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Godwine, earl of Wessex

Godwine, earl of Wessex (d. 1053). Godwine rose to prominence in the reign of Cnut, as one of his chief advisers, and has traditionally been held responsible for the brutal death of Æthelred the Unready's exiled son Alfred in 1036. When the Danish line ended (1042), Godwine supported the accession of Alfred's brother Edward, who married Godwine's daughter. When his sons were established in earldoms, his area of influence was vast. In 1051, he defied Edward's order to harry Dover after an affray with men of Boulogne, and mustered a great force, bringing England to the brink of civil war. But the earls of Mercia and Northumbria supported the king, the matter was referred to the witan, and the Godwines were exiled. Resentment of an increasing foreign entourage around the king may account for the support Godwine gathered when he returned the next year, obtaining reinstatement and the dismissal of many Normans. Within a few months Godwine died, his enemies said choking while protesting his innocence of Alfred's murder. Wessex passed to his son Harold, who died at Hastings in 1066.

Audrey MacDonald

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