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GODWIN'S CLAN - 2: GODWIN'S EARLDOM RESTORED - His Return To Power Over Eadward Short-lived

Updated on August 9, 2017

Eadward saw Harold in a more favourable light. Here was a meeting of souls

King Eadward in later years - the succession still bothered him, and the 'vultures' would soon hover, ready to pick the 'bones' of the kingdom. Harold would benefit from the king's feeling of isolation from the world around him
King Eadward in later years - the succession still bothered him, and the 'vultures' would soon hover, ready to pick the 'bones' of the kingdom. Harold would benefit from the king's feeling of isolation from the world around him
Earl Godwin dies at the Easter Feast at Winchester, 1053 - contemporary illiustration
Earl Godwin dies at the Easter Feast at Winchester, 1053 - contemporary illiustration
The Forest of Savernake - land in dispute between Church and Nobility held by Harold as Earl of Wessex and neutral party
The Forest of Savernake - land in dispute between Church and Nobility held by Harold as Earl of Wessex and neutral party

Banishment was pronounced on those who were thought to have brought on the sad state of affairs....

...either by deceit or in spreading lies about Godwin, leading to Eadward banishing him and encarcerating his daughter in a nunnery. In reality Eadward had brought it about himself with the connivance of his brother-in-law, Count Eustace of Boulogne and Robert of Jumieges, Archbishop of Canterbury.

As well as the Archbishop of Canterbury there was Bishop Ulf of Dorchester and a few Norman and Frankish knights in Herefordshire who were outlawed. Bishop William was allowed to return shortly afterward. Although he had fled with Archbishop Robert and had been appointed to the Bishopric of London through Robert's influence, he was blameless for what happened .

Details of the settlement, aside from Godwin's retoration, agreed in principle a return to the status quo for Godwin's clan. Although restored, Godwin and Harold had lost some of their former powers. Earl Aelfgar would have yielded some of his lands to Harold in East Anglia - with the agreement of his father Earl Leofric of Mercia. (In AD1053, when Godwin died Earl Harold took over Wessex with the king's blessing., Aelfgar had those lands yielded by him in East Anglia restored again. He would later take over Mercia when his father Leofric died).

Ralph and Odda were given back their lands in the west when Harold became Earl of Wessex. Ralph's fiefdom included part of what had been Svein Godwinson's territory, and Svein's death in Byzantium allowed Ralph back to lands he had held before. Odda's position is less clear. He may have kept Somerset - also a part of Svein's lands - or he may have kept his whole earldom under the auspices of Godwin.

Robert of Jumieges was to die shortly after, in Normandy. However, Stigand was offered the Archbishopric of Canterbury, accepting whilst the encumbent was still alive, thus forfeiting his pallium. He still held the Bishopric of Winchester, leading to the accusation in 1066 by Duke William that the Church in England was corrupt. Stigand was only given Canterbury because Robert's position as Archbishop was no longer either politically viable or tenable. [William I kept Stigand in the archbishopric only as long as his being there served a purpose - he was replaced by Lanfranc in AD1071]. It was mooted that the originally unsuccessful candidate of AD1050, Aethelric may have been preferable to all in canonical terms, but Eadward was against his appointment for personal reasons. Aethelric was related to Godwin and by now identified too strongly with his cause.

Eadward controlled Church appointments by the king's prerogative. Even when Godwin was restored to his titles, Eadward still held sway over the Church in his kingdom. Stigand had been loyal for many years - first under Knut and then to Eadward, despite his links to Emma - and was given first the see of East Anglia and then Winchester, finally also Canterbury. He had been a mediator between Eadward and Godwin in AD1051. Interestingly, little is said of Wulfwig, who stepped into the Bishopric of Dorchester without the encumbent Ulf having died first, in the same way as Stigand stepped into his appointment of Canterbury. The status of the candidates and those they replaced may have greater bearing on the matter, however. Ulf's own dissatisfactory record of simony - where he was practically deposed by the Pontiff Leo IX - may have been why no-one lifted a finger on Wulfwig replacing him whilst he was still alive.

