Edward’s rule (1042-66) and death in 1066

Illustration showing the death of Edward The Confessor

In 1066 Edward the Confessor, King of England, died childless leaving no direct heir. He had strong connections to Normandy where Duke William had ambitions for the English throne. In England, Edward had had a longstanding rivalry with the powerful Earl Godwin.

Who was Edward the Confessor?

  • King of England from 1042 – 1066.
  • First English king after 25 years of Danish rule.
  • Father was King Ethelred the Unready.
  • Mother was Emma of Normandy.
  • Married Edith Godwin.
  • Died without having any children of his own to succeed him.

Edward’s connection to Normandy

  • Family: His mother was Norman and he had spent most of his early life in exile in Normandy before becoming England’s king.
  • Culture: When he came back to England, Edward spoke Norman French and all his closest advisors were Norman. He continued to work with these men when he was king.

The Godwin family links to Edward the Confessor

  • Power: Earl Godwin was the most powerful Anglo-Saxon noble in England because he controlled Wessex, which was the wealthiest of the separate English provinces. Godwin had a lot of military force, which Edward relied upon.
  • Rivalry: Earl Godwin had been involved in the murder of Edward’s brother Alfred in 1036 on a trip to England from Normandy, while the Danes were still ruling England. Earl Godwin had become the most powerful English earl by supporting the Danish kings, including eliminating any rivals to their power.
  • Family: Edward married Earl Godwin’s daughter Edith when he became king as a political arrangement made by Godwin to secure his family’s power.

Why did Edward have no direct heir?

Some Norman sources have suggested that Edward was a very religious man and took a vow of celibacy.

Modern historians believe that Edward refused to have children with Edith Godwin because of his hatred of his father-in-law.