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Edmund the Martyr

King Edmund was the Christian King of East Anglia from about 855 until his martyrdom in 869. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle records that the Vikings arrived in East Anglia in 866. Edmund bought them off with the gift of horses, however, the Vikings returned in 869 and waged war on Edmund. He was defeated, possibly, at Thetford. He escaped from the battlefield but was later captured. After his capture he was given the choice of giving up his Christian faith and ruling as a Client King of the Vikings or be killed. Edmund chose to remain faithful to his belief in Christ. He was tied to a tree (by tradition at Hoxne, although more recent evidence may indicate Bradfield St Clare) shot through with arrows and eventually beheaded.

Etching of stained glass of St Edmund's head from Yates "History of Bury", 1843 (SROB: K511/134)

Etching of stained glass of St Edmund’s head from Yates “History of Bury”, 1843 (SROB: K511/134)

His followers recovered the body and found his head guarded by a wolf. The reunited parts were buried close to the site of his martyrdom but were eventually removed to Bedericesworth (now Bury St Edmunds). Edmund’s body was moved to London in 1010 for safety from Danish raids but returned to be reburied at Bury St Edmunds in 1013. For his faith, loyalty and courage Edmund was created a saint by Alfred the Great within 20 years of his death.  The cult of St Edmund was countrywide and carvings or paintings of his life and death are widespread from Wells and Tewkesbury in the south to Pickering in Yorkshire, and many parish churches are dedicated to his memory.

Suffolk County Council adopted St Edmund as its Patron Saint in 2008 and his flag is flown over public buildings on his special day of 20 November each year.