|Edward "the Confessor"
aka King Edward III of England
Edward was born in 1003, the
son of Ethelred II "the Unready" and
Emma, the daughter of Richard I of Normandy. He
was half-brother to King Edmund Ironside,
Ethelred's son by his first wife, and to King
Hardicanute, Emma's son by her second marriage
with Canute. The family was
exiled to Normandy after the Danish invasion of
1013, but returned the following year and
negotiated Ethelred's reinstatement. After
Ethelred's death in 1016 the Danes again took
control of England, and Edward and his family
were again forced into exile.
Upon Canute's death in 1035 his illegitimate
son, Harold, seized the throne, the legitimate
heir Hardicanute being in Denmark at the time.
Edward and his brother Alfred were persuaded to
make an attempt to gain the throne. The attempt
ended with the death of Alfred at Harold's hands
and Edward once again being exiled to Normandy.
On Hardicanute's sudden death in 1042, Edward was
called by acclamation to the throne, and was
welcomed even by the Danish settlers owing to his
gentle saintly character.
In 1045, Edward married Edith,
daughter of Godwin, Earl of the West Saxons. The
couple never had children, as Edward had taken a
vow of chastity.
In 1051, a number of Normans were killed in a
brawl in Dover, Kent. Edward still had
influential friends in Normandy and he wanted the
people of Dover punished. Edward ordered Earl
Godwin to do this, but Godwin refused and raised
an army against the king instead. Two other
senior noblemen, the earls of Mercia and
Northumbria, remained loyal to Edward, and
outnumbered, Godwin agreed to leave England and
live with his family in Flanders.
Between 1051 and 1052, Edward increased the
number of Normans who advised him at court. This
angered the Witan -- a body of English advisors
made up of the most important noblemen in England
-- and in 1052, Earl Godwin returned to England
with an army. Edward was unable to raise an army
to fight Godwin as no nobleman was willing to
support the king. Edward was forced to send back
to Normandy his Norman advisors and he had to
return to Godwin all his estates and accept him
back into the kingdom. Godwin died in 1053, and
his title was taken by Harold who became known as
Harold of Wessex. He was the most powerful
nobleman in England.
The rest of Edward's reign was peaceful and
prosperous. Skirmishes with the Scots and Welsh
were only occasional and internal administration
was maintained. The financial and judicial
systems were efficient and trade was good. Edward
undertook no wars except to repel an inroad of
the Welsh, and to assist Malcolm III of Scotland
the usurper of his throne.
on January 4, 1066, and was buried in Westminster
Abbey, which he had founded. Shortly before
his death, Edward named Harold as his successor
even though he may already have promised the
crown to a distant cousin, William, Duke of
Normandy. The subsequent fight for succession led
to the Norman invasion of October 1066.
Edward was canonized by Pope
Alexander III in 1161.
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