Edith Swan-neck
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Edith the Fair ( ang, Ealdgȳð Swann hnesce, "Edyth the Gentle Swan"; c. 1025 – c. 1066), also known as Edith Swanneck,Her first name is also spelled Ealdgyth, Aldgyth, ''Edeva'' or Eddeva, and sometimes appears as ''Ēadgȳð'' and ''Ēadgifu''. (Compare ''Godgifu'' which was modified to ''Godiva'' in Latin texts.) was the first wife of King
Harold Godwinson Harold Godwinson ( – 14 October 1066), also called Harold II, was the last crowned Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Cultural identity is a part of a person's identity Identity may refer to: Social sciences ...
. "Swanneck" (or Swan-Neck) comes from the folk etymology which made her in Old English as ''swann hnecca'', "swan neck", which was actually most likely a corrupted form of ''swann hnesce, ''"Gentle Swan"'' ''. She is sometimes confused with Ealdgyth, daughter of Earl Ælfgar of Mercia, who was queen during Harold's reign. She may be identical with Eadgifu the Fair, who was one of the wealthiest magnates in England on the eve of the
Norman conquest The Norman Conquest (or the Conquest) was the 11th-century invasion and occupation of England by an army made up of thousands of Normans, Duchy of Brittany, Bretons, County of Flanders, Flemish, and men from other Kingdom of France, French ...
.


Marriage

The children of Edith and Harold II included
Gunhild of Wessex Gunhild of Wessex (fl. 1066–1093) was a younger daughter of Harold Godwinson Harold Godwinson ( – 14 October 1066), also called Harold II, was the last crowned Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Cultural identity ...
, who became the mistress of
Alan Rufus Alan Rufus (alternatively Alanus Rufus (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Thr ...

Alan Rufus
, and
Gytha of Wessex Gytha of Wessex (born c. 1053/1061 - died 1098 or 1107; ang, Gȳð) was one of several daughters of Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxons, Anglo-Saxon king of England, and his consort, Edyth Swannesha. Through marriage to Vladimir II Monomakh G ...
, who was taken by her grandmother to Denmark in 1068. Gytha was addressed as "princess" and married the Grand Duke of Kiev,
Vladimir II Monomakh Vladimir II Monomakh (Old East Slavic Old East Slavic (traditionally also: Old Russian, be, старажытнаруская мова; russian: древнерусский язык; uk, давньоруська мова) was a language used ...
. In a 2015 monograph, historian Bill Flint claims that Edith Swanneshals and Harold were legitimately married. Flint overturns many previous assumptions made about Edith's relationship with Harold, including the fidelity of the couple's marital union and Christian devotion. Flint argues that Edith and Harold were almost certainly married ''
more danico The phrase ''more danico'' is a Medieval Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...
'': the Danish hand-fast marriage custom. As evidence for this, he cites a number of
dowry A dowry is a payment, such as property or money, paid by the bride's family to the groom or his family at the time of marriage. Dowry contrasts with the related concepts of bride price Bride price, bridewealth, or bride token, is money ...
bequests that were made at the time of Edith's union to Harold. Flint notes that the bequests made included Walsingham Manor, making Edith in all probability "the lady of the manor" during the year of 1061, which was identified by Tudor historian Richard Pynson as the year of the foundation of the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. Flint claims that the union ''more danico'' of Edith and Harold is legitimate from a Catholic perspective, arguing: "The changes confirming the Sacramental nature of Christian marriage had only recently been promulgated from Rome. Throughout the Danelaw and widespread among the nobility of England who now had many such Scandinavian bloodlines, the hand-fast marriage, which was customary and widely accepted throughout northern Europe, should not be referred to as an illegitimate union." (p. 9). In fact, the Anglo-Saxons had practiced hand-fast marriage long before Danish conquest. Though Harold is said to have lawfully married Ealdgyth, the daughter of Earl Ælfgar, the widow of the Welsh ruler
Gruffydd ap Llywelyn Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (  5 August 1063) was the King of Wales and had repeatedly defeated the English forces. He was the son of King Llywelyn ap Seisyll Llywelyn ap Seisyll (died 1023) was an 11th-century King of Gwynedd, Powys and Deheubarth. ...
whom he had defeated in battle, that marriage in spring 1066 is seen by most modern scholars as one of political convenience.
Mercia Mercia (, ang, Miercna rīċe; la, Merciorum regnum) was one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Cultural identity is a part of a person's identity Identity may refer to: Social sciences * Id ...

