Norman Conquest of England

The Battle of Hastings, took place on the 14th October 1066; The Saxons led by King Harold against the Norman army led by Duke William of Normandy.

In little over two months, Harold the last Saxon King of England, lost his life on the battlefield.  William, saw the English throne in his grasp, and went on to capture Dover, Canterbury and London.  He was crowned King of England on the 25th December 1066 and the Saxon era was over, and the Norman Conquest was beginning.

Resistance by Saxon’s to these Norman’s was mostly limited to the outer reaches of the kingdom.  With the Church and Government in his grip, it wouldn’t be long before these remaining Saxon’s accepted the rule of the Norman’s.

William had taken this land with only a small invasion force… he had to control some two million Saxon’s until more Norman troops arrived.  Nobles, Lords and Landowners, who might have stood up against the Norman’s, were lying with their armies on the battleground at Hastings.

Some Nobles opened their arms, and welcomed these Norman’s onto English soil, like the Saxon Lord of Wallingford; Wigod, who went on to assist William’s entrance into London.

England has seen invaders of the past, come and go, like Cnut and the Danes.  It is this, that made some believe, William and the Norman’s would be short lived, like Stigand, the then Archbishop of Canterbury.

William’s new Kingdom of Britain was not as free of rebellion as he had hoped; resistance continued for many years.  In January 1069, the Yorkshire inhabitants made up of Scandinavian descendants, rebelled against these Norman’s, and William and his army quelled the flames of rebellion.

In the autumn of 1069, King Swein of Denmark landed in Yorkshire, firing the rebellion against the Norman’s once again… The Danes were forced to withdraw.

William was determined to put an end to rebellions from the north of his kingdom.  He ordered his men to burn houses, crops and slaughter all livestock between the River Humber and Durham.  There followed many years of famine in the north; thousand’s starved to death, and it took years for the land to recover from this horrific event.

Meanwhile, Danish forces sailed south, plundering Peterborough and made the Isle of Ely their base.  Some rebels led by Hereward the Wake joined the Danes.  In June 1070, the Danes left, having made a treaty with William and by 1071 the Saxon rebels in the Fens had surrendered, and Hereward had escaped capture.

King Malcolm III of Scotland (1058-1093) offered exile to Anglo-Saxon Nobles, and assisted their attempts in re-claiming northern parts of England in 1069… There was a price to pay!

Malcolm was looking to the future, by marrying Margaret; daughter of Edward the Aetheling and sister of Edgar Aetheling as his Queen.  She bore him four sons; Edward, Edgar, Edmund and Ethelred.  These four sons with English names, could be used in claiming a seat on the English throne… one would say he was very devious in his outlook.

William marched north with his army in 1072, and confronted Malcolm at Abernethy… would they battle, a question both men more than likely asked themselves.  Yet it was Malcolm who made the first step towards peace; one a King of Scotland, and the other King of England.  Malcolm accepted that William was Lord over his Lothian province; these lands which were once part of England in Northumbria.

A battle had been averted, but William was wary of this Scottish foe, leading him to order the strengthening of the border between their two countries with castles.

Once William had been crowned King of England in 1066, he granted English Landowners and Lords, who had been loyal to his cause, that they could keep their lands.

After 1070, many Saxon landowners, had lost faith in their new King, which led William to instigate a police of Normanization; Norman’s took over their lands.

William needed land to compensate his loyal Norman followers.  What better way, confiscate these Saxon lands… was it a wise move? For it led to numerous revolts up and down the country.

William and his Barons forced marriages to Norman’s by Saxon widows and daughters inheriting estates.

He didn’t stop there with his reforms, replacing Stigand the Archbishop of Canterbury with his own man; Lanfranc, formerly Abbot of Caen.  Then Latin and Norman French became the accepted languages used by the Church and Government.

These Norman’s who had invaded England weren’t farmers, they were warriors at heart, and their origin was Viking.  The King gave them land; they returned the service with highly trained and armed knights, to do battle for their King.

These Norman Lords built castles to emphasise their presence and authority in these former Saxon lands.  Early defences were built from earthen mounds and stockades, later stone versions were the norm, like Windsor Castle.

In 1085 William started a survey of these lands, which led to “The Domesday Book” of 1086, which informed the Crown, the wealth of his lands.

Anglo-Saxon Kingdom: Wessex

Wessex; the kingdom of the West Saxons, started from humble beginnings, becoming the most powerful kingdom in the land.

Cerdic, founder of Wessex the first Anglo-Saxon King, had ventured from Saxony in AD495 landing on England’s Hampshire coastline, with his son Cynric and five warrior ships.

In AD519, Cerdic was victorious at the “Battle of Cerdic’s Ford” (Cerdicesleag) and claimed the title “King of Wessex” (520-540).

Cynric son of Cerdic, succeeded him upon his death and reigned from 540-560.  Cynric spent the early years of his reign, expanding the kingdom of Wessex into Wiltshire.  He faced much opposition from native Briton’s, but managed minor gains; “Battle of Sarum” and “Beranbury,” known as Barbury Castle.  In 560 Cynric died and was succeeded by his son Ceawlin.

When Ceawlin stepped forward as the next Anglo-Saxon King of Wessex, much of southern England was under Anglo-Saxon control.

The “Battle of Wibbandun” took place in 568, between the forces of the Saxons of Wessex and the Jutes of Kent.  In 571 Ceawlin capturedAylesbury and Linbury, and by 577 he had taken Gloucester and Bath, reaching the Severn Estuary.

Ceawlin ordered the construction of a defensive earthwork, stretching between Wiltshire and Bristol.

Ceawlin King of Wessex achieved much fame among his people, as they crossed England as victorious warriors.  All this would change in 584, when Ceawlin fought the Britons at Fethanleag; “Battle of Stoke Lyne” followed by a period of taking towns and countless spoils of war, from the local area.

Then he retreated to his own lands… questions remain unanswered, why?  Did he lose the battle, and attack local towns in response.

As written in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles:  This year Ceawlin… fought with the Britons on the spot that is called Fretherne… And Ceawlin took many towns, as well as immense booty and wealth.  He then retreated to his people.

