Edith was born to the reigning English king Edward the Elder by his second wife, Ælfflæd, and hence was granddaughter of Alfred the Great. Nothing is known of her until in order to seal an alliance between two Saxon kingdoms, her half-brother, King Athelstan of England, sent two of his sisters (Eadgyth and Eadgifu of Wessex) to Germany, instructing the Duke of Saxony (later Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor) to choose whichever one pleased him best. Otto chose Edith and married her in 929. The remaining sister Algiva or Adiva was married to a "king near the Jupiter mountains" (the Alps). The precise identity of the husband of this sister is debated.
In 936 King Henry I of Germany died and his eldest son, Eadgyth's husband, was crowned at Aachen as King Otto I. There is a surviving report of the ceremony by Widukind of Corvey which makes no mention of his wife having been crowned at this point, but according to Thietmar of Merseburg's chronicle Eadgyth was nevertheless anointed as queen, albeit in a separate ceremony. As queen, Eadgyth undertook the usual state duties of "First lady": when she turns up in the records it is generally in connection with gifts to the state's favoured monasteries or memorials to holy women and saints. In this respect she seems to have been more diligent than her now widowed and subsequently sainted mother-in-law Queen Matilda whose own charitable activities only achieve a single recorded mention from the period of Eadgyth's time as queen. There was probably rivalry between the Benedictine Monastery of St Maurice founded at Magdeburg by Otto and Eadgyth in 937, a year after coming to the throne and Matilda's foundation at Quedlinburg Abbey, intended by her as a memorial to her husband, the late King Henry I.
Eadgyth accompanied her husband on his travels, though not during battles. She spent the hostilities of 939 at Lorsch Abbey
Like her brother, Athelstan, Edith was devoted to the cult of Saint Oswald and was instrumental in introducing this cult into Germany after her marriage to the emperor. Her lasting influence may have caused certain monasteries and churches in Saxony to be dedicated to this saint.
Eadgyth's death at a relatively young age was unexpected.
Edith and Otto's children were:
Her tomb is located in the Cathedral of Magdeburg. A lead coffin inside a stone sarcophagus with her name on it was found and opened in 2008 by archaeologists during work on the building. An inscription recorded that it was the body of Eadgyth, reburied in 1510. It was examined in 2009, then brought to Bristol, England, for tests in 2010. Professor Mark Horton of Bristol University said that "this may prove to be the oldest complete remains of an English royal." The investigations at Bristol, applying isotope tests on tooth enamel, checked whether she was born and brought up in Wessex and Mercia, as written history has indicated. Testing on the bones revealed that they are the remains of Eadgyth, from study made of the enamel of the teeth in her upper jaw. Testing of the enamel revealed that the individual entombed at Magdeburg had spent time as a youth in the chalky uplands of Wessex.
"Tests on these isotopes can give a precise record of where the person lived up to the age of 14," noted The Times of London in its story on the testing. "In this case they showed that the woman in the casket had spent the first years of her life drinking water that came from springs on the chalk hills of southern England. This matched exactly the historical records of Eadgyth’s early life."
The bones "are the oldest surviving remains of an English royal burial," Bristol University announced in a press release.
Following the tests the bones were re-interred in Magdeburg Cathedral on 22 October 2010.
|Ancestors of Eadgyth|
- Kennedy, Maev (20 January 2010). "Remains of Alfred the Great's granddaughter returned / Coming home: the Saxon queen lost for 1,000 years". The Guardian (London). p. 5. Retrieved 20 January 2010.
- Satter, Raphael G. (20 January 2010). "Discovery News". Bones of early English princess found in Germany. Retrieved 21 January 2010.
- German cathedral bones 'are Saxon queen Eadgyth, BBC News, 16 June 2010
- Remains of first king of England's sister found in German cathedral, The Guardian, 17 June 2010
- The Times, Simon de Bruxelles, 17 June 2010
- Bones confirmed as those of Saxon Princess Eadgyth, University of Bristol, 17 June 2010
- Königin Editha im Magdeburger Dom bestattet in: Spiegel Online vom 22. Oktober 2010
- Freytag von Loringhoven, Baron. Stammtafeln zur Geschichte der Europäischen Staaten, 1965.
- Klaniczay, Gábor. Holy Rulers and Blessed Princesses, 2002.
- The life of an Anglo-Saxon princess, Michael Wood, The Guardian, 17 June 2010
- How the study of teeth is revealing our history, Mike Pitts, The Guardian, 17 June 2010
Matilda of Ringelheim
|Queen consort of Germany
Adelaide of Italy
Matilda of Ringelheim
|Duchess consort of Saxony
2 July 936 – 26 January 946
Adelaide of Italy