Mercia
and
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It ...

Wales
were allied against England, and the marriage gave the English claim in two very troublesome regions, and also gave Harold Godwinesson a marriage deemed "legitimate" by the clergy, unlike his longtime common law marriage with Edith the Fair.


Walsingham visionary

Flint identifies Edith as the visionary known colloquially as "Rychold" or "
Richeldis de Faverches Richeldis de Faverches, also known as " Rychold", was a devout English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medi ...
", who authored
Our Lady of Walsingham Our Lady of Walsingham is a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary venerated by Roman Catholics, Western Rite Orthodox Christians, and some Anglican Anglicanism is a Western Christianity, Western Christian tradition that has developed from the ...

Our Lady of Walsingham
. The identification of Edith as the Walsingham visionary is rooted in his belief that the earlier date of the shrine's foundation, given by
Richard Pynson Richard Pynson (c.1449 – c.1529) was one of the first printers of English books. Born in Normandy Normandy (; french: link=no, Normandie ; nrf, Normaundie; from Old French , plural of ''Normant'', originally from the word for "northman" in ...

Richard Pynson
as 1061, is credible. Pynson's history, which is given in a narrative poem known as the ''Pynson Ballad'', had been previously thrown out by historians on the grounds it was unreliable as an oral narrative, but Flint defends the ballad on the grounds that Pynson was a respected historian, employed by
King Henry VII Henry VII ( cy, Harri Tudur; 28 January 1457 – 21 April 1509) was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizure of the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death in 1509. He was the first monarch of the House of Tudor. Henry's mother, ...
, who also collaborated with
John LelandJohn Leland may refer to: *John Leland (antiquary) (c. 1503–1552), English antiquary *John Leland (Baptist) (1754–1841), United States Baptist minister *John Leland (journalist) (born 1959), ''New York Times'' reporter, columnist, and book autho ...
. Flint contests the theories of J.C. Dickinson (1959) on the grounds that the 1131 Norfolk Roll, which Dickinson claims refers to the foundation of the shrine, actually refers to the foundation of the Priory of the Austin Friars, which preceded the foundation of the Walsingham Shrine (see p. xxii). He also notes that Edith Swanneshals was known within the court as "Rychold", meaning "fair and rich", and the appellatory title given by Pynson could therefore refer to the Anglo-Saxon Queen—a reference which is consistent with the original date given in the Pynson Ballad as 1061, for Edith Swaneshals was the Lady of the Walsingham Manor in this period (p. xxvii). Flint therefore establishes Edith Swaneshals as a Christian queen and the legitimate spouse of Harold Godwinson; as well as defending her Christian character as the probable visionary of the Shrine of Walsingham. In defending Edith's Christian character Flint cites her friendship with Wulfstan of Worcester.


Folklore

According to folklore, Edith identified Harold's body after the
Battle of Hastings The Battle of Hastings or nrf, Batâle dé Hastings was fought on 14 October 1066 between the Norman-French army of William, the Duke of Normandy, and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Cu ...

Battle of Hastings
. The body was horribly mutilated after the battle by the Norman army of
William the Conqueror William I (c. 1028Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 33 – 9 September 1087), usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first House of Normandy, Norman List of English monarchs, monarch of Engl ...

William the Conqueror
, and, despite pleas by Harold's mother,
Gytha Thorkelsdóttir Gytha Thorkelsdóttir ( ang, Gȳða Þorkelsdōttir, 997 – c. 1069), also called Githa, was a Danish noblewoman. She was the mother of King Harold Godwinson Harold Godwinson ( – 14 October 1066), also called Harold II, was the last ...
, for William to surrender Harold's body for burial, the Norman army refused, even though Harold's mother offered Harold's weight in gold. It was then that Edith the Fair walked through the carnage of the battle so that she might identify Harold by markings on his chest known only to her. It was because of Edith the Fair's identification of Harold's body that Harold was given a Christian burial by the monks at
Waltham Abbey Waltham Abbey is a market town A market town is a European settlement that obtained by custom or royal charter, in the Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and colle ...

