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The Coming- Part 2 by Alan R Lancaster

A couple of months ago, Alan R Lancaster kindly submitted a post for this site, that described the coming of the Vikings into the British isles. In this post he continues his history, and sets the scene for the later invasion of William the conqueror in 1066.  So over to Alan….

Thomas M D Brooke

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THE COMING – 2: EADWARD & GODWIN

On Eadward’s accession he called Earl Godwin to task about the killing of his younger brother Aelfred a few years earlier when Harold Knutsson held the throne as regent for Harthaknut in 1036. Godwin had intercepted Aelfred on his way via Guildford to see his mother Emma, then in Wintunceaster (Winchester). Aelfred was taken from Godwin by Harold’s men, blinded and then murdered. To atone for his part in Aelfred’s fate Godwin had a ship built, decorated and manned at his expense to give to Eadward.

           The king accepted the gift, grudgingly. Next Godwin had his daughter Eadgytha married off to Eadward, who assented to this dynastic connection, although also grudgingly. So Eadward found himself linked to the ambitious earl. Godwin had been made earl by Knut, who trusted him because had had not so readily changed his allegiance from Aethelred and his son Eadmund ‘Ironside’, unlike Ealdorman Eadric ‘Streona’ of Mierca (Mercia) who had wavered, ‘hedging his bets’. Eadric was executed by Knut, beheaded because he did not know whether the man would change sides again – against him. Godwin had gone with Knut to Skaane to fight against an alliance led by the Svear (Swedish) king Anund Jakob in AD 1025 that included the Dane Jarl Ulf Thorkelsson. As a reward for his support Knut gave Godwin one of his younger sisters, who may have died in childbirth. To make up for his loss Godwin was offered the hand of Knut’s sister-in-law Gytha Thorkelsdatter, who bore him a brood of warrior sons and the daughter, Eadgytha who would be Eadward’s queen. Knut had replaced the earlier ealdormen with earls, a version of his Danish jarls, who each ruled one of the former kingdoms, Godwin being given his homeland West Seaxe (Wessex) under direct orders from Knut. So Godwin now held West Seaxe from Eadward. He would serve Aethelred’s son as he had his father and half-brother.

           Then – trouble. Godwin’s eldest son Svein, hitherto a reliable Earl of Hereford who had thrown back various Wealsh attacks, took it on himself to have the abbess of Leominster abducted. He seduced her and fathered young Hakon on her. He was sharply reprimanded and punished with the loss of some of his lands. At the time Gytha’s nephew, the Dane Beorn Estrithsson had come over and had been given the earldom of East Aengla by Eadward. Svein took Beorn sailing one day off Wiht (Isle of Wight) and tried to persuade him to give up the earldom to him. Beorn refused, after all Eadward had awarded it to him. He would be in trouble with Eadward. In a fit of rage Svein murdered him and heaved his body overboard. He was not just deprived of his remaining lands – he was made nithing by a council of his peers. In AD 1051 Eadward used this to try to be rid of Godwin, and with his brother-in-law Eustace of Boulogne engineered an incident at Dofnan (Dover), the upshot of which was Godwin should punish the men of Dofnan. Godwin refused. A confrontation in Lunden resulted between him and his sons on one hand, and the king with Earl Sigeweard of Northanhymbra and Earl Leofric of Mierca on the other. Many of Godwin’s men would not think of fighting the king, so he and his family left Aengla Land. Godwin, with his sons Tostig and Gyrth went to Flanders with the women and younger offspring to gain support from Count Baldwin. Harold and Leofwin went to Dyflin (Dublin) to seek men and ships from King Diarmuid of Leinster. Meanwhile Svein went to the Holy Land to seek absolution for his sins.

           The following year Harold with Leofwin and the Dyflin Danes raided in the south and west toward Wiht, whilst Godwin, Tostig and Gyrth raided from Sandwic (Sandwich) westward to Wiht where they joined forces. The following weeks saw Eadward yield, Eadgytha was returned from the nunnery to her former power, Godwin restored to power, and Sigeweard and Leofric looked to their own futures, unsure they would not have followed Godwin into oblivion. The following year Godwin died suddenly at the king’s Easter Feast in Wintunceaster, Harold was given his father’s lands (and the next son Tostig was given the earldom of Northanhymbra following Sigeweard’s death in AD 1055).

           Eadward’s Northman courtiers left when Godwin was restored to power in 1051. The Northman Archbishop of Cantuarebyrig, Rodberht of Jumiege fled, taking the hostages – Hakon Sveinson and Wulfnoth Godwinson – given by Godwin in 1051 as surety. He also took the lie. Spitefully he told Duke Willelm that Eadward had promised him the throne of Aengla Land when he died. As Eadward died without a direct heir – his cousin Eadward’s son Eadgar ‘the aetheling’ was too young and barely known outside Wintunceaster and Lunden – at the end of AD 1065 Harold took the throne. A year earlier his younger brother Tostig had been ousted by the Northern lords from his earldom, to be replaced by the callow Morkere, younger brother of Eadwin, Earl of Mierca – grandson of Leofric. Tostig blamed Harold – as did Eadgytha, who favoured her younger brother – for not siding with him and the loss of his earldom. So now Harold had two mortal foes, one of whom .would bring a third party, the giant Harald Sigurdsson, ‘Hardradi’, who also thought he had a claim to the throne.

           The rest you may know. Try reading the ‘RAVENFEAST’ saga series, about Harold’s fictional (or is he?) kinsman, the Dane Ivar Ulfsson. Use this link to look into the background of the era: http://hubpages.com/literature/THE-RAVENFEAST-SERIES and a view of the books available in the series so far.

Savour the read,

Alan R L

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2 Comments

  1. Hello Tom,
    Only in re-reading this did I realise I’d made a boo-boo. I wrote of Harold’s accession at being the end of 1055. Got to stand in the corner for not editing before I sent it. Should be 1065, shouldn’t it. Tostig was ousted from his earldom during 1065.
    I’ll probably have to start writing comedy sketches, might be better at that.
    TTFN,
    Alan

    Like

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