Godwin's health had been failing from his strenuous campaigning and sea crossings the year before. No doubt the news of the death of his favourite son helped weaken him further. At the Easter Feast in Winchester, 1053 he collapsed and died three days later. He was buried in the Old Minster at Winchester near Knut and his queen, Emma. Eadward was now rid of the old earl's influence; nor could Svein ever surface again to embarrass and haunt him.

A new relationship would blossom in mutual respect between Eadward and Harold, his new Earl of Wessex, that would last until Eadward's last hours at Christmas, AD1065 (on today's calendar that would be twelfth night, January 6th).

*Having been taken as hostage against Godwin's good behaviour in AD1051, and taken with Robert of Jumieges when he fled England for his homeland, Svein's son Hakon would spend some time as 'guest' of Duke William at Falaise in Normandy. With him was Godwin's youngest son Wulfnoth. Hakon was taken home to England by his uncle Harold in AD1065 (following the fabled 'oath-taking'), Wulfnoth would languish in Normandy until King William I died, AD1087. He was brought back to England, although still captive,and died in the reign of Henry I 'Beauclerc'.

Next: 3: Making of an earl.

A power struggle between king and earl, a bride whose marriage is never consummated, a son made 'nithing' for abduction and murder, another son ousted amid political turmoil and suspected murder - arranged on his behalf by a doting sister, Queen Eadgytha - and yet another who becomes king for less than a year and is accused by some of the earls and nobles of usurping the aetheling Eadgar, even though in the circumstances the young fellow would have been out of his depth and a danger to all. Yet history would prove many wrong, if only for a short time. Dallas was never like this!

Mistrust was in the air...

Between the clans of Godwin of Wessex, Leofric of Mercia and Siward of Northumbria was grudging respect, beneath that there was rivalry.

At the time Godwin was forced to flee the kingdom Leofric and Siward stood by the king, glad of the upstart Godwin's downfall. Godwin had been raised to earldom by Knut for fighting beside him in 1026 at the Holy River in Skaane (now south-western Sweden) against Olaf Haraldsson and his Swedish ally Onund Jakob (Olof Skotkonung's son and successor). As the son of rebel Thegn Wulfnoth, Anglian stalwarts such as Leofric in Mercia saw him as 'the blue-eyed boy' who could 'buy' Eadward with the gift of a ship to atone for the murder of Eadward's brother Aelfred - although Godwin was not instrumental in the lad's death, he was implicated by his loyalty to Harold I, 'Harefoot'.

Siward was from a noble Danish house and had come with Knut to England, to be rewarded with part of the far-reaching earldom of Northumbria, as several other Danes such as Thorkell 'Havi' ('the Tall') and Osgod 'Clapa' - both of whom fell out with Knut.

The rivalries between the earldoms reflected those between the older kingdoms, bitter enmity between Mercia and Northumbria being long-standing since the days of Penda and Offa; the enmity between Mercia and Wessex was of a different nature, being borne of subordination at the time of Aelfred 'the Great'. Mercia ceased to be a kingdom in its own right when the 'Great Heathen Army' overtook much of Mercia before the Treaty of Wedmore between Aelfred and Guthrum, and west of Watling Street was all that remained of Anglian Mercia thereafter until Aethelstan restored the eastern half in his reign during the latter part of the 10th Century.

After Godwin's departure to Flanders Leofric and Siward reconsidered their position, probably wondered if their earldoms might be taken over by one of Eadward's Norman court favourites when Eadward saw fit. After all, having grown to adulthood amongst the Normans and their allies his loyalties lay elsewhere. When Godwin came back in force they stepped back, distanced themselves from Eadward - without actually standing up to him for fear their following did as Godwin's had done - and the king found himself where he had been before Godwin's short exile. He had to free his queen Eadgytha - Godwin's daughter - from the convent at Wilton and reinstate them both whilst being seen to banish his Continental entourage.


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