Edward the Martyr was the only son of King Edgar the Peacemaker of England and his first wife. He came to the throne at the age of 13 in 975 on his father's death. His stepmother, Edgar's second wife, claimed that her son Ethelred had a better claim to the monarchy because she had been crowned, while Edward's mother hadn't (which was agreed with by many at the time). However, his father's advisor Dunstan had Edward crowned as soon as possible to try and solidify Edward's claim.

On 18 March 979, Edward made the mistake of visiting his stepmother and half-brother during a hunting trip. His stepmother handed him a cup while he was still on his horse, and as he drank, her servants attacked him. He was stabbed and fell out of the saddle, but his foot caught in the stirrup, so his horse dragged him along the ground, injuring him further so that he died soon. He was buried without the honors usually given to royalty, but soon people started saying his intercession to answer their prayers was a source of miracles (at that point he was exhumed and reburied elsewhere). In 1931, bones supposed to be him were found at an archeological dig, and eventually they were placed in the Russian Orthodox chapel of St. Edward (Edward the Martyr himself) in Surrey (in 1988).

Edward was succeeded on the throne by his half-brother Ethelred the Unready, who was only about 11 and probably had no involvement in Edward's death.

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