Saturday, August 05, 2006

The crown of the saint in heraldry

The symbolism of the Saint's death is found in many places. It can be found for example on the crest of the Diocese of St.Edmundsbury and Ipswich. This East Anglian diocese of the Church of England covers all of Suffolk's parishes.

The crest takes elements of both the towns, Ipswich with the lion's head and stern of a ship surrounded by the three crowns of Bury St. Edmunds.

I admit to being pedantic but the crowns shown in the crest (left) which comes directly from the Diocese website do not look right. The crown in the top right sits on a blue background which is fine. The crown in the top right sits on a red background but the space where the head would sit inside the crown shows a blue background which doesn't look right. The crown in the lower centre shows a split background for the two uppermost parts of the crown but not for the lower part where the head would sit.

I have attached what I believe the crest SHOULD look like.

The flag of Saint Edmund

I found this article on a site about the Orthodox Church in England, again claiming that Saint Edmund (Eadmund) is the rightful patron saint of this nation.

I have always considered our Union Flag to look gaudy and crude alongside, say, the dignified and impressive flags of Imperial Germany or Austro-Hungary. I also believe it to be heraldically incorrect. That is why the so-called 'Union Jack' has never excited any patriotic fervour in me. I have always found the simple crosses of the individual saints of England, Scotland and Ireland to be more æsthetically satisfactory, unsullied by a superimposition that must always remind us of the Norman conquerors, whose arrogance and ambition forced us into an unnatural marriage. As an Englishman, the red cross of St George on a white ground always appeared to me to be a far better design artistically, although it is rather plain, and seemed lacking in some undefined particular.

The great problem with the cross of St George is that St George is not England's original patron-saint. St Edmund (Eadmund), King of East Anglia, has held that distinction since the 9th century, when he gave his life in defence of his faith and his homeland against the Vikings. Like St George the Great-Martyr, he was martyred in a particularly horrible manner, and his supreme self-sacrifice impressed the Righteous King Alfred the Great, strengthening the latter's resolve to hold Christian Wessex against all the odds.

St Edmund continued to be revered as the patron-saint of England long after the Norman Invasion. For example, the late fourteenth-century Wilton Diptych in the National Gallery shows him in a place of honour. However, when the Crusades really got under way (the first trial run against England in 1066 having been successful), the Norman oppressors of this country then went off to exotic lands to continue their unhappy holocaust of rape and pillage. This culminated in the sack of Constantinople in April 1204, when the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) was desecrated and a prostitute was seated on the Patriarch's throne: an insult that Greek Orthodox especially find hard to forgive and will never forget.

During their sojourn in foreign climes, the Norman freebooters and their companions encountered St George, and when they returned home, they developed his cultus in this country. But the saint they venerated was not the Great-Martyr known to Old England. Instead they turned him into a mediæval knight in armour, battling against a dragon‡. In 1348 a small group of Norman soldiery, together with the contemporary representative of the depraved Plantagenet line, Edward III, formed the Order of the Garter: a small, privileged clique with the pseudo-St George as its patron.

It is possible that this patronage was adopted in order to mask the less pleasant attributes of the order, as some have seen in its ritual and numerology a pagan, and even Satanic influence*. St Edmund's relics had been stolen by the French in July 1217†, and without their presence in this country his influence faded. It was not long before the Norman military as a whole adopted the distorted version of St George, and from there he became accepted, by a people long deprived of their true heritage, as the patron of England.

Much later on, when the worst excesses of the Norman jackboot had been thrown off, the Barons had self-destructed in the Wars of the Roses and their remains had been crushed by the Machiavellian Tudors, a great Englishman, William Blake, conceived some inspired and inspiring words. He wrote the words of what some consider to be the true English National Anthem:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand.
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

These words burned themselves into my head in childhood, and have lasted with me throughout my adult life. Although the bow of burning gold has been elusive, I have endeavoured in a small way to carry on the fight.

Incensed by the unpatriotic celebrations of the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 1966, in that year I raised a petition in Tenterden in Kent and presented it to Hastings Town Hall. One of the results of this was my founding of þa Engliscan Gesiþas (The English Companions), whose aim is to foster an interest in, and understanding of, all things English. It was no accident that the emblem of our true Patron Saint became the badge of the Fellowship - a gold crown and arrows on a red ground, surrounded with a blue circle. The background colours were chosen from Old English cloisonné enamel work and garnet jewellery.

