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Famous Men of the Middle Ages
J. H. Haaren and A. B. Poland
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Edward the Confessor
King from 1042-1066
The Danish kings who followed Canute were not like him. They were cruel, unjust rulers
and all the people of England hated them. So when in the year 1042 the last of them died,
Edward, the son of the Saxon Ethelred, was elected king.
He is known in history as Edward the Confessor. He was a man of holy life and after his
death was made a saint by the Church, with the title of "the Confessor." Though born in
England, he passed the greater part of his life in Normandy as an exile from his native
land. He was thirty-eight years old when he returned from Normandy to become king.
As he had lived so long in Normandy he always seemed more like a Norman than one of
English birth. He generally spoke the French language and he chose Normans to fill
many of the highest offices in his kingdom.
For the first eight years of his reign there was perfect peace in his kingdom, except in the
counties of Kent and Essex, where pirates from the North Sea made occasional attacks.
These pirates were mostly Norwegians, whose leader was a barbarian named Kerdric.
They would come sweeping down upon the Kentish coast in many ships, make a landing
where there were no soldiers, and fall upon the towns and plunder them. Then, as swiftly
and suddenly as they had come, they would sail away homeward, before they could be
One day Kerdic's fleet arrived off the coast, and as no opposing force was visible, the
pirates landed and started toward the nearest town to plunder it.
By a quick march a body of English soldiers reached the town before the pirates, and
when the latter arrived they found a strong force drawn up to give them battle. A short
struggle took place. More than half of the pirates were slain and the remainder were taken
After the prisoners had been secured the English ships that were stationed on the coast
attacked the pirate fleet and destroyed it.
Edward took part in the events upon which Shakespeare, five hundred years later,
founded his famous tragedy of "Macbeth."
There lived in Scotland during his reign an ambitious nobleman named Macbeth, who
invited Duncan, the King of Scotland, to his castle and murdered him. He tried to make it