By Jonathan Reed
Video supplied by KMTV Made For Kent©
Edward the Confessor is arguably one of the UK’s most revered and celebrated kings in British history, and after 1000 years, his mother Queen Emma may have returned to the UK’s consciousness once again. Archaeologists believe that after all this time Queen Emma’s bones have been rediscovered in the royal chests kept at Winchester Cathedral.
If confirmed, it would mean that the discovery of the legendary Queen would be the second major royal figure to be rediscovered in recent years. With this incredible find, it highlights why the woman dubbed, “the mother of England” changed the course of Britain’s history, and in cases, defined it.
Married twice, both to kings; her first marriage was to King Æthelred of England in 1002 in an attempt to pacify Normandy. Instantly taking the title of Queen of England, Emma gave birth to two sons, Edward – later Edward the Confessor – and Alfred, and a daughter, Goda of England. Her marriage to Æthelred would end with his death in June 1014 and with the invasion of Cnut The Great, she would marry a king for the second time.
In her new role, Emma would become one of the most powerful figures in Europe, taking the title of Queen once again. Though this time not only just of England, but of Normandy and Denmark also. During her second marriage, which originally began as a political strategy, though eventually became deeply affectionate, Emma would give birth to two more children – Harthacnut and Gunhiida.
From this point onwards, Queen Emma would begin to demonstrate her political prowess and cunning ability to ensure the success of her family lineage.
After the death of Cnut The Great, he and Emma’s son Harthacnut ascended to the throne of Denmark. With Emma’s other son, Edward, ruling England, she gained unimaginable influence on two of the most powerful kingdoms in Europe. That power would increase with the coordinated reign of both kings, who for two years ruled England together.
This combining for Edward and Harthacnut is believed to have been orchestrated by Emma herself, with some even believing she shared an equal role in the co-leadership of the English kingdom.
At the age of 67 Emma died and her body was interred in the Old Minster in Winchester. After transferring her remains to the new cathedral after the Norman conquests. For over 1000 years, her remains would be undiscovered – until now. And whilst it is easy to look at the astonishing history that surrounded her life, her influence should also be recognised.
Queen Emma was an impressive figure both historically and culturally. Here was a woman who strived to be equal to men and whose intervention into politics was never disregarded. She, long before a time of suffragette or feminism, proved a woman could hold court as passionately and deceptively as her male counterparts. And like men before her, could twist and contort the truth to fit her own narrative.
Queen Emma is described in the medieval text the Encomium as “the most distinguished woman of her time for delightful beauty and wisdom.” And whilst aspects of that description maybe true, after all she ruled England as Queen, not once but twice, many historians believe the text to be overtly exaggerated.
But whether this description sidesteps parts of the truth, there is no denying Emma’s remarkable influence on Britain’s history. Her son Edward the Confessor became one of England’s most celebrated and revered monarchs in history, his Sainthood is proof of this. But after Edward’s death in 1066, another king would continue Queen Emma’s undeniable presence.
William the Conqueror, formerly Duke of Normandy, was Emma’s great-nephew. Through his reign, William would come to change the very landscape and identity of Britain, many of which still endures today.
But William’s reign, as did Edward’s before, stemmed for this remarkable Queen. Even after her death, her impact ensured a stable foundation which allowed the Norman bloodline, including Emma’s own, to create a succession of monarchs which would rule for near a hundred years.
This alone makes Queen Emma of England, Normandy and Denmark one of the most important and influential figures, both male and female, in England’s history. Simply put, she was and will always be, the Mother of England.