The story of Edward

Matthew Paris (ca 1200–1259)
La estoire de seint Aedward le rei
London(?), ca 1255

The production of this hagiographical verse life of the canonised Anglo-Saxon king Edward the Confessor, whose succession by Harold Godwinson in 1066 led to the Norman Conquest, reflects the closely-woven relationship between religious observance and temporal power in medieval England. The poem recounts the visions, miracles and charity of Saint Edward, whose popular cult benefited both the Norman kings of England, to whom he was related through his mother, and Westminster Abbey, where he was buried. The poem, which appears to have been composed to mark an important event in the life of the Abbey, survived only in this manuscript. The book contains sixty-four large narrative pen and wash drawings, which are justly regarded as magnificent examples of thirteenth-century English illumination. The image shown here illustrates a story of Edward’s miraculous powers, in which the sight of four blind men was restored after they drank water which the king had used to wash his hands. The manuscript is one of nearly 2,000 given to the University Library in 1715 by King George I as part of the Royal Library.

This volume will be on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum as part of their exhibition Colour: The art and science of illuminated manuscripts from 30 July to 30 December 2016.

MS Ee.3.59, f. 24r