Saint Edmund is the Patron of East Anglia, reigning as its king from 855 A.D. until his martyrdom at the hands of pagan vikings on Nov.20, 869 A.D. According to several accounts, King Edmund ruled his people in a just and pious manner. Vikings had long raided the Christian monasteries and settlements of England, and the Anglo-SaxonChronicle tells of how a “great heathen army” invaded the island in 865 A.D.
The King valiantly led his army to protect East Anglia from this invasion, but was defeated in battle. According to an account attributed to St. Dunstan of Canterbury, the viking leader Ivar the Boneless tied up St. Edmund, and ordered him shot full of arrows and beheaded when the king would not forsake Christ. His head was thrown into a nearby wood, where a wolf miraculously defended it from heathens who wanted to visit further indignities on the relics of the martyr.
Edmund’s followers later found the wolf, who allowed the king’s men to retrieve it peacefully. Once the martyr’s head and body were reunited, they were interred at Bury St. Edmunds. A century later, the saint’s relics were exhumed and not only found to be incorrupt, but the head and body were attached and whole. Saint Edmund’s relics remain at Bury St. Edmunds to this day. The flag of Suffolk bears a gold crown and arrow on a blueshield charge placed over St. George’s Cross. The crown represents St. Edmund and the arrow his manner of martyrdom.
Saint Edmund is commemorated on November 20/December 3.