In 591 Ceawlin’s nephew; Ceol is believed to have led an uprising against his King, at the “Battle of Woden’s Burg.”  Ceol became King of Wessex after deposing his uncle; Ceawlin.

Ceol reigned from 591-597, his successor his son; Cynegils, was too young to inherit the throne.  Ceolwulf, brother of Ceol claimed the throne.  One could say he was keeping the seat warm for the future king.

Cynegils came to the throne in 611 after Coolwulf’s death and would reign till 643.  His reign commenced with a victory over Welsh forces in 614.

Cynegils granted the northern part of his kingdom to his son Cwichelm, at a time when the Northumbrian’s grew in power.  Cynegils forged an alliance with the King of Mercia.  This alliance was sealed through marriasge; Cynegils youngest son Cenwalh married the sister of King Penda of Mercia.

In 626 Cwichelm launched a failed assassination against King Edwin of Northumbria.  Edwin laid siege to the Kingdom of Wessex, clashing against the Mercian and Wessex forces, in reply to the attempted assassination, and was victorious.

Cynegils and Cwichelm had suffered a humiliating defeat by a smaller army, and forced to retreat back, within their own borders.

In 628 the forces of Wessex and Mercia fought at the “Battle of Cirencester.”  With Mercian’s victorious, Wessex became a minor kingdom as control of the Severn Valley, parts of Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire were lost.

In 635, Cynegils of Wessex was baptised by Bishop Birinus in Dorchester.  In 636 Cwichelm was also baptised in Dorchester and died later that year.  In 643 Cynegils died…

In 643, Cenwalh the youngest son of Cynegils became King of Wessex, he who had been forced into a marriage with King Penda of Mercia’s sister, to seal an alliance of the kingdom’s.

One of his first duties was to discard his wife and marry Seaxburh, which annoyed King Penda, where upon a war was declared and Cenwalh was driven from his lands and into exile in 645.

Cenwalh converted to Christianity whilst exiled in East Anglia, and by 648 had reclaimed his throne; King of Wessex.  He went on to commission the construction of Winchester Cathedral, and built it in St.Peter’s name.

In 672 King Cenwalh died and Seaxburh his wife succeeded him as the first Queen of Wessex from 673-674.

In 674 Seaxburh died, and was succeeded by her son; Aescwine.  In 675 Aescwine’s forces defended his kingdom from the Mercian’s at the “Battle of Bedwyn” becoming victorious in battle.

In 676 Aescwine passed away and his uncle Centwine claimed the throne.  In the early part of hisd reign, he was a pagan king, and in the 680’s converted to Christianity.  In 685, King Centwine of the Wessex Kingdom, abdicated his position as king to become a monk.

Caedwalla descendant of Cerdic and from a noble house, who had been driven from Wessex by Cenwalh in the removal of sub-royal families.  Aged barely twenty-six had gathered support, as he invaded Sussex and built his own kingdom.

Caedwalla became the new King of Wessex following Centwine abdication.  He conquered the Kingdoms of Sussex, Kent and the Isle of Wight.  It is believed, he went on to commit acts of genocide and forced his people to renounce the Christian faith.

In 688 King Caedwalla travelled to Rome, and received holy baptism on the 13th April from Pope Sergius, who gave him the name Peter.  On the 20th April, he died dressed in his baptismal robes and was laid to restin St.Peter’s Church.

Ine, a nobleman claimed the throne of Wessex in 689, taking over a kingdom stretching from the Severn Estuary to Kent’s shorelines.  King Ine is remembered in his reforms; increasing trade, coinage throughout his realm.  The introduction of laws in 694, covering convicted murder’s rights, which would lead to the development of an English society.

In 728, King Ine of Wessex had become weak and feeble, opting to abdicate his post, travel to Rome and retire.  At that time it was one’s belief it would aid one’s ascension to heaven.

Aethelheard, brother-in-law to King Ine, claimed the Wessex throne in 726.  Nobleman Oswald contested his right to the throne, and a bitter struggle lasted for almost a year, until Aethelheard prevailed with assistance from the Mercians.

His fourteen year reign was a struggle as he fought with the Mercians to the north, and lost much land in the process.  They who had supported him in battle for the throne, demanded that the Kingdom of Wessex should fall under their control.

In 740 King Aethelheard passed away and was succeeded by his brother Cuthred who received the West-Saxon Kingdom of Wessex, which he would hold for sixteen years.  He fought fiercly with Aethelbald, King of Mercia.

In the early years of Cuthred’s reign, Wessex was nothing more than a puppet state of Mercia.  When the Mercian’s fought the Welsh, the warriors of Wessex were expected to assist.

In 752 Cuthred was fed up of Mercian dominance and went to war against them, in a bid for Wessex independence.  Victory was theirs and Independence was theirs…  In 753 Cuthred took on the Welsh and passed away in 756.

Sigeberht succeeded his cousin as the new King of Wessex in 756.  His reign was short lived, for he had killed the Earl of Cumbra.  The council of nobles stripped of his title as King, and Cynewulf drove him into the weald, where he lived until a swineherd stabbed him to death at Privett stream, and so the death… the murder of the Earl had been avenged.

Cynewulf became King of Wessex in 757 and had the support of Aethelbald of Mercia in his claim for the throne.  In the first few months of his reign, Cynewulf felt more a sub-king of Wessex under Mercian rule.

Aethelbald of Mercia was assassinated in 757 at Seckington.  With Aethelwald out of the way, Cynewulf saw his opportunity to push for an independent Wessex, and the expansion of Wessex territories into the southern counties of Mercia.

Cynewulf lost the Mercian territories in 779, when he was defeated by King Offa, who had succeeded Aethelbald as King of Mercia at the “Battle of Bensington.”  A defeated Cynewulf army, were forced back, to the lands of Wessex.

In 786, Cynewulf of Wessex was murdered by the nobleman Cybeheard, whom he had exiled years earlier.

In 786 Beorhtric, distant descendant of Cerdic, founder of Wessex, succeeded to the throne with the backing of King Offa of Mercia.  Beorhtric married Lady Eadburh; daughter of King Offa.

Legend has it; Beorhtric was poisoned by his wife Eadburh, and exiled to Germany for her crime in 789.  Charlemagne and his son offered her the choice of husband, she chose the younger. Charlemagne replied you chose badly and as such, will have neither.

