury and future Archbishop of Canterbury, and exiled him to Flanders.


Eadwig later came to be seen as an enemy of monasteries, but most historians think that this reputation is unfair.


In 957, the kingdom was divided between Eadwig, who kept the territory south of the Thames, and Edgar, who became king of the land north of it.


Edgar succeeded to the whole kingdom when Eadwig died in 959.


Eadwig then invaded Mercia and Edmund was forced to surrender north-east Mercia to him, but Guthfrithson died in 941.


Eadwig was the first king since the early ninth century not to face the threat of imminent foreign invasion, although this could not have been known at the time.


The evidence for Eadwig's reign is ambiguous and unclear, and historians differ widely both on his character and on the politics of his reign.


The principal controversies concern his marriage and its dissolution in 958, and the division of the kingdom in 957 between Eadwig, who kept England south of the Thames, and Edgar, who became king of the land north of it.


Eadwig described her as his relative in charters granting her property.


Eadwig then urged Eadwig to abandon his wicked ways, and henceforth the king "knelt before Oda with contrite visage".


When Eadwig succeeded, the court was ruled by powerful factions.


The main beneficiary in Eadred's will was his mother Eadgifu, and Eadwig was not mentioned.


Historians have often been critical of Eadwig, portraying him as irresponsible or incompetent, and the key evidence cited for this view is the exceptional number of charters he issued in 956.


Stenton commented that it was probably through "mere irresponsibility" that Eadwig lost the greater part of his kingdom, that in the society of his West Saxon friends it is likely that he lost touch with the aristocracy of remoter areas.


Eadwig is described as "King of the English" in his charters, a title which Edgar only occasionally used; Edgar was mostly "King of the Mercians", and rarely of the Northumbrians and the Britons.


Eadwig's charters were probably drawn up by a central writing office in the king's household which had existed since the 930s.


The horizontal coin designs in Eadwig's reign followed the three basic horizontal types of Eadred, HT1, HR1 and HR2.


Eadwig's reign saw several typological developments: especially the revival in London of the Bust Crowned, with a crude portrait of the king on the obverse, and in the south-west of the Circumscription Cross, with a cross on both sides of the coin in the centre and the inscriptions round the edge.


For soon, with the support of his pitiful toadies, [Eadwig] plunged all men of the monastic order all over England into undeserved calamities, first stripping them of the support of their revenues and then driving them into exile.


Eadwig is named as a benefactor of Abingdon in a charter of 993.


The construction of a new church was commenced by Eadred and completed under Edgar, but a charter of Eadwig granting Abingdon a wood for building the church suggests that the work continued during his reign.


Some early sources, such as Dunstan's biographer B and Byrhtferth, criticised Eadwig but do not list spoliation of the church among his crimes, and he was selected by some monastic forgers as the grantor of estates to their establishments, showing that he was considered a plausible benefactor.


Eadwig gave land to the Bishop of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury.


Southwell Minster was founded on a large estate which Eadwig gave to Oscytel, Bishop of Dorchester in 956.


Eadwig was an enemy of Oda, and Byrhtferth accused him of gloating over Oda's death and striking his tomb with his staff.


Eadwig then translated Bishop Byrhthelm of Wells to Canterbury, but when Edgar succeeded he dismissed Byrhthelm in favour of Dunstan.


Alfred and Edward were buried there, but the only later royal entombment was that of Eadwig, associating his reign with that of his illustrious ancestors.


Eadwig held the kingdom continuously for four years, and deserved to be loved.


Snook says that B "conducted a comprehensive hatchet-job on Eadwig's reputation, portraying him as an incompetent, lecherous, vengeful, impious tyrant".


Eadwig left no family to cultivate his memory, was too easy a target for the moralists-in-politics of the late tenth century.