The Godwins: The Rise And Fall Of Anglo-Saxon England's Most Prominent Family

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By the eleventh century, England was hardly a united country. Fragmented into several kingdoms, England had been conquered, raided and pillaged and saw an incredible turnover in leadership. However, the eleventh century would mark the lasting formation of what would become England’s monarchy. In his book The Godwins, Frank Barlow examines what could be known as England’s most prestigious family, and their importance to the English monarchy. Barlow not only tells about the nature of monarchy in Anglo-Saxon England, but also assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the institution under each respected ruler. Though the Godwins were one of the most powerful families in England, they did not remain that way. Through various circumstances, the Godwins would be removed from their positions of power, and would result in the Norman Invasion and the reign of William the Conqueror. From the eighth century on, England was constantly under Viking attack. Anglo-Saxon England was marked by Danish invasions, but with the return of the “Danish Threat” came Cnut of Denmark. Cnut however did not maraud and pillage, but brought the English and Danish crowns together. Though Cnut purged much of the members of English aristocracy, Godwin remained. (29) After eliminating those who could potentially oppose him as king, the general acceptation of Cnut as king marked the beginning of an era of prosperity. Not only was this a prosperous time for the Godwins, but also an improvement in climate allowed for an improvement in agriculture and the whole kingdom increased its wealth. Cnut and Godwin’s relationship express a primary aspect of the nature of the monarchy, loyalty. Godwin served Cnut faithfully and he was rewarded with the title of Earl of Wessex. Cnut also made him “bajulus” of the nearly the entire kingdom. However, this was only after Cnut
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