Saturday, 9 October 2010

Nine Things You Didn't Know About Edward the Confessor

6. Edward's younger brother Alfred, who had shared his exile, visited England in 1036. Cnut had just died, and Alfred came to see their mother the queen, but before he reached her he was waylaid by Earl Godwin, one of the most powerful noblemen in England. Godwin had been a supporter of Cnut, and probably thought his best chance of continuing influence was to help one of Cnut's sons to power - which meant eliminating the English claimants to the throne would work in his favour. He later denied all involvement in what happened next, but his guilt was widely accepted.

He met Alfred just outside Guildford (Alfred was on his way to his mother at Winchester), captured him, killed or mutilated most of his men, and blinded Alfred with a red-hot poker. Alfred, mortally wounded, was taken to the monks at Ely, where he died some time later of his injuries. Alfred was the last of Edward's many brothers, and his death affected both Edward and his mother deeply. However, Godwin was a formidable man to have as an enemy, and when Edward eventually became king he found he needed the support of Godwin and his family. So they were reconciled, but Edward apparently never forgot what Godwin had been accused of with regards to Alfred's death.

And then, the story goes that one day in 1053 King Edward was at a feast with Godwin at Winchester, and Edward’s serving-man, while carrying wine to the table, slipped and saved himself from falling by stretching out his other foot. Godwin said, "See how one brother has helped another!" (This was a proverb; the two feet are like two brothers, which aid each other in need). The king looked at him and said, "So would my brother now be able to aid me, had it not been for your treachery." Godwin said to Edward, "I see that at every reference to your brother, you look at me with an angry frown," and he held up a piece of bread and swore, "but may this morsel choke me, if I am guilty of his death!" He swallowed the bread, choked on it, and died.

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