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Edgar Atheling

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  • British Monarchs 
    Edgar Atheling
    Rank: 23rd
    Ruled: October 14, 1066-December, 1066
    Predecessor: Harold II
    Date of Birth: circa 1052
    Place of Birth: Hungary
    Wife: Never married
    Buried: Place unknown
    Date of Death: circa 1126
    Parents: Edward the Exile and Agatha Arpad

    Edgar Atheling, uncrowned Anglo-Saxon king, was born in Hungary, c. 1052, and died c. 1126. He was also known as "Edgar the Outlaw". The Anglo-Saxon name Atheling or, more correctly, √¶theling, means "son of the king". Proclaimed king by the witan following the death of Harold II in the Battle of Hastings on October 14 1066, Edgar was never crowned and submitted to William I some eight weeks later. He was only about thirteen or fourteen years old. 

    Edgar's grandfather Edmund Ironside died in 1016, and his father, known as Edward the Exile, had been banished from England by Canute I in 1016 when only a few months old. Rather than kill Edward on English soil, Canute's idea was to despatch him to Russia to be killed by the Viking Dukes of Novgorod. This did not happen. Instead Edward made his way to Hungary and the court of King Stephen. He remained in Hungary until in 1054 Edward the Confessor learned he was alive and invited him back to England. 

    He returned in 1057 with his young children, but within days had died, probably murdered at the behest of Harold. Edward raised his nephew's children, Edgar, Margaret and Christina and nominated the young Atheling as his heir. However he was too young at the time of Edward's death in January 1066 to defend the country against impending invasion, and his election as king after Harold's death was no more than a symbolic token of defiance against the invading Norman forces. 

    Edgar