Wulfnoth "Child" DE SUSSEX, Nobleman
(-Abt 1014)
Earl Godwin DE WESSEX
(Abt 993-1053)


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Gytha THORGILSDÓTTIR, Princess of Denmark

Earl Godwin DE WESSEX

  • Born: Abt 993, Sussex, England
  • Married: 1019
  • Died: 15 Apr 1053, Winchester, Hampshire, England

  Research Notes:

His parentage is confirmed by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle which records that "Beorhtric the brother of the ealdorman Eadric" denounced "Wulfnoth a nobleman of Sussex" to the king in [1008] for unspecified crimes, after which Wulfnoth fled the country only to return, take 20 ships from the king´s fleet, and ravage the south coast and burn the rest of the king´s navy, one manuscript naming him "quendam nobilem virum…Wlnothum (patrem Godwini ducis)". Florence of Worcester names "Brihtricus, Ælfricus, Goda, Ægelwinus, Ægelwardus, Ægelmærus, pater Wlnothi, patris West-Saxonum ducis Godwini" as the brothers of "Edricum…Ægelrici filium…ducem", and within a few lines in the same paragraph repeats the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle´s report about "Brihtric" accusing "Suth-Saxonicum ministrum Wlnothum" of treachery. The two texts just quoted are contradictory, when read together, in suggesting that Wulfnoth, accused by Beorhtric, was the same person as Beorhtric´s nephew. Freeman argues cogently that Florence did not intend to identify Wulfnoth, the supposed nephew of Eadric, with Wulfnoth, the alleged traitor, arguing along similar lines to what has just been said. He highlights that Florence does not make this connection in his two passages, although the one closely follows the other and it seems surprising that such a link would have been omitted if it had existed. In addition, from a chronological point of view, it is unlikely that Godwin was the grandson of the brother of Eadric "Streona", who died in 1017 and about whom there is no indication that he was very old at that time. The chronology suggests, rather, that Eadric "Streona" and Godwin´s father would have been contemporaries. Another interesting fact is that Ætheling Æthelstan, under his will dated [1014], made a bequest to "Godwine, Wulfnoth's son, the estate at Compton which his father possessed", listed second among the bequests to non-members of the royal family. The wording of the bequest is consistent with the land in question having been confiscated, and such confiscation would have followed if Earl Godwin´s father had been the Wulfnoth Child who was accused of treachery. Freeman highlights that Domesday Book records the two places ini Sussex called Compton as having been held, respectively, by King Harold II (Earl Godwin´s son) and a tenant of Earl Godwin. This strongly suggests that the beneficiary under Ætheling Æthelstan´s will was Earl Godwin, and that he was the son of Wulfnoth Child, the alleged traitor. In conclusion, it appears unlikely that Florence of Worcester was correct in stating that Godwin´s father was Eadric "Streona"´s nephew. Godwin was installed as Earl in 1018 by King Canute, and as bajulus over almost the whole kingdom. He heads the lists of witnesses to all the king's lay charters after 1023, indicating an unrivalled position of power. The earliest reference to Godwin in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is in 1036 when he is recorded as supporting Queen Emma in opposing the accession of King Harold I.

Earl of Wessex. Godwin was probably installed as earl of Wessex in [1040/41] by King Harthacnut, as there appear to be no earlier sources which refer to his territory. Florence of Worcester records that King Harthacnut ordered "Godwinum West-Saxonum…comites" and others to burn Worcester, dated to 1041. Godwin appears to have played a major role in the accession and acceptance in England of King Edward "the Confessor" in 1042, and in 1045 married his daughter to the king. However, his relations with the king became tense following a dispute over the appointment of a new archbishop of Canterbury in 1050. In 1051, Earl Godwin refused the king's order to punish an affray at Canterbury, in which one of the men of Eustache Comte de Boulogne was killed. The dispute escalated, and 1 Sep 1051 Godwin and his two older sons made a show of force to the king near Tetbury. Earls Leofric and Siward rallied to the king's support, and battle was avoided. Godwin and his family were given five days' safe conduct to leave the country by the King's Council held on 8 Sep 1051. He fled with his wife and sons Svein, Tostig and Gyrth to Bruges. Godwin returned with an army in Sep 1052, joined forces with his son Harold who returned from Ireland, and sailed into London. The family gathered popular support and was fully reinstated.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that Earl Godwin died soon after, three days after suffering a stroke. Florence of Worcester records his death and burial at Winchester. 1

  Marriage Information:

Godwin married Gytha THORGILSDÓTTIR, Princess of Denmark, daughter of Thorgils "Sprakalägg" STYRBJÖRNSSON, in 1019. (Gytha THORGILSDÓTTIR died after 1069 in Saint-Omer, Flanders.)


1 Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, Medlands: Godwin.

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