Edwin was born the son of Elfgar of Mercia and his wife Elfgifu. His grandmother was Lady Godiva.
Edwin’s father was relieved of the earldom of East Anglia after Earl Godwin and his family were pardoned and returned to England. A move that sparked huge resentment between the two families.
1053 (15th April)
Earl Godwin of Wessex, died. His son, Harold
became Earl of Wessex and the most powerful nobleman in England. Edwin’s father was given back the earldom of East Anglia.
Edwin’s father was exiled by the King. He raised a force in Ireland then joined forces with Gruffydd ap Llywelyn of Wales.
1055 (24th October)
Edwin’s father Elfgar had returned to England with his army and fought a battle with Ralph the Timid, Earl of Herefordshire. Elfgar won the battle.
1055 (late October)
King Edward the Confessor sent a force led by Harold Godwinson to deal with Edwin’s father. A battle was avoided when they successfully negotiated a settlement. Earl Elfgar was reinstated as earl of East Anglia.
1057 (August or September)
Edwin’s grandfather, Leofric Earl of Mercia, died. Edwin’s father, Elfgar, became Earl of Mercia.
Edwin’s younger brother Burgheard died while returning home from Rome.
Edwin became Earl of Mercia after his father died.
The Earl of Northumbria, Tostig Godwinson
, was a very unpopular ruler. The thegns Gamel and Ulf had complained about the high level of taxation and had been arrested and murdered.
1065 (3rd October)
The thegns of Yorkshire decided to overthrow Tostig and marched on York and occupied the city. They elected Edwin’s brother, Morcar
as their new leader. After killing Tostig’s men they outlawed him and his family.
1065 (late October)
The thegns of Northumbria, led by Edwin’s brother Morcar, marched south to petition King Edward the Confessor to exile Tostig and replace him with Morcar. Edwin, joined them at Northampton.
1065 (28th October)
Harold Godwinson was sent by Edward the Confessor to hear the case of the rebels and take action. After listening to the grievances of the Northumbrians he made the decision to exile his brother Tostig and appoint Morcar Earl of Northumbria.
1066 (5th January)
Edward the Confessor died. He was succeeded by his son-in-law Harold Godwinson as King Harold II.
Edwin’s sister Edith, married Harold II. This political marriage ensured that Edwin and Morcar remained loyal to the crown. Harold’s two sons by Edith, Harold and Ulf, were born after his death.
1066 (late May)
Tostig Godwinson made raids on Norfolk and Lincolnshire but was defeated by Edwin and his brother, Morcar.
1066 (8th September)
and Tostig Godwinson invaded the north of England and marched towards York. As soon as he learned of the invasion Edwin raised his army. His brother, Morcar, was initially reluctant to commit to battle but when he saw that York would fall he joined Edwin and they marched to meet the invaders.
1066 (20th September)
Battle of Fulford
Edwin and Morcar fought the forces of Harald Hardrada and Tostig Godwinson but they were no match for the Vikings
. Realising the battle was lost, the two earls fled the battlefield.
1066 (25th September)
Battle of Stamford Bridge
Harold Godwinson’s English army had marched north and surprised Harald Hardrada and Tostig who had not expected the Anglo-Saxon army to reach the north so quickly. The Vikings were completely unprepared for battle and many of their soldiers had not put on their chain mail due to the heat of the day. The English had to cross a small bridge which legend states was defended by a very large Viking. The English had to get under the bridge and kill him by thrusting a sword upwards. Once the bridge was cleared the English army poured across and defeated the Norwegians. Harald Hardrada was killed around midday. After Harald’s death Tostig Godwinson was offered a pardon by his brother, Harold, but he refused and the fighting continued. Tostig was killed late in the afternoon and Hardrada’s son, Olaf sued for peace. Although he was victorious, Harold Godwinson had lost a large number of men. Neither Edwin nor his brother Morcar took part in the battle.
1066 (1st October)
King Harold learned of the Norman invasion
of William Duke of Normandy
. He immediately made plans to return South. He left instructions for the northern troops to follow and meet him in London. Edwin and Morcar were in no rush to fight another battle and took their time journeying south.
1066 (11th October)
Edwin, Morcar and the northern army had not reached London. Harold decided not to wait and left London at the head of the Saxon army. He ordered that his men should muster at Caldbec Hill just north of Hastings.
1066 (14th October)
Battle of Hastings
The forces of Harold Godwinson and William of Normandy met on Senlac Hill. The battle lasted all day and ended when Harold was killed by the Normans. Edwin and his brother, Morcar did not take part in the battle.
1066 (late October)
When Edwin learned of the Saxon defeat, he hastened to London. He sent his sister to Chester for safety then joined members of the Witan to decide what to do. He agreed with other members of the Witan that Edgar Aetheling
should be proclaimed King.
Edwin and his brother Morcar returned to their homes. They believed that William would be content to rule the south and that they would be secure in the north.
William had not been content to rule the south of England and, realising they could not defeat the Conqueror, Edwin and Morcar submitted to William I at Barking. They were pardoned but were relieved of their earldoms.
Edwin and Morcar were taken to Normandy with William I. William was concerned that they would organise a revolt against his rule while he was in Normandy.
Edwin and Morcar returned to England with William.
Edwin rebelled against William because William had failed to keep the promise that he would marry William’s daughter, Adela. Morcar joined Edwin but they were unable to gain any advantage and submitted to the King. They were both pardoned.
Edwin and Morcar kept a low profile believing they were likely to be murdered by William. Morcar joined forces with Hereward the Wake
while Edwin travelled north to join with Edgar the Aetheling in Scotland. On the way Edwin was betrayed by his own men and was killed.