Edward the Confessor and Earl GodwinTweet
dward the Confessor became King of England in 1042 after the death of Harthacnut, the son of Canute. Edward was the son of Athelred (Ethelred) the Unready and Emma. What was the relationship between Edward the Confessor the King of England and the powerful Earl Godwin and his family?
|Edward the Confessor and Supporters||Earl Godwin and Supporters|
Edward the Confessor
Was the King of England from 1042 until 1066. When Edward the Confessor died in 1066 he left no sons or daughters to become the ruler of England. This started a dispute over who should become the next English king. This lead to the invasion by William the Conqueror. Edward had strong links to Normandy and had been influenced by his Norman friends
Eustace, Count of Boulogne
Eustace married Godgifu, the sister of Edward the Confessor. When Eustace was involved at Dover in a fight between Norman sailors and the town's inhabitants Edward the Confessor ordered Godwin to punish the townspeople. When Godwin refused, Edward expelled the Earl's family from the country.
Godwin, Earl of Wessex
Was a Saxon who was given the title of Earl of Wessex by King Canute. His daughter married Edward the Confessor.
Was the son of Earl Godwin. Harold became the Earl of Wessex when his father died 1053. Harold was nominated as the new King of England when Edward the Confessor died in January of 1066.
Was the daughter of Earl Godwin and her marriage to Edward the Confessor meant Earl Godwin had a powerful influence over the King.
Was the son of Earl Godwin. Sweyn murdered his cousin and was exiled to Flanders by Edward the Confessor.
Edward's links to Normandy
Athelred, Emma and Edward escaped to Normandy when the Danes invaded and Sweyn became king of England. Emma was the daughter of Richard, the Duke of Normandy. Edward spent all of his childhood in Normandy and his main spoken language was French. Edward knew more about Norman customs and people than he did about the English. When he became King of England Edward's links with Normandy also meant that many of the important people in his court where Normans. The Norman language and customs began to be used in England.
Earl Godwin's power
Godwin was the Earl of Wessex and Kent. This put him in a powerful position but his influence on the King was further increased when his daughter Edith married Edward the Confessor. Godwin had several sons who themselves had gained important positions. Harold was his eldest son and was the Earl of East Anglia. Edward's control of the country was shared with Earl Godwin and his sons. Earl Godwin objected to the influence that Edward's Norman friends at court were having on the King and the country.
Expulsion of Godwin and his family
An incident occurred in 1051 that lead to the expulsion of Earl Godwin and his family. Edward's brother-in-law, Eustace of Boulogne, was visiting the King and when travelling back to Normandy via Dover was involved in a dispute with the local English people. A fight broke out and several Normans were killed. Eustace complained to Edward about the treatment he and his friends had received. Edward was unhappy with the conduct of the English in Dover even though they may not have started the dispute. Edward told Earl Godwin to punish the locals as Dover was under his control. Godwin refused and Edward raised an army and confronted the Earl resulting in the expulsion of Godwin and his family. As Queen Edith was Godwin's daughter, Edward had her confined to a convent.
Invasion by Earl Godwin
In 1052 Earl Godwin and his sons sailed into London with an invasion fleet. The English people were happy to see the Earl return as while he had been away the Norman influence in the King's court had increased. Edward risked a civil war if he opposed the Godwins and in any case did not have enough ships and men to oppose the Earl. Godwin demanded that he and his sons should be reinstated into their previous positions of power and that Edward's Norman advisors at court should be removed. Edward had to accept the demands. This put the Godwins back at the centre of power in England.
Earl Godwin died in April of 1053 and his eldest son Harold became the Earl of Wessex. Harold would become King of England when Edward the Confessor died.
See the timeline below or this graphical version for more detailed information.
Early Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
Last Middle Ages
Early Modern Period