Royal Patron Saint of England
As such, today, the Church in England celebrates his memory. There is good cause to regard him as the Patron Saint of England and in the beautiful Wilton Diptych (below), housed at the National Gallery in London, one sees King Richard II flanked by the sainted Kings Edward and Edmund kneeling before Our Lady, whose Dowry England is. Happily, King Edward's body still lies in the royal abbey he established at Westminster, although the current building is the second church on the site, rebuilt in the splendid Gothic style by Henry III. His shrine is remarkably intact despite the ravages of the English Reformation. The same cannot be said of King Edmund - the great abbey of nearby St Edmundsbury no longer stands and its shrine is despoiled.
The Westminster Abbey website has a well illustrated biography of the saint's life as well as this page on the Shrine and Chapel of the Confessor. There is also a lavishly illuminated manuscript housed in the Cambridge University library which depicts his life in detail. It may be viewed online here.
As the Collect for this day says: "Lord, you raised Saint Edward, king and confessor, to excel in good government and faithful service. May these ideals survive and flourish among us through his prayers. Amen."
In a similar vein, His Eminence the Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster preached at the Abbey last week to mark the millennial year of the Confessor's birth and I would like to end by quoting him:
"[We] give thanks for this holy king, and for what he represents: wise and peaceable government, compassion for the poor, justice for the oppressed, openess to the wisdom and the word of God, an openness to all humanity. Here at the shrine of St Edward we ask God’s blessing on our country and on all its people, we ask that it may be a place where all its citizens, whatever their origins or their beliefs, can live together in dignity and safety, where hatreds are defused by love, where the truth is spoken and heard, where the stranger, the widow and the orphan are received with open hand and heart, where our rulers seek wisdom, and our people peace. Amen."I entrust this prayer to the Blessed Virgin, that she may ever protect and rule over England, her Dowry!
St Edward the Confessor is depicted in stained glass in the photo above taken at the church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, my local parish here in Cambridge.