Monday, March 28, 2016

Edward the Confessor

The Seal of Edward the Confessor
The English were tired of foreign rulers. 'All folk chose Edward king.'

Edward, the son of Æthelred and the brother of the murdered Ælfred, though an Englishman on his father's side, was also the son of the Norman Emma, and had been brought up in Normandy from his childhood. The Normans were now men of French speech, and they were more polite and cultivated than Englishmen. Edward filled his court with Normans. He disliked the roughness of the English, but instead of attempting to improve them as the great Ælfred had formerly done, he stood entirely aloof from them. The name of the Confessor by which he was afterwards known was given him on account of his piety, but his piety was not of that sort which is associated with active usefulness. He was fond of hunting, but was not active in any other way, and he left others to govern rather than himself.

For some years the real governor of England was Earl Godwine, who kept his own earldom of Wessex, and managed to procure other smaller earldoms for his sons. As the Mercia over which Leofric ruled was only the north-western part of the old kingdom, and as Siward had enough to do to keep the fierce men of North-humberland in order, Godwine had as yet no competitor to fear. In 1045 he became the king's father-in-law by the marriage of Edward with his daughter, Eadgyth. Edward, however, did his best for his Norman favourites, and appointed one of them, Robert of Jumièges, to the bishopric of London, and afterwards raised him to the Archbishopric of Canterbury.

Between Godwine and the Normans there was no goodwill, and though Godwine was himself of fair repute, his eldest son, Swegen, a young man of brutal nature, alienated the goodwill of his countrymen by seducing the Abbess of Leominster, and by murdering his cousin Beorn. Godwine, in his blind family affection, clung to his wicked son and insisted on his being allowed to retain his earldom.

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