Edward, the son of King Ethelred II and Emma of Normandy, was a direct descendant of King Alfred the Great. Edward was educated at an English monastery, and when the Danes invaded, his mother Emma fled to Normandy with her children, and it was here Edward developed strong ties with Normans.
With the death of King Ethelred II in 1016, Emma returned to England and married the new Danish King: Cnut the Great. The son of Emma and Cnut; Hardecnut succeeded his father as King and then proceeded to bring back his half-brother; Edward from Normandy to England in 1041.
Hardecnut, King of England died in 1042 and was succeeded by his half-brother Edward, who was crowned Edward the Confessor at Canterbury Cathedral on Easter Sunday.
Edward, King of England from 1042-1066, kept the kingdom in a state of relative peace. However the latter years of his reign were plagued by who would be successor.
Edward, famous for his piety, was canonized in 1161.
His most lasting contribution to English history, was the building project that turned the Benedictine Abbey in Westminster into the great religious and political centre of the kingdom; Westminster Abbey.
Edward, may have been King, but he found it difficult to assert his own authority over the earls of his kingdom, especially one Godwin of Essex. He who had been chief adviser to King Cnut, who had been rewarded with large expanses of land and much wealth. Godwin’s influence across Edward’s kingdom, increased further when Godwin demanded that Edward marry his daughter; Edith. Edward, needed Godwin’s military support and was forced into agreeing to this marriage. Edith was the main pawn in Godwin’s game to rule England.
Edward appointed the Norman, Robert of Jumieges as the new Archbishop of Canterbury in 1051, and straight away this caused a rift with Godwin.
When Godwin failed to support Edward’s brother-in-law in a dispute with the citizens of Dover, Edward banished him, and promised William the Duke of Normandy, that he would be his heir, to the English throne. In 1052 Godwin returned to England, and with support from the earls of Mercia and Northumbria, forced Edward to name Stigand as Archbishop of Canterbury instead of Robert of Jumieges. Edward withdrew to concentrate on the building of Westminster Abbey.
Shortly before his death in 1066, he changed his successor to the English throne, from William, the Duke of Normandy, to Godwin’s son Harold. As news reached William that Edward had died and the English throne had passed to Harold, William of Normandy invaded England, to claim what was rightfully his in the Battle of Hastings.
Edward’s death in 1066 precipitated the Norman Conquest that ended Anglo-Saxon rule and ushered in a new period of English history; The Dark Ages.