The son of Edward, Saxon king of England, who died in 924, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Athelstan. The Masonic tradition is that Athelstan appointed his brother Edwin the Patron of Freemasonry in England, and gave him what the Old Records call a free Charter to hold an Annual Communication or General Assembly, under the authority of which he summoned the Freemasons of England to meet him in a Congregation at York, where they met in 926 and formed the Grand Lodge of England.
The Old Records say that these Freemasons brought with them many old writings and records of the Craft, some in Greek, some in Latin, some in French, and other languages, and from these framed the document now known as the York Constitutions, whose authenticity has been for years so much a subject of controversy among Masonic writers Prince Edwin died two years before his brother, and a report was spread of his being put wrongfully to death by him; "but this," says Preston, "is so improbable in itself, so inconsistent with the character of Athelstan, and, indeed, so slenderly attested, as to be undeserving a place in history." William of Malmesbury, the old chronicler, relates the story, but confesses that it had no better foundation than some old ballads. But now come the later Masonic antiquaries, who assert that Edwin himself is only a myth, and that, in spite of the authority of a few historical writers, Athelstan had no son or brother of the name of Edwin. Woodford (Old Charges of the British Freemasons, page xiv) thinks that the Masonic tradition points to Edwin, King of Northumbria, whose rendezvous was once at Auldby, near York, and who in 627 aided in the building of a stone church at York, after his baptism there, with Roman workmen. "Tradition," he says, "sometimes gets confused after the lapse of time; but I believe the tradition is in itself true which links Freemasonry to the church building at York by the Operative Brotherhood, under Edwin, in 627, and to a gild Charter under Athelstan, in 927."
The legend of Prince Edwin, of course, requires some modification, but we should not be too hasty in rejecting altogether a tradition which has been so long and so universally accepted by the Fraternity, and to which Anderson, Preston, Krause, Oliver, and a host of other writers, have subscribed their assent. The subject will be fully discussed under the head of York Legend, which see.
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