England, Anglicans, and the Prophecy of St. Edward the Confessor

I just finished reading the text of Pope Benedict’s newly promulgated apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus (“Groups of Anglicans”), in which he opened wide the door for Anglicans to convert to the Catholic Church en masse and retain their identity as Anglo-Catholics. As many have commented before me, this is a bold and hugely significant step in the direction of finally bringing England herself back into the Catholic fold. May God hasten that day!

As I reflect on Anglicanorum Coetibus, I recall having read a few prophecies from long ago regarding the eventual reconversion of England to the ancient Catholic Faith it had professed for many centuries prior to the Protestant rebellion. This one, which can be found in the Catholic Encyclopedia, is particularly interesting, and I am inclined to think that Pope Benedict’s historic overture to Anglicans fits nicely into what St. Edward described in his prophecy:

Ambrose Lisle Philipps in a letter to the Earl of Shrewsbury dated 28 October, 1850, in giving a sketch of English Catholic history, relates the following vision or prophecy made by St. Edward:

“During the month of January, 1066, the holy King of England St. Edward the Confessor was confined to his bed by his last illness in his royal Westminster Palace. St. Ælred, Abbott of Rievaulx, in Yorkshire, relates that a short time before his happy death, this holy king was wrapt in ecstasy, when two pious Benedictine monks of Normandy, whom he had known in his youth, during his exile in that country, appeared to him, and revealed to him what was to happen to England in future centuries, and the cause of the terrible punishment.

They said: ‘The extreme corruption and wickedness of the English nation has provoked the just anger of God. When malice shall have reached the fullness of its measure, God will, in His wrath, send to the English people wicked spirits, who will punish and afflict them with great severity, by separating the green tree from its parent stem the length of three furlongs. But at last this same tree, through the compassionate mercy of God, and without any national (governmental) assistance, shall return to its original root, reflourish and bear abundant fruit.’

After having heard these prophetic words, the saintlyKing Edward opened his eyes, returned to his senses, and the vision vanished. He immediately related all he had seen and heard to hisvirgin spouse, Edgitha, to Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury, and to Harold, his successor to the throne, who were in his chamber praying around his bed.” (See “Vita beati Edwardi regis et confessoris”, from manuscript Selden 55 in Bodleian Library, Oxford.)

The interpretation given to this prophecy is remarkable when applied to the events which have happened. The spirits mentioned in it were the Protestant innovators who pretended, in the sixteenth century, to reform the Catholic Church in England. The severance of the green tree from its trunk signifies the separation of the English Church from the root of the Catholic Church, from the Roman See.

This tree, however, was to be separated from its life-giving root the distance of “three furlongs”. These three furlongs are understood tosignify three centuries, at the end of which England would again be reunited to the Catholic Church, and bring forth flowers of virtue and fruits of sanctity. The prophecy was quoted by Ambrose Lisle Philipps on the occasion of the reestablishment of the Catholic hierarchy in England by Pope Pius IX in 1850.


  1. Sr. Lorraine

    Other Catholic mystics have made similar prophecies. For example, Venerable Bartholomew Holzhauser said this: "After desolation has reached its peak in England, peace will be restored and England will return to the Catholic faith with greater fervor than ever before."May God hasten that day!

  2. ELC

    See Newman's Second Spring, surely one of the most amazing sermons ever preached.

  3. On the side of the angels

    Patrick – hate to be specious but -ibus is either dative or ablative; and 'groups' ? it's the same word used for sexual union ; so in regards to its spiritual and ontological union it means so much more !I'll reiterate ELC – read it !

  4. Patrick Madrid

    You'll notice in the English translation that the Latin "Anglicanorum Coetibus" is rendered as ". . . the Holy Spirit has moved groups of Anglicans . . ." Although "coetus" can refer to sexual union, it surely does not have that connotation here. Anyway, it's worth noting that the official Vatican translation of the Latin into English used the wording "groups of Anglicans."

  5. Sheila Deeth

    Fascinating reading. Thanks.

  6. Eric Ewanco

    Aren't we a few centuries overdue?

  7. M. G. Hysell

    Let's not forget the original text of Fr Frederick Faber's "Faith of our Fathers": "Mary's prayers shall win our country back to Thee." The intercession of the Mother of God has been instrumental here.

