King Edward the Confessor was born to King Aethelred the Unready
and his second wife, Emma of Normandy
. The couple had married in 1002 and Edward was their first child. He is known to history as King Edward the Confessor because of his strong religious belief and because he ordered the construction of Westminster Abbey.
Throughout the reign of his father, England had been subject to repeated attacks by the Vikings
. Their leader, Sweyn Forkbeard
made a raid on East Anglia and destroyed the town of Norwich.
Edward’s brother, Alfred
, was born to King Aethelred and Emma of Normandy. He was styled Aetheling.
1005 (16th November)
The Archbishop of Canterbury
, Aelfric of Abingdon, died. He left his best ship to King Aethelred and the rest of his fleet to the people of Kent.
Edward’s sister, Godgifu, was born to King Aethelred and Emma of Normandy.
King Aethelred appointed Aelheah as Archbishop of Canterbury.
Sweyn Forkbeard and his Viking force made a series of raids on Kent and Sussex.
King Aethelred was unable to raise sufficient forces to defeat the Vikings and so was forced to make a Danegeld payment to keep the Vikings away. The sum demanded was £36,000 (12 kg of silver).
The Danes invaded East Anglia. A battle was fought near Ipswich which left the Danes in control of the town.
The Danish Vikings captured Canterbury and took Archbishop Aelheah prisoner.
1012 (19th April)
The Danish Vikings in Canterbury went on a drunken raid and murdered Archbishop Aelheah of Canterbury. The Viking leader, Thorkell the Tall, tried to stop the murder but was unsuccessful. He was so angry at his comrades that he defected and joined Aethelred’s forces.
Aethelred made another Danegeld payment of £48,000 (17 kg of silver) to stop the destruction being caused by the Vikings.
Lyfing was appointed the new Archbishop of Canterbury.
Sweyn Forkbeard returned and took Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria. London alone held out against the Danes.
Having conquered the majority of England, Sweyn Forkbeard proclaimed himself King of England. Edward, his father, mother, brother and sister fled to Normandy.
Sweyn Forkbeard died. He nominated his son, Canute
to become King but the Witan did not want the young Dane and instead, invited Aethelred to return as King. Aethelred accepted and the family returned to England.
1016 (23rd April)
King Athelred died and Edward’s elder half-brother, Edmund Ironside
1016 (18th October)
Battle of Assandun
Canute, son of Sweyn Forkbeard, was victorious over the Anglo Saxons
led by King Edmund. In order to maintain peace Edmund agreed to share control of England with Canute.
1016 (30th November)
King Edmund II, died and Canute became King of all England.
Edward, his younger brother Alfred and their sister Godgifu were sent back to their relatives in Normandy by their mother Emma of Normandy.
1017 (2nd July)
Edward’s mother, Emma of Normandy, married King Canute. It was agreed that the children of their marriage would succeed to the English throne.
Edward’s half-brother Harthacnut
was born to Emma of Normandy and King Canute.
Edward’s sister, Godgifu, married Drogo of Mantes.
Edward, now aged 27 years, believed that he should be King of England and that Canute was a usurper. He spent time practising his swordmanship in readiness for the time when he could invade England and take the crown.
Some sources state that Robert, Duke of Normandy
, attempted to invade England in support of Edward’s claim to the English throne, but failed to land when his force was blown off course.
1035 (12th November)
King Canute died and Edward’s younger half-brother, Harthacnut, was proclaimed King. However, Canute was unable to return to England due to troubles in Denmark. Harold Harefoot
, Canute’s son by his first wife, was appointed regent in the north while Emma of Normandy was regent of Wessex.
1035 (late December)
Edward and his younger brother, Alfred, sailed to England. Edward landed at Southampton and Alfred landed in Kent. It is thought that they had come to take the throne back for their family. Alfred was met by Earl Godwin
who blinded him and sent him to the monastery at Ely where he later died. On hearing of his brother’s fate, Edward returned to Normandy.
Edward’s half-brother, Harthacnut, had not returned to England to take the throne so Harold Harefoot was crowned King Harold I.
Edward’s mother, Emma was exiled from England by Harold I and she went to Bruges.
1040 (14th August)
of Scotland was killed in battle against Macbeth. Macbeth then seized the throne and Duncan’s son, Malcolm Canmore
fled to England and sought refuge at the court of King Edward.
1040 (17th March)
King Harold I died. Harthacnut was able to return to England and became King.
Harthacnut had been horrified by the murder of his half-brother Alfred in 1036 and after hearing from Earl Godwin that he had acted on Harold’s orders, Harthacnut ordered that Harold’s body be disinterred, beheaded and thrown in the Thames.
