From Anglorum basileus to Norman Saint: The Transformation of Edward the Confessor
Haskins Society Journal, Vol.12 (2002)
We are familiar with the image of Edward the Confessor as presented in the Bayeux Tapestry: old, frail and fading fast. Familiar too is the later version ofEdward, such as that seen in the fourteenth-century Wilton Diptych – still old, but now imbued with sanctity. But what of other conceptions of Edward? In the following pages I explore the transformation of the visual and textual expression of Edward’s rule (1043-66) through the reign of Henry II (1154-89). I argue that during his lifetime Edward appropriated foreign iconography and ideology in order to equate his rule with that of his imperial counterparts in Germany and Byzantium. The subsequent Norman development of the cult of Edward altered traditions associating him with foreign courts, particularly Byzantium. New legends were introduced and existing ones revised to better reflect the current ideal of pious rulership and to buttress claims of Anglo-Norman royal legitimacy.