The Anglo-Norman Territories


England before the Norman Conquest


Silver penny of Edward the Confessor The last but one of England's Anglo-Saxon kings was Edward the Confessor. His reign was punctuated by political crises, but they were not necessarily of his own making.Edward ascended the throne in 1042 on the sudden death of Harthacnut, the last Scandinavian king of England. As the son of King Aethelred II ('the unready') and Emma of Normandy, Edward's claim was good. He had, however, lived in Normandy most of his life and came to England without the reputation as a soldier that a king usually needed to dominate the aristocracy and secure his position. Such a reputation was especially necessary at a time when invasion from Scandinavia remained a real threat.

A Viking warrior [York Archaeological Trust]Throughout his reign Edward faced the competing ambitions of the Normans and the English earls led by Godwine of Wessex. At first it seems Earl Godwine held sway and Edward married his daughter Edith, but they had no children. Duke William of Normandy's hand was strengthened by the defeat of Norman rebels at Val ès Dunes in 1047. In 1051 Edward was able to ignore Godwine's candidate for Archbishop of Canterbury and appoint a Norman. Following an unsuccessful rebellion Godwine and his family were forced to flee the country. Norman sources suggest that Edward offered the succession to William at this time. Godwine returned to power Harold swears to support William (Bayeux Tapestry) just before his death in 1053. He was succeeded by his son Harold who, by 1060, had strengthened his family's position such that the Godwines held all the principal earldoms except Mercia. In 1064 or 1065 Edward sent Harold to Normandy for reasons which are not entirely certain. After landing in hostile territory, Harold was ransomed by Duke William and Norman sources claim that Harold then swore to accept William as King of England. On Edward's death in 1066, however, Harold took the crown.

Edward the Confessor’s England
Harold Godwinson : Earl of Wessex and King of England

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