Earl Godwin of Wessex

Godwin of Wessex was the father of Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, defeated by Duke William of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings. Godwin was likely the son of Wulfnoth Cild, a thegn of Sussex. He first appears in documents during the reign of Cnut, one of the last major Danish rulers of England. Cnut married Godwin to his brother-in-law’s sister, and he also appointed him as Earl of Wessex. This appointment would eventually make the Godwin family the most powerful family in England.

In 1042, when Edward the Confessor took the throne, Godwin cemented his power by arranging for the king to marry his daughter, Edith. The two men, Edward and Godwin, always had a rift between them, for Edward believed Godwin had taken part in the murder of his brother Alfred. With the help of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert of Jumieges, Edward banished his wife to a nunnery at Wherwell and exiled Godwin and his sons. Godwin eventually returned, and Edward reinstated him and his family. Godwin died at Winchester on April 15, 1053.

Additional Reading:


Kingmakers – The Story of the House of Godwin

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle


The Last Anglo-Saxon King by Ian Walker

Edward the Confessor by Frank Barlow

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