  8. Apollo

    12 years before Lourdes (in 1846), Our Lady appeared at the small French village of La Salette to 2 cowherds Melanie Mathieu and Maximin Giraud. To each, she gave a secret, now known as the famous “Secret of Melanie” and “Secret of Maximin”. Now one of the prophecies contained in the alleged “Secret of Maximin” reportedly said that “a Protestant country in the north will return to the Catholic fold.” All this time, for some reason, I was suspecting that Our Lady was referring to Great Britain. Upon reading this news of Pope Benedict XVI agreeing to set up this historic Apostolic Constitution, the first thing that came to my mind was that are we perhaps seeing the beginnings of the fulfillment of this prophecy? Do take note that, aside from this historic move by the Holy See, there had been many other indications this past decade that Britain seems to be on its way of rebuilding the bridge to Rome that was demolished by Henry VIII, such as an-ever increasing individual conversions to Catholicism of public figures from the British press, government, and even the nobility (not to mention that visit of Prince Philip to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham a couple or so days ago, the first such visit to that famous medieval Marian shrine by a member of the British royal family since the Reformation!). Oh, I can just hear Queen Mary saying “Hah!” to her father and her sister!

  9. Mo

    I heard that there are now more practicing Catholics in England than practicing Anglicans. Is there any truth to this?

  10. Sonnyli

    http://www.jewsforjesus.org.au/The other day as I was walking in the city and apparently saw this guy handling out flyers. I grabbed one of course everything it said in it as a general introduction of the Jews community in Australia. Well, good to hear the good news. But I don't see which side they are on, would they follow the Roman Catholic religion or the Prostestant. As you can see on their website they just claimed that they are Christian. Is this the sign of the time brethren?

  11. Chris H

    It may be well and good to speculate about "prophecies" from St. Edward the Confessor, but I find several flaws in the argument that you present: if we accept that Aelred's vision is accurate, we must acknowledge the fact when St. Edward received this vision, the "English," as we know them today, did not exist – the "English" of St. Edward were in conflict with the Norman forces who are the supposed predecessors of today's English nation. We must also confront the fact that the manuscript cited by the Catholic Encyclopedia dates to the reign of King Henry VI, who was trying to unite a country that was plagued by internal and external problems. The 100 Year's War was drawing to its end and Henry was living in a country that needed some political cohesion, which was secured (and lost) under the Tudor dynasty. (Henry VII tried to reinforce this by naming his first son Arthur, connecting the Tudors with the mythos of British continuity.)If we accept that the account of St. Edward's prophecy is an authentic of Aelred of Rivaulx's vision, we should also consider the context of Aelred's life. He was writing during the chaos following the death of King William II. As both an Englishman and as a Monk – one whose correspondence confirms a desire for a more strict Rule for life – it seems that he is presenting a hopeful vision for the England, one that is not beset by the turmoil which he observed in his life.

  12. biblelady

    Fascinating info, Pat! I'm praying for this as I have been praying for years for all Protestants to return home!

  13. becket

    Quote: "I heard that there are now more practicing Catholics in England than practicing Anglicans. Is there any truth to this?"It is true that there are more "practicing Catholics". But in shear numbers baptized, there are way more Anglicans in England. We also need not forget Scotland and Whales, where Protestantism still dominates.

  14. becket

    Also keep in mind that the majority of Traditional Anglicans that may return to the fold, are not from England, but from Australia. England has a very tiny community of traditional Anglicans. And none of them are attached to the dioceses that we lost after the reformation. Examples, Canterbury, York, Salisbury, Duhram, Exetor, etc. Not to be negative, but there is along way to go before this prophecy shows fruit. I doubt we will see it in our lifetime. We can only hope we do!.

  15. Anonymous

    What about the vision of St Dominic Savio who had a dream in which he saw Britain as an island in darkness. A pope stepped on the island with his light and the light spread has he walked further in to the land. This so impressed St Dominic Savio and his teacher St John Bosco, that they went to the Holy Father in Rome and recounted the dream. The Holy Father, the then Pope Leo XIII understood its importance immediately and said England was very much in his prayers.

  16. Anonymous

    Why not pray in invocation to the king and the Prophet; that God will raise up a leader who,like David, will listen to the Spirit of God speaking through his chosen prophets of the Church in the tradition of Samuel, who will obey his Call.

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