Embarassed by the affair chose to live out her remaining years in a German convent.  She was expelled after receiving her vows, for breaking the rules by having sex with a Saxon man.  She spent her remaining days, begging on the streets of Pavia in northern Italy. 

Egbert exiled by Beorhtric in the 780’s returned to the Kingdom of Wessex in 802, upon the death of Beorhtric, to claim the throne.

The first twenty years of his reign, was spent keeping Wessex independant from Mercia.  In 825 they met in battle at Ellandun.  Egbert’s victorious forces pushed the Mercian’s to retreat to the north, Egbert’s army pushed south-east to Surrey, Sussex, Essex and Kent.

It took barely a year, and by 826 Anglo-Saxon England, had seen Wessex become the most powerful kingdom in the land.  In 829, Egbert was victorious against the Mercians, as he claimed all of southern Britain up to the River Humber, and the kingdom of Northumbria submitted to him.

Egbert had claimed Mercia, as the exiled King Wiglaf revolted, driving the Wessex army, back into their own lands.  The Mercians made no attempt to re-claim lost territories of Kent, Sussex, and Surrey.  Wessex was seen as the most powerful kingdom of southern England.

Aethelwulf, son of Egbert and King of Kent, became the next King of Wessex in 839, following his father’s death.  Aethelwulf’s kingdom of Kent, would be ruled by his son; Aethelstan, on his behalf.

Aethelwulf and his wife; Osburh bore six children one of whom was Alfred.  In 853 Alfred was sent to Rome on a pilgrimage.  Aethelwulf’s wife died in 855, and he joined his son in Rome.  On his return journey home, met his second wife, a twelve year old French princess named Judith.

When Aethelwulf landed on British shores in 856, his son Aethelbald had stolen his kingdom from him, in his absence.  His Christian attitudes led him to grant Aethelbald the western part of Wessex, an attempt to avoid civil war breaking out.

In 858 Aethelwulf died and was succeeded by his son Aethelbald. who took his father’s widow, Judith as his wife.

Aethelberht, brother to Aethelbald and son of Aethelwulf became King of Wessex in 860.  He integrated the Kingdom of Kent into Wessex, and battled against Viking incursions seeing off the Danish invaders.  Around 865 these Vikings accepted money from men of Kent, in return for a truce, but it wasn’t long before it was broken, as these Vikings ravaged eastern Kent.

In 865 Aethelberht died with no successor, and so the throne of Wessex was passed to his brother; Aethelred.

Aethelred’s six year reign as King of Wessex was one battle after another with Viking invaders.

In 871, King Ethelred, the West Saxon King and elder brother of Alfred dies in battle.  On the 23rd April, Alfred becomes King of Wessex, a land beset with Viking invaders.

Alfred builds an English fleet of ships, to take on these Viking invaders on land and sea.  The English learnt quickly, for in 875 they claim their first sea victory, capturing one of the Viking ships.

In 878, Alfred is pushed west into the Somerset marshes by Danish forces.  From Athelney Fort and surrounding areas he creates a force to come out fighting, beating the Danes.

In 878 the “Treaty of Wedmore” is born, dividing England in two, with Alfred overlord of both halves.  Anglo-Saxons in the south and west, with Danes in the north and east.

As the Danes invade Kent in 885, Alfred drives Danish forces out of London in 886, and recognised by its people, as King of all England.

Alfred the Great, King of England, died in 899 and was succeeded by Edward, which was disputed by Edward’s cousin; Aethelwold, who sought assistance from the Danes, in claiming the crown.

Edward retaliated attacking the Danish Kingdom of East Anglia, culminating at the “Battle of Holme” where East Anglian Danes and Wessex warriors fought, and Aethelwold died in battle.

Edward the Elder’s reign was made up of constant clashes with the Danes.  By the end of his reign, Edward had almost quashed threats of Viking invasion.

Edward the Elder dies in 924 and is succeeded by his son, Aelfweard who reigns for a mere sixteen days.

Aethelstan becomes the next King of Wessex in 924 and the first King of England.  By the time of his coronation in 925, Anglo-Saxons had retaken much of England leaving an area around York in Danish control.

A truce was drawn up, preventing either side going to war.  When the Danish King; Sihtric died in 927, Aethelstan swiftly captured York and the Danes were forced into submission.

Aethelstan believed he be King of Britain, and called a gathering of the Kings including Scotland and Wales to acknowledge that he be the true King of England.  The welsh and Scots agreed, providing borders were placed between the three countries.

King Aethelstan died on the 27th October 940.  During his reign he had defeated the Vikings, created a united Anglo-Saxon Kingdom under a single banner, becoming the first King of England.

King Alfred versus The Vikings

The Viking made it known; they could not be bought off with gold in the name of peace.  They objected to our religion of Christianity, and when King Edmund point blank refused to give up his Christian faith, and follow that of Odin, they murdered him, making him a martyr, who died for his faith.

Ethelred I, King of Wessex fought a fierce battle alongside his brother against these Viking warriors attacking their lands.

In 871, Ethelred died and Alfred became the new King of Wessex.  His first battle as King against the Vikings was a disaster, they were beaten and he was forced to make peace with these invaders.

In 878, Guthrum led his army against Wessex, his men, his Kingdom surrendered but Alfred could not be found, for he had hidden in the Somerset Marshes, planning how to regain his Kingdom of Wessex.

In spring of 878, Alfred met the Vikings on the battlefield at Edington, and defeated them in battle…  He proved to his followers and the enemy that the Vikings were not invincible…

He allowed the Viking leader Guthrum and his men to settle in East Anglia, all in the name of peace.  Guthrum was baptized a Christian and named Athelstan, and had Alfred as his godfather.

The lands held by the Vikings; York – Danish Mercia and East Angles, became known as Danelaw, and they followed Danish not Saxon laws.

The treaty of Wedmore was created, dividing the lands of Britain; The Viking lived in Northumbria, East Anglia and down to Essex.

Could Alfred trust these Vikings to remain within these lands, living a new life as farmers?

In the early years, many became farmers and took English wives, yet they still kept to their own language and abided by their own laws … Viking laws.

