Is it right to describe Edward the Confessor as a failure?

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History Coursework Essay

Is it right to describe that Edward the Confessor as a failure?

        There were many problems in Edward’s reign from 1042-1066.   Stafford argues that some of his problems had no obvious solutions.  Some historians argue that Edward was not a failure, as he was able to maintain a good relationship with the Godwines.  He was also able to solve the problem of not having enough supporters and was able to defend his kingdom in case of any invasion in England. According to Barlow, Edward was also able to maintain peace within his kingdom in the latter part of the reign.  This view is supported by ASC and the Vita.  However, other historians argue that Edward was a failure as he was unable to deal on the long term with the power of the Godwines and was unable to solve the problem of the succession.  Edward’s failure is shown with the succession issue as both the Norman sources and English sources have in agreement that Edward did not have a consistent policy on the succession.

Some historians argue that Edward should not be described as a failure.  This was shown, as he was able to defend England in case of any invasion from other countries.  This view is agreed by Barlow who describes Edward defending England and Denmark making an alliance with Swein against Magnus of Norway.  Barlow says that “Edward always took command whenever possible of an invasion.” This view is supported by the author of Vita 2 who describes Edward as,  “the protector of his land and people.” Barlow says that Ailred3 agrees with this view.  This shows that the evidence is trustworthy. According to Barlow, Edward dealt with foreign policy, by stopping William from forming an alliance with Flanders.  This was because Flanders and Normandy had maritime power and if they formed an alliance, they would have been able to share maritime power and help Swein, Magnus or Harold Hardrada from invading England.  Therefore Edward stopped this alliance from being formed to protect his country, by promising William the throne in 1051. Due to all these sources agreeing with Edward’s determination to prevent invasion from his kingdom, it is probable that this piece of interpretation of Edward is reliable, showing that Edward was not a failure.  Barlow describes Snorri Sturluson1 saying that Edward was “nicknamed Edward the Good, which describes him well…By the English he is regarded as a saint.”  Barlow mentions that Enconium Emmae2 says that Edward had courage, determination and possessed all the desirable qualities, which is similar to how a poem3 in the chronicle describes Edward according to Barlow.  This therefore shows Edward was not a failure.

        Barlow argues that Edward maintained control over the secular church by appointing who, he wanted to become bishop or abbot without being influenced by the earls, such as Godwine who requested Aelric to be bishop. Barlow4 agrees and his view is also supported by Vita, ‘the earl suffered a defeat in pressing his request.’ Instead Edward did not accept Godwines request but chose Robert of Jumièges instead.   This shows that Edward was not a failure as he had control over the earls, whereas in the past the kings would appoint bishops and abbots of the earls’ choice.  Therefore this shows Edward as a success as he appointed bishops and abbots who he felt would be best adapted for the job.   Edward appointed Hermann, who was Lotharingina, to Wiltshire in 1045.  He also appointed Leofric an Englishman to Devon and Cornwall in 1046, Heca, an Englishman, to Sussex in 1047, Ulf, a Norman, to Dorchester in 1049 and Robert of Jumièges to London in 1051and later he was transferred to Canterbury.  This evidence is shown by Barlow1and supported by ASC (C),2which also mentions that the bishopric given to Heca was later given to Stigand.  Therefore it is probable that this piece of evidence is reliable.  This shows Edward as not a failure due to his effective leadership in appointing abbots and bishops selectively.

        Edward solved the problem of having a lack of supporters, by embarking on a Normanisation Policy in 1051.  Edward gave Ralph land, Robert of Fitswimarc  estates; Fecamp of Normandy coasts in Sussex and Osbern was given Bosham. Stafford3 in addition includes Englishmen and Lotharingians where also appointed.   The Normanisation Policy was embarked to improve his political position by balancing the power of the Godwines and increasing the number of his supporters; this shows Edward was not a failure.  Schama4 supports this view as he says that Edward was able to build up a circle of supporters.  In 1051 Edward reduced the Danish fleet by paying off nine out of fourteen ships, due to the navy supporting the Godwines. This evidence is shown by Barlow5 and supported by ASC (C)6.   Edward was also able to abolish the Heregeld in the same year according to Barlow, which meant that he gained more support from the thegns.  

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         Edward dealt with the power of the Godwines, by realising the importance of giving land to the Godwines.  This is shown in the Vita7, which describes Edward’s importance in marrying Godgifu, as this would give him a, ‘firmer hold on his hereditary rights in England.’ Edward controlled the amount of land given to him, stopping him from becoming over mighty.  In two occasions Edward was able to put Swein into exile without being influenced by Godwine.  The first time was because of raping Abbess of Leominister and second time for murdering his cousin Beorn. This shows Edward was not a ...

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