Saint Edward the Confessor was born in Oxfordshire, England sometime around the year 1003 A.D. He was the son of King Ethelred II (c. 968-1016) and his second wife Emma of Normandy (c. 985-1052).
When Ethelred was overthrown by the Danes in 1013, he and his children fled to Normandy. Edward and his siblings remained in Normandy even though their father’s throne was restored one year later.
Shortly after Ethelred’s death in 1016, the kingdom was conquered by Cnut of Denmark (c. 985-1035). After Cnut’s death, many wanted to restore the House of Wessex, which meant that one of Ethelred’s descents would be the new king. Edward’s older brother Alfred Aetheling (unknown-1036) went to England in the hopes of gaining the throne but was betrayed and murdered by Earl Godwin of Wessex (990-1053), an English lord loyal to the House of Denmark.
Logically, the throne should then have gone to Edward. There were problems, however: upon the death of Ethelred, Emma had married Cnut of Denmark and had given birth to another son. Edward was allowed to become ruler of England, provided that he shared his responsibilities with his half-brother Harthacnut (1020-1042). Upon the latter’s death, Edward became the sole ruler of England and his coronation took place on April 3, 1043. When Emma attempted to keep Edward from the throne, she was arrested. There is no further historical record of her except that she died of natural causes on March 6, 1052.
Edward’s family troubles were not over yet. In 1044, he married Edith of Wessex (c. 1029-1075), the daughter of Earl Godwin. This marriage was, most likely, meant to reconcile the families. Edward was still struggling to forgive Godwin for the murder of his brother and it is thought that this might have been part of the reason why his marriage was childless.
In 1051, the political activities of the Earl led to the banishment of the entire House of Godwin. Edward quietly placed Edith in a convent until the Earl threatened to invade the kingdom and restore her to the throne. During this crisis, Edward tried to abdicate in favor of William the Conqueror (c. 1028-1087). Edith and Edward’s last years together were surprisingly happy and peaceful.
With his family finally at peace, Edward could concentrate on the needs of his kingdom. He attended Mass every morning and was known for his kindness to the poor and to the religious in monasteries.
Edward had previously made a vow that, if God granted peace to his family, he would make a pilgrimage to Saint Peter’s in Rome. He people, however, begged him not to leave them and the Pope himself encouraged him to remain in England. Instead, Edward gave the money he would have spent to the poor and he set about restoring a small abbey in order to dedicate it to Saint Peter. This abbey is now known as the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster or simply as Westminster Abbey.
Saint Edward the Confessor died of natural causes on January 5, 1066. His body was incorrupt for 203 years after his death. His remains are interred in Westminster Abbey. Edward the Confessor is considered the patron saint of separated spouses, of kings, and, most importantly, of English royalty. His feast day is October 13.
Source: Butler’s Lives of the Saints