The war between Alfred and Guthrum may have been over, yet the Vikings had fortified bases at Leicester, Nottingham, Stamford, Derby, Lincoln and York.

Alfred built forts, which grew into thriving towns making Wessex strong once again.  He was offered support from Mercia and Wales.

In 885, the Viking Danes attacked Kent, but the armies of King Alfred defeated them.  In 886, King Alfred of Wessex, entered London, rebuilt the city walls.  As far as the people were concerned, this one man was truly their King, for he marched against the Vikings and won battles victoriously.

He restored rebuilt monasteries, created laws and was responsible for the writing of books in Latin and English. 

Wessex had become a Kingdom, which had grown in stature, for it had gained the loyalty of its people.  He needed to fight off constant attacks by the Vikings which led to a series of Burhs (Forts) being constructed.

Some 25,000 men manned these burhs, and each was within a day’s march of the next.  They were more than that, if Vikings attacked, they gave safe harbour for local people.

The Vikings moved by sea, by horse on land.  Alfred had to counteract these barbaric fighters at all costs or see his lands plundered; his people murdered, or at worst enter a life of slavery.

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Alfred broke his forces up into two, each responsible for set duties.  “Ealdormen” were put in charge of a shire, and Kingdoms were made up of shire’s, consisting of up to 100 families.  “Thanes” served up to a month at Alfred’s court, amongst other local duties.  “Town Officer’s” called “Reeves” collected taxes and kept law and order between the families.

Alfred created laws:

According to Saxon law, if a man fled a feud he was permitted sanctuary for up to 7 days in a church, but he would not be permitted any food.

A thief, who stole from a church, could have his hand cut off for his crime or pay a fine.

Alfred showed he meant business against these Viking seafarer’s, when he ordered a fleet of ships be built.

The early years of the Wedmore treaty was honoured, then in 890 Guthrum died.  The Viking farmers took up their arms, and joined in attacking the Saxons.  Alfred was prepared and fought off the uprising.

In 899 Alfred died, and his son Edward led his forces into the Viking held lands of East Anglia in 902.

With the help of his sister Aethelflaed of Mercia, Edward defeated the Northumbrian Vikings and won control of Danelaw as it had become known.

The final threat from the Viking’s came in the form of Raegnald of Dublin, who had made himself King of York in 919, and in 920 a defeated Raegnald submitted to Edward.

Anglo-Saxon Saint: King Edmund

In 865, a large force of Vikings landed in East Anglia, not to carry out raids and depart with their booty, but their intention was one of occupation. 

On the 1st November 866, they captured York, and went forward burning churches, villages and crops in the area.  In 867, their next city was Nottingham, for nothing stood in their way but victory.  In 870, they returned to East Anglia, where Edmund refused to bow down to the leader of the Vikings.

Edmund the Blessed, King of East Anglia, was wise and worthy, and exalted among the noble servants of the almighty God. He was humble and virtuous and remained so resolute that he would not turn to shameful vices, nor would he bend his morality in any way, but was ever-mindful of the true teaching: “If you are installed as a ruler, don’t puff yourself up, but be among men just like one of them.” He was charitable to poor folks and widows, just like a father, and with benevolence he guided his people always towards righteousness, and restrained the cruel, and lived happily in the true faith.

Eventually it happened that the Danes came with a ship-army, harrying and slaying widely throughout the land, as is their custom. In the fleet were the foremost chieftains Ivar and Ubbi, united through the devil. They landed warships in Northumbria, and wasted that country and slew the people. Then Ivar went south-east with his ships and Halfdan remained in Northumbria gaining victory with slaughter. Ivar came to East Anglia in the year in which prince Alfred would became the famous West Saxon king aged 21. The aforementioned Ivar suddenly invaded the country, just like a wolf, and slew the people, men and women and innocent children, and ignominiously harassed innocent Christians. Soon afterward he sent to king Edmund a threatening message, that Edmund should submit to his allegiance, if he cared for his life. The messenger came to king Edmund and boldly announced Ivar’s message: “Ivar, our king, bold and victorious on sea and on land, has dominion over many peoples, and has now come to this country with his army to take up winter-quarters with his men. He commands that you share your hidden gold-hordes and your ancestral possessions with him straightaway, and that you become his vassal-king, if you want to stay alive, since you now don’t have the forces that you can resist him.”

Then king Edmund summoned a his bishop with whom he was most intimate, and deliberated with him how he should answer the fierce Ivar. The bishop was afraid because of this emergency, and he feared for the king’s life, and counselled him that he thought that Edmund should submit to what Ivar asked of him. Then the king became silent, and looked at the ground, and then said to him at last : “Alas bishop, the poor people of this country are already shamefully afflicted. I would rather die fighting so that my people might continue to possess their native land.” The bishop said: “Alas beloved king, thy people lie slain. You do not have the troops that you may fight, and the pirates come and kidnap the living. Save your life by flight, or save yourself by submitting to him.” Then said king Edmund, since he was completely brave: “This I heartily wish and desire, that I not be the only survivor after my beloved people are slain in their beds with their children and wives by these pirates. It was never my way to flee. I would rather die for my country if I need to. Almighty God knows that I will not ever turn from worship of Him, nor from love of His truth. If I die, I live.”

After these words he turned to the messenger who Ivar had sent him, and, undaunted, said to him: “In truth you deserve to be slain now, but I will not defile my clean hands with your vile blood, because I follow Christ who so instructed us by his example; and I happily will be slain by you if God so ordain it. Go now quickly and tell your fierce lord: ‘Never in this life will Edmund submit to Ivar the heathen war-leader, unless he submit first to the belief in the Saviour Christ which exists in this country.'” Then the messenger went quickly on his way, and met along the road the cruel Ivar with all his army hastening toward Edmund, and told the impious one how he had been answered. Ivar then arrogantly ordered that the pirates should all look at once for the king who scorned his command, and sieze him immediately.

