Family tree for Edward the Confessor eldest son of Aethelred the Unready by his second wife showing:
Edward the Confessor was born in 1003 and died on 5th January 1066. He was the eldest son of King Aethelred the Unready by his second wife Emma of Normandy. He was known as the Confessor because he was deeply religious and founded Westminster Abbey.
His father’s reign had been subject to repeated Viking invasions and in December 1013 Sweyn Forkbeard declared himself King of England having conquered most of the country. Edward, his parents and brother and sister fled to Normandy.
Sweyn Forkbeard died in 1014. The Witan did not accept Forkbeard’s son Canute as King and called for King Aethelred to re-take the throne. Aethelred accepted and the family returned to England. In 1016 King Aethelred the Unready died. His son, Edmund Ironside succeeded but his rule was challenged by Canute and Edmund had no choice but to share the rule. When Edmund died later that year, Canute seized the throne and Edward and his siblings fled to Normandy for safety.
Edward spent his years in Normandy training with the sword and shield and hoping for a chance to invade England and reclaim the throne. An attempt by Richard Duke of Normandy to invade England o behalf of Edward in 1035 failed. In 1041, Edwards younger half-brother, King Harthacnut, invited Edward to England where he was nominated as heir to the throne.
Edward the Confessor succeeded as King of England when Harthacnut died on 8th June 1042. He gained the loyalty of Earl Godwin of Wessex by marrying his daughter, Edith. In 1051 Edward was visited by Eustace of Boulogne and a number of Norman noblemen. On their return journey there was a brawl with a number of men in Dover which resulted in several Normans being killed. Edward ordered Earl Godwin to punish the people of Dover but he refused. The Godwin family were banished and Edith was placed in a convent.
A year later the Godwin family returned to England with a large force. Edward could not raise enough men to defeat the Godwins and had to negotiate a settlement. The Godwin family returned and were restored to their lands and titles. Edith returned as Queen.
By the last decade of his reign, Edward had retired from public life and left much of the running of the country to his nobles. Instead he concentrated his energy on the building of Westminster Abbey which he had founded in 1052. Sadly he was too ill to see the Abbey consecrated in December 1065.
Edward the Confessor died on 5th January 1066 and was buried in Westminster Abbey the following day. Harold Godwinson claimed that as he was dying Edward had nominated Edward him King. The Witan accepted the claim and Harold succeeded as King of England.
First published 2017; Updated and republished Jul 31 2020 @ 8:39 pm – Updated –
Harvard Reference for this page:
Heather Y Wheeler. (2017 – 2020). King Edward the Confessor 1003-1066. Available: https://www.treesofblue.com/king-edward-the-confessor-1003-1066. Last accessed September 30th, 2021