Edith

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The female forename Edith is said by Hanks et al (2006) and other authorities to represent the OE ēad, 'prosperity, riches' + gӯð, 'strife'. But the modern form Edith was used before and after the Norman Conquest by scribes who knew Latin and Norman French better than English to represent various Old English women's names.

Edith is recorded as having been borne by

  • An obscure Anglo-Saxon saint, Eadgyth or Editha, of Polesworth, where she was Abbess in the mid-10th century - or earlier. She may have been of royal blood.
  • a daughter, Eadgyth, (c.911–946) of Edward the Elder, who married Otto 'the Great', King of the East Franks (912–973) in late 929 or early 930.
  • a daughter Saint Edith, Eadgyth in OE, (961–984) of King Edgar (the Peaceful) and Wulfthryth, who left her marriage to enter the religious life. She was Abbess of Wilton Abbey, a Benedictine convent in Wiltshire. Wulfthryh took her daughter, under one year old, with her. The child grew up as a nun, and, dying aged 23 somewhere between 977 and 991, was revered as a saint.
  • Eadgyth of Wessex (d. 1075), daughter of Earl Godwine and thus sister of Harold II of England. She was Edward the Confessor's Queen, having married him in 1045.
  • Edith, the concubine or wife more danico ('in the Danish style', 'handfast', indicating not married in church) of Harold II of England, and mother of at least five of his children, has been identified as being at least one of the following:
    • Ēadgifu or Eddeva, also written as Edeva, Edith the Fair, also nicknamed Edith the Rich, a wealthy landowner in eastern England
    • Ealdgyth Swanneshals, or Swann hnesce (Edith 'Gentle swan' or 'Swanneck’)), of whom it is told that she found Harold's mutilated body on the battlefield at Hastings and had it buried at Waltham Abbey
    • Eadgyth, Aldgyth, Eddid and Edied are also names that can be found for Harold's concubine.
  • Ealdgyth or Aldgyth (fl. c.1057–1066), daughter of Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia (d. 1062?) and thus sister of Eadwine, earl of Mercia and Morcar, earl of Northumbria. Around 1057 she married Gruffudd ap Llywelyn (d. 1063), king of Gwynedd, and ruler of all Wales after 1055. After Gruffyd was killed (1063) during a struggle with English forces led by Harold Godwineson, Edith married Harold (probably in 1066) and became his consort and queen of England.
The consort and Queen of Henry I of England, Matilda of Scotland, was christened Edith, although known as Matilda (or Maud or Mold) in her adult life.

Among more modern women who have been called Edith, users of AWE may come across:

  • Edith Cavell (1865-1915), a nurse in Belgium executed by the Germans for helping allied prisoners escape. She treated the injured of both sides impartially
  • Édith Cresson (née Campion), b. 1934, the only woman so far (2017) to have been Prime Minister of France, in 1991.
  • Edith Evans, DBE, (1888-1976), a classic British actress
  • Edith Nesbit (1858–1924), writer for children (as E. Nesbit) and for adults, sometimes as 'Fabian Bland'. (She was married to Hubert Bland, with whom she helped found the Fabian Society; one of their children, who died at 15, wasalso Fabian Bland (1885–1900).)
  • The French singer Édith Piaf (1915–1963)
  • Edith Somerville (1858–1949), Irish novelist
  • Edith Sitwell (1887–1964), British poet and critic
  • Edith Wharton (1836-1927), American novelist and writer - and
  • Edith Alice Scrivener (2017- ), who has yet to decide on a career
  • Two Ediths have been First Lady of the United States:
    • Edith Roosevelt (1861–1948), wife of President Theodore Roosevelt (in office 1901-1909)
    • Edith Wilson (1872-1961), second wife of President Woodrow Wilson (in officew 1913-1921)
  • and two Ediths have been recognized as saints, as well as Edith of Wilton (above) and Edith of Polesworth, who were recognized by popular acclaim:
    • St Edith Stein (1891-1942). Born a Jew in Germanyshe converted to Roman Catholicism in 1922 and entered a Carmelite convewnt, as Sister 'Teresa Benedicta of the Cross' in 1931. She died in Auschwitz in 1942, and was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1998.
    • Edith Cavell (above) is listed in the Church of England's Calendar of Saints, although she has not been formally canonized.