Edward's Ring

The story of Saint Edward's ring was first printed in England by William Caxton, in the "Golden Legende," the first English printer's most popular publication. King Edward the Confessor was one day accosted by a beggar, "a fayre old man." Having no money about him, and being unaccompanied by the almoner whose duty was to bear his purse, the saintly King drew a ring from his own finger and gave it to the beggar.

Shortly afterwards two English pilgrims, lost in the Holy Land, met "a fayre ancient man, wyth whyte heer for age." He asked them who they were and where they were from. When he heard that they were English pilgrims who had lost their road and their fellow countrymen, he took charge of them, and led them to a beautiful city where he provided them with food and beds for the night.

Next morning he journeyed forth with them to put them on their right road, and as they travelled together he took great pleasure in hearing them talk of their saintly King, Edward. When the moment came for the pilgrims to leave him and go on ahead alone, he gave them farewell in the following words: " I am Johan, the Evangelist, and saye ye unto Edward, your kynge, that I greet him well." He delivered to them a ring which they were to give to their monarch on their return to their own country, and then vanished.

The pilgrims reached their native land safely and took the ring to Edward, who at once recognised it as the one he had drawn from his finger to give to a venerable beggar.

King Edward's holy ring is variously said to have been buried with him and carefully preserved at his shrine in the Abbey of Westminster which was despoiled on the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII.

In any case, it was not forthcoming by the date of the Restoration, when a new ring was fashioned for the Coronation of Charles II. " The Wedding-Ring of England, pledge of the Marriage that is made between the King and his people," is placed on the third finger of the Sovereign's right hand during the Coronation, and is an essential feature of the ceremony.

The legend of St. Edward's ring is commemorated in three places in the Abbey of Westminster - over a gate leading into Dean's Yard, in the glass of one of the eastern windows, and on the screen which divides the Confessor's shrine from the Choir.

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