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The father of Edith, the wife of King Edward the Confessor, and Harold II, the last Saxon King of England.

Godwin, a successful warrior, came from a good family and was not the son of a cowherd as was sometimes stated by his enemies.

Godwin and Canute

Godwin gained the favour of King Canute who made him Earl of Wessex, an earldom previously reserved by the king. Earl Godwin acted as Canute's deputy during his absence from England and he married the king's cousin, Gytha. Because of his closeness to the king, Godwin was early seen as a Dane but later became a champion of England for the English.

After the death of Canute

On Canute's death Gowdin initially supported Hardicanute (sone of Canute and Emma) as his successor but eventually sided with Mercia and Northumbria behind Harold Harefoot. Canute must have been aware of, even if he did not take an active part in, the blidning of the son of Ethelred the Unready's son Alfred.

Godwin and Edward the Confessor

Godwin supported the election of the Confessor and compelled Canute's wife Emma not to interfere in politics. The Confessor was a saintly but weak king and the Gowdin effectively ruled the country. Edward married Godwin's daughter Edith. Godwin himself was Earl of Wessex and Kent. Harold was Earl of East Anglia and Essex. Sweyn held Hereford, Gloucester, Somerset and Berkshire. Beorn, a nephew of Godwin's held Derby. The House fo Godwin heald immense power and this inevitably led to the revival of the ancient jealousy of Wessex by the northern earls, Leofric of Mercia and Siward the Bear of Northumbria.

Edward the Confessor had been brought up in Normandy and favoured the Normans after his accession to the throne. Ralph, his nephew, was made the Earl of Hereford and Robert of Jumieges was made Archbishop of Canterbury. There was a danger that this Norman influence would prevent the English from obtaining high positions in the kingdom. For personal as well as patriotic motives, Earl Godwin opposed the Norman influence in England and made an alliance with Flanders against the Normans.

Godwin's Banishment

Godwin refused to punish the citizens of Dover for an attack on Edward the Confessor's brother-in-law Eustace of Boulogne in his capacity as Earl of Kent and was banished by the Witan in 1051.

The reasons for Godwin's expulsion from the kingdom by the Witan were more complex and his part in the murder of Alfred was probably a consideration as well. Also there was the genral jelousy of Wessex and fear of the powerful house of Godwin - Sweyn had murdered his cousin Beorn and carried off the Abbess of Leominster.

The Duke of Normandy's visit to the Confessor

It was during the time that Godwin was banished from England that William, Duke of Normandy visited Edward the Confessor - the Confessor is said to have promised William the crown of England during the visit.

Godwin's return to England

The support of Kent, London and Stigand allowed Earl Godwin to return to England. On his return, the Normans fled across the channel and Stigand was made Archbishop of Canterbury although Robert of Jumieges was still alive. Stigand was given the pallium by the Anitpope Benedict X.

Godwin's Death

Earl Godwin died in 1053 of apoplexy and not, as his Norman enemies claimed, by choking on sacred bread.

On the death of the Confessor in 1066, Godwin's son Harold Godwinson was elected as king Harold II by the Witan.

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Slave Trading

Slavery was common practice in Saxon England. Apart from a few staple commodities, England produced little for export slaves were exchanged for goods from abroad. The unfortunates thus traded found themselves in Ireland, Denmark and even as far as Italy. From Denmark, they doubtless passed into Germany. The powerfull took part in this trade wholesale, as is witnessed by William of Malmesbury in his reference to the powerfull Earl Godwin in his Chronicle of the Kings of England of 1065;-

When he was a young man he had Canute's sister to wife, by whom he had a son, who in his early youth, while proudly curveting on a horse which his grandfather had given him, was carried into the Thames, and perished in the stream; his mother, too, paid the penalty of her cruelty; being killed by a stroke of lightning. For it is reported, that she was in the habit of purchasing companies of slaves in England, and sending them into Denmark; more especially girls, whose beauty and age rendered them more valuable, that she might accumulate money by this horrid traffic.

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1017Canute divides his English kingdom into 4 earldoms - East Anglia, Mercia, Northumberland and Wessex - with Danish earls excepting the Saxon Godwin, made earl of Wessex
1019Earl Godwin accompanies King Cnut to Denmark
Cnut arranges marriage between Earl Godwin and Gytha, sister of Earl Ulf, most powerful of the Danish earls
circa 1025Birth of Tostig, 4th son of Earl Godwin of Wessex
circa 1030Birth of Gyrth to Earl Godwin of Wessex
1045Marriage of King Edward the Confessor to Edith, daughter of the powerful Earl Godwin
1046Swegen, son of Earl Godwin, outlawed for the seduction of the abbess of Leominister
1051Witan banish Earl Godwin and his sons Gyrth, Harold and Tostig who join the exiled Swegen in Flanders
1051Several Normans killed in a brawl with the townsmen of Dover - Earl Godwin sent to punish the town but marches against the king to Gloucester - war averted by agreement to let the Witan arbitrate
1052Banished Godwin of Wessex lands in S England with Harold and Tostig, supported by Kent, Surrey, Sussex and the navy - The Confessor is forced to reinstate the Godwin family estates
1053.Apr.14Death of Earl Godwin of Wessex at Winchester

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