The Old English did not have flags. The nearest they came to a flag, in the sense that we understand it, was a kind of elongated pennant in the shape of a dragon. They also had other standards, and there are various examples of this, such as the standard that was carried in front of King Edwin of Northumbria, in imitation of the Roman Emperors. So, apart from a one-off pennant consisting of a gold crown-and-arrows appliquéd onto a ground divided diagonally into red and blue, which I made to fly beside my tent when I visited the excavations of the Old English 'city' at Mucking in Essex, the question of a flag did not really arise.

Then Father Andrew sent me an email, asking me what I thought should be the national flag of England. He too felt that St George's Cross, now sadly deformed into the standard of the national football team, was not enough. I replied that I had not considered the matter, but that the crown-and-arrows should come into it somewhere. He then suggested something like the East Anglian flag, devised in 1902. This consisted of three gold crowns on a royal blue shield, imposed on the centre of a red cross. I rejected that idea, however, as being too provincial. I felt that many would resent the aggrandisement of East Anglia over, say, Wessex or Kent. Then Father Andrew told me that the red cross on a white ground was also the flag of Jerusalem, and mentioned William Blake. In a moment of inspiration, I superimposed the crown-and-arrows, with seven jewels in the crown, to correspond to the traditional seven kingdoms of the Old English, on the cross of St George. The feeling of 'something missing' disappeared, and the flag, whole and complete, was before me.

Of course also it has the great advantage that tradition is fulfilled. For all that St George's likeness has been twisted, and folk have attributed to him the honours due to St Edmund, he has acted as our patron-saint for many years, and has fulfilled his charge well. Devotees of St George can feel that the basis of the English flag has not been changed - it has simply been added to, complemented, made complete. If you feel that England should have her ancient heritage restored to her, then please show your solidarity by flying this flag, and using the image of it wherever possible. As a start, I plan to make available stickers bearing the design, which can be put on correspondence as well as other uses.

‡ It was probably this mythical element, at least in part, which caused the Pope to 'demote' St George in 1969.

* See Pennethorne Hughes: Witchcraft: Penguin Books 1965, p. 109.

† See Bryan Houghton: Saint Edmund - King and Martyr: Terence Dalton 1970, p. 54. The relics were returned to England on July 25, 1901, when they were placed in the private chapel of the Duke of Norfolk in Arundel Castle, Sussex, awaiting the completion of Westminster Roman Catholic Cathedral. The authenticity of the relics was then questioned, however, and they still lie in Arundel. Op cit, p. 78 et seq.

Source : Orthodox England

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Aelfric's life of Saint Edmund

Ælfric (fl. 990-1020), an Anglo-Saxon monk and a prolific writer of religious literature. Ælfric translated it from a Latin life of St. Edmund by Abbo of Fleury.

In the days of king Æthelred a very learned monk came over the sea from the monastery of Saint Benedict in the south to Archbishop Dunstan, three years before he died; and the monk was called Abbo. They talked together until Dunstan told him about saint Edmund, even as Edmund's sword-bearer had told the story to king Æthelstan when Dunstan was a young man and the sword-bearer a very old man. The monk put this whole story into a book, and a few years afterwards, when the book had come to us, we turned it into English just as it stands hereafter. Two years later this monk Abbo went home to his monastery and was almost immediately appointed abbot in that same monastery.

Edmund the blessed, king of the East Angles, was wise and honorable and by his excellent conduct ever glorified Almighty God. He was humble and devout, and continued so steadfast that he would not yield to shameful sins, nor in any direction did he bend aside his practices, but was always mindful of true doctrine. If you are made a chief man, do not exalt yourself, but be among men as one of them. He was bountiful to the poor and like a father to widows, and with benignity guided his people ever to righteousness, and controlled the violent, and lived happily in the true faith.

Then at length it happened that the Danish people came with a fleet, harrying and slaying widely over the land, as their custom is. In that fleet were their chief men, Hingwar and Hubba, associated by the devil, and they landed in Northumbria with their ships and wasted the land and slew the people. Then Hingwar turned eastward with his ships, and Hubba was left in Northumbria, having won the victory by cruel means. Then Hingwar came rowing to East Anglia in the year when Alfred the ætheling was one and twenty years old, he who afterward became the renowned king of the West-Saxons. And the aforesaid Hingwar suddenly, like a wolf, stalked over the land and slew the people--men, women and innocent children--and shamefully tormented innocent Christians. Then soon afterward he sent to the king a threatening message that he must bow down to do him homage, if he cared for his life.

