Monday, 17 September 2012

15 September - the Feast of Princess St Edith of Kemsing and Wilton

Saint Edith of Kemsing and Wilton (Eadgyth in Old English) was the natural daughter of King Edgar “the Peaceful” of England, born at Kemsing, Kent, in 961. She was the half-sister of King Æthelred the Unready. 

Her feast day is 15 September. 

She was the illegitimate daughter of King Edgar by the Lady Wilfrida, or Wulfthryth, a noble-woman and a nun of Wilton Abbey standing nearby the royal residence at Wilton, whom Edgar carried off forcibly from the nunnery. 

He took her to his manor at Kemsing in Kent where Edith was born but, so soon as Wulfthryth could escape from Edgar, she returned to Wilton Abbey, taking Edith with her.  

Wulfthryth became Abbess which tends to show that people were rather less squeamish then that they are today in our supposedly tolerant, but actually supremely intolerant, age. 

Princess St Edith was educated at the Abbey and herself became a nun early in her young life. 

King Edgar offered to make her abbess of 3 communities but she chose to remain with her mother at Wilton. 

St Dunstan, then Archbishop of Canterbury, imposed a 7-year penance upon King Edgar for his crime. The King became holy himself, in due course, and died in the odour of sanctity in 975. 
 
 The village sign in Kemsing
showing a monk or nun praying at St Edith's well

In 979, Edith had a dream that her half-brother, King St Edward the Martyr, was in danger and so it transpired. He was murdered while visiting his step-mother, Queen Ælfthryth, at Corfe Castle, in Dorset. 

St Edith built a church at Wilton dedicated it to St Denis and she died not long after, on 15 September 984, aged only 23 and was buried in her own church. Her loss was greatly lamented by St Dunstan.
 
The ruins of Wilton Abbey in Wiltshire

St Edith was a celebrated scholar and a devotion to her quickly grew up. She appeared in a dream to St Dunstan, telling him that her body was incorrupt and, when St Dunstan had the tomb opened, in the presence of her mother, Abbess Wulfthryth, it was so and the body gave off fragrant perfume. 

Her half-brother, King Æthelred, introduced her cause for sanctity which was also supported by her nephew, King Edmund “Ironside” and his successor King Canute the Great, he who showed his overly fawning courtiers that he was not all-powerful by taking them all to the sea-side to show them he could not order the waves to retreat.
 
The surviving seal of St Edith identifies her as regalis adelpha or “royal sister” to show that she was of royal blood, half-sister of Kings Edward the Martyr and Æthelred the Unready.
 
The Wilton Diptych
 
Wilton Abbey is also associated with the famous English diptych called "the Wilton Diptych" which shows King Richard II being presented to our Lady by St John the Baptist, King St Edmund the Martyr and King St Edward the Confessor, and our Lady presents the Christ Child, all symbolical of England as Dos Mariae, or our Lady's Dowry.
 
On the Sunday nearest her feast day, Catholics and Anglicans gather to pray at St Edith's well in the village of Kemsing, Kent, with Benediction and tea afterwards at the nearby home of Mr Anthony Tyler OBE, formerly Chairman of the Catholic Writers Guild of Great Britain.
 
 
S. Editha, ora pro nobis!
 
 
St Edith's well in Kemsing village, Kent
 
 
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4 comments:

Anonymous said...


What a lovely post. I have been trying to to do similar pieces on early English saints and have a special interest in Holy Wells - but I can't do anything as elegant as this. I will link to your blog if I may. I am on http://awomanmadeforthemorning

Many thanks

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