Biography of Edward the Confessor
The life and biography of Edward the Confessor is important as it led to the Battle of Hastings which forever changed the History of England.
King Edward the Confessor was a pious King, hence his title of Edward the Confessor (after his death was made a saint by the Church in 1116, with the title of "the Confessor". Edward did a great deal during his reign to aid the cause of Christianity. He rebuilt the ancient Westminster Abbey in London and erected churches and monasteries throughout England.
He was also a very weak king, influenced by various factions of his era, especially the Normans. He made a vow of celibacy and did not leave a direct heir to the throne of England which led to the various claims to the English throne following his death in 1066.
Edward was the son of King Ethelred II and Emma, the daughter of Duke Richard of Normandy. He was half-brother to King Edmund Ironside and also half-brother to King Hardicanute. Edward the Confessor was born in 1002 in Oxfordshire in England but most of his life was spent living in Normandy.
A series of Danish Vikings had taken the throne of England. In 1016 the English throne was taken by King Canute. It was briefly restored to Alfred (son of Ethelred II and Edward's brother) in 1035 but was taken by the illegitimate son of King Canute, known as Harold Harefoot, in 1036. Between 1040-1042 Hardicanute succeeded to the English throne. Edward the Confessor then became the King of England. During the era of the Viking Kings Edward lived in Normandy. Duke Robert I of Normandy, an ally of the French King Henry I, helped the sons of King Ethelred, Alfred and then Edward, to regain the English throne from the Vikings.
On Hardicanute's sudden death in 1042, Edward was called by acclamation to the throne at the age of about forty, being welcomed even by the Danish settlers owing to his gentle saintly character. Edward regained the English throne in 1042. As he had lived so long in Normandy Edward always seemed more of Norman birth than English. He generally spoke the French and he chose Normans to fill many of the highest offices in the kingdom. This infuriated the English nobles and one of the most powerful Nobles, Harold Godwinson (later King Harold II) applied so much pressure on Edward the Confessor that his Norman advisors were sent back to Normandy in 1052. Edward the Confessor was also put under pressure to marry Edith, the only daughter of Godwin of Wessex and Harold's sister. The marriage was a sham - Edward had taken a vow of celibacy so there were no children.
Edward's reign was one of almost unbroken peace, the threatened invasion of Canute's son, Sweyn of Norway, being averted by the opportune attack on him by Sweyn of Denmark; and the internal difficulties occasioned by the ambition of Earl Godwin and his sons being settled without bloodshed by Edward's own gentleness and prudence.
He undertook no wars except to repel an inroad of the Welsh, and to assist Malcolm III of Scotland against Macbeth, the usurper of his throne. Being devoid of personal ambition, Edward's one aim was the welfare of his people. He remitted the odious "Danegelt", which had needlessly continued to be levied; and though profuse in alms to the poor and for religious purposes, he made his own royal patrimony suffice without imposing taxes.
The Normans claimed that Edward had named a Norman as his successor to the English throne. Harold Godwinson claimed that on his death bed Edward had named Harold as the next King of England. There is no mention of Edward favouring the rightful heir to the English throne, Edgar the Aethling. And to make matters even more complicated the Viking King Hardrada also believed that he had a claim to the English throne. These various claims led to the defeat of the English at the Battle of Hastings.
Edward the Confessor died in 1066, ironically he was buried in Westminster Abbey which he had just had renovated.
Read the fascinating Biographies of Harold Godwinson and William the Conqueror:
Biography of King Harold II Godwinson
Biography of William the Conqueror
The Claims to the Throne of England in 1066