Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for Edmund



Edmund, King and Martyr, 855-869 or 870.
There was a campaign several years back to replace the cosmopolitan, nay global, George with one of the two homegrown boys he had displaced on his way to adding Patron of England to his rather lengthy resume.  Whether or not he suffered the same perforated end as the apparently sexier-to-many-people Sebastian, his symbol is often given as this:

Emblem of King Edmund, stained glass, St Peter and St Paul's Church, Hoxne, Suffolk. Artist: Derek Anson
However, something closer to the flag of Sweden or the arms of the University of Oxford, sans arrows, seems to have been more common until recently.  Compare the flag of East Anglia, where is it superimposed on George's cross:

It is the three crowns in particular that interest me.  Is it one crown for each county?  The Oxford website linked above notes that three crowns are associated with him, just as they are with Jesus Christ and King Arthur.  One could have wished for a fuller comment.

Montague Rhodes James, 1862-1936
I first ran across the legend of the three crowns that protect England in the story, "A Warning to the Curious" by that master of mood M. R. James.  The legend resists further archaeology.  Did James make it up?  If so, it's a wonderful conceit.  If you are not familiar with the antiquarian ghost tales of this scholar and Anglican clergyman, knock over some Old Etonians if you have to and get to the local bookstore or library and correct this misfortune as soon as ever you can.  James counts among his fans H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and Stephen King.

For a helpful instance of synchronicity, see this Clerk of Oxford.