In 1043 Sweyn was raised to an earldom which included Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Somerset. He signed his first Royal charter in 1044. He was later exiled from the Kingdom, and died on return from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Focus on Wales
From the start, Sweyn sought peace with Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, the King of Gwynedd in northern Wales. This allowed the King of Gwynedd to gain the upper hand on Gruffydd ap Rhydderch, King of Deheubarth and his main Welsh rival. Sweyn supported the King of Gwynedd with more than words of alliance. In 1046, he joined in on an invasion of Deheubarth.
On his return from this campaign Sweyn abducted Eadgifu, the Abbess of Leominster, apparently intending to marry her and gain control of Leominster's vast estate. However, the king refused permission and Eadgifu returned to her abbey. Late in 1047 Sweyn left England to take refuge with Baldwin, count of Flanders.
During his exile he travelled first to Flanders, then to Denmark before returning to England in 1049 to beg for forgiveness. He appears to have been expelled from Denmark for an unspecified offence. His brother Harold and cousin Beorn first opposed Sweyn's return, but Beorn eventually agreed to support him.
While accompanying his cousin to meet the King, Sweyn had his cousin Beorn murdered and was again exiled, condemned as a niðing, a man of no honour.
Pardoned and restored
It appears that Sweyn was pardoned, despite his crimes, the following year (1050), and restored to his office. Some say it was his father Earl Godwin who pleaded his case to the King, others that is was Aldred or Ealdred, Bishop of Worcester, who met him in Flanders returning from his pilgrimage. In any case, his last stay in England would not be long.
Exile for life
In 1051, Earl Godwin and all his sons were exiled from England following a dispute with the King. Sweyn received the sternest judgement of them all, and was exiled for life. Again, he flew to Flanders – this time never to return.
Killed on return from pilgrimage
Sweyn had one son, Hakon, said to have been a hostage in Normandy until brought back by Harold in 1064, but nothing more is known of him.
The exile and eventual death of Sweyn left Harold as the heir apparent of the Godwinson family.
- Barlow, Frank, Edward the Confessor p. 74 and Barlow ed., 'Vita Ædwardi' pp. 7–8
- Ann Williams, Swein, Oxford Online Dictionary of National Biography
- Codex diplomaticus aevi saxonici, IV:74
- DeVries, The Norwegian Invasion of England in 1066 p. 108, note 114
- DeVries, The Norwegian Invasion of England in 1066 p. 109
- Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (C) 1046
- DeVries, The Norwegian Invasion of England in 1066 pp. 110–111
- DeVries, The Norwegian Invasion of England in 1066 pp. 112.
|Earl of Herefordshire
Ralph the Timid