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Leofric, earl of Mercia

Leofric, earl of Mercia (d. 1057). Leofric rose to power in the reign of Cnut, as one of three great earls involved in governing England. Loyal and temperate, with Siward, earl of Northumbria, he appears to counterbalance the powerful and ambitious Earl Godwine of Wessex. In the division over the succession after Cnut's death in 1035, Leofric's proposal of the first son Harold's regency on behalf of the absent heir Harthacnut, in Denmark, was a compromise accepted by the witan, despite Godwine's opposition. In 1051, when Godwine defied Edward the Confessor and raised an army against him, Leofric and Siward supported the king with matching strength, civil war was avoided, and the dispute referred to the witan. Credited with wisdom in secular and religious matters, a number of foundations were enriched by his gifts, not least the monastery and church he built with his famous wife Godgifu (Godiva).

Audrey MacDonald

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