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Harold I to Edward the Confessor (1035-66)
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Harold I to Edward the Confessor (1035-66)Harold 1 (1035-40) Cnut died at Shaftesbury, and was buried at Winchester. ‘The illustrious king’ of The Anglo- Saxon Chronicle had intended his son Harthacnut (whose mother was Queen Emma) to succeed him. But with Harthacnut away in Denmark, his half-brother Harold Harefoot (born in 1017) made himself king at Oxford. Harold I’s reign has been described as ‘a jackal-time in which packs of scavengers tore at the carcass of Cnut’s empire and savaged each other’. Having banished his stepmother and had his half-brother Alfred the Atheling (son of Ethelred) blinded, Harold Harefoot died in 1040 at Oxford, unlamented.

Harthacnut (1040-42)Harthacnut (Hardicanute), a year younger than Harold, was no more likeable. He ‘did noth¬ing royal during his whole reign’ complained The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, noting that his first act was to demand a large fleet of 72 ships ‘at the rate of eight marks for each rower’, while the price of wheat rose sharply.

The king also had his brother’s body exhumed from Westminster and flung into a bog. He treated England as conquered terri¬tory, extorted taxes, and died ‘in his drink’ at a marriage feast where ‘he fell to the earth with a terrible convulsion’.

Edvard the Confessor (1042-66) With the Danish line at an end, the House of Wessex returned in the person of Ethelred Unraed’s last surviving son. Edward had been born in 1004. Half- Norman, he made no secret of preferring Norman ways and Norman friends. He was chiefly interested in art and religion - hence his devotion to the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey and his descriptive name ‘the Confessor’. A man with so little interest in the practicalities of government proved easy prey to politically acute schemers such as Godwin, Earl of Wessex, who unscrupulously moved his own son,the soldierly and popular Harold, into position to succeed Edward.

One of Edward’s first acts was to seize from his mother Emma ‘all the treasures which she possessed ... because before that she had been very hard with the king, her son.’ His next move bore the clear mark of Godwin. ‘This year Edward took Edgitha, daughter of Earl Godwin, for his wife’says The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

Edward’s reign was largely peaceful, marred by feuding between noble fami¬lies, and clashes with the Welsh. His chief deficiency was failing to provide an heir; in 1066 his death left a throne hovering between three claimants: Harold of Wessex, William of Normandy and Harald Hardrada of Norway.

Exit Macbeth
Under Edward, there was still much toing and froing of warrior- earls, defending and extending English power beyond its borders.
in 1054, ‘... went Siward the earl with a great army to Scotland ... and fought against the Scots and put to flight King Macbeth’.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Coins of Cnut’s sons
Harold I (above) and Harthacnut (below right) were sons of King Cnut (by different mothers). Each ruled briefly and barbarously.

Harold I to Edward the Confessor (1035-66)

Harold I to Edward the Confessor (1035-66)

A Kingly banquet
This medieval painting shows Edward the Confessor seated at a banquet. Saxon and Norman kings were expected to entertain and reward their followers.

Harold I to Edward the Confessor (1035-66)

Confessor's funeral
Edward the Confessor was buried in the church he had built for the purpose. The church was later to become Westminster Abbey.

Harold I to Edward the Confessor (1035-66)

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