1016. Edmund joins forces with the Northumbrian Uhtred
Edmund and Cnut ravage
Cnut's army closes on York, and Uhtred and the Northumbrians submit to Cnut
April 23, 1016. Æthelred dies
Edmund Ironside chosen as king by London, and besieged there
Cnut chosen as king by the rest of England at Southampton (?)
Edmund retakes Wessex
Battles of Penselwood, Sherston, Brentford -- Eadric switches sides
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that Æthelred died on St George's day (April 23), and that after that Edmund was chosen as king by all the counsellors who were in London. The allegiance of the rest of the country is not discussed in the Chronicle, but John of Worcester in the 12th century explains that the chief nobles of the rest of the country renounced the line of Æthelred and concluded a peace with Cnut at Southampton. The facts that in the Chronicle's account the Vikings could besiege Edmund in London with impunity, and that Edmund had to re-take possession of Wessex, tend to support John of Worcester's statement.
Edmund did break out of London and take back Wessex, and receive the submission of the West Saxons. Shortly afterwards he fought Cnut's army at Penselwood near Gillingham, and then again after midsummer at Sherston -- the Chronicle notes that in the battle of Sherston Eadric Streona and Ælfmær Darling were supporting the Danes. Edmund then gathered the West Saxon army and took them to London and relieved the siege and sent the Danes back to their ships. Two days later, Edmund fought the Danes at Brentford and put them to flight, and then he returned to Wessex and collected his army.
Once Edmund had left the Danes besieged London again, but they were successfully repulsed, and went instead into Mercia, and ravaged there, and gathered again in the Medway. Edmund brought his army to Kent, and fought the Danes at Otford according to John of Worcester, and the Danes fled to Sheppey. Eadric switched back to Edmund's side at Aylesford, and the Chronicle records Edmund's acceptance with the doleful comment, "no greater folly was ever agreed to than that was". The Danes meanwhile went back inland into Essex. Edmund overtook them in Essex at the hill called Ashingdon, and fought them there on October 18.
The fate of the other members of Æthelred's family after his death in April 1016 is less certain. A contemporary German observer, Thietmar of Merseburg, records that Emma and her two sons were in besieged London, and that the Danes offered Emma peace if she would give up her sons and pay an appropriate ransome. Thietmar adds that after long deliberation Emma agreed to this, but in the confusion the two brothers slipped away. Later Norse sources credit Edward (the future Confessor) with fighting alongside Edmund Ironside in the battles of 1016, though his presence was probably only symbolic (he can have been no more than 13 years old, since his parents were married in 1002). Edward makes no impression on the contemporary English sources, and a charter he witnesses at Ghent at Christmas 1016 suggests that he was in Flanders by the end of 1016, perhaps on his way back to Normandy after Edmund's death and Cnut's triumph in November 1016. It is uncertain where the other children of Æthelred and Emma (Alfred and Godgifu) were in the course of 1016, but all three of them were in Normandy after 1016 (see further entry on 1033/4).
F. Barlow, Edward the Confessor, 2nd edn (London: 1997)
S. Keynes, "The Æthelings in Normandy", Anglo-Norman Studies 13 (1991), pp.173-205
October 18, 1016. Battle of Ashingdon: Cnut defeats Edmund
Terms at Alney: Edmund keeps Wessex, Cnut takes everything else
On October 18, Edmund's army overtook Cnut's at Ashingdon in Essex and they fought there. Eadric betrayed the English by starting a rout with the Magonsæte (the people of Herefordshire), and the Chronicle notes that he thereby "betrayed his liege lord and all the people of England". Cnut won the victory and casualties on the English side were heavy -- the Chronicle names a bishop, an abbot, three ealdorman (Ælfric of Hampshire, Godwine of Lindsey, Ulfcytel of East Anglia), and continues "all the nobility of England were there destroyed".
Edmund survived, and Cnut followed him with his army to Gloucester. Eadric and other counsellors advised that the kings should be reconciled, so hostages were exchanged and a meeting took place at Alney, at which the kings established their friendship with an oath, fixed the payment for the Danish army, and divided the kingdom so that Edmund would succeed to Wessex and Cnut to Mercia (and presumably the rest of England).
Then the Danish army went to their ships, and the Londoners came to terms with them and bought peace from them, and the Danish army took up winter quarters in London.
