What did Edward ‘confess’?

He's the Anglo-Saxon king that founded Westminster Abbey and was the country's last royal saint, but why is he known as Edward the Confessor?

Edward the Confessor depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry.

This king of England is arguably best known for dying – as he did so in 1066 and precipitated a seriously bloody contest for the throne. It was also after his death that he picked up the sobriquet ‘Confessor’.

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The name was nothing to do with owning up to a mistake or admitting to a crime, but was a celebration of his deep piety. (It also helped him stand apart from another king, Edward the Martyr.)

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In 1161, the now-venerated Edward was canonised by Pope Alexander III – and a ‘confessor’ was a title given to a saint who had not been martyred. Simple as that.

This article was taken from issue 68 of BBC History Revealed magazine