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St Dunstan crowns King Edgar

Anglo-Saxon Abbey where Lusty King Edgar was Crowned, Found!

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King Edgar (the Peaceful) was the first king of ‘all England’ - including the kingdoms of Scotland, Mercia, and Wessex, and his coronation at an Anglo-Saxon abbey as a divine ruler recognized by God set the precedence for all future Kings and Queens of England. Now archaeologists believe they may have found the location of the lost abbey in Bath.

Edgar was the brother of Eadwig and son of Edmund I and Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury. He was the father of Ethelred the Unready and Edward the Martyr, both future kings of England, and he himself ascended to the throne of England following the death of his brother in 959 AD. Edgar was later crowned in 973 AD, in a long-lost Anglo-Saxon abbey in Bath; which might now have been discovered by archaeologists excavating in the ancient English city.

Bath Abbey Somerset

Bath Abbey Somerset, England. (Ian Woolcock /Adobe Stock)

Unearthing an Anglo-Saxon Abbey

Bath Abbey was always thought of as having been located upon a much earlier Anglo-Saxon monastery, but no evidence was ever found to support this idea. However, two structures were discovered during primary renovation works as part of Bath Abbey’s £19.3 million (25.2 million USD) Footprint project and a team of archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology discovered to the south of the modern-day Abbey what a Daily Mail article describes as “Semi-circular relics dating to between the 8th and 10th century AD.”

Excavations of the possible Anglo-Saxon abbey at Bath Abbey

Excavations of the possible Anglo-Saxon abbey at Bath Abbey. (Wessex Archaeology)

Plaster samples taken from the remains tested positive for charcoal and they were sent to Queen's University, Belfast for radiocarbon dating, which determined they were from “AD 780-970 and AD 670-770”. These results are why the researchers believe they might have found the site of King Edgar's coronation - Bath's lost Anglo-Saxon monastery. And speaking of the discovery to the Daily Mail the Reverend Canon Guy Bridgewater at Bath Abbey said this is a “really exciting find.”

King Edgar’s Unification of a Broken Nation

Following the death of his older brother in 959 AD, Edgar had been crowned King of Wessex at Kingston-upon-Thames, but by 973 AD he wished for his expanding Anglo-Saxon kingship to be marked with a grand coronation ceremony on the Mercian-Wessex border at Bath.

Edgar planned his own coronation ceremony with his advisor St Dunstan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and emphasized that he was being crowned king under the will of God and as the first King of England because he united the warring kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia, and Northumbria into one political entity.

Traces of the Anglo-Saxon abbey were found during renovation work at Bath Abbey

Traces of the Anglo-Saxon abbey were found during renovation work at Bath Abbey. (Wessex Archaeology) 966 AD depiction of King Edgar I. (Public Domain)

An entry in Early British Kingdoms says that after his coronation at Bath, Edgar flexed his military power by marching his army northwards, gathering Viking warriors, and that his navy joined him in Chester where the northern kings assembled to submit to his overlordship. And while history remembers Edgar as “a good king” under the will of God, in reality, his conquests were not only of agricultural terrain, important sea channels, and trade routes, but also of women, as Edgar had a blistering sexual appetite which gave rise to a number of shocking stories.

When the Little Head Rules the Big One…

An example of Edgar’s out of control desire for sexual conquest is found in Early British Kingdoms, which says that soon after ascending the throne Edgar became smitten by the beautiful young daughter of a nobleman of Hampshire and he traveled there demanding that she slept with him. In their daughter’s place the girl’s parents sent a maidservant to join the King and after a night of “unbridled passion” the girl ran away explaining that she had to start work before the rest of the household arose. In what chroniclers say was a “mad fury,” the King confiscated all his hosts' lands and made his bed-fellow their mistress.

King Edgar I the Peaceable with page

King Edgar I the Peaceable with page. (Archivist /Adobe Stock)

The peaceful and horny King Edgar died two years after the coronation at Bath on July 8, 975 AD and he was buried in St. Dunstan's abbey at Glastonbury (Somerset) where he was revered as a saint.

One can only imagine his canonization occurred as a result of the stability his monastic reforms brought to England rather than his ungodly sexual conquests! It seems that King Edgar, like many men who become kings, thought that cash and power means they can just go around meeting women and whenever they like: “Grab them by the …” Thank goodness that attitude died out a long time ago.

Hang on a sec…

Top Image: St Dunstan crowns King Edgar. (Lawrence OP/CC BY NC ND 2.0)

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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