It happened today - October 1, 2015
Doubtless it puts me in an even smaller minority than usual. But I miss Edgar the Peaceful.
In case you weren’t at the last fan club meeting, perhaps because it dissolved in the early 11th century, I should specify that Edgar, who became king of all England on October 1 of 959 A.D., was the son of Edmund the Deed Doer, nephew of Athelstan the Magnificent and great-grandson of Alfred the Great.
These titles may seem like so much hooey given that he was a Saxon king who reigned in the “Dark Ages”. But in fact this was a golden age of peace and prosperity.
Not, perhaps, prosperity in our “new iPhone every two years or bust” sense of the term. But it was an era when England was relatively free of foreign marauders, crops grew in abundance in a pleasant climate, order was maintained, law was generally fair, and government respected its citizens.
Indeed, Edgar himself took part in a highly symbolic ceremony, being rowed on the Thames by eight kings in 973 to symbolize the internal harmony that made prosperity possible and that depended upon good government. Or six. Or maybe they just acknowledged his overlordship. It is true that no one tweeted the event so the details are a bit obscure.
It is also true that all was not peace and plenty in his day either, of course. Edgar himself came to the throne after Edmund was killed personally arresting a thief or, possibly, was assassinated. Mind you Edmund’s brother Eadred then reigned well and nobly despite a crippling digestive ailment before passing the throne to Edgar’s undistinguished brother Eadwig, who wasn’t much use.
Worse, Edgar’s son Edward “the Martyr” was murdered in a plot to put Aethelred the Unready on the throne, under whose miserable tyrannical and incompetent rule the Danish invasions resumed. But Edgar did preside over a peaceful kingdom, whatever his personal temperament, and Athelstan’s reign was magnificent.
All happiness is not found in the present, which has seen its share of horrors. And the lives of those who went before us were not necessarily mean or miserable just because they didn’t have computer chips or our advanced social views.
Under Edgar the peaceful, things really were as good in England as life gets for humans. And I for one wish I had been there to raise a cup of mead as those kings rowed him past.