Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Edward the Confessor

Edward's life was a series of contrasts.

Son of an English king (Ethelred The Unready), he nevertheless spent much of his life in Normandy, making Norman French friends.

Although so pious that he was called "The Confessor," when he became king in 1042 he ruthlessly deprived his mother of all her estates because he felt she had neglected him as a child.

Although he married Edith in 1045, he had taken a vow of celibacy that meant he would produce no heir. (What Edith thought of this is unknown.)

Although his father-in-law was Godwin of Wessex, one of his most powerful retainers, he and Godwin were frequently at odds. When Edward asked Godwin to punish some of his subjects who had hassled the king's Norman friends, Godwin refused and raised an army to fight Edward. Unfortunately for Godwin, none of the other great lords wanted to join him, so Godwin found himself losing and had to choose exile for himself.

Although Edward should have learned his lesson regarding Norman vs. Anglo-Saxon friction, Edward increased the number of Norman councilors. The Anglo-Saxon population disliked this so much that they supported Godwin when an invasion by his two sons, Harold and Tostig, took place in 1052. Godwin was allowed to return. Godwin forced Edward to send the Normans away.

Although he had unhappy dealings with Godwin's family, when Godwin died in 1053, Edward named Godwin's son Harold the heir of Edward.

Although he named Harold his heir, William of Normandy claimed that Edward had named William his heir in 1051. When Edward died in 1066, the stage was set for conflict.

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