Eadweard (Edward the Confessor)


b. c. 1005, Islip, Oxfordshire [1]
d. 4/5 Jan 1066, Westminster [2]

Title: Rex (King) (see note on royal styles) [3]
Term: after 8 Jun 1042 - 4/5 Jan 1066
Chronology: after 8 Jun 1042, acceded after the death of his half-brother, Harthacnut
  3 Apr 1043, consecrated, Winchester (see note on consecrations)
  4/5 Jan 1066, died
Names/titles: In modern English spelled as: Edward; byname: the Confessor; Saint Edward (canonized in 1161)

Eadweard was the eldest of the children born to King Æthelred Unræd and Emma, daughter of Richard, duke of the Normans. In 1013, Æthelred and his family were forced to flee into exile when Sweyn seized the English throne. Eadweard lived in Normandy until 1041, when he was called back to England by his half-brother, King Harthacnut. In some way Eadweard was associated with the kingship [4], but he was not consecrated during Harthacnut's lifetime. When the latter suddenly died on 8 Jun 1042, the royal council (witan) elected Eadweard as his successor. He was consecrated on Easter (3 Apr 1043) by Archbishop Edsige. Relying on the support of earls Leofric and Godwine, Eadweard stripped his powerful mother of her property and influence. He married Edith, daughter of Godwine, who continuously dominated the reign of his son-in-law until 1051. This year Godwine and his sons were banished for opposing the king's Norman favorites. In 1051 William, duke of Normandy (future King William the Conqueror) paid Eadweard a visit during which the king may have promised William succession to the English throne, but it was never proved. Godwine and his sons returned with an army in 1052 and were pardoned. With the death of Godwine (15 Apr 1053), his son, Earl Harold (later King Harold), took over the administration of kingdom as Eadweard devoted himself to religion and church affairs. In 1054 the English army invaded Scotland to secure the succession of Malcolm III, who was eventually installed as King of Scots in 1058. Harold led a number of raids against the Welsh and distinguished himself in the battles. Eadweard had no children and his nephew, the son of King Eadmund Ironside, Eadweard the Exile, was recalled from his exile in 1057. His sudden death soon after his arrival in England left Harold as the most probable candidate to the throne. Eadweard suffered a stroke in 1065 and died soon after the consecration of Westminster Abbey (28 Dec 1065). Biography sources: [5][6][7][8][9][10]

[1] Eadweard must have been born between 1002 (parents' marriage) and 1005 (first notice in a charter dated 16 Nov 1005) at Islip in Oxfordshire, a place which his mother gave him as a birthday gift. See Harmer, "Writs", no. 104. and pp. 334ff. The writ has some unsatisfactory features, but an authentic document probably lies behind it.
[2] The sources on the date of Eadweard's death waver between 4 Jan 1066 and 5 Jan 1066. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (MS 'C', 'D', and 'E') have "on the eve of the Epiphany" (i.e. 5 Jan 1066). John of Worcester also wrote that the date was 5 Jan 1066. However, "Vita Aedwardi Regis", attributed to a monk of St. Bertin, says "pridie scilicet nonas ianuarii" ("the day before the nones of January", i.e. 4 January). It is possible that Eadweard died in the night of 4/5 Jan 1066.
[3] The legend on Eadweard's seal reads: +SIGILLVM EADVVARD ANGLORVM BASILEI.
[4] The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (MS 'C', 'D') says that he was 'sworn in as king' ('theh waes to cinge gesworen').
[5] Handbook of British Chronology (1986)
[6] "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle," ed. and trans. by G.N. Garmonsway (Everyman Press, London, 1953, reissued 1972, 1994).
[7] "The Blackwell Encyclopædia of Anglo-Saxon England", ed. by Michael Lapidge (Oxford, Blackwell, 1999).
[8] "The Life of King Edward the Confessor who rests at Westminster", ed. Frank Barlow (1962), 2nd ed.
[9] "Edward the Confessor", by Frank Barlow (1984 reprint of 1970 edition, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley 1984).
[10] "Anglo-Saxon Writs", ed. and tr. by Florence E. Harmer (Manchester University Press, 1952).
  Image: coin of King Eadweard.
Last updated on: 14 Mar 2010 03:56:03