Edward the Confessor, son of Ethelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, had grown up in exile in Normandy after the Viking invasion of 1013. Although born an Anglo-Saxon, he spent much of his life in Normandy, which had made him essentially a Norman.
It was his half-brother, Harthacnut, who invited Edward back to England, and gave him a place in the royal court as his co-ruler and successor. When Harthacnut died in 1042, Edward the Confessor succeeded him as King of England.
Edward the Confessor was the last in the line of great Wessex kings, descended from Alfred the Great.
King Edward the Confessor
King Edward the Confessor was crowned in April 1043, and would remain King of England until his death in 1066. Although he died in 1066, Edward the Confessor did not die in the Battle of Hastings, rather he passed away peacefully and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
During his reign, King Edward the Confessor was neither a skilled soldier nor a politician. His rule was dominated by the powerful Godwin family, where peace and prosperity stabilised England. There were a few skirmishes with Scotland and Wales during his reign, but nothing to affect the administration of his leadership. Most ordinary people accepted Edward, but he clashed with his nobles often, mostly because he kept bringing in his Norman friends to court.
King Edward the Confessor had tremendous support from Earl Godwin of Wessex during his reign, a powerful noble from a Saxon heritage. He was the son of a Saxon thane, and had risen to earldom of Wessex during Canute’s reign. However, Godwin was often irritated by the fact that Edward would promote Normans to key positions in the court. To pull himself closer to the crown, Godwin arranged the marriage of King Edward to his daughter, Edith. Rumours spread that the wedding was not consummated, and the King never had any heirs.
However, King Edward the Confessor was not all that weak. When he and Godwin clashed over the Norman presence in the court, King Edward banished Godwin and his family from court and sent his wife, Edith, to a convent! In their absence, King Edward entertained his cousin, William of Normandy (soon to be William the Conqueror), where it could be perceived that he offered William succession to the English throne, upon his death.
Godwin eventually pushed his way back into court, as King Edward wanted to rule out a civil war. This made the Godwin family even more powerful. When Godwin died in 1053, his son Harold Godwinson inherited the Earldom of Wessex. King Edward the Confessor gave Harold more responsibilities, and eventually the position of Supreme Royal Advisor. The influence and power the Godwin family had now gained, was unquestionable. This would lead to the future crowning of Harold Godwinson (Harold II) as King of England, on 6 January 1066.
Edward the Confessor Family Tree
The Edward the Confessor family tree is complicated, at least for the immediate relatives he had. The most notable people in the Edward the Confessor Family Tree are:
As you can see, no-one seem to have any heirs to succeed King Edward. This caused the struggle for the crown after the death of King Edward the Confessor, with Harold II swiftly being crowned despite challenges from William of Normandy. These challenges would result in the most famous battle of all, the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
St Edward the Confessor
St Edward the Confessor was made a saint after his death. He was a deeply religious man, who lived a peaceful and pious life. He preferred to attend Church and the occasional hunt than carry out his duties as King. The name ‘The Confessor’ was given to Edward because of the holy life he had lead.
Edward the Confessor Facts
- Edward the Confessor was born in 1003 in Islip, Oxfordshire
- His Father was Ethelred the Unready
- His Mother was Emma of Normandy
- He was crowned in April 1043 at Winchester and ruled until his death in 1066
- He married Edith Godwin from the powerful Wessex Godwin family
- He had no children
- He died in January 1066, aged 62
- He was called ‘the Confessor’ because of his pious life