1043 Edward the Confessor, the First Norman King?

Edward the Confessor came to the throne in easter of 1043. He was the second son of Saxon King Æthelred the Unready and  his queen, Emma, daughter of Duke Richard I of Normandy. Edward was raised in the Norman court and during his reign relied heavily on Norman councilors in his court.

Edward was well regarded in the chronicles written in his day, but this was chiefly for his piety and most chronicles originated in the great monasteries. He appeared to have little political or military aptitude. He had married Edith, daughter of the Anglo-Danish pirate, Earl Godwine. Godwine had previously arranged the abduction, blinding and death of Alfred, Edward’s elder brother. The marriage produced no children and its likely that Edward was unwilling to provide Godwine with a royal heir and that the marriage was never consummated. Edward appears to have promised or suggested to William Duke of Normandy that the throne of England might be available to the Normans on his death. 

He continued to be in conflict with Godwine and banished Godwine and his sons for a brief period, only to be forced to restore Godwine’s lands and accept Godwine back as a councilor after Godwine had raised and army and taken hostages. Edward was happy to let Godwine’s son Harold do the fighting to suppress a Welsh uprising.

Edward was beset on one side by the ruthless Earl Godwine and on the other by the powerful family of his Norman mother. Were it not for the desolation wrought on England by William I during the conquest, it might be easy to feel some sympathy for Edward. Edward may have been happier as an abbot or a prior, rather than a king.


Sussex Castles web site © Richard Bird 2004 - 2017                                                                                                             Historical Sources and References