In 1020, Cnut and Archbishop Wulfstan and Earl Thorkell and many bishops returned to witness the consecration of a minster at Ashingdon, commemorating the site of the victory much as William would later establish the abbey at Battle.
November 30, 1016. Edmund dies
Cnut becomes king of all England
The Chronicle records Edmund's death on St Andrew's day (November 30), and adds that he was buried at Glastonbury. Cnut then succeeded to the whole of England.
1017. Cnut consolidates his position (A wedding and four funerals)
July, 1017. Cnut marries Emma, Æthelred's widow
December 25 (?), 1017. Cnut orders four executions
The Chronicle records that after Cnut succeeded to all England he divided it into four, keeping Wessex (the traditional royal power base) for himself, giving East Anglia to Thorkell (who had come as a viking raider in 1009 and sworn allegiance to Æthelred in 1012), Mercia to Eadric (effectively reinstating him as ealdorman of Mercia), and Northumbria to Erik (confirming his appointment of 1016). It adds that several people were killed in that year, including Eadric, Northman the son of Ealdorman Leofwine, Æthelweard the son of Ealdorman Æthelmær the Stout, and Brihtric the son of Ælfheah of Devonshire. John of Worcester, writing in the 12th century, dates these four executions to Christmas. The Chronicle also notes that Cnut had the ætheling Eadwig (son of Æthelred) exiled and later killed, and that before 1 August he ordered the widow of King Æthelred, Richard's daughter, to be fetched as his wife.
Eadric's execution, after his multiple betrayals in 1015-6, would doubtless have been widely applauded by Danes and English alike; one manuscript of the Chronicle notes that he was killed "very rightly", and John of Worcester reports the killing of the "perfidious ealdorman" in London and adds that Cnut ordered the body be thrown over the city wall and left unburied. We know less about the other three executed nobles. Cnut may have feared that they would betray him if an English prince appeared and tried to win back the kingdom. Cnut then did his best to ensure that there would be no such English pretenders, exiling and killing Eadwig, who seems to have been the only surviving son of Æthelred's first marriage to Ælfgifu, and also exiling Edmund Ironside's two young sons (see the note on Edward the Exile's return in 1057). This left Æthelred's sons by his second marriage to Emma, in exile in Normandy and out of Cnut's reach, and it was probably partly to neutralize them that Cnut married Emma in turn. The Encomium Emmae Reginae, written at Emma's behest in 1041/2, records that Emma refused to marry Cnut unless he agreed that he would never set up the son of any other wife to rule after him, if they had a son (II.16); presumably it was also part of the deal that Emma renounced the claim of her sons by her earlier marriage.
S. Keynes, "Introduction to the 1998 Reprint" of Alistair Campbell (ed.), Encomium Emmae Reginae (Cambridge: 1998)
1018. Tribute payment to Vikings: ?72,000, plus ?10,500 from London
Most of Viking fleet returns to Denmark
Agreement at Oxford
A. G. Kennedy, "Cnut's Law Code of 1018", Anglo-Saxon England 11 (1983), 57-81
1019/20. Cnut winters in Denmark
1021. Cnut outlaws Earl Thorkell
1022/3. Cnut winters in Denmark
1023. Cnut reconciled with Thorkell
June 8, 1023. Translation of St Ælfheah to Canterbury
1026/7. Cnut to Denmark, then on to Rome
1028/9. Cnut to Norway
Cnut drives out King Olaf (of Norway) and takes over Norway
1033/4. Normans plan to invade England in support of Edward the Confessor?
Simon Keynes discusses the fate of "The Æthelings in Normandy" (the children of Æthelred and Emma: Edward the Confessor, Alfred, and Godgifu) in his article of the same name. Godgifu married Drogo, the count of the Vexin, shortly after their arrival in 1016, and Edward and Alfred witness Norman charters in the 1030s, in the reign of Duke Robert of Normandy (1027-35). In two of these charters, discussed by Keynes, Edward attests as "King Edward", and even "Edward, by the grace of God King of the English". There seems then to have been a feeling at the Norman court that Edward, and not Cnut, was the rightful king of the English.
William of Jumi?ges, a Norman writing in the 1060s, records that Duke Robert sent envoys to Cnut, complaining of the long exile of Edward and Alfred and demanding that they be restored, and that when Cnut would do nothing the Norman duke launched an expedition against England. A fleet assembled at F?camp in Normandy, but was blown off course and ended up ravaging Brittany instead. William of Jumi?ges reports that in his final illness Cnut sent envoys to Robert, offering to restore half of the kingdom to the sons of Æthelred to establish peace for his lifetime (perhaps mirroring the earlier settlement between Cnut and Edmund of 1016), but nothing came of it, and both Cnut and Robert died in 1035.
