When William Met Edward

William knew Edward, future king of England, from his boyhood. For when William was born, Edward was a young prince living in exile with his mother’s relatives in Normandy. William was in his early teens when Edward returned to England, the unexpected king. But Edward retained close links with the court where he had grown up and after the expulsion of the Godwine family in 1051, Edward sent across the Channel for William to come visit. According to one of the versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, William did just that, visiting Edward in October or November of 1051. The Duke came as the king’s vassal, but the king had a great gift to impart to his new vassal: the promise of the throne. With Edward rid of the Godwines, he felt himself able to promise the throne to whomever he wished, and William was the son of the people who had sheltered and helped him through his long exile. So William returned to Normandy convinced that, if Edward remained childless, then the throne of England would come to him. But did Edward have the authority to promise the crown to William? There were no hard and fast rules of succession; the king’s wish was important but it was not paramount, for the succession depended also on the assent of England’s magnates, and they were certainly not keen on a Norman king, and even less so once the Godwines returned to power in 1052.


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