This simplified family tree show Edward's ancestors and his relationship to William the Conqueror.
Early years in Normandy
The Danes, led by Swein Fork-Beard and his son Canute, had been attacking England since 994 and in 1013 finally took control of the Danelaw area. Aethelred accepted defeat and fled to Normandy with Emma, Edward and their other children. In Normandy Alfred and Edward were brought up as Norman princes and learnt Norman ways and customs. Swein's control of England was short-lived as he died in February of 1014. Swein had specified that his son Canute should become King of England after his death, but the Witan council sent a message to Aethelred in exile asking him to return. Athelstan sent messengers to England along with Edward to discuss terms for his return. Athelstan did return and Canute left England for Denmark where he was needed to ensure his rule there. Athelstan reigned until 1016 to be followed by his son Edmund (Ironside). Edmund died in the same year and the English throne was taken by the Dane Canute and then by his son Harthacanute.
Becomes King of England
In 1042 Harthacanute died without providing a male heir. This opened the way for Edward to become King and the return of the Saxons.
Edward's control of the country was shared with the powerful Earl Godwine of Wessex. The Godwine family of Wessex had become a powerful force in the court of Edward the Confessor and Edward even married Earl Godwin's daughter Edith. In 1051 an incident occurred when Eustace II of Boulogne visited Edward the Confessor, his brother-in-law. The incident occurred in Dover where a fight broke out between the Norman visitors and the locals. Several people were killed. The area of Dover was under the control of the Godwine family and Edward the Confessor, who blamed the villagers for the fight, told Godwine to deal with them. Godwine refused to obey Edward's order and in response Edward raised an army and forced the Godwine family into exile. It is possible that Edward's expulsion of the Godwine family, and a promise sent to William Duke of Normandy to become the next king of England, was a need to free himself from the Godwine family and their attempts to take the English throne. At this time Edward sent Godwine's youngest son and grandson to Normandy as hostages in case the Godwines tried to return.