Edward the Confessor

Edward the Confessor, d. 1066, king of the English (1042–66), son of Æthelred the Unready and his Norman wife, Emma. After the Danish conquest (1013–16) of England, Edward grew up at the Norman court, although his mother returned to England and married the Danish king Canute. In 1041, Edward was brought to England by his half-brother Harthacanute, whom he succeeded as king in 1042. Edward was an able but not very energetic ruler, and he was unable to assert his authority over the great earls of the kingdom. Most powerful of these was Godwin, whose daughter Edith married (1045) the king. Edward's natural inclination to favor the Normans in England—notably Robert of Jumièges, whom he made archbishop of Canterbury in 1051—led to a breach with Godwin. In 1051, after a fracas between the king's brother-in-law, Eustace II, count of Boulogne, and the citizens of Dover, Godwin refused to obey Edward's order to punish the men of Dover and tried to raise a revolt. Edward, however, was supported by Leofric of Mercia and Siward of Northumbria, and he outlawed and banished Godwin and his family. In their absence Edward received William, duke of Normandy (later William I), and apparently made him his heir. In 1052, Godwin and his sons returned and demonstrated their power by forcing Edward to accept Stigand as archbishop of Canterbury instead of Robert. Thenceforth the king took less interest in his realm, becoming absorbed in his religion and in supervising the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey. Shortly before his death, Edward named Harold, son of Godwin, as his successor, possibly in the hope of averting the threat of war posed by the rival claims to the throne of William of Normandy and Harold III of Norway. Edward's piety was responsible for his name the Confessor. He was canonized in the 12th cent. Feast: Oct. 13.

See biography by F. Barlow (1970).

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