St. Wistan, King of Mercia
(Died AD 840)
Wistan, or Wigstan, was the son of Wigmund, probably sub-King of the Hwicce, and Elflaeda, daughter of the elderly King Ceolwulf of Mercia. He may have been the brother of King Ceolwulf II of Mercia and Lady Edburga of the Gaini (mother-in-law of King Alfred the Great), though this is far from certain. Wistan grew up during the reign of his paternal grandfather, King Wiglaf of Mercia, but his father predeceased him - apparently via a bad case of dysentery - and the young lad eventually succeeded Wiglaf to the Mercian throne in AD 840. King Wistan, however, preferred religious life to court life and therefore asked his widowed mother to act as regent. Meanwhile, one Bertwulf - certainly a relative of the late King Beornred and supposedly the brother of Wiglaf - wished to marry his son, Bertric, to this Royal lady. Wistan would have none of it for the two were closely related, and Bertwulf therefore decided, instead, to press his own claim to the Mercian Crown. On 1st June AD 840, Bertric went to visit the young King in peace at Wistow (Leics) - or Wistanstow (Salop) - but, when the two kissed, he struck Wistan on the head with the shaft of his dagger and his servant ran him through with his sword. Bertwulf thus took the throne through violence, as so often in those days. Wistan's body was supposedly discovered under a shaft of light from heaven. He was removed to the Royal monastery at Repton (Derbys) - where his superb Saxon pilgrimage crypt can still be seen today - and, afterwards in 1019, to Evesham Abbey (Worcs). He is still revered as a saint today.
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