Edward’s accession to the throne was contested by a party headed by his stepmother, Queen Elfrida, who wished her son, Ethelred the Unready, to become king instead. However, Edward’s claim had more support—including that of St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury—and was confirmed by the Witan.
The holy and right-believing King Edward the Martyr (c. 962 – March 18, 978/979) succeeded his father Edgar of England as King of England in 975, but was murdered after a reign of only a few years. As the murder was attributed to “irreligious” opponents, whereas Edward himself was considered a good Christian, he was glorified as Saint Edward the Martyr in 1001; he may also be considered a passion-bearer. His feast day is celebrated on March 18, the uncovering of his relics is commemorated on February 13, and the elevation of his relics on June 20. The translation of his relics is commemorated on September 3.
King Edward “was a young man of great devotion and excellent conduct. He was completely Orthodox, good and of holy life. Moreover, he loved God and the Church above all things. He was generous to the poor, a haven to the good, a champion of the Faith of Christ, a vessel full of every virtuous grace.”
On King Edward’s accession to the throne a great famine was raging through the land and violent attacks were stirred up against monasteries by prominent noblemen who coveted the lands that his father King Edgar had endowed to them. Many of these monasteries were destroyed, and the monks forced to flee. The king, however, stood firm together with Archbishop Dunstan in defense of the Church and the monasteries. For this, some of the nobles decided to remove him and replace him with his younger brother Ethelred.
On March 18, 978, the king was hunting with dogs and horsemen near Wareham in Dorset. During the hunt the king decided to visit his younger brother Ethelred who was being brought up in the house of his mother Elfrida at Corfe Castle, near Wareham. Separating from his retinue, the King arrived alone at the castle. While still on his horse in the lower part of the castle Elfrida offered Edward a glass of mead. While he was drinking it, Edward was stabbed in the back by one of the queen’s party. Ethelred himself was then only ten years old, and so was not implicated in the murder.