So the messenger came to King Edmund and speedily announced to him Hingwar's message: "Hingwar our king, keen and victorious by sea and by land, has rule over many peoples, and has now landed here suddenly with an army, intending to take up his winter-quarters here with his host. Now he commands you to divide your secret treasures and your ancestors' wealth quickly with him, and you shall be his under-king, if you desire to live, because you do not have the power to withstand him."

King Edmund called a bishop, the one who was nearest to him at the time, and consulted with him how he should answer the savage Hingwar. The bishop feared for this terrible misfortune and for the king's life, and said that it seemed best to him that he should submit to that which Hingwar had demanded of him.

Then the king kept silence and looked at the ground, and at length said to him in kingly fashion: "Behold, oh bishop, the poor people of this land are brought to shame, and I would rather fall in battle so that my people can continued to possess their land."

And the bishop said, "Alas, dear king, your people lie slain, and you do not have sufficient forces with which you can fight, and these seamen will come and bind you alive unless you save your life by means of flight, or thus save yourself by yielding to him."

Then said Edmund the king, brave as he was: "This I desire and wish in my mind, that I should not be left alone after my dear thanes, who have been suddenly slain in their beds by these seamen, with their children and their wives. It has never been my custom to take to flight, but I would rather die, if I must, for my own land; and almighty God knows that I will never turn aside from His worship, nor from His true love, whether I die or live."

After these words he turned to the messenger whom Hingwar had sent to him, and said to him undismayed: "Verily you would now be worthy of death, but I will not defile my clean hands with your foul blood, because I follow Christ, who has given us an example, and I will happily be slain by you, if God has so ordained. Depart now very quickly, and say to your cruel lord that Edmund the king will never bow in life to Hingwar the heathen leader, unless he will first bow, in this land, to Jesus Christ with faith."

Then the messenger went quickly away and met on the way the bloodthirsty Hingwar hurrying to Edmund with his whole army, and told that wicked man how he had been answered. Hingwar then arrogantly commanded his troops that they should, all of them, take the king alone, who had despised his command, and instantly bind him.

When Hingwar came, Edmund the king stood within his hall, mindful of the Savior, and threw away his weapons, desiring to imitate the example of Christ, who forbade Peter to fight with weapons against the bloodthirsty Jews. Then those wicked men bound Edmund and shamefully insulted him and beat him with clubs, and afterward they led the faithful king to an earth-fast tree and tied him to it with hard bonds, and afterwards scourged him a long while with whips, and among the blows he was always calling with true faith on Jesus Christ.

Then the heathen were madly angry because of his faith, because he called upon Christ to help him. They shot at him with javelins as if for their amusement, until he was all beset with their shots, as with a porcupine's bristles, even as Sebastian was. When Hingwar, the wicked seaman, saw that the noble king would not deny Christ, but with steadfast faith ever called upon Him, he commanded men to behead him, and the heathen did so. For while he was yet calling upon Christ, the heathen drew away the saint to slay him, and struck off his head with a single blow, and his soul departed joyfully to Christ. There was a certain man at hand, whom God was hiding from the heathen, who heard all this and told it afterward just as we tell it here.

Then the seamen went again to ship, and hid the head of the holy Edmund in the thick brambles so that it could not be buried. Then after a while, after they were gone away, the country-folk, who were still left there, came to where their lord's body lay without his head, and were very sore at heart because of his murder, and chiefly because they had not the head with the body.

Then the spectator who had previously beheld it said that the seamen had taken the head with them, and it seemed to him (as was actually the case) that they had hidden the head in the wood somewhere about.

Then they all went searching together in the wood, looking everywhere among the thorns and brambles for the head. There was also a great wonder, that a wolf was sent, by God's direction, to guard the head against the other animals by day and night. They went on searching and calling out continually, as those who go through woods often do: "Where are you now, friend?" And the head answered them, "Here, here, here!" And so it called out repeatedly, answering them as often as any of them called to it, until they all came to it by means of those cries. There lay the gray wolf who had been guarding the head, and with his two feet had embraced it, greedy and hungry, and yet for fear of God had not dared to eat it, but had kept it safe against other animals.

They were astonished at the wolf's guardianship and carried the holy head home with them, thanking the Almighty for all His wonders; but the wolf followed forth with the head until they came to the town, as if he were tame, and then turned back again into the wood. Then the country-people laid the head by the holy body, and buried him as well as they could in such haste, and soon built a church over him.