S. Keynes, "The Æthelings in Normandy", Anglo-Norman Studies 13 (1991), pp.173-205
November 12, 1035. Cnut dies
Assembly at Oxford: "joint rule" of Cnut's sons Harthacnut and Harold Harefoot
The Chronicle notes that at Cnut's death there was a divided succession. The two candidates were Harthacnut, the son of Cnut and Emma, who was then ruling in Denmark, and Harold, apparently a son of Cnut and Ælfgifu of Northampton, an earl's daughter, though the Chronicle records doubts about Harold's parentage. At an assembly at Oxford, Earl Leofric of Mercia and most of the nobles north of the Thames (the Mercians and Northumbrians) and the shipmen of London wanted Harold to rule, as a regent for himself and his absent brother Harthacnut. Earl Godwine of Wessex and the nobles of Wessex opposed this as long as they could, because they wanted Harthacnut to succeed, but could not prevent it. It was determined that Emma should stay in Winchester with Harthacnut's housecarls and keep Wessex for Harthacnut, and Godwine was her most loyal supporter. However, the Chronicle continues, Harold was full king over all England, and he had seized many of Emma's treasures into the bargain.
1036 (?). Emma switches allegiance from Harthacnut to the æthelings in Normandy
Godwine switches allegiance from Harthacnut to Harold
Edward and Alfred return to England; Edward repulsed at Southampton, Alfred captured
February 5, 1037. Alfred, Æthelred's son, dies at Ely
Things might have been very different if Harthacnut had returned to England immediately after Cnut's death in 1035. Unfortunately, Harthacnut's position in Denmark was threatened by Magnus of Norway, and he did not in the end leave until 1039. It seems that Harthacnut's continued absence made Emma realise her position as regent for Harthacnut (her son by Cnut) was untenable, and so she shifted her allegiance to Edward and Alfred (her sons by Æthelred), inviting them to return to England. This however would be a threat to Godwine, who owed his position to Cnut's favour and might expect less advancement under a son of the previous ruler than under Cnut's son Harthacnut, so Godwine seems to have shifted his allegiance to Harold.
The reasoning is conjecture, but both Edward and Alfred did return from Normandy to England in 1036. Edward's return is not recorded in English sources, but Norman sources note that he arrived at Southampton with a (Norman) fleet of forty ships, and was repulsed (presumably by English forces loyal to Harthacnut or Harold), and returned quickly to Normandy. Alfred, according to one version of the Chronicle, came to the country wanting to visit his mother in Winchester, but Godwine would not allow it, because feeling was veering towards Harold. Godwine captured Alfred, killed most of his companions in gruesome ways, blinded Alfred and set him down at Ely, where he dwelt until he died. (One manuscript of the Chronicle is written from a pro-Godwine viewpoint, and does not mention the death of Alfred at all.)
The Chronicle's note that feeling was veering towards Harold, "although that was not right", is corroborated by a letter written in July or August 1036 from one continental cleric to another, which mentions reports from English messengers to Harthacnut's sister Gunnhild, that Ælfgifu of Northampton and her son Harold are trying to corrupt the English by entreaty and bribery so that they will swear oaths to support Harold, and that one of the nobles so approached was so incensed that he sent messengers off to Harthacnut, urging him to return quickly. The process of the suborning of the southwest can also be followed in the coinage. In the first year of the joint rule (1035-6), coins were being minted in the name of Harthacnut south of the Thames (i.e. in Wessex), and in the name of Harold north of the Thames (i.e. in Mercia and Northumbria), with mints on the Thames operating apparently for both Harold and Harthacnut. However, over the course of the second year of the joint rule (1036-7), more and more of the coinage was being issued in Harold's name, and mints south of the Thames (in "Harthacnut's" territory) also began operating for Harold. It was perhaps the beginnings of this process that convinced both Emma and Godwine that waiting for Harthacnut was a losing tactic, and more desperate measures were needed.
