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.

1066 (soon after comet). Tostig harries Isle of Wight, Sandwich, Humber.
Edwin and Morcar drive Tostig to Scotland

Summer 1066. Harold gathers huge naval and land forces against possible Norman invasion
September 8, 1066. Harold's armies disbanded, as provisions run out

September 25, 1066. Battle of Stamford Bridge: Harold defeats Tostig and Harald Hardrada of Norway

September 28/29, 1066. William of Normandy lands at Hastings

October 14, 1066. Battle of Hastings

December 25, 1066. William of Normandy consecrated king at Westminster