Godwin or Godwine [key], d. 1053, earl of Wessex. He became chief adviser to King Canute, was created (c.1018) an earl, and was given great wealth and lands. After Canute's death (1035) Godwin and Queen Emma, Canute's widow, supported the claims to succession of her son Harthacanute, against those of Canute's illegitimate son Harold Harefoot. Godwin apparently permitted the murder of another claimant to the throne, Alfred Ætheling, son of Queen Emma by her first husband, Æthelred the Unready, and brother of Edward (later Edward the Confessor). This brutality seems to have earned Godwin the enmity of Harthacanute and of Edward, who succeeded Harthacanute. Nevertheless, Godwin became even more powerful; he secured earldoms for his sons Sweyn and Harold and married (1045) his daughter, Edith, to Edward. In 1051, when Edward ordered Godwin to punish the people of Dover for a fracas with Eustace II of Boulogne and his retinue, Godwin took the opportunity to challenge the king's strength by refusing. Edward met the challenge and exiled Godwin and his family. However, in 1052, taking advantage of the popular dislike of the king's Norman friends, Godwin and his sons led an armed invasion of England, and the settlement they forced upon Edward restored Godwin to his former importance and outlawed many of the Norman newcomers. Godwin was succeeded as earl of Wessex by his son Harold.
See F. M. Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (3d ed. 1971).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: British and Irish History: Biographies