Edward the Confessor

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Edward the Confessor or Eadweard III was the penultimate Anglo-Saxon king of England and last monarch of the House of Wessex. Edward’s reign was marked by peace and prosperity and marked a point on the transition of English rule between the West Saxons and the Normans.


Edward was born about the year 1004, the son of Ethelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, allegedly in Islip, Oxfordshire. His mother was the sister of Duke Richard of Normandy. In 1013, his mother took both he and his brother Alfred to Normandy to escape a Danish invasion of England. Edward lived about twenty three of his formative years in Normandy during which he developed an intense personal piety and became familiar with Normandy and its rulers.

In 1036, Edward and his brother Alfred attempted to displace their step-brother Harold Harefoot, the son of Canute and Emma, from the throne. The attempt was not successful, and Edward returned to Normandy. Alfred, however, was captured and killed by Godwin, Earl of Wessex. In 1041, Edward was asked by the Anglo-Saxon nobility to return to England where he became part of the household of his half-brother and king, Harthacanute, who also was the son of Canute and Emma. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Edward was sworn in as king beside Harthacanute.

Harthacanute died on June 8, 1042 and Edward ascended the throne, to enjoy great popularity among the people. On April 3, 1043, Edward was crowned at the cathedral of Winchester in Winchester, England, which was the royal seat of the West Saxons. While Edward’s reign, that aimed at the welfare of his people, enjoyed peace and prosperity, his Norman leanings crossed with the three powerful earls, Godwin, Leofric, and Siward. The animosity came to a head when Edward appointed as archbishop of Canterbury the Norman bishop of London, Robert of Jumieges.

When Godwin refused to punish the townspeople of Dover over a bloody riot, Edward, with the backing of Leofric and Siward, exiled Godwin in September 1051. After Godwin died in 1053, his son Harold of Wessex was able to accumulate power and territory though the following decade to become a growing power in England. Edward, who had no children, died on January 5, 1066 and was buried in the newly built Westminster Abbey, west of London. Harold was crowned king upon Edward’s death. Since there was no direct successor the throne, the throne came in dispute between Harold of Wessex and William of Normandy both of whom claimed he was promised succession by Edward. The dispute resolved itself when William invaded England with a force of some 7,000 Normans, defeated Harold, assumed the throne, and led England closer to the Latin western Europe.

After his death Edward became the object of a politically driven religious cult in England that led to Edward’s canonization in 1161 by Pope Alexander III. He was stylized Edward the Confessor to distinguish him from his predecessor Edward the Martyr.

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Succession box:
Edward the Confessor
Preceded by:
King of England
Succeeded by:
Harold of England
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