Edward the Confessor

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Born 1004, son of King Aethelred Unraed and Emma, sister to Normandy's duke Richard II, Edward was taken to Normandy in 1013 to escape the Danish invasion of England. He was to remain there for a quarter century, and to acquire a familiarity with Normandy, its leaders and their governmental system. In 1036 he returned to England with his brother Alfred, to challenge Harold Harefoot for the throne. Alfred was captured and killed, Edward escaped back to Normandy. In 1041 he was invited back, as co-ruler with his half-brother (Emma's child by Cnut/Canute) Hardicanute, and on his co-ruler's death a year later, he succeeded to the entire kingdom, being crowned on 3 April 1043.

In January 1045 Edward married Edith of Wessex, daughter to Earl Godwin, a powerful noble. For religious reasons Edward declined to consummate the marriage, meaning Godwin would never get to be grandfather to a prince. Because of his dislike of Edward's pro-Norman sympathies, Earl Godwin spearheaded a group opposed to Norman ideas. Edward was finally obliged to exile Godwin in 1051, stripping him of his title. A year later, flouting his exile, and by force of arms, Godwin forced the king to restore him. Godwin died in 1053 and his son, Harold Godwinson, took up his cause, and the amazement of greater territorial power, to the despite of the King.

During the Godwin exile, William of Normandy had visited Edward, and it is believed that it is at this time that Edward promised him the throne of England on his own death. Godwinson placed himself as English heir-apparent, but Edward sent him to Normandy to swear fealty to William as future king. Heedless of this, as his father had been of the king's order of exile, when Edward died, Harold seized the throne, and ruled for nine months until the Norman Conquest replaced him by William

It is possibly also worthy of note that Edward is the English fons for the legend (or tradition) of "touching for the king's evil" -- the supposed cure of scrofula by the touch of an anointed king. The equivalent in France is King Clovis. Other countries, it would appear, have never felt the need for this especial benison of having a royal house.


Preceded by:
Hardicanute

English Monarchs

Succeeded by:
Harold Godwinson