It has been written that the Saxon king Edmund the Martyr died on the 20th November in 869/70 tied to a tree, flogged and then used for target practice by archers until he was
“all covered with their missiles as with bristles of a hedgehog.”
as you can see in the image below.
Edmund was born around 840 and is thought to have been descended from our country's early kings, but according to
later legends he was born at Nuremberg, the son of King Alcmund of Saxony.
He was said to have been fair haired, tall, well built and a 'natural majesty of bearing."
In 855, aged fifteen when he was crowned king, he was said to have shown great promise.
As a peacemaker he was interested in justice, and in the world of war he saw off two small Danish invasions headed by Ivar and Ubba, who according to one Abbo were the
"devil's right hand men."
The Danish invaders returned in 870 with a much bigger force.
Edmunds piety, for which he was much respected, forced him to refuse their terms, he disbanded his troops and a fruitless massacre was avoided. Following this he left for Framlingham, but was captured and taken in chains to Ivar, whose demands Edmund again rejected. For this Ivar had him put to death.
According to Aelfric of Eynsham in the Passio Sancti Eadmundi, Kind Edmund.
"against whom Ivar advanced, stood inside his hall, and mindful of the Saviour, threw out his weapons. He wanted to match the example of Christ, who forbade Peter to win the cruel Jews with weapons. Lo! the impious one then bound Edmund and insulted him ignominiously, and beat him with rods, and afterwards led the devout king to a firm living tree, and tied him there with strong bonds, and beat him with whips. In between the whip lashes, Edmund called out with true belief in the Saviour Christ. Because of his belief, because he called to Christ to aid him, the heathens became furiously angry. They then shot spears at him, as if it was a game, until he was entirely covered with their missiles, like the bristles of a hedgehog (just like St. Sebastian was). When Ivar the impious pirate saw that the noble king would not forsake Christ, but with resolute faith called after Him, he ordered Edmund beheaded, and the heathens did so. While Edmund still called out to Christ, the heathen dragged the holy man to his death, and with one stroke struck off his head, and his soul journeyed happily to Christ."
The Anglo Saxon Chronicles suggest that Edmund was killed in battle fighting against the Great Heathen Army. However, later chroniclers preferred to show Edmund in an idealised light and this may be the reason Edmund's gruesome death is always associated with Ivar and Ubba, the pagan marauding sons of Ragnar Lothbrok. Chroniclers have a difference of opinion as to the relationship of these two men, some state that they are not related at all.
Which ever way Edmund the Saxon king met his death, he has gone down in history as an early Christian martyr.
Edmund is thought to have been buried first at Hoxne in Suffolk, his relics later removed to Beodricsworth, which is now
Bury St Edmund.
Edmund is the patron of a number of kings, pandemics, torture victims and wolves.
He is celebrated on the 20th of November each year and represented in Christian art with a sword and arrow, the
instruments of his torture.