The Abbey Church of St Edmund was built between the 11th and 12th century, and the body of the martyred King Edmund was interred there in 1095. His shrine stood behind the high altar. The abbey church was once of the largest in the country, and it is now in ruins.
One of its notable events related to royal women relates to Queen Isabella, wife of King Edward II. She had returned from Hainaut on 29 September 1327 with an army to depose her husband. She had arrived clad in widow’s weeds and marched her forces to the abbey “with banners displayed.”1 She was given lodgings in the abbey, where she found a donation of 800 marks by one Hervey de Staunton. Isabella visited the shrine of St Edmund and gave her soldiers some time to rest before moving west to Cambridge. Isabella eventually succeeded in deposing her husband and putting her young son on the throne – while she was the power behind the throne.
The abbey did not survive the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 and fell into ruins. The body of King Henry VIII’s sister Mary Tudor, who had been buried at the abbey in 1533, was moved to the nearby St. Mary’s church, where she still rests today.
The abbey ruins are open to the public and are owned by English Heritage.
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