The Oxford Companion to British History

By John Cannon | Go to book overview

E

Eadgyth (c. 1022-75), queen of *Edward the Confessor. Eadgyth was the eldest daughter of Earl *Godwine, the most powerful nobleman of his day, and sister of *Harold II. She married Edward in 1045 soon after his succession. There were rumours that the marriage was never consummated and certainly there were no children. She was disgraced with her family in 1051 but restored the following year. Eadgyth seems to have favoured her brother *Tostig against Harold and, after his death at *Stamford Bridge, transferred her support to William of Normandy. She spent the rest of her life in retirement at Winchester, which she held as part of her marriage settlement.

JAC

Eadgyth, known as 'Swanneshals' ('Swan-neck'). Mistress of Harold II, Eadgyth probably bore all his children except his posthumous, legitimate son. After Harold was slain, she was given the task of finding his body and delivering it to William the Conqueror for burial. Eadgyth was the likely benefactress of St Benet's abbey, granted Thurgarten in her native Norfolk.

AM

Eadwig (d. 959), king of England ( 955-9). The elder son of King *Edmund, Eadwig succeeded at the age of about 15 on the death of his uncle *Edred. A desire to move away from those who had been influential in the reigns of his father and uncle may explain the confiscation of his grandmother's property, the exile of Abbot *Dunstan, and the retirement to a monastery of senior ealdorman Æthelstan 'Half-King', all in 956. Rivalry at court may also explain opposition to his marriage to Ælfgifu, his third cousin once removed, and their separation in 958 on the grounds of consanguinity. The succession in 957 of his younger brother as king of the Mercians and Northumbrians has been interpreted as revolt against Eadwig's rule, but contemporary sources suggest it was a peaceful, planned event with *Edgar recognizing Eadwig's overriding authority. Ælfgifu's brother Æthelweard in his Chronicon says Eadwig was known as 'All-Fair' and that he 'deserved to be loved'.

BAEY

Ealdgyth, wife of Harold II. She was daughter of the Mercian earl Ælfgar, an1d previously married to the Welsh king *Gruffydd, defeated by Harold in 1063, slain by his own men. Harold probably married her to ensure the allegiance of her brothers, the earls of Mercia and Northumbria. Ealdgyth bore him a son after his death.

AM

ealdorman in early usage could indicate a patriarch, prince, or ruler. This should nuance the impact of the term in the laws of King *Ine, c. 700, where the ealdorman appears as a functionary, in charge of a scir (shire) and subject to dismissal. In another context such men would probably appear as subreguli (under-kings). The shires concerned may already have been the historic shires of Wessex, which the * Anglo-Saxon Chronicle's account of the *Vikings showed to have been in existence by the 9th cent., the forces of each led by an ealdorman. A grander usage of the term is its application to King *Alfred's son-in-law, *Æthelred, ealdorman of the Mercians. He was almost a king. In the 10th cent. shire ealdormen disappear. The term is then applied to such great men as Athelstan 'half-king', ealdorman of much of eastern England. From the early 11th cent. the Scandinavian term *'earl' is used for such potentates. But the general sense of 'ealdorman' as indicative of authority gave the term lasting life, in particular in towns.

JCa

Ealdred (d. 1069) was a political churchman. Starting as a monk at Winchester, he became successively abbot of Tavistock, bishop of Worcester, and, finally, in 1060 archbishop of York. As bishop of Worcester he took an active role in resisting Welsh encroachments. *Edward the Confessor used him on diplomatic missions to Rome and to the emperor, and in 1058 he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. His wish to hold the bishopric of Worcester in commendam with the archbishopric of York led to difficulties with the papacy. Ealdred was an active church-builder and tried to improve clerical discipline. He may have crowned *Harold Godwineson and certainly crowned William the Conqueror. He died at York in September 1069 just before the city was burned and devastated by a large Danish raid.

JAC

Eardwulf (d. c. 810), king of Northumbria ( 796-c.810). Before his accession Eardwulf was an *ealdorman and it is not known whether he was of royal descent. He became king at a particularly disturbed period in Northumbrian politics and within four years of his accession had defeated an attempted coup and had two rivals murdered. He attacked *Cenwulf of Mercia in 801 for harbouring his enemies. In 806 or 808 he was forced into exile, but soon returned with help provided by the Frankish king Charles the Great; however, not long afterwards he was succeeded by his son Eanred. Subsequently Eardwulf was venerated as St Hardulf and his remains housed at the Mercian monastery of Breedon-

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The Oxford Companion to British History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Ppreace vii
  • Contributors ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Note to the Reader xii
  • A 1
  • B 71
  • C 149
  • D 273
  • E 318
  • F 363
  • G 399
  • H 445
  • I 503
  • J 523
  • K 541
  • L 553
  • M 602
  • N 666
  • O 701
  • P 717
  • Q 782
  • R 785
  • S 831
  • T 907
  • U 941
  • V 951
  • W 960
  • Y 1008
  • Z 1015
  • Subject Index 1034
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