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Dunstan, Saint

DUNSTAN, SAINT (924 or 925-988), [1] English archbishop, entered the household of King Æthelstan when still quite a boy. Here he soon excited the dislike of his young companions, who procured his banishment from the court. He now took refuge with his kinsman Alphege, bishop of Winchester, whose persuasion, seconded by a serious illness, induced him to become a monk. Æthelstan's successor, Edmund, recalled him to the court and made him one of his counsellors. Through the machinations of enemies he was again expelled from the royal presence; but shortly afterwards Edmund revoked the sentence and made him abbot of Glastonbury. His successor Edred showed him greater favour still. On the accession of Edwig, however, in 955, Dunstan's fortunes underwent a temporary eclipse. Having offended the influential Ælfgifu, he was outlawed and compelled to flee to Flanders. But in 957 the Mercians and Northumbrians revolted and chose Edgar as their king. The new king at once recalled Dunstan, who was made a bishop. At first apparently he was without a see; but that of Worcester falling vacant, he was appointed to fill it. In 959 he received the bishopric of London as well. In the same year Edwig died and Edgar became sole king, Dunstan shared his triumph, and was appointed archbishop of Canterbury. On Edgar's death in 975 the archbishop's influence secured the crown for his elder son Edward. But with the accession of Æthelred in 979 Dunstan's public career came to an end. He retired to Canterbury, and died on the 19th of May 988.

Dunstan is of more importance as a lay than as an ecclesiastical statesman. The great church movement of his time - the reformation of English monasticism on Benedictine lines - found in him a sympathizer, but in no sense an active participant. But as a secular statesman he occupies a high place. He guided the state successfully during the nine years' reign of the invalid Edred. Through that of Edgar, he was the king's chief minister and most trusted adviser; and to him a great share in its glories must be assigned.

See Memorials of St Dunstan, edited by W. Stubbs (London, 1874); Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, edited by C. Plummer (Oxford, 1892-1899).

[1] The date of Dunstan's birth here given is that given in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle and hitherto accepted. In an appendix to the Bosworth Psalter, edited by Mr Edmund Bishop and Abbot Gasquet (1908), Mr Leslie A. St L. Toke gives reason to believe that the date must be set back at least as early as 910.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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