The Lead-up to 1066

Æthelred (died 1016)

I’m king of England, but I’m not very popular with the people. Maybe it’s because I’ve been taxing them since 991 to pay off those Viking raiders. My wife is Emma, whose family are all Normans. We have a son Edward, who’ll be king one day, but Emma seems much better than me at managing this sort of thing.

Emma (died 1051)

My dad was a Duke of Normandy, and my brother too. I married Æthelred the king of England. That makes me queen Emma! When Æthelred died in 1016, and Cnut the Dane took over the kingdom, I married him too, so I was queen of England for a second time! Cnut’s boys will take over the throne when he dies, I suppose, but when they’re gone (soon, I hope!), I’ll make sure that my own dear son Edward gets to be king. It’s all a question of being patient and keeping in with the right people!

Cnut (died 1035)

My dad Swein was invited by the English to be king of England: Æthelred was so useless, they threw him out. When my dad died in 1016, I thought I’d be king, too, but Æthelred jumped back in instead! He died the same year – serve him right – but I had to fight his son Edmund for my right to the throne, at Ashingdon in Essex. I’m not English, I know, but I think I’m doing a pretty good job as king, especially when you remember I’m trying to rule Denmark as well as England. When I die, my two boys Harold Harefoot and Harthacnut will inherit the kingdom between them, I hope. My wife Emma’s a clever one – always scheming. I wonder if she knows I’ve got another wife back in Denmark.

Edward (died 1066)

My dad Æthelred was king, but he didn’t do a very good job. Cnut the Dane took over when he died, and then his two sons after him. It wasn’t until they were all dead and buried that the council (Witan) agreed that I should be king at last. At least I’m English!  My mum Emma taught me a good lesson: get the most important and powerful people you can into the family! In England, that’s Godwin, earl of Wessex. So even though he had my little brother murdered, I’ve married Edith, his daughter. Godwin has no claim to the throne himself, but now his daughter is queen, and he wants me to leave the throne to his son Harold.

I don’t trust the Godwins, and I’m a bit scared of them, to be honest, but Harold would make a good king when I die. Trouble is, William of Normandy has his eye on the throne as well, because of my mum’s side of the family. While Cnut and his lot ruled in England, mum and I lived with the dukes of Normandy, and I think William kind of got the idea that the throne is going to him when I die. I can’t make up my mind between Harold of Wessex, and William of Normandy. And there’s that lovely lad Edgar, too. Anyway, the council (Witan) will decide for me, so I won’t worry. I’ve become very religious recently, and I’m not interested in all that politics any more. I’m having a magnificent new abbey built, you know, to the west of London.