The Reigns, 1042–1066
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The Reigns, 1042–1066 book
According to most of the sources, such support came in the person of Earl Godwin of Wessex who took the lead in persuading his fellow magnates to accept Edward as king. In fact, there was no other obvious candidate in 1042, but Godwin was determined nevertheless to assert himself and take the lead; perhaps so that he could put himself in a
position to dominate the new, inexperienced king or, perhaps, to convince Edward of his loyalty. After all, Edward may have regarded the earl of Wessex with suspicion in 1042. Godwin’s father, Wulfnoth, had betrayed Edward’s father, Aethelred, in 1009; Godwin himself was deeply implicated in the murder of Edward’s brother, Alfred, in 1036, and the earl had spent his life fighting for the Danish kings, to whom he owed his fortune and status. The Vita Edwardi records the present made to Edward by Godwin at the start of the reign of a great ship, and this is likely to have been a peace offering of some sort.1 At the same time, Edward may have felt the need to cultivate Godwin’s support, not just because he was the most powerful of the English earls, but also because of his Danish links. Through his wife, the earl was a kinsman of Sweyn Estrithson, king of Denmark. Sweyn was struggling in 1042 against King Magnus of Norway, who almost certainly had his own designs on the English throne; so Edward had a vested interest in Sweyn’s victory and needed him as an ally. Godwin was thus an important point of common reference for the two kings.