King Edmund, against whom Ivar advanced, stood inside his hall, and mindful of the Saviour, threw out his weapons. He wanted to match the example of Christ, who forbade Peter to win the cruel Jews with weapons. Lo! the impious one then bound Edmund and insulted him ignominiously, and beat him with rods, and afterwards led the devout king to a firm living tree, and tied him there with strong bonds, and beat him with whips. In between the whip lashes, Edmund called out with true belief in the Saviour Christ. Because of his belief, because he called to Christ to aid him, the heathens became furiously angry. They then shot spears at him, as if it was a game, until he was entirely covered with their missles, like the bristles of a hedgehog (just like St. Sebastian was). When Ivar the impious pirate saw that the noble king would not forsake Christ, but with resolute faith called after Him, he ordered Edmund beheaded, and the heathens did so. While Edmund still called out to Christ, the heathen dragged the holy man to his death, and with one stroke struck off his head, and his soul journeyed happily to Christ. There was a man near at hand, kept hidden by God, who heard all this, and told of it afterward, just as we have told it here.

Then the pirates returned to their ships and hid the head of the holy Edmund in the thick brambles so that it could not be buried with the rest of his body. After a time, after the pirates had departed, the local people, those who were left, came there where the remains of their lord’s body without a head was. They were very sad in heart because of his killing, and especially because they didn’t have the head for his body. Then the witness who saw the earlier events said that the pirates had the head with them, and that it seemed to him, as it was in truth, that they hid the head in the woods somewhere.

They all went together then to the woods, looking everywhere through the bushes and brambles to see if they could find that head anywhere. It was also a great miracle that a wolf was sent, through the guidance of God, to protect that head both day and night from the other animals. The people went searching and also calling out, just as the custom is among those who often go into the wood: “Where are you now, friend?” And the head answered them: “Here, here, here,” and called out the answer to them as often as any of them called out, until they came to it as a result of the calling. There lay the grey wolf who watched over that head, and had the head clasped between his two paws. The wolf was greedy and hungry, but because of God he dared not eat the head, but protected it against animals. The people were astonished at the wolf’s guardianship and carried home with them the holy head, thanking almighty God for all His miracles. The wolf followed along with the head as if he was tame, until they came to the settlement, and then the wolf turned back to the woods.

The local people then laid the head with the holy body and buried it as best they could in such a hurry, and soon erected a marker over him. After many years, when the harrying ceased and peace was granted to the afflicted people, they joined together and erected a church worthy of the saint at the marker where he was buried, because miracles happened frequently at his grave. They planned to carry the holy body with public honor and lay it in the church. Then there was a great miracle: Edmund was as sound as when he was alive, with a clean body, and his neck, which previously was severed, was healed. It was as if a red silken thread around his neck showed men how he was slain. Also the wounds which the cruel heathens made with frequent spear-shots to his body were healed by the heavenly God. And Edmund lies thus uncorrupted down to the present day, awaiting resurrection and the eternal glory. His body, which lies undecayed, tells us that he lived without fornication in this world, and with a clean life journeyed to Christ.

A certain widow named Oswyn lived near the holy tomb, and prayed and fasted there many years. She would cut the hair of the saint each year and trim his nails, chastely, with love, and place those holy relics in the shrine on the altar. Then the local people honored the saint by believing in him, and Bishop Theodred very greatly honored him with gifts of gold and silver.

One night eight accursed thieves came to the venerable saint. They wanted to steal the treasures which men brought thither, and craftily figured out how they might enter. One struck the hasps with a hammer; one of them filed round about with a file; one also dug under the door with a spade; one of them with a ladder wanted to unlock the window; but they labored without result and fared poorly in that the saint miraculously bound them stiffly, each as he stood with his tools, so that none of them might succeed in the crime nor stir from there. They stood thusly until morning. Men were amazed at that, how the men hung, one on a ladder, one stooped to dig, and each firmly bound in his task. The thieves were then all brought to the bishop and he commanded that they hang them all on high gallows. But he was not mindful of how the merciful God commanded through his prophets the words which stand here: Eos qui ducuntur ad mortem eruere ne cesses, ‘Always redeem those who man condems to death.’ And the holy canons also forbid to the ordained, both bishops and priests, to judge concerning thieves, because it isn’t fitting for those who are chosen to the service of God to consent to any man’s death, especially if the criminals are Christians. After Bishop Theodred examined his book he repented grieviously that he had so cruelly passed judgement on those unhappy thieves, and lamented it always until the end of his life. He asked the people eagerly that they fast with him for three entire days, asking almighty God that He should have mercy upon him.

In that country was a man named Leofstan, rich in worldly things but ignorant of God. He rode to the saint with exceeding arrogance and insolently ordered that the holy saint be shown to him so that he might see whether Edmund was whole. But as soon as he saw the saint’s body he went mad, and raged cruelly, and ended wretchedly in an evil death. This is similar to that which the pious Pope Gregory related in his narrative about the holy Laurentius, who lies in Rome, i.e., that men both good and evil wanted to examine how he lay, but God restrained them in such manner that seven men died all at one time at the examination. Then others with human shortcomings stopped examining the saint.

Many miracles concerning holy Edmund we heard about in popular parlance which we will not put into writing here, but everyone knows about them. Concerning this saint it is evident, and concerning others likewise, that God almighty, who preserves saint Edmund’s body until the great day, can resurrect that man again on Judgement Day uncorrupted by the earth, even though he comes from the earth. It is appropriate that man honor the holy places of the worthy saints, those servants of God in Christ’s service, and furnish them properly, because the saint is greater than any man can conceive of. The English are not deprived of the Lord’s saints, because in England lie such holy saints as this holy king, and Cuthbert the Blessed, and St. Aethelthryth at Ely, and also her sister, all sound in body, confirming the faith. There are also many other English saints who work many miracles, as is widely known, in praise of the Almighty who they believed in. Christ announces to men through his greater saints that he who makes such miracles is almighty God, even though the poor Jews all forsook him even though they wished for him, because they are accursed. There are no miracles wrought in any of their tombs because they do not believe in the living Christ. But Christ announces to men where the true faith exists when he works such miracles widely throughout the earth. Thus to him be ever glory with his heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit, ever without end. Amen

Anglo-Saxon King: Egbert

With the Roman departure early in the fifth century, Britain came under attack from the Angles, Saxons and Jutes of Northern Germany.

Over the next 200 years or more, these invaders pushed the native Britons from their lands.

