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Edgar Ætheling (King Edgar II of England)
Born circa 1051
Kiev or Hungary
Died circa 1126
Place unknown
Buried Place unknown
Predecessor Harold Godwinson - Harold II of England
Successor William the Conqueror - William I of England)
Father Edward the Exile
Mother Agatha

Edgar Ætheling[1], also known as Edgar the Outlaw, (c. 1051 – c. 1126) was the last male member of the West Saxon royal house of Cerdic. He was proclaimed, but never crowned, King of England.

Born in Hungary, Edgar was the only son of Edward the Exile, heir to the English throne, and was a grandson of King Edmund II ("Edmund Ironside"). Upon his father's death in 1057, Edgar was nominated as heir apparent by his great-uncle King Edward the Confessor. However, he was too young at the time of the King's death in January 1066 to defend the country against the impending Norman invasion led by William of Normandy, so a Witenagemot instead elected Harold Godwinson, King Edward's brother-in-law, as King Harold II. Following the death of Harold II at the Battle of Hastings on Saturday, 14 October 1066, Edgar was proclaimed King Edgar II by a Witenagemot in London. He was never crowned and submitted to William I some six to eight weeks later, at the age of about fourteen or fifteen.

Early lifeEdit

Edgar was the only son of Edward the Exile, heir to the English throne, and grandson of King Edmund II known as Edmund Ironside. Upon his father's death in 1057, Edgar was nominated as heir apparent by his great-uncle King (and Saint) Edward the Confessor. Edgar was brought up at Edward's Court, together with his sisters, Margaret (now known as Saint Margaret of Scotland) and Cristina. However he was too young at the time of the King's death in January 1066 to defend the country against impending invasion so the Witenagemot had elected King Edward's brother-in-law Harold Godwinson to be King Harold II instead. Edgar's election as King after Harold's death was no more than a symbolic token of defiance by the Saxon nobles of the Witenagemot against the invading Norman forces.

Submits to William the ConquerorEdit

Edgar relied largely for his support upon Archbishop Stigand of Canterbury and upon Edwin, Earl of Mercia and Morcar, Earl of Northumbria and, when this weakened within a matter of days of the Witenagemot election, Edgar was forced inevitably to submit to William the Conqueror at Berkhamsted in either late November or early December 1066.

William treated Edgar well. Seeing political advantage, he kept him in his custody and eventually took him back to his Court in Normandy. However, Edgar joined in the rebellion of the Earls Edwin and Morcar in 1068 and when defeated he fled to the court of King Malcolm III of Scotland. The next year Malcolm married Edgar's sister Margaret, and agreed to support Edgar in his attempt to reclaim the English Crown. Edgar now made common cause with Sweyn Estridson, the King of Denmark and nephew of Canute, who believed he was the rightful King of England.

Their combined forces invaded England in 1069, capturing York. William marched on the north, devastating the land as he went. He paid the treacherous Danes to leave, whilst Edgar fled back to Scotland. He remained in exile there until 1072 when William successfully enforced a peace treaty on King Malcolm, the terms of which included the exile of Edgar. Edgar eventually made his peace with William in 1074 but he never fully gave up his dreams of regaining the Throne of England. After King William's death in 1087 he supported the eldest son Robert III, Duke of Normandy (Robert Curthose) against the second son King William II of England (William Rufus) in 1091 and again found himself seeking refuge in Scotland. He also supported his nephew, Edgar, in gaining the Scottish Throne, overthrowing his paternal uncle King Donald III of Scotland.

Departs for the EastEdit

Around 1098 he went to Constantinople, where he may have joined the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine Emperor. Later that year he was given a fleet by Emperor Alexius I to assist in the First Crusade, and brought reinforcements to the Crusaders at the Siege of Antioch. Back in Europe he was taken prisoner at the Battle of Tinchebrai in 1106 fighting for Duke Robert against the youngest of William the Conqueror's sons who was now King Henry I of England. He was taken back to England where King Henry pardoned him, and he retired to his country estate in Hertfordshire. His niece Edith (renamed Matilda) had married Henry I in 1100. Edgar is believed to have travelled to the Kingdom of Scotland late in life, perhaps around the year 1120, and was still alive in 1125, but may have died soon after, in his early seventies. By then he was forgotten by most and is remembered now only as the "lost King" of England.

NotesEdit

  1. The Anglo-Saxon term Aetheling or, as it was spelled during the Anglo-Saxon period, Æþeling, denotes a man of noble blood and was used more specifically in the later Anglo-Saxon period to designate him as the legitimate heir to the throne as the only remaining male descendant of King Aethelred II.

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