The architects of the reforms were now divided and split into factions and these leaders were divided as to whether Edward or Æthelred should succeed Edgar. Of course the Queen Dowager supported the claims of her son Æthelred and she found support in Bishop Æthelwold. On the other hand Archbishops Dunstan and Oswald supported Edward. It is suggested that perceptions of legitimacy played a part in the arguments, as did the relative age of the two candidates. In time, Edward was anointed by Archbishops Dunstan and Oswald at Kingston upon Thames, most likely in 975. There is evidence that the settlement involved a degree of compromise. Æthelred appears to have been given lands which normally belonged to the king's sons, some of which had been granted by Edgar to Abingdon Abbey and which were forcibly repossessed for Æthelred by the leading nobles. Of course, Edward’s crowning did not rift cutting through the English kingdom. His early reign appears to have been one of turmoil, with the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reporting a comet, a famine and “manifold disturbances”, which is likely to refer to the anti-monastic reaction that broke out following Edgar’s death.
On the 18th March 978 Edward visited his step-mother Ælfthryth and half-brother Æthelred at Corfe, in present day Dorset. There he was murdered, under circumstances and for motives that are unclear. The earliest surviving version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle only states that he was killed, while versions from the 1040s say he was martyred. The Life of Oswald of Worcester, attributed to Byrhtferth of Ramsey, adds that Edward was killed by Æthelred's advisers, who attacked him when he was dismounting. Later sources, further removed from events, such as the late 11th-century Passio S. Eadwardi and John of Worcester, claim that Ælfthryth organised the killing of Edward, while Henry of Huntingdon wrote that she killed Edward herself. All sources agree that he was buried without ceremony at Wareham. Of this fact the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says:
“No worse deed for the English race was done than this was, since they first sought out the land of Britain. Men murdered him, but God exalted him. In life he was an earthly king; after death he is now a heavenly saint. His earthly relatives would not avenge him, but his Heavenly Father has much avenged him”
Edward was succeeded by his half-brother Æthelred II, who is best known as Æthelred the Unready.
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