The Real Power Behind the Throne of Edward the Confessor
Between Godwine’s protestations, his lavish gifts, and offers to smooth his path to the English throne and help him secure power, Harthacanut let the Earl of Wessex off the hook. Instead, he dug Harold’s corpse and beheaded it. However, Harthacnut’s died shortly thereafter in 1042, and his demise triggered yet another succession crisis. This time, power was fought over between King Magnus the Good of Norway, and Edward the Confessor, the betrayed Alfred’s brother and the last surviving son of Ethelred the Unready. Godwine, now well established as a power behind the throne, played kingmaker once more. He secured the throne for Edward, and thus restored to England the royal house of Wessex and Saxon rule, after decades of Danish domination.
Godwine became the most powerful nobleman in Edward the Confessor’s court. However, kingmaker and king fell out in 1051, because Edward, who had grown up in Normandy, increasingly relied on Norman advisors. Godwine was stripped of his earldom and banished, but he returned with an army, raised a rebellion, and set Edward right. The king was forced to restore Godwine’s earldom, and he became the most powerful man in the kingdom. He remained the key power behind the throne, until his sudden death in 1053. Godwine’s son Harold Godwinson succeeded him as England’s most powerful figure. He was crowned king after Edward’s death in 1066, and reigned until his defeat by William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings later that year.