Reigned 1042 – 1066
Edward the Confessor was one of the most important kings in English history. He was crowned king in 1042, and he is best known for his piousness and his building of Westminster Abbey.
Edward’s mother was a Norman, and his father the Englishman Aethelred the Unready. His father was over thrown and his mother was married to the new king Canute. Edward was sent to live with his Norman relatives.
The time Edward had spent in Normandy had completely converted him to the Norman way of life. It is uncertain if he could even speak English with any fluency. After the death of Hardecanute in 1042, Edward became King of England. Popularly known as Edward the Confessor.
Like his mother Emma, Edward continued to introduce many Normans to high office and their customs to the English (Saxon) way of life. Whether this was intentional or just natural is open to debate. As you can imagine, this was not very popular with the English people, especially the Godwins, who held most of the power in the country at the time. Godwin, father of the future King Harold II, was probably the most powerful man in the country at the time.
Godwin had many sons, but it seems only one daughter, Edith married Edward in 1045. Great resentment mounted between Godwin and Edward as to who held the power base in England. Edward because he was king and Godwin because he saw the erosion of his status and the Saxon way of life.
It is considered that the breaking point came when Edward’s brother in law, Eustace of Boulogne in 1051, was involved in a fracas at Dover where a number of Eustace’s men were killed. This angered Edward and he ordered Godwin to burn the town down. This he refused to do. For his refusal Harold Godwin chose to exile himself and his family.
Now that he was the unopposed ruler he invited William the Duke of Normandy to England and nominated him to be the next heir to the throne.
About a year later Godwin returned. He used his status and resources to oust many of the Normans who had taken over high office positions. Probably the most important person to be removed was the Norman Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert of Jumieges. He was replaced by Stigand and promptly excommunicated by the Pope , as you could not remove an Archbishop from office whilst still alive.
The Abbey was consecrated in 1065 and is considered Edward’s greatest accomplishment since it is where not only his earthly remains were laid to rest, but also those of later English monarchs.
By taking an army into Wales in 1063, Edward made peace with the Welsh princes who were at war with his brother-in-law Harold Godwinson. He was famously pious and became known as “the Confessor.” The title said a lot about him because it meant that he had been chosen to die before the Second Coming of Christ.
Many people became very religious after 1050 and Edward was one of them. He ignored the problem of Godwin’s son Harold who wanted the throne for himself. In fact, he made him Earl of Wessex in 1053 and Godwin promised that his future son-in-law would not try to usurp the throne.
It was 1051 when Edward married Edith, who he described as a “peace weaver.” He devoted himself to religion and building churches and abbeys. Unfortunately, he was childless so it fell to Harold to be his heir.
Despite the resentment of Godwin. The vow made by Edward the Confessor to make William his heir on his death changed dramatically on the kings actual death bed on the 5th January 1066. He was alleged to have said to Harold Godwinson, son of Godwin. “ I commend my wife to your care and with her my whole kingdom “.
He was buried at Westminster Abbey on 3 April 1066 with great ceremony and respect. His tomb, like his church, became a place of pilgrimage for many people at the time.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "Edward the Confessor" https://englishhistory.net/middle-ages/edward-the-confessor/, January 26, 2022