Edward the Confessor (1001??-1066)

Translation : Andrew Zolnai

King of England from 1042 to 1087

Edward was born just after Year 1000, around 1001-1004 in Islip (Oxfordshire)(1). He is the son of the King Æthelred "the Unready" and Emma of Normandy(2). He is the second-last Anglo-Saxon king of England.

Penny à l'effigie d'Edouard le Confesseur (source : Wikipédia, l'encyclopédie libre)
Penny of Edward the Confessor
Source : Wikipédia

In 1013, he must flee England with his brother Alfred and his mother because of the invasion by the Danes of Sweyn I Forkbeard(3), who seizes the throne. He takes refuge in Normandy at his uncle's, the Duke Richard II(4).
In 1014, Sweyn dies and leaves the throne of England to his son, Knut "the Great"(5). Emma, now widowed, returns then to England to marry Knut and thus give him legitimacy to the throne of England. In 1035, Knut "the Great" dies and the throne is subject to a fratricidal dispute between two of his sons : Harold Ist "Harefoot" and Knut III "the Hardy" (Harthcanut). Harold Ist will reign of 1035 to 1040 and Knut of 1040 to 1042.

Édouard le Confesseur (première scène de la tapisserie de Bayeux) (source : Wikipédia, l'encyclopédie libre)
EDWARD(US) REX: Edward the Confessor, enthroned, opening scene of the Bayeux Tapestry
Source : Wikipédia

The death of Knut "the Hardy" makes Edward his successor, and he takes the throne on 8 June, 1042. He will be crowned in Westminster the next year.
Edward will favour relations with the Normans by surrounding himself with many advisers to the detriment of the Saxons. To spare their susceptibilities, Edward marries in 1045 Edith, daughter of Godwin, the powerful Count de Wessex(6). In spite of this purely political marriage which will never be consummated, Godwin will head an anti-Norman party, to be joined by the Danes and many barons Saxons offended by Edward's attitude.

In 1051, a bloody riot breaks out in Dover upon the visit of Eustace of Boulogne(7), a close relation to the King. Godwin then rises up against the King by refusing to have the leaders punished. Edward then sends him to exile in Flanders with all his family and locks up his wife Edith in a monastery.
The next year, Godwin returns from exile at the head of a Saxon army, helped by all the Saxon lords of the kingdom.
Confronted with this show of force, the king can only return him his title of Count de Wessex and his domains. The return of Godwin will be short-lived, because in 1053, he will die choking on a piece of bread during a royal banquet in Winchester.

It is his son, Harold Godwinson, who inherits then Wessex to become the most powerful lord of the Kingdom.
Harold will distinguish himself gloriously in various campaigns against the Welsh, and for this reason declare himself heir to the throne of England, thus countering Guillaume of Normandy's plan to also declare himself successor of Edward through his family connection.

In January 1066, Edward dies in Westminster, in the abbey he had founded himself, without declaring clearly who will be his successor.

The nature of his reign he sought to be peaceful and prosperous, his great piety and his great religious faith brought him to be canonized in 1161(8).

Blason de l'Angleterre saxone

Next king : Harold Godwinson

Back to the list of England's Kings

Notes :

(1)Little village, located around 10 km north of Oxford.

(2)Æthelred II, born around 966, is king of England from 978 to 1013 and from 1014 to his death in 1016. His third wife, Emma is the sister of the Duke of Normandy Richard II, the grandfather of William the Conqueror.

(3)Sweyn Ist, born around 960, is the son of the king of Denmark Harald Ist. He ascended to the throne of Denmark around 986 until his death in the beginning of 1014. He led several expeditions against the England of Æthelred in the beginning of the 11th century, as retaliation for the massacre of Saint-Brice. In 1013, he accompanied imposing troops and defeated the army of Æthelred. He was then recognized as king of England, but will rule only a few days, as he died February 3rd, 1014.

(4)Richard II of Normandy, is the 4th Duke of Normandy after Rollon. He is the son of Richard Ist. He becames Duke around 996 at the death of his father.

(5)Knut the Great, younger son of Sweyn 1st. He was born around 994. He was king of England in 1016, after the death of his father and the brief return of Æthelred to the throne.

(6)Wessex was one of the seven Saxon Kingdom before the complete unification of England in 975 by Athelstan. Its territory went from London to Plymouth, at the extreme south-west of the Island.

(7)Eustace II of Boulogne, born around 1015, is the son of Eustace 1st of Boulogne and of Mathilde of Leuven. He is Count of Boulogne from 1047 to 1087, and was among the faithful companions of William the Conqueror.

(8)It also appears that 36 years after his death, his tomb was opened and it was noted that his body presented no sign of deterioration.

More references... Bibliography
  1. "Les Cahiers de l'Histoire"
    4éme trimestre 1960
  2. Who's Who in British History, Early Medieval England 1066-1272
    Christopher Tyerman ; StackPole Books, 2001
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Translation : Andrew Zolnai
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