How Successful Did Edward the Confessor Handle the Godwins?

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  • Topic: Harold Godwinson, Godwin, Earl of Wessex, Wessex
  • Pages : 5 (2051 words )
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  • Published : November 29, 2012
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How successfully did Edward the Confessor deal with the Godwin’s?

A question such as this is not a straightforward answer; there are many arguments for and against his success with the Godwin's. The Godwin's power changed over time from when Godwin was bought up through power under the reign of Cnut right up until when Edward declared Harold to be the next king on his death bed. Edward needed to control the power of the Godwin's in order to keep his own power because if he did not control them they would overthrow him from the throne. He had to give them a certain amount of power by weighing up the balance of power between himself and the Godwin's very carefully. One factor is the Dover incident, and how he dealt with the Godwin's during and after the incident. He dealt with the family members individually: Godwin, Edith, Swegn, Harold and Tostig. One other factor is Edward sitting back and allowing Harold to look as if he is in control, but ultimately having control himself. These are the points that will decide the balance of the argument and question presented.

A success of Edward's’ was the way he dealt with the Dover incident; it was an incident that involved Godwin and the town of Dover, which was within his earldom of Wessex. The people of Dover refused to allow Eustace of Boulogne to stay in their town when he came to talk to Edward about future plans and foolishly Eustace’s men put on their chain mail and killed a town’s folk because of this, from these actions a brawl preceded. Edward had then ordered Godwin to punish Dover, which Godwin refused to do due to the Frenchmen’s arrogance, that he found unbearable. Edward and Godwin both raised an army against each other as Godwin had refused to punish the people Dover. * Rumors were then created, they quickly spread, and Robert of Jumiege, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury, and originally came from Normandy with Edward, spread one rumor, the rumor was that Godwin was planning the killing of Edward. Edward had the support of the Northern earls in his dispute with Godwin, they were Leofric and Siward, the supported him because of the land deal in 1042 which stated that the Northern Earls could keep their land and would be left to rule their earldoms in their own independent way. Edward negotiated with Godwin about fighting until his reinforcements arrived, which consisted of the Northern Earls hoards of men. Evenly matched Armies had gathered, they agreed not to fight, as the bloodshed would be too great. * Godwin agreed to stand trial at counsel in London on 21st September for refusing to punish the Town of Dover. * Godwin then marched on to Southwark to face trial without the guarantee of a safe passage due to angering Edward for his uprising. As he marched towards Southwark Godwin's army wore thin, this was due to the men returning to their villages because they didn’t dare march against the king. When Godwin arrived at Southwark, Edward's army was on the other side of the river. Bishop Stigand of Winchester rowed into the middle of the river and shouted to Godwin that he could ‘have his peace and pardon if he could restore to him his brother Alfred and all his companions.’ * Godwin knew he had lost the battle, as he could not give him Alfred and fled into exile along with his sons Swegn, Tostig, Harold and companion Leofwine. Edward's wife Edith, of whom he resented, was sent to a nunnery because he had no obligation to her when Godwin, her father, wasn’t there. This evidence shows that Edward dealt with the Dover incident very well because he showed he had the power to exile even the most powerful family in England at the time, through his skills in negotiation and intimidation he used the powers of others, such as the Bishop to convey his message to Godwin on the river causing him to flee.

* Edward dealt with Godwin as an individual very unsuccessfully due to the Dover incident. Godwin had committed treason against the King and...
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