S. Keynes, "Introduction to the 1998 Reprint" of Alistair Campbell (ed.), Encomium Emmae Reginae (Cambridge: 1998), at pp.xxx-xxxiv
1037. Harold Harefoot becomes king of all England
With the Norman æthelings killed or repulsed and Harthacnut still away in Denmark, Harold was finally chosen as king over the whole country, and Emma was driven into exile, and fetched up at the court of Count Baldwin of Flanders.
March 17, 1040. Death of Harold Harefoot
Harthacnut becomes king of all England
When Harold died, the English counsellors sent to Flanders for Harthacnut, and he returned to rule England, with his mother Emma. The Chronicle has nothing good to say about his reign, noting that he started by imposing a very severe tax, and went on to have the body of his dead half-brother Harold dug up and thrown into a fen. His ravaging of Worcestershire the following year (q.v.) cannot have increased his popularity, nor his betrayal of a safe-conduct that same year, and it was probably in order to protect his reign from open revolt that he invited Edward the Confessor to return from Normandy and share the rule with him (q.v.). Shortly after this (in 1041/2) the Encomium Emmae Reginae was commissioned and written, as another strand of a campaign to engage public support and sympathy for Emma and Harthacnut.
1041. Harthacnut orders the ravaging of Worcestershire
The Chronicle records that this ravaging of all Worcestershire was ordered because two of Harthacnut's housecarls, who had been in charge of exacting that "severe tax", had been killed by the citizens of Worcester.
1041. Harthacnut invites Edward the Confessor to share rule
It was soon after the ravaging of Worcestershire, probably as a face-saving exercise, that Edward the Confessor, who the Chronicle notes was Harthacnut's brother on his mother's side (i.e., another son of Emma), returned to England. The Chronicle adds that he was sworn in as king in its entry under 1041, and the Encomium Emmae notes that Harthacnut invited Edward to come and share the rule of the kingdom with him.
June 8, 1042. Harthacnut dies
Edward the Confessor becomes king of all England
Easter (April 3), 1043. Edward consecrated king at Winchester
A more detailed account of Edward the Confessor's reign will be provided in a later edition. For the moment, in addition to the skeletal notes presented here, see the primary sources (conveniently collected in EHD II) and the other items on the bibliography; note especially the Life of King Edward, which was written 1065-6 and commissioned by Edward's queen Edith.
The two main points of Edward's reign are perhaps the rival importances of the House of Godwine and of the Normans.
The Godwines (Godwine, earl since 1018, and his daughter Edith, who married the king, and sons Swein, Harold, Tostig, Gyrth, Leofwine, and Wulfnoth) at times controlled much of the country. A guarded Biblical allusion in the Life of King Edward suggests that they were quite determined to provide Edward's successor, either as a child of Edward and Edith or (when that marriage was childless) more directly by providing the next king on Edward's death. Edward was not fond of the Godwines, and exiled the whole lot of them in 1051 when he had the chance, but they were too strong and came back the following year.
Edward's support for the Normans, bewailed by later patriotic historians, is probably the natural result of his having been exiled to Normandy during Cnut's reign and apparently beat back there when he tried to return to England in 1036. Especially if Godwine was directly responsible for the death of Edward's brother Alfred in 1036/7, it would be hard for Edward to avoid the conclusion that the Normans were his friends and supporters and the House of Godwine was powerful and unfortunately inescapable (after he tried and failed to oust them in 1051/2), but nonetheless nothing but trouble.
D. Douglas and G. Greenaway (eds), English Historical Documents II: 1042-1189 (London: 1953)
F. Barlow, Edward the Confessor, 2nd edn (London: 1997)
F. Barlow (ed.), The Life of King Edward Who Rests at Westminster, 2nd edn (Oxford: 1992)
S. Keynes, "The Æthelings in Normandy", Anglo-Norman Studies 13 (1991), pp.173-205
November 16, 1043. Edward seizes Emma's lands and property
The three variant strands of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle note that King Edward seized his mother Emma's lands and treasures because she had withheld them too firmly from him. The most detailed version (D) notes that the seizure took place after the king took advice, that he rode from Gloucester with the Earls Leofric and Godwine and Siward and came upon Emma by surprise at Winchester, and that the seizures were made because Emma had formerly been very hard on Edward, and had done less for him than he wished both before and after he became king. Another version (C) adds the detail that Stigand, appointed bishop of East Anglia earlier in 1043, was deprived of his see because he was belived to be one of Emma's closest advisors, but Stigand was reinstated in 1044.
