Godwin of Wessex was born to Wulfnoth Clid, thegn of Sussex. The identity of his mother is not known.
Godwin’s father, Wulfnoth, had been made Captain of King Aethelred the Unready’s
new fleet of ships. After being accused of an unknown crime by Brihtric, he took 20 ships and fled. Brihtric took 80 ships and pursued Wulfnoth but his ships were blown off course during a storm. It is believed that Wulfnoth then burnt those ships. This action allowed the Vikings
to attack unopposed.
Wulfnoth’s property was confiscated for destroying King Aethelred’s fleet.
had been making raids on the English coast since 1002 and had exacted increasing sums of money, known as Danegeld, from King Aethelred to cease the raids. However, he had always returned and by this point had conquered the majority of England. Sweyn Forkbeard proclaimed himself King of England and King Aethelred, his wife Emma of Normandy
and their children fled to Emma’s family in Normandy.
Godwin’s father, Wulfnoth, died.
1014 (3rd February)
Sweyn Forkbeard died. He nominated his son, Canute
to succeed him.
Although the English nobles had accepted Sweyn as King they were not so keen to support his young son and called for King Aethelred to return. Only the people of Lindsay supported Canute who vowed to fight for the throne.
Godwin was bequeathed property by King Aethelred’s son Aethelstan who died fighting Canute
Aethelred and his family returned to England where Aethelred was welcomed back as King.
1016 (23rd April)
King Aethelred died. He was succeeded by Edmund Ironside, his son by his first wife, Aelfgifu, as King Edmund II
1016 (late Spring)
The fighting between Canute and Edmund Ironside continued and the Dane placed London under siege.
1016 (18th October)
Battle of Assandun
The Anglo-Saxons were defeated by the Danes in this decisive battle. Soon after a peace was agreed whereby Edmund Ironside would rule the south and Canute would rule the north.
1016 (30th November)
Canute became King following the death of Edmund II
. Godwin quickly allied himself to the new King.
1017 (2nd July)
Canute married Aethelred’s widow, Emma of Normandy.
Godwin, now the most powerful noble in England, strengthened his alliance to Canute by marrying his sister in law, Gytha. He was also made Earl of East Wessex.
Godwin accompanied Canute when he went to Denmark to claim the Kingdom after the death of Harald II of Denmark.
A son, Sweyn
, was born to Godwin and Gytha.
Earl Godwin of Wessex became chief advisor to Canute after Thorkell and his wife were banished from England. It is not known why this happened save that there must have been a serious disagreement between Thorkell and Canute.
A son, Harold
, was born to Godwin and his wife Gytha.
A daughter, Edith
, was born to Earl Godwin and his wife Gytha.
A son, Tostig
, was born to Earl Godwin and his wife Gytha.
Earl Godwin was given control of all Wessex.
A son, Gyrth
, was born to Earl Godwin and his wife, Gytha.
A son, Leofwine
was born to Earl Godwin and his wife, Gytha.
1035 (12th November)
King Canute died. He was succeeded by his son by Emma
, who was in Denmark as regent.
Harthacnut’s half-brother Harold Harefoot
attempted to gain the crown claiming that he was the only one of Canute’s sons in England, however, Harthacnut’s mother, Emma of Normandy, pressed her son’s claim. Earl Godwin of Wessex decided to back Harold Harefoot and the Witan decided that he should act as regent ruling Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia while Emma would act as regent in Wessex for Harthacnut.
1035 (late December)
Emma’s sons by her marriage to Aethelred
and Alfred, arrived in England. Edward landed at Southampton and Alfred in Kent. It is thought that they had come to take the throne back for their family. Alfred was met at Guildford by Earl Godwin, the most powerful nobleman. However, Earl Godwin had not come to welcome Alfred. Instead he seized Alfred, blinded him and then sent him to the monastery at Ely. On hearing of his brother’s capture, Edward returned to Normandy.
A son, Wulfnoth
, was born to Earl Godwin and his wife, Gytha
Harold Harefoot was crowned King Harold I because Harthacnut had still not returned from Denmark to claim the throne.
1040 (17th March)
King Harold I died at the age of 24, possibly from a congenital illness. He was succeeded by his half-brother, Harthacnut
1042 (8th June)
King Harthacnut died and Edward, son of Aethelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy became King. He was known as Edward the Confessor
. Having lived much of his life in Normandy, Edward was not known by the people. He needed the support of Earl Godwin in order to gain the confidence of the people.
Godwin’s son, Sweyn was created Earl of Hertfordshire.
1045 (23rd January)
Edward the Confessor married Earl Godwin’s daughter, Edith.
Godwin’s son, Harold, became Earl of East Anglia.
Edward the Confessor banished Godwin’s son Sweyn after he attempted to abduct Eadgifu, the abbess of Leominster.
Godwin’s son, Sweyn, returned to England and begged forgiveness. He was allowed to remain in the country.
1051 (late Summer)
Following a brawl in Dover, where several Normans were killed, King Edward the Confessor ordered that the people of Dover should be punished for the deaths of his Norman friends. He ordered Godwin Earl of Wessex to carry out the punishment.
Earl Godwin of Wessex refused to carry out King Edward the Confessor’s order to punish the town of Dover and instead raised an army against the King. The King also raised troops but neither side was prepared to start a civil war so the matter was referred to the Witan.
1051 (24th September)
The Witan met to discuss Earl Godwin’s refusal to carry out the King’s orders. They decided that Godwin and his family should be banished. The Godwin family left England but Godwin’s youngest son, Wulfnoth was left with King Edward as hostage. Godwin, Gytha, Sweyn, Tostig and Gyrth went to Flanders while Harold and Leofwine went to Dublin.
Godwin’s son, Tostig married Judith of Flanders.
Earl Godwin of Wessex raised an army and accompanied by his sons, Harold and Tostig, launched an attack on England. They quickly took the South and Edward, unable to raise sufficient forces to defeat them, was forced to sue for peace. It was agreed that all the Godwin family could return to England and that their titles and land would be restored to them.
Godwin’s son, Sweyn chose not to return to England but went on Crusade instead.
1052 (29th September)
While on crusade, Godwin’s son, Sweyn became ill and died.
1053 (15th April)
Earl Godwin of Wessex died. His son Harold Godwinson
succeeded him as Earl of Wessex.
First published 2015; updated and re-published Jan 20 2022 @ 6:49 pm – Updated – [last-modified]
Harvard Reference for this page:
Heather Y Wheeler. (2015 – 2022). Earl Godwin 1001 – 1053.