The Confessor: Edward I

The Confessor: Edward I

Edward the Confessor was king of England between 1042 to 1066. His dying was the transformation of Medieval England and paved the way for William the Conqueror’s infamous reign with castles, the Domesday Book and feudalism.

Edward is thought to have been born in 1003 to Ethelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy. Edward spent the first years of his life in Normandy and was raised with strong religious viewpoints - giving him the nickname ‘Confessor’. Though his childhood was not a happy one as he was away from his family in a strange land.

Edward’s half-brother Hardicanute called him back to England in 1040. Hardicanute had succeeded Ethelred that year and he died two years later after a drinking party, making Edward the new king of England.

Despite his religious views (reportedly by people who put the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle together) Edward firstly withheld all of his mother’s estates and reduced her to a state of poverty. It is believed Edward blamed her for his miserable, lonely childhood.

In 1045, Edward married Godwin of Wessex’s daughter who came from the family of England’s most important nobleman. Edward had chosen to remain celibate so the couple did not have children.

A number of Normans were killed in a brawl in 1051 in Dover, Kent. Edward wanted the locals of Dover to be punished as a result, so he used his advantage of having friends in positions of power such as the Earl of Godwin, and ordered them to do the deed. However, Godwin would not and instead he decided to raise up an army against Edward. The Earls of Mercia and Northumbria, who were two senior noblemen, were still loyal to Edward, and since Godwin was outnumbered, he decided to leave England and live in Flanders with his family.

Edward made an increase in the amount of Normans advising him at court between 1051 and 1052. The Witan (English advisory body consisting of England’s most senior noblemen) were very angry at this, and Godwin came back to England in 1052 with an army commanded by his two sons, Harold and Tostig. Edward was not able to raise an army for fighting Godwin since no noblemen left were willing to support the king. In the end, Edward had to send his Norman advisors back over to Normandy, give all his estates back to Godwin and accept him into the kingdom again. Even though he was the king of England, Edward had no choice about the situation.

When Godwin died in 1053, Harold took his title and became known as Harold of Wessex, England’s most powerful nobleman.

Edward had to be content with investing all his efforts in the building of London’s Westminster Abbey between 1052 and 1066. The Witan’s political and advisory power continued and after Edward had experienced its power before in 1052, he did not want to challenge it any more. Harold of Wessex commanded the army of the king and became a skilled leader.

In January 1066, Edward died, leaving no heirs - meaning the fight over who would succeed him led to the Norman invasion during October 1066 and the infamous Battle of Hastings.

See also:

Harald Hardrada (the last great Viking ruler)

William the Conqueror

MLA Citation/Reference

"The Confessor: Edward I". 2024. Web.

Key facts

Name: Edward the Confessor
Birth Date: 1003
Death: 4 January 1066
Dates of Reign: 1042 - 1066
Buried: Westminster Abbey