Edward's disenchantment with Emma can be understood in terms of her apparent abandonment of him to the Danes in 1016, her willingness to abandon his claim to that of a future child of her marriage with Cnut in 1017, the fact that she seems not to have considered him for the succession in 1035, or until her preferred candidate, Harthacnut, would clearly not be able to keep the throne, and the fact that there was not enough support on his arrival in 1036 to enable him to stay. Not all of these may have been Emma's fault, but they are enough to explain why Edward would have preferred, after his accession, to limit Emma's influence over English affairs, just as Cnut had had very little time for Eadric Streona. A late 11th-century Canterbury source even records a rumour that Emma was plotting to have Magnus of Norway invade and supplant Edward. While this was perhaps a scare-story concocted to force Edward to act against his mother, on Emma's previous record it is not entirely implausible.
January 23, 1045. Edward marries Edith, Godwine's daughter
October 29, 1050. Death of Eadsige, archbishop of Canterbury
On the death of Eadsige there arose a dispute over the succession to Canterbury. The monks at Canterbury, according to the Life of King Edward, elected to the office a monk of their community called Æthelric, a kinsman of Earl Godwine's. In Lent of 1051, however, the king appointed one of his Norman friends to the archbishopric, Robert of Jumi?ges, previously the bishop of London. This decision probably brought forward the showdown between Edward and Godwine that erupted later in 1051.
1051. Eustace of Boulogne in a fight at Dover
Edward orders Godwine to ravage Dover
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports that Eustace of Boulogne and his men got into a fight at Dover by trying to get lodgings by force, and there were killings on both side which escalated out of control. Then Eustace went to king Edward and told him what had happened, and according to one version of the Chronicle Edward ordered Godwine to ravage Dover because Eustace told him that the fight was the fault of the townspeople. Godwine refused to ravage Dover at the king's command, and this seems to have triggered the showdown between Edward and Godwine.
1051. Fall of the House of Godwine
1052. Return of the House of Godwine
April 15, 1053. Death of Godwine
Harold Godwinesson becomes Earl of Wessex
1054. Earl Siward of Northumbria invades Scotland and routs King Macbeth
1054. Bishop Ealdred to Cologne on the king's business (to recall Edward the Exile?)
The Chronicle records that Bishop Ealdred went to overseas to Cologne on the king's business, and was received with great honour by the Emperor and stayed for nearly a year, entertained by both the Emperor and the bishop of Cologne. While the Chronicle does not explain the king's business, John of Worcester in the 12th century reports that Ealdred proposed to the Emperor, on King Edward's behalf, that an embassy be sent to Hungary to bring back Edward the Exile. Edward did return to England in 1057.
F. Barlow, Edward the Confessor, 2nd edn (London: 1997), pp.215-7
1055. Tostig Godwinesson becomes Earl of Northumbria
1057. Edward the Exile returns to England
April 19, 1057. Edward the Exile dies, leaving son Edgar
Edward the Exile was the son of Edmund Ironside, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 1057 records that he had been banished by Cnut to Hungary to betray him, but that instead this Edward married Agatha, a kinswoman of the Emperor. He returned to England in 1057, but for some reason was unable to visit King Edward before he died. One version of the Chronicle, by noting "we do not know for what reason it was brought about that he was not allowed to visit his kinsman King Edward", might perhaps hint that he was held captive by a court faction.
John of Worcester in the 12th century adds more details to the story. He notes that in 1017 Eadric advised Cnut to kill the young æthelings, Edward and Edmund, sons of King Edmund Ironside, and that Cnut sent them to the king of Sweden with orders that they be killed there. The king of Sweden sent them instead to the king of Hungary, and in time Edmund died in Hungary. Edward, however, married Agatha, and they had three children, Margaret, later Queen of Scots, Christina, a nun, and the ætheling Edgar. John adds further that it was King Edward who requested Edward's return in order to establish him as heir to the throne, but that he died shortly afterwards in London.
1057. Leofric of Mercia dies
1063. Harold Godwinesson campaigns in Wales against Gruffydd ap Llewelyn
1064. Harold Godwinesson to Normandy
January 5, 1066. King Edward the Confessor dies
January 6, 1066. Harold Godwinesson succeeds
1066. Harold goes out with a naval force against William
This event is mentioned only in Anglo-Saxon Chronicle E.
April 24, 1066. Comet
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that "some said it was the star 'comet' which some call the star with hair"; today we call it Halley's comet.