Waltham Abbey
. This legend is recounted in the well-known poem by
Heinrich Heine Christian Johann Heinrich Heine (; born Harry Heine; 13 December 1797 – 17 February 1856) was a German poet, writer and literary critic. He is best known outside Germany for his early lyric poetry Modern lyric poetry is a formal type of p ...

Heinrich Heine
, "The Battlefield of Hastings" (1855), which features Edith the Fair (as Edith Swan-Neck) as the main character and claims that the "marks known only to her" were .


Historical fiction

*
Edward Bulwer-Lytton Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton, PC (25 May 180318 January 1873) was an English writer and politician. He served as a Whigs (British political party), Whig member of Parliament from 1831 to 1841 and a Conservative P ...
- ''Harold, the Last of the Saxons'' (1848) * G. A. Henty - ''Wulf the Saxon'' (1894) *
Kevin Crossley-Holland Kevin John William Crossley-Holland (born 7 February 1941) is an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early ...

Kevin Crossley-Holland
- "The Eye of the Hurricane" (1969) *
Valerie Anand Valerie Anand (born 1937) is a British author of historical fiction. Fiction Under the pen name Fiona Buckley she writes the series of historical mysteries, set in the reign of Elizabeth I of England Elizabeth I (7 September 153324 Marc ...
- ''Gildenford'' (1977) *
Morgan Llywelyn Morgan Llywelyn (born December 3, 1937) is an American-Irish historical interpretation author of historical History (from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the study and the doc ...
- ''The Wind from Hastings'' (1978) *
Julian Rathbone Julian Christopher Rathbone (10 February 1935 – 28 February 2008) was an English novelist. Life Julian Rathbone attended Clayesmore School and Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he was a contemporary of Bamber Gascoigne. At Cambridge he to ...
- ''
The Last English King ''The Last English King'' (1997) is a historical novel by English writer Julian Rathbone. The novel covers the time of the Battle of Hastings. It revolves around Walt Edwinson, a housecarl of Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxons, Anglo-Saxon Li ...
'' (1997) * Helen Hollick - ''Harold the King'' (2011) *
Steven H Silver Steven H Silver (born April 19, 1967) is an American science fiction science fiction fandom, fan and bibliography, bibliographer, publisher, author, and List of science fiction editors, editor. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Hugo ...

Steven H Silver
- ''After Hastings'' (2020) The German poet
Heinrich Heine Christian Johann Heinrich Heine (; born Harry Heine; 13 December 1797 – 17 February 1856) was a German poet, writer and literary critic. He is best known outside Germany for his early lyric poetry Modern lyric poetry is a formal type of p ...

Heinrich Heine
wrote ''Schlachtfeld bei Hastings'' (published 1851, in ''Romanzero''). In this poem, Edith and two monks (Asgod and Ailrik) search the battlefield for the body of King Harold.


Notes


Citations


Sources

* A History of Britain: At the Edge of the World, 3500 BC - 1603 AD by
Simon Schama Sir Simon Michael Schama (; born 13 February 1945) is an English historian specialising in art history, Dutch history The History of the Netherlands is a history of seafaring people thriving on a lowland river delta on the North Sea in nor ...
, BBC/Miramax, 2000 *Edith the Fair, Bill Flint, 2015, Gracewing Press * The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 06: Masterpieces of German Literature Translated into English in Twenty Volumes by Kuno Francke * Great Tales from English History: The Truth About King Arthur, Lady Godiva, Richard the Lionheart, and More by Robert Lacey, 2004 * House of Godwine: The History of Dynasty by Emma Mason, 2004 * Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America Before 1700 by Frederick Lewis Weis, Lines: 176–2, 176A-4, 177-1
'Who Was Eddeva?'
by J.R. Boyle, F.S.A.; Transactions of East Riding Antiquarian Society, Volume 4 (1896); pages 11–22 {{DEFAULTSORT:Edith the Fair Anglo-Norse women 1020s births 1060s deaths Year of birth uncertain Year of death uncertain House of Godwin Anglo-Saxon royal consorts 11th-century English people 11th-century English women Women in medieval European warfare People from Walsingham