Harthacnut invited Edward to England where he was nominated heir to the throne.
1042 (8th June)
King Harthacnut died and Edward became King of England.
1043 (3rd April)
Edward was crowned at Winchester Cathedral.
Edward created Sweyn Godwinson Earl of Hertfordshire. Sweyn was the eldest son of Earl Godwin of Wessex, the most powerful nobleman in England.
Edward was very critical of the lack of support his mother had given him. It is also thought that Edward was annoyed that she had in her possession jewels that belonged to the crown. As a punishment Edward temporarily confiscated her property in Winchester.
1044 (23rd January)
Having spent very little of his life in England, Edward did not have much support among the nobility. To assure the loyalty of Earl Godwin of Wessex he negotiated a a marriage with the Earl’s daughter, Edith of Wessex
1045 (23rd January)
Edward’s brother-in-law, Harold Godwinson was made Earl of East Anglia.
Sweyn Godwinson attempted to abduct Eadgifu the Abbess of Leominster. Edward the Confessor was furious and exiled Sweyn.
Edward allowed the exiled Sweyn Godwinson to return to England.
Edward was visited by his sister’s second husband, Eustace II Count of Boulogne,
and his retinue. On their return journey they became involved in a drunken fight in Dover and several Normans were killed. Edward ordered Earl Godwin to punish the townspeople of Dover but Godwin refused and raised an army against the King. Civil war was avoided when the Witan stepped in and banished Godwin and his family. Edward’s wife, Edith, was sent to a convent.
William Duke of Normandy
travelled to England and visited Edward the Confessor. It is likely that William was seeking approval for his marriage to Matilda of Flanders which had been banned by the Pope. He later claimed that during this visit Edward promised him the English crown.
Earl Godwin and his sons returned at the head of an army. King Edward the Confessor was unable to raise sufficient forces to challenge the Godwin family and so had to negotiate a truce. It was agreed that Godwin and his sons could return to England and their lands and titles would be restored. Edith was restored as Queen and Edward also agreed to drastically reduce his Norman advisers.
Edward devoted much of his time to the rebuilding of St Peter’s Abbey. The new building was to be called the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster but would be known as Westminster Abbey.
Edward the Confessor sent troops to execute the Welsh Prince Rhys ap Rhydderch, for making a raid on England.
1053 (15th April)
Earl Godwin of Wessex died. His son Harold Godwinson
succeeded him as Earl of Wessex.
Edward sent Earl Siward of Northumbria with Malcolm Canmore to invade and regain Scotland.
King Edward the Confessor learned that Edward
, known as the Exile, son of Edmund Ironside
, was still alive and living on the continent. He sent Ealdred, Bishop of Worcester to effect his return to England.
Earl Siward of Northumbria died. Edward appointed Tostig Godwinson
to the position.
Gruffydd ap Llywelyn declared himself ruler of all Wales and made an alliance with Aelfgar of Mercia. Together they defeated Earl Ralph of Hereford and Aelfgar took control of Hereford.
King Edward the Confessor of England sent Harold Godwinson Earl of Wessex, to try to put pressure on Edward the Exile and his family to return England. It is almost certain that King Edward wanted to make Edward his heir.
Edward’s nephew, Earl Ralph of Hereford, died. His territory was gained by Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex.
Edward the Exile returned to England with his wife Agatha, son Edgar Aetheling
, and daughters Margaret and Cristina.
1057 (19th April)
Edward the Exile
died. There are no records of his being in poor health and it is likely that he was murdered. He was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.
1057 (30th September)
Leofric of Mercia died. He was succeeded by his son Aelfgar.
Malcolm Canmore had regained the Scottish throne.
1060 (30th September)
Aelfgar of Mercia and East Anglia died. His son, Edwin succeeded in Mercia while Gyrth Godwinson
gained East Anglia.
Edward began to withdraw from public life. It appears that he left much of the running of the country to his Earls.
Malcolm Canmore of Scotland began making raids into Northumbria with the aim of enlarging Scotland.
Harold and Tostig Godwinson defeated Gruffydd ap Llywelyn. The welsh ruler fled into the mountains of Snowdonia where he was killed by his enemies.
The thegns of Northumbria rebelled against Tostig Godwinson’s rule. Earl Harold of Wessex was sent to mediate. In order to keep the peace he agreed to exile his brother and install Morcar, brother of Edwin of Mercia as Earl.
1065 (28th December)
Westminster Abbey was consecrated.
1066 (5th January)
King Edward died. He was succeeded by his brother-in-law, Harold Godwinson
as King Harold II.
First published 2013; Updated and re-published Jul 31 2020 @ 6:19 pm – Updated – [last-modified]