Godwin, son of Harold Godwinson
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Godwin or Godwine ( 1066 – 1069) was a son, probably the eldest son, 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 is a part of a person's identity Identity may refer to: Social sciences ...
, King of England. He was driven into exile in Dublin, along with two of his brothers, by the
Norman conquest of England The Norman Conquest (or the Conquest) was the 11th-century invasion and occupation of England England is a that is part of the . It shares land borders with to its west and to its north. The lies northwest of England and the to ...
, and from there he twice led expeditions to south-western England, but with little success. He disappears from history in the early 1070s.


Parentage and upbringing

Godwin's precise date of birth is unknown, but it was probably in the mid- to late 1040s.
His family ''His Family'' is a novel by Ernest Poole Ernest Cook Poole (January 23, 1880 – January 10, 1950) was an American journalist A journalist is an individual trained to collect/gather information in form of text, audio or pictures, processes th ...
was one of the most powerful in Anglo-Saxon England: his paternal grandfather was
Godwin, Earl of Wessex Godwin of Wessex ( ang, Godwine; – 15 April 1053) became one of the most powerful earls in Kingdom of England, England under the Denmark, Danish king Cnut the Great (King of England from 1016 to 1035) and his successors. Cnut made Godwin the ...
, and his father was
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 ...
, who would soon inherit the same title. His mother,
Edith Swan-neck 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 ...
, was married to Harold ''
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 ...
'', "in the Danish manner", that is to say they had a form of marriage which was not recognized by the Church but which was at the time widely considered legitimate among the laity.
Harold Harefoot Harold I (died 17 March 1040), also known as Harold Harefoot, was King of England This list of kings and queens of the begins with , who initially ruled , one of the which later made up modern England. Alfred styled himself King of the ...
, for example, succeeded to the throne despite being the son of such a marriage between
king Cnut Cnut (; ang, Cnut cyning; non, Knútr inn ríki ; or , no, Knut den mektige, sv, Knut den Store. died 12 November 1035), also known as Cnut the Great and Canute, was King of the English from 1016, King of Denmark from 1018, and King of Norway ...
and
Ælfgifu of Northampton Ælfgifu of Northampton ( 990 – after 1036) was the first wife of Cnut the Great Cnut the Great (; ang, Cnut cyning; non, Knútr inn ríki; or , no, Knut den mektige, sv, Knut den Store. died 12 November 1035), also known as Canute, w ...
. Harold Godwinson had five sons, probably not by the same mother, but several pieces of evidence combine to indicate that Godwin was the eldest; namely, that he is the only one recorded in
Domesday Book Domesday Book () – the Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century. The English language underwent ...
as holding land in 1066, he was named first by the chronicler
John of Worcester John of Worcester (died c. 1140) was an English monk A monk (, from el, μοναχός, ''monachos'', "single, solitary" via ''monachus'') is a person who practices religious by living, either alone or with any number of other monks. ...
when listing Harold's eldest sons, and he was the one named after Harold's father. Godwin can be presumed to have received an education befitting the son of a great nobleman, with the emphasis on gaining military and diplomatic skills, and though he was apparently too young to fight for his father, now king of England, at 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
, he had opportunities to use these skills in the next few years.


Resistance in south-west England

Harold Godwinson's defeat and death at Hastings were a disaster for his family, especially since the Anglo-Saxon magnates in London responded by electing as king not one of Harold's sons but
Edgar Ætheling Edgar Ætheling or Edgar II (c. 1052 – 1125 or after) was the last male member of the royal house of Cerdic of Wessex Cerdic (; la, Cerdicus) is described in the ''Anglo-Saxon Chronicle The ''Anglo-Saxon Chronicle'' is a collection ...
, a great-nephew of
Edward the Confessor Edward the Confessor ( ang, Ēadƿeard Andettere ; la, Eduardus Confessor , ; 1003 – 5 January 1066) was one of the last Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the s ...

