What follows belongs rather to the history of William the Conqueror than to that of Alfred, for Godwin invited Edward, Emma’s Norman son, to come and assume the crown; and his coming, together with that of the many Norman attendants that accompanied or followed him, led, in the end, to the Norman invasion and conquest. Godwin might probably have made himself king if he had chosen to do so. His authority over the whole island was paramount and supreme. But, either from a natural sense of justice toward the rightful heir, or from a dread of the danger which always attends the usurping of the royal name by one who is not of royal descent, he made no attempt to take the crown. He convened a great assembly of all the estates of the realm, and there it was solemnly decided that Edward should be invited to come to England and ascend the throne. A national messenger was dispatched to Normandy to announce the invitation.
It was stipulated in this invitation that Edward should bring very few Normans with him. He came, accordingly, in the first instance, almost unattended. He was received with great joy, and crowned king with splendid ceremonies and great show, in the ancient cathedral at Winchester. He felt under great obligations to Godwin, to whose instrumentality he was wholly indebted for this sudden and most brilliant change in his fortunes; and partly impelled by this feeling of gratitude, and partly allured by Edith’s extraordinary charms, he proposed to make Edith his wife. Godwin made no objection. In fact, his enemies say that he made a positive stipulation for this match before allowing the measures for Edward’s elevation to the throne to proceed too far. However this may be, Godwin found himself, after Edward’s accession, raised to the highest pitch of honor and power. From being a young herdsman’s son, driving the cows to pasture in a wood, he had become the prime minister, as it were, of the whole realm, his four sons being great commanding generals in the army, and his daughter the queen.
The current of life did not flow smoothly with him, after all. We can not here describe the various difficulties in which he became involved with the king on account of the Normans, who were continually coming over from the Continent to join Edward’s court, and whose coming and growing influence strongly awakened the jealousy of the English people. Some narration of these events will more properly precede the history of William the Conqueror. We accordingly close this story of Godwin here by giving the circumstances of his death, as related by the historians of the time. The readers of this narrative will, of course, exercise severally their own discretion in determining how far they will believe the story to be true.