Earl Godwin

Who was Earl Godwin?
Godwin was a powerful Anglo-Saxon who was made Earl of Wessex in 1018 by King Cnut. Until his death in 1053 he built up the House of Godwin to become a powerful family. His power in England rivalled even that of Edward the Confessor.
Why was Earl Godwin so powerful?
There were a number of reasons why Godwin was able to become so powerful.
  • King Edward allowed him to build up his power, even though it meant that he could become a threat.
  • He held extensive lands and was therefore very rich.
  • He had a large family and a lot of sons, which meant that he had a lot of influential people protecting his interests.
  • His family made good political marriages, which meant that he had family connections and ties of loyalty with Edward the Confessor, as well as with other earls and thegns.
  • In 1045, Edward married Godwin's daughter, Edith, making Godwin the king's father-in-law.
  • Edward was not a strong king, and relied on Godwin to help him keep control. This gave Godwin a lot of influence.
Why did Edward the Confessor allow Earl Godwin to build up his power?
There were a number of reasons why Edward the Confessor allowed Godwin to build up so much power.
  • He relied on Godwin's military support to help him keep control of England.
  • He was married to Godwin's daughter, Edith, and family loyalty was important to the Anglo-Saxons.
  • Godwin had helped Edward the Confessor to become king.
  • Later, Edward the Confessor allowed the Godwin's family power to grow because he needed their help to protect England from the Norwegian threat, as well as from the Welsh.
What did Earl Godwin do?
Before his death in 1053, Godwin played an important role in the history of Anglo-Saxon England.
  • He resisted the influence of Edward's Norman friends in England.
  • He was exiled from England, but later returned.
  • He put pressure on Edward the Confessor to agree to his plans.
  • He built up the power of his family.
How was Godwin's relationship with the Normans?
He resisted the appointment of Normans to the nobility and the Church, and worked to get them sent home.
Why did Godwin go into exile?
In 1050, Godwin refused to punish the people of Dover after a deadly skirmish between visiting officials from Boulogne and townspeople. He was forced into exile as a result.
Why did Godwin return from exile?
In 1051, Godwin raised an army and pressured Edward into ending his exile and restoring his earldom.
How did Godwin increase the power of Godwin's family?
Godwin pressured Edward into giving important Church positions and earldoms to his sons and supporters.
Who were Godwin's rivals?
Few earls in England had the power to rival the Godwin family, but they were challenged by an alliance between Mercia and Wales.
  • Aelfgar, Earl of Mercia, was the only earl with the power to challenge Godwin.
  • Aelfgar worked with the Welsh king, Gruffudd ap Llywelyn.
How did the rivalry between Godwin and Aelfgar end?
After the death of Aelfgar, Harold and Tostig Godwinson launched a joint attack on Gruffudd and defeated him.
What was the significance of the Godwin family?
By 1060, the Godwin family had become very powerful and controlled much of England. Before 1066 they were at the centre of some significant events in Anglo-Saxon England.
  • In 1051, Godwin returned from exile.
  • In 1062, after the death of Aelfgar, the Godwinsons attacked Gruffudd, the Welsh king.
  • In 1065, there was a rebellion against Godwin's son, Tostig, in Northumbria.
  • In 1064, Godwin's son Harold went on an official visit to Normandy.
Who was in the Godwin family?
One of the reasons for Godwin's power was his large family of sons. This gave him strong, loyal representatives in Anglo-Saxon England. Some of the most important members of the Godwin family were:
Where did Godwin's son Harold rule?
Harold Godwinson became the Earl of Wessex after his father died.
Where did Godwin's son Tostig rule?
In 1055, Tostig Godwinson became the Earl of Northumbria, giving the Godwins a power base in the north of England.
Who did the Godwin family members marry?
The Godwin family made a series of politically helpful marriages that helped them to grow their power.
  • Godwin's daughter, Edith, married Edward the Confessor.
  • Harold married Edith the Fair, who owned large estates in East Anglia.
  • Tostig married Judith, the daughter of the Count of Flanders.
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