Great Earldoms of England

  • House of Wessex
  • House of Mercia
  • Primary English Earldoms
  • Lineage
  • The centuries prior to the reign of Edward the Confessor saw power transfer between the great Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, and later the earldoms, of England. As kingdoms, Northumberland, then Mercia, and finally Wessex were supreme. As earldoms, these three regions were the most powerful in England. Mercia and Wessex held on to the age-old rivalry. In particular, it was Wessex that had always backed the Danish line, while Mercia backed Aelthlred's line.

    The year 1057 seemed to have been a pivotal one for the history of England, and the events leading up to the Norman invasion may very well have begun ten years before 1066. The legend of Godiva places her ride about 1057, the same time that Leofric of Mercia died, as did Aedward the Exile. Tostig had secured the Earldom of Northumbria by 1057 as well. I have read nothing that has linked the house of Godwin to either the death of Aedward the Exile or that of Leofric. Nevertheless, it is interesting that the two deaths happened about the same time.

    Harold had struggled with the son of Leofric in the years following the old Earl's death, and he was exiled at one point, although reinstated shortly thereafter. Aelfgar proved to be a troublesome young earl, and he may very well have died during one of his raids with his Welsh allies.