These invaders split the country into seven independent warring kingdoms.  Out of which emerged Egbert to become King of Wessex from 802-839 and first King of Britain in 829 as he defeated the Mercians in 825 as other’s like Northumbria submitted to him.

*        Egbert made a play for the Kingdom of Wessex, but failed and was forced into exile in France.

*        In 825, at the “Battle of Ellandune” victory was achieved over           Beornwulf, King of Mercia at Wroughton in Wiltshire.  Following    this victory, Egbert of Wessex took over Kent, Surrey, Sussex and        Essex.

*        Egbert married Redburga and had two children; Aethelwulf his           successor and Edith.  His daughter was a leper, and his gift to     her, was the foundation of Polesworth Abbey.

*        In 829, Egbert had taken over the Kingdom of Mercia, marking an end to Mercian supremacy.

*        In 830 Mercia and Northumbria threw out Wessex leadership.      Egbert gave south-western lands of Wessex to his son;   Aethelwulf.

*        In 836 the Vikings arrived and Egbert’s forces met at the “Battle   of Carhampton” but was forced to withdraw in the face of     defeat.

*        In 838 the Vikings became a serious issue when Cornish       Dumnonians and the Northmen joined forces.  Egbert became      victor at the “Battle of Hingston Down.”

*        In 839 King Egbert of Wessex died and was buried in the Old       Minster at Winchester.

There were two sides to Egbert:  On one hand he was a committed Christian who cared for his daughter, bestowing many gifts upon the church.  On the other side, we have the brutal warrior, who murdered his nephews, in case they should attempt to usurp him of his crown.

Anglo-Saxon King: Alfred the Great

Alfred was born in Wantage, Berkshire in AD849, into an England which was unstable and a violent society, a country consisting of kingdoms, a land threatened by invaders.  He was the youngest son of King Ethelwulf of Wessex, and his wife Osburh, daughter of Oslac, the royal cupbearer of South Hampshire.

In 853 the young Prince Alfred rode a thousand miles, taking his first steps into public affairs and diplomacy at the papal court in Rome.  He would present himself to Pope Leo IV on behalf of his father; King Ethelwulf of Wessex.  He was anointed royally by the Pope.

In 871, King Ethelred, the West Saxon King and elder brother of Alfred dies in battle.  On the 23rd April, Alfred becomes King of Wessex, a land beset with Viking invaders.

Alfred builds an English fleet of ships, to take on these Viking invaders on land and sea.  The English learnt quickly, for in 875 they claim their first sea victory, capturing one of the Viking ships.

In 878, Alfred is pushed west into the Somerset marshes by Danish forces.  From Athelney Fort and surrounding areas he creates a force to come out fighting, beating the Danes.

In 878 the “Treaty of Wedmore” is born, dividing England in two, with Alfred overlord of both halves.  Anglo-Saxons in the south and west, with Danes in the north and east.

As the Danes invade Kent in 885, Alfred drives Danish forces out of London in 886, and recognised by its people, as King of all England.

During the 890’s Alfred compiled the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, which were written in the language of the Anglo-Saxons.  It described England’s political, social and economic events through time, and was continually updated until the 12th century.

Alfred the Great, King of England, died in 899 and was succeeded by Edmund the Elder.

Anglo-Saxon’s: Englands Invasion

The Anglo-Saxon tribes began their invasion of Britain, as Roman legions departed for Rome.  According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, they set foot on British soil in 449.

Saxon mercenaries led by Hengest and Horsa, sons of Whitgils landed in Kent at the invitation of the Celtic King; Vortigern.  He who was fighting a losing battle against the Picts of Scotland, called upon mercenaries for assistance.  They fought well, and victory was theirs against the Picts.

With victory theirs, the Saxon mercenaries sacked their employer Vortigern, and began taking land from the celts in south-eastern areas.  Hengest went forth and established himself in Kent.

These Saxon tribes originated from across European states: Saxons from Germany, Angles from Schleswig-Holstein, Jutes and Frisians from Jutland, Denmark.  According to the Beowulf poem, the Jutes could have been the Geats of Sweden.

The British found a strong leader, as the legendary King Arthur stepped forward, in their time of struggle against these Saxons.  King Arthur commanded a well armed cavalry unit, and went on to achieve victory at Mount Badon.

With the death of Arthur, Celtic resistance against these Saxon invaders soon collapsed.

Some Celts were assimulated into Anglo-Saxon society, whilst others were driven to the outer fringes of Britain, Wales, Cumbria and the Cornish peninsula.

Wales, derives its name from the Anglo-Saxons word Wealas, which means foreigner.

Cornwall, derives its name from the words, Kernow and Waelas.

Cumbria derives its name fron the Celtic word, Cymru which means comrades.

Whilst conquered territory became known as Angleland.

Anglo-Saxon England (410-855)

After some four hundred years, Britain was no longer part of the Roman Empire, as Romans returned to their homeland of Italy by 410AD.  Italy needed the might of their battle hardened Roman warriors to ward off hostile tribe’s attacking their homeland.

As the Romans departed, Britain became vulnerable to these Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians and Franks, who first arrived across the seas from Germany and Denmark to trade.  As the Romans left these traders saw an opportunity; a new life.

The Angles made their homes in East Anglia, Midlands and Northumbria.

The Saxons made their homes in the South of England, and formed Kingdoms:

Sussex        = South Saxons

Wessex      = West Saxons

Essex          = East Saxons

Middlesex = Middle Saxons

Jutes came from Jutland in Denmark and set up home in Kent, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

With the Roman gone, the Picts, Scots and Barbarians from the north crossed Hadrian’s Wall attacking the British Romans without mercy.

Vortigern a British leader hired Saxons to fend off invaders, and paid them in money and land.

Later invaders of this land, did not come to fight, they sought out land to farm.  They manoeuvred their narrow boats up river, deep and deeper inland.  History tells us these invaders drove Britons from their lands, and some were forced into a life of slavery by their new masters.

First these Britons were pushed west, and around 500AD they stood their ground, turned and fought, to protect their lands.  This stemmed the flow of the Anglo-Saxon migration.