Edward the Confessor
. Edgar's brief "reign" – he was never actually crowned – ended when
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
reached London in December 1066. Godwin Haroldson's grandmother Gytha, the widow of Earl Godwin, retreated to the south-west of England to consolidate her power in that still unconquered part of the country, but at the beginning of 1068 William led his army against her, and besieged her in
Exeter Exeter () is a city in Devon Devon (, archaically known as Devonshire) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') ...
. Godwin is not specifically mentioned in contemporary sources as being part of this south-western rebellion, but it is very likely that he and his brothers
Edmund Edmund is a masculine given name or surname In some cultures, a surname, family name, or last name is the portion of one's personal name that indicates their family, tribe or community. Practices vary by culture. The family name may be pl ...
and
Magnus Magnus, meaning "Great" in Latin, was used as cognomen A ''cognomen'' (; plural ''cognomina''; from ''con-'' "together with" and ''(g)nomen'' "name") was the third name of a citizen of ancient Rome In historiography Historiograph ...
were there, asserting their claim to be leaders of the Anglo-Saxon opposition. After eighteen days Exeter submitted to William, but by that time Gytha, and perhaps her grandchildren, had escaped and taken refuge on an island in the
Bristol Channel The Bristol Channel ( cy, Môr Hafren) is a major inlet An inlet is an indentation of a shoreline, usually long and narrow, such as a small bay or arm, that often leads to an enclosed body of water, body of salt water, such as a Sound (geogr ...
, probably
Steep Holm Steep Holm ( cy, Ynys Rhonech, ang, Ronech and later ) is an English island lying in the Bristol Channel The Bristol Channel ( cy, Môr Hafren) is a major inlet An inlet is an indentation of a shoreline, usually long and narrow, such ...
.


Raids from Ireland

That summer Godwin was in Dublin under the protection of king Diarmait of
Leinster Leinster ( ; ga, Laighin or ) is one of the provinces of Ireland Since pre-historic times, there have been four Provinces of Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic ...

Leinster
, who had many years previously given refuge similarly to his father. Godwin was accompanied by his brothers Edmund and Magnus, if we are to believe the chronicler John of Worcester, or by Edmund and his first cousin Hakon (a son of
Swein GodwinsonSweyn Godwinson ( ang, Swegen Godƿinson) ( 1020 – 1052), also spelled Swein, was the eldest son of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, Earl Godwin of Wessex, and brother of Harold II of England. Early life In 1043 Sweyn was raised to an earldom which in ...
) if we believe the
Anglo-NormanAnglo-Norman may refer to: *Anglo-Normans The Anglo-Normans ( nrf, Anglo-Normaunds, ang, Engel-Norðmandisca) were the medieval ruling class in England, composed mainly of a combination of ethnic Anglo-Saxons, Normans, Bretons, Flemish people, F ...
chronicler
Geoffrey Gaimar Geoffrey Gaimar (fl. 1130s), also written Geffrei or Geoffroy, was an Anglo-NormanAnglo-Norman may refer to: *Anglo-Normans The Anglo-Normans ( nrf, Anglo-Normaunds, ang, Engel-Norðmandisca) were the medieval ruling class in England, composed ...
. They seem to have had Harold Godwinson's remaining
housecarl A housecarl ( on, húskarl, oe, huscarl) was a non- servile manservant or household bodyguard in medieval Northern Europe Northern Europe is the northern region of Europe. Narrower definitions may describe Northern Europe as being roughly ...
s in their service, and still had the resources to make Diarmait gifts such as the "battle standard of the king of the Saxons" mentioned by the
Annals of Inisfallen The ''Annals of Inisfallen'' ( ga, Annála Inis Faithlinn) are a chronicle A chronicle ( la, chronica, from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), offi ...
, and to hire a force of mercenaries. With a fleet of 52 ships they sailed to the Bristol Channel and first harried the area around the mouth of the river Avon, then attacked
Bristol Bristol () is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Routle ...

Bristol
, and after being driven off by the townspeople they sailed back to the
Somerset ( en, All The People of Somerset) , locator_map = , coordinates = , region = South West England South West England is one of nine official regions of England The regions, formerly known as the government office regions, are the ...

Somerset
coast and landed again. They may have expected a welcome there and planned to recruit more men, since Godwin's only landholdings at the death of Edward the Confessor had been two small manors in Somerset at Nettlecombe and Langford-in-Burrington, but if so they were disappointed. They encountered a local force under the command of Eadnoth the Staller which fought a bloody battle with them at
Bleadon Bleadon is a village and civil parish in Somerset, England. It is about south of Weston-super-Mare and, according to the 2011 census, has a population of 1,079. History Bleadon was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as ''Bledone'', meaning 'c ...
. Eadnoth was one of the fatalities, and possibly also Godwin's brother Magnus. After harrying
Devon Devon (, archaically known as Devonshire) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Ch ...