Then, after many years, when the harrying had ceased and peace was restored to the oppressed people, they came together and built a church worthily in honor of the saint, because miracles had frequently been done at his burial-place, even at the bede-house where he was buried. They desired to carry the holy body with popular honor and to lay it within the church. Then there was a great wonder, that he was all as whole as if he were alive, with clean body, and his neck was healed which before had been cut through, and there was as it were a silken thread about his neck, all red, as if to show men how he had been slain. Also the wounds, which the bloodthirsty heathen had made in his body with their repeated shots, were healed by the heavenly God; and so he lies uncorrupt until this present day, awaiting the resurrection and the eternal glory. His body shows us, which lies undecayed, that he lived without fornication here in this world, and by a pure life passed to Christ.

A certain widow who was called Oswyn dwelt near the saint's burial-place in prayer and fasting for many years after. Every year she would cut the saint's hair and cut his nails soberly and lovingly, and keep them in a shrine as relics on the altar. In this way the people of the land faithfully venerated the saint; and bishop Theodred gave great gifts of gold and silver in his honor.

Then once upon a time came some unblessed thieves, eight in one night, to the venerable saint, desiring to steal the treasures which people had brought to his shrine, and tried how they might get in by craft. One struck at the hasp violently with a hammer; one of them filed about it with a file; one dug under the door with a spade; one of them by a ladder wished to unlock the window: but they toiled in vain and fared miserably because the holy man wondrously bound them, each as he stood toiling with his implement, so that none of them could do that evil deed or stir from that place; but they stood there till morning. Then men wondered to see how the wretches hung there, one on a ladder, one bent down to his digging, and each was bound fast in his work. Then they were all brought to the bishop, and he commanded men to hang them all on a high gallows; but he was not mindful how the merciful God spoke through His prophet the words which here stand: Eos qui ducuntur ad mortem eruere ne cesses: "always deliver those who are led to death". And also the holy canons forbid clerics, both bishops and priests, to be concerned about thieves, because it is not fitting for those who are chosen to serve God to consent to any man's death, if they are the Lord's servants. Then Theodred the bishop, after he had searched his books, rued with lamentation that he had awarded such a cruel doom to these unhappy thieves, and ever deplored it to his life's end; and earnestly prayed the people to fast with him fully three days, praying the Almighty that He would have pity upon him.

In that land was a certain man called Leofstan, rich in worldly things and ignorant concerning God, who rode with great insolence to the saint's shrine and very arrogantly commanded them to show him the holy saint so that he could find out whether he was really incorrupt; but as soon as he saw the saint's body, he straightway raved and roared horribly, and miserably ended by an evil death. This is like that which the orthodox pope, Gregory by name, said in his writing concerning the holy Lawrence who lies in the city of Rome, that men were always wishing to see how he lay, both good and evil, but God checked them, so that there died in the looking all at once seven men together; so the others desisted from looking at the martyr with human error.

We have heard of many wonders in the popular talk about the holy Edmund, which we will not set down here in writing; but every one knows them. By this saint is it manifest and by others like him, that Almighty God can raise man again, in the day of judgment, incorruptible from the earth, He who preserves Edmund whole in his body until the great day, though he was made of earth. Worthy is the place for the sake of the venerable saint that men should venerate it and well provide it with God's pure servants, to Christ's service, because the saint is greater than men may imagine.

The English nation is not without the Lord's saints, since in England lie such saints as this holy king, and the blessed Cuthbert, and saint Æthelthryth in Ely, and also her sister, incorrupt in body, for the confirmation of the faith. There are also many other saints among the English who work many miracles, as is widely known, to the praise of the Almighty in whom they believed. Christ shows to men, through His illustrious saints, that He is Almighty God who causes such wonders, though the miserable Jews altogether denied Him, because they are accursed, as they desired for themselves. No wonders are wrought at their sepulchres because they believe not in the living Christ; but Christ manifests to men where the true faith is, since He works such miracles by His saints widely throughout the earth; wherefore to Him be Glory ever with His Heavenly Father, and with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen.

What this blog is for

This blog is for all those Englishmen and Englishwomen who feel that the rightful patron saint of the English nation is Saint Edmund, martyred in 870 just 30 years old.

This is where we shall begin a campaign to press the media, the church establishment and the government to bring about a recognition of the life and work of the true patron saint King Edmund.

His feast is observed 20 November, and he is represented in artistic form with sword and arrow, the instruments of his torture.