Edward the Exile

Edward the Exile (1016 – 19 April 1057), also called Edward Ætheling, was the son of King Edmund Ironside and of Ealdgyth. He spent most of his life in exile in the Kingdom of Hungary following the defeat of his father by Cnut the Great.

Edward the Exile
Edward the Exile.jpg
Edward the Exile depicted on a medieval genealogical scroll.
Died19 April 1057 (aged 40–41)
FatherEdmund Ironside


After the Danish conquest of England in 1016, Canute had Edward, said to be only a few months old, and his brother Edmund, sent to the Swedish court of Olof Skötkonung[1][2] (who was either Canute's half-brother or his stepbrother), supposedly with instructions to have the children murdered. However, Olof was an old ally of Æthelred the Unready, the princes' grandfather, therefore he instead secretly sent the Æthelings to the Hungarian royal court of King Stephen I, fearing they were unsafe in the north, where Cnut's power was great. The boys found a peaceful home at the Hungarian royal court with King Stephen and Queen Gisela, until 1028. When they were about 12 years old, Cnut sent assassins to carry out his original orders to murder the boys. King Stephen sent the princes to Gardorika, the royal court of Kievan Rus', where they could be protected and educated by Yaroslav the Wise, Grand Prince of Kiev. In the 1030's they were joined by another exiled prince Andrew of Hungary.[3] By 1043 Edward was elevated "to a position of sole responsibility where England's crown or dynastic alliances were concerned."[4] Edmund on the other hand was in disfavor having caused a scandal.[5] Prince Andrew returned to Hungary in 1046 to retake the throne;[6] Edward and Edmund are likely to have accompanied him and fought with his army[7] and it is possible that they were present at his coronation.[8] King Stephen I, their former foster father, had died in 1038, so in fighting for Andrew they were not fighting against him. At some point Edward received an estate from King Stephen. This estate with Réka Castle in the middle is called "Terra Britanorum de Nadasd";[9] it was likely bestowed upon Edward's marriage to Agatha, who is believed to be a kinswoman of the king or the queen. This brings the date of their marriage into question, however: most sources date it 1040 to 1045 but Stephen I died August 1038. Réka Castle is considered to be the birthplace of their daughter Margaret, and likely their other children were born there as well, as the family lived there until being summoned to England.


On hearing that Edward was alive, Edward the Confessor recalled him to England in 1056 and made him his heir. Edward the Ætheling offered the last chance of an undisputed succession within the Saxon royal house. News of Edward's existence came at a time when the old Anglo-Saxon monarchy, restored after a long period of Danish domination, was heading for catastrophe. The Confessor, personally devout but politically weak and childless, was unable to make an effective stand against the steady advance of the powerful and ambitious sons of Godwin, Earl of Wessex. From across the Channel William, Duke of Normandy also had an eye on the succession. Edward the Exile appeared at just the right time. Approved both by the king and by the Witan, the Council of the Realm, he offered a way out of the impasse, a counter both to the Godwinsons and to William, and one with a legitimacy that could not be readily challenged.

In 1054 King Edward sent Ealdred, Bishop of Worcester, to the court of the German emperor to set in train negotiations with the king of Hungary for the return of Edward the Exile. Ealdred was not at first successful, and in 1056 Earl Harold Godwinson's journey to Flanders, and possibly on to Germany and Hungary, was probably undertaken to further negotiations. The Exile finally arrived in England in 1057 with his wife and children, but died within a few days, on 19 April, without meeting the King. He was buried in Old St Paul's Cathedral.[10]


Edward's wife was named Agatha; her origins are disputed.[11] Their children were:

Edward's grandchild Edith of Scotland, also called Matilda, married King Henry I of England, continuing the Anglo-Saxon line into the post-Conquest English monarchy.


Edward the Exile was a direct descendant of a line of Wessex kings dating back, at least on the pages of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, to the arrival of Cerdic of Wessex in AD 495, nearly a century after the withdrawal of the Western Roman Empire army legions from Hadrian's Wall, and including Alfred the Great in the English monarchs family tree.[12] Of his more immediate ancestors, all four of Edward's male-line ancestors shown in the diagram below were Kings of England before Cnut the Great (Canute) took the crown and sent Edward into exile.[13]

Ancestors of Edward the Exile
16. Edmund I
8. Edgar the Peaceful
17. Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury
4. Ethelred the Unready
18. Ordgar
9. Ælfthryth
2. Edmund Ironside
10. Thored
5. Ælfgifu of York
1. Edward the Exile
3. Ealdgyth

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Onslow, Earl of, The Dukes of Normandy and Their Origin, London, 1945, p.161.
  2. ^ Anderson, Alan O.,Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers, 500 to 1286, London, 1908. p.94n.
  3. ^ Kristó & Makk 1996, p. 69.
  4. ^ Ronay 1989, p. 76.
  5. ^ Ronay 1989, p. 82.
  6. ^ Engel 2001, p. 59.
  7. ^ Gillingham 2003, p. 35.
  8. ^ von Redlich 1940, p. 107.
  9. ^ Gabriel Ronay, The Lost King of England: The East European Adventures of Edward the Exile, Boydell & Brewer, 2000 [1]
  10. ^ Keynes, Simon (May 1985). "The Crowland Psalter and the Sons of King Edmund Ironside". Bodleian Library Record. 11 (6): 363–364, 369, n. 31.
  11. ^ Lauder-Frost, Gregory M.S., FSA Scot.,"Agatha - The Ancestry Dispute" in The Scottish Genealogist, Edinburgh, Sept 2002, vol.xlix no.3, p.71-2.
  12. ^ Starkey, David (2004). The Monarchy of England: The Beginnings. Chatto and Windus. p. 88.
  13. ^ Ronay 1989, p. 10.

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