Devon
and
Cornwall Cornwall (; kw, Kernow ) is a historic county and ceremonial county The counties and areas for the purposes of the lieutenancies, also referred to as the lieutenancy areas of England and informally known as ceremonial counties, are ar ...

Cornwall
Godwin returned to Dublin, richer but having won no great military success. In the summer of 1069 another raid was launched from Dublin, but this time, the sources tell us, by only two of the sons of Harold, whom they do not name. This time they sailed in 64 ships to Exeter, which they failed to take, and then ravaged parts of the south coast of Devon and perhaps
the Lizard The Lizard ( kw, An Lysardh) is a peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from 'almost' and 'island') is a landform A landform is a natural or artificial feature of the solid surface of the Earth or other planetary body A plan ...
peninsula in Cornwall before rounding
Land's End Land's End ( kw, Penn an Wlas or ''Pedn an Wlas'') is a headland and tourist and holiday complex in western Cornwall Cornwall (; kw, Kernow ) is a Historic counties of England, historic county and Ceremonial counties of England, ceremon ...

Land's End
and landing, "incautiously" as the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle The ''Anglo-Saxon Chronicle'' is a collection of annals Annals ( la, annāles, from , "year") are a concise historical History (from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the stud ...
says, in the estuary of the
river Taw The River Taw () rises at ''Taw Head'', a spring on the central northern flanks of Dartmoor Dartmoor is an upland area in southern Devon Devon (, archaically known as Devonshire) is a Counties of England, county in South West England ...
on the north coast of Devon. After pillaging the area around
Barnstaple Barnstaple ( or ) is a river-port town in North Devon, England, at the lowest crossing point of the River Taw flowing into the Bristol Channel. From the 14th century, it was licensed to export wool. Great wealth ensued. Later it imported Irish ...

Barnstaple
they took their forces into the hinterland and at the
Battle of Northam The Battle of Northam was fought in Northam, Devon in 1069 between a Normans, Norman force led by Brian of Brittany and an Anglo-Saxons, Anglo Saxon army commanded by Godwin, son of Harold Godwinson, Godwin and Edmund, son of Harold Godwinson, Ed ...
encountered an army under the command of
Brian of Brittany Brian of Brittany (c. 1042 – 14 February, perhaps bef. 1086) was a Breton Breton most often refers to: *anything associated with Brittany Brittany (; french: link=no, Bretagne ; br, Breizh, or ; Gallo language, Gallo: ''Bertaèyn'' ) is ...
, which, to quote the Chronicle again, "slew all the best men from the rothers'troops while the few survivors escaped to their ships". The two raids had been politically and militarily disastrous, and had only demonstrated that the memory of their father's reign could not gain them any supporters in the south-west.


Flanders to Denmark

It is likely that Godwin and Edmund accompanied their sister Gytha of Wessex, Gytha, aunt Gunnhild, and grandmother Gytha when they fled to Saint-Omer, St Omer in County of Flanders, Flanders in, perhaps, late 1069 or early 1070. It is certain that they later went on to the court of king Sweyn II of Denmark, Swein Estrithson in Denmark, along with the younger Gytha. They doubtless hoped that Swein would support them in an invasion of England, but he did not; Swein had recently failed badly in a similar attempt on his own behalf and he can have had little inclination to try again on theirs, especially since there was bad blood between the two families, Swein's brother having long ago been murdered by a brother of Harold Godwinson. Gytha was married off to Vladimir II Monomakh, Vladimir Monomakh, Prince of Smolensk, probably in 1074 or 1075, but of Godwin's later life nothing is known with certainty. One theory, proposed by the historian , is that he moved further east and found shelter in Ruthenia, where either he or a son of his carved out a principality.


Ancestry


Footnotes


References

* * * * * {{cite book , last1=Walker , first1=Ian W. , year=2010 , title=Harold: The Last Anglo-Saxon King , location=Stroud , publisher=History Press , isbn=9780750937634 1040s births Anglo-Norse people Anglo-Saxon warriors English expatriates in Ireland House of Godwin Norman conquest of England Year of death unknown