Ambrosius Aurelianus, fought with his men at Mons Badonicus believed to have been the Bradbury Rings in Dorset, and won their battle.

Britain’s main leader is believed to have been a warrior named Arthur, later called King Arthur.

The next major battle between Briton’s and Anglo-Saxons took place at the “Battle of Dyrham” in AD577 led by Cealin, King of Wessex who went on to take Cirencester, Gloucester and Bath.

Wessex expansion ceased as Anglo-Saxon’s fought each other.  Cealin retreated; Ceol his nephew took his place and was killed the very next year.

Cirencester became an Anglo-Saxon Kingdom under Mercia rule rather than Wessex.

Saxon Settlements:

Saxon leaders found this new land fertile and shared this healthy land among their followers.

Some leaders became Kings of their province, and noble warriors were known as Thanes (Thane, a nobleman who held land for the King in return for services).  These Thanes received land from their King, and freemen farmers known as Churls, (Churls is a farm labourer), who would rent the land from his Thane.

Some farmers seized readily prepared farm lands from the Britons, whilst others started afresh, clearing the land, growing crops, creating pastures for cattle, sheep, pigs and horses.

Early settlements consisted of a few family farms, with houses constructed of wood with sloping thatched roofs.  The settlement would be protected by a fence, encircling the houses from wild animals or warring enemies.

As time progressed, settlements grew larger and became villages.  Each village had a Saxon Chief, often it was he who had led them to this land, and granted them the land they now farmed.

For what their Saxon Chief had given them, these churls these farmers worked and fought for their leader.

A Saxon home contained little in the way of furniture; table and benches made from the land.

Saxon cooking pots, were made by hand would hang from a chain, over the fire.  Buckets would be used to carry water from the river or lake.

Women would also be responsible for grinding the grain, preparing the bread and beer from barley crops.  Preparing food and watching over children and animals.

Women would use sheep’s wool and turn it into cloth, using plant dye’s to colour it for clothing.  Men often wore short tunics, trousers and leather shoes with straps.

The King’s and their Kingdom’s:

According to the writings of Bede, the first group of Saxon Kings, were chiefs who had led the invasion on Britain.

Hengist and Horsa in Kent, Aelle in Sussex, along with Cerdic and Cynric in Wessex.

By the year 560Ad, Kent had become the most important of all English Kingdoms and was ruled by Ethelbert until 616AD with Canterbury being its capital and lands extending north to the Humber River.  Upon Ethelbert’s death in 616AD, Raedwald of East Anglia rose to become the most powerful leader south of the Humber River.

Later, Northumbria became a powerful kingdom under King Edwin, and according to archaeological findings at Yeavering in Northumberland, a Saxon Palace or Hall had been discovered in the area, and believed to belong to Edwin.

Each King of his Kingdom, moved around his Kingdom feasting in these great halls with his followers, ensuring local support from them in battle.  In return he promised them land and riches.

According to Saxon law, a person’s life was worth a set amount of money.  If he was killed, his murderer had to pay that amount of money to his family.

Raewald provided military assistance to Deiran Edwin, in taking over the dynasties of Deira and Bernica in the Kingdom of Northumbria.  Upon Raewald’s death Edwin expanded the kingdom of Northumbria.

Anglo-Saxon Mercians under Penda were forced into battle against Edwin of Northumbria as his kingdom grew in size.

An alliance between Penda and Cadwallon of Gwynedd, the Welsh King was formed, and between them they killed Edwin of Northumbria at the “Battle of Hatfield Chase” in 633AD.

Oswald son of one of Northumbria’s Kings, defeated and killed Cadwallon at Heavenfield near Hexham.  Then in 642Ad Penda killed Oswald in battle.  Oswald’s brother, Oswiu killed Penda around 642AD.

Mercia spent the latter years of the 7th and 8th century fighting the Welsh Kingdom of Powys.  Offa constructed a 150 mile long, 25 feet high and 7 feet deep dyke across the boundary between England and Wales constructed of wooden poles and earth, designed to stop warring raids.

Beornwulf beat the Mercians in the “Battle of Ellendun” in 825AD by Egbert of Wessex.

Anglo-Saxon Kings

With the Roman’s departure early in the 5th century, Britain came under attack from Angles, Saxons and Jutes of northern Germany.  Over the next 200 years or more, these invaders pushed the native Britons from England.  The next development in Britain’s future, saw the country split into seven independent warring kingdoms.  Out of which, emerged Egbert as King of all England in 829.

EGBERT 827–839
Egbert; Britains first monarch to establish rule across all of Anglo-Saxon England. After returning from exile at the court of Charlemagne in 802, he regained his kingdom of Wessex. Following his conquest of Mercia in 827, he controlled all of England south of the Humber. After further victories in Northumberland and North Wales, he is recognised by the title Bretwalda, “ruler of the British”. In 838 defeated a combined force of Danes and Cornish at Hingston Down in Cornwall. He is buried at Winchester in Hampshire.

AETHELWULF 839-856
King of Wessex, son of Egbert and father of Alfred the Great. In 851 defeated a Danish army at the “Battle of Oakley,” His son Althelstan fought and beat the Danes at sea off the coast of Kent, in what is believed to be the first naval battle. Athelwulf travelled to Rome with his son Alfred to see the Pope in 855.

AETHELBALD 856-860
Aethelbald son of  Aethelwulf was born around 834. Crowned at Kingston-upon-Thames in southwest London, after forcing his father to abdicate upon his return from pilgrimage to Rome. Following his fathers death in 858, he married his widowed stepmother Judith, but under pressure from the church the marriage was annulled after only a year. He is buried at Sherbourne Abbey in Dorset.

AETHELBERT 860-866
Became King following the death of his brother Aethelbald. Shortly after his succession a Danish army landed and sacked Winchester before being defeated by the Saxons. In 865 the Viking Great Heathen Army landed in East Anglia and swept across England. He is buried at Sherborne Abbey.

AETHELRED I 86-871
Aethelred successor to his brother Aethelbert. His reign was one long struggle as the Danes occupied York in 866, establishing the Viking kingdom of Yorvik. When the Danish Army moved south Wessex itself was threatened, and so together with his brother Alfred, they fought several battles with the Vikings at Reading, Ashdown and Basing. Aethelred was injured at the “Battle at Meretun” and died of his wounds shortly after at Witchampton in Dorset, where he was buried.

