Friday, February 24, 2006

Edward the Confessor, celibacy, and history

Our property casebook tells us that in 1066 Edward the Confessor, generally regarded as a legitimate saint in a field of kingly "saints-by-right," died. Since he was so saintly, he was celibate, and since he was celibate (sorry to explain this), he had no children. That meant a big fight, and William the Conqueror won.

Ever since studying Old English, taking Tolkien as a scholarly model-mentor (with his approach to life and his Sir Gawain and the Green Knight being a favorite of mine), trying to memorize passages of Beowulf, and reading Ivanhoe, I have had a hard heart towards the Normans. I believe that Alfred the Great provides a far better role model--aggressive saintliness, promotion of learning, diplomatic finesse, wild Christianity free from continental discipline--than a line of Franks, basically Germans without the competence, which produced John the Fool and couldn't make a space for Richard the Lionheart.

The fact that a king, so well regarded as holy and wise, could not understand the need to beget a son--in order to keep pure and safe from the bloody French what was surely one of the great and curious and heroic civilizations--makes me question his saintliness. A king has a higher responsbility than a pasty distaste for carnal knowledge. A whore, a whore, my kingdom for a whore. What would have become of the experiment of Alfred and the heirs to the Battle of Maldon had Edward indulged, and then confessed?

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