ALFRED THE GREAT 871-899
Alfred was born at Wantage in Berkshire around 849, son of Aethelwulf .Alfred was well educated and is said to have visited Rome on two occasions. With major victories at Edington, Rochester and London, Alfred established Saxon Christian rule over Wessex, and then most of England. To secure his hard won boundaries Alfred founded a permanent army and an embryonic Royal Navy. To secure his place in history, he began the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.

EDWARD (The Elder) 899-924
Edward succeeded his father; Alfred the Great. Edward retook southeast England and the Midlands from the Danes, united the kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia. In 923, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles record that Constantine II of Scotland recognised Edward as “father and lord”. The following year, Edward is killed in a battle against the Welsh near Chester. His body is returned to Winchester for burial.

ATHELSTAN 924-939
Successor to his father; Edward the Elder, extends the boundaries of his kingdom at the “Battle of Brunanburh” in 937, defeating a combined army of Scots, Celts, Danes and Vikings, claiming the title of King of all Britain. The battle saw for the first time individual Anglo-Saxon kingdoms being brought together to create a single and unified England. Athelstan is buried in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.

EDMUND 939-946
Successor to his half-bother; Athelastan becoming king at the tender age of 18, having already fought alongside him at the “Batlle of Brunanburh.” He re-established Anglo-Saxon control over northern England, which had fallen back under Scandanavian rule following the death of Athelstan. Edmund was stabbed by a robber in his royal hall at Pucklechurch near Bath.

EADRED 946-955
Successor to Edmund, son of Edward the Elder by his third marriage to Eadgifu.  He defeated Norsemen, expelling the last Scandanavian King of York, Eric Bloodaxe, in 954.  Eadred died in his early 30s, leaving no heir, at Frome in Somerset. He is buried in Winchester.

EADWIG 955-959
Successor to Eadred, was Eadwig son of Edmund I, who was aged 16 when he was crowned king at Kingston-upon-Thames in southeast London aged 16.   Eadwig died in Gloucester when he was just 20, the circumstances of his death are not recorded.

EDGAR 959-975
Successor to Eadwig, youngest son of Edmund I, Edgar had been in dispute with his brother concerning succession to the throne for some years. Following Eadwig’s mysterious death, Edgar recalled Dunstan from exile, making him Archbishop of Canterbury as well as his personal advisor. Following his carefully planned (by Dunstan) coronation in Bath in 973, Edgar marched his army to Chester, to be met by six kings of Britain. The kings, including the King of Scots, King of Strathclyde and various princes of Wales, are said to have signalled their allegience to Edgar by rowing him in his state barge accross the River Dee.

EDWARD THE MARTYR 975-978
Eldest son of Edgar, Edward was crowned king when aged just 12. Claims to the throne were contested by supporters of his much younger half-brother Aethelred. The resulting dispute between rival factions within the church and nobility took England close to civil war.  Edward’s reign lasted two and a half years, being murdered at Corfe Castle by Aethelred followers.  The title ‘martyr’ was a consequence of him being seen as a victim of his stepmother’s ambitions for her own son Aethelred.

AETHELRED II THE UNREADY 978-1016
Aethelred was unable to organise resistance against the Danes, earning him the nickname ‘unready’. He became king aged 10, fled to Normandy in 1013 when Sweyn Forkbeard, King of the Danes invaded England.  Sweyn was pronounced King of England on Christmas Day 1013 and made his capital at Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, only to die just five weeks later.  Aethelred returned in 1014 after Sweyn’s death. The remainder of Aethelred’s reign was one of a constant state of war with Sweyn’s son Canute.

EDMUND II IRONSIDE 1016-1016
Edmund son of Aethelred II, led the resistance forces to Canute’s invasion of England from 1015. Following the death of his father, he was chosen king by the good folk of London. The Witan (the king’s council) however elected Canute. Following his defeat at the Battle of Assandun, Aethelred made a pact with Canute to divide the kingdom between them. Edmund died later that year, probably assassinated.

CANUTE (CNUT THE GREAT) THE DANE 1016-1035
Canute; king of all England following Edmund II’s death. The son of Sweyn Forkbeard, he ruled well and gained favour with his English subjects. In 1017, Canute married Emma of Normandy, the widow of Aethelred II and divided England into the four earldoms of East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria and Wessex, inspired by his pilgrimage to Rome in 1027.

HAROLD I 1035-1040
Harold (Harold Harefoot), illegitimate son of Canute, claimed the English crown on the death of his father whilst his half-brother Harthacanute, the rightful heir, was in Denmark fighting to protect his Danish kingdom. Harold died three years into his reign, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.   Harthacanute had his body dug up, beheaded, and thrown into the Thames.

HARTHACANUTE 1040-1042
The son of Cnut the Great and Emma of Normandy, sailed to England with his mother, accompanied by a fleet of 62 warships, and was immediately accepted as king. Perhaps to appease his mother, the year before he died Harthacanute invited his half-brother Edward, Emma’s son from her first marriage to Aethelred the Unready, back from exile in Normandy. Harthacanute died at a wedding whilst toasting the health of the bride; he was aged just 24 and was the last Danish king to rule England

EDWARD THE CONFESSOR 1042-1066
Following the death of Harthacanute, Edward restored rule in the House of Wessex to the English throne. Presided over the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey, leaving the running of the country to Earl Godwin and his son Harold.  Edward died eight days after the building work on Westminster Abbey had finished. With no natural successor, England was faced with a power struggle for control of the throne.

HAROLD II 1066
Despite having no royal bloodline, Harold Godwin was elected king by the Witan (a council of high ranking nobles and religious leaders), following the death of Edward the Confessor. This did not  meet with the approval of one William, Duke of Normandy, who claimed Edward had promised the throne to him several years earlier.

Harold defeated an invading Norwegian army at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire, marched south to confronting William of Normandy who had landed his forces in Sussex. The death of Harold at the Battle Of Hastings meant the end of the English Anglo-Saxon kings and the beginning of the Normans.

Anglo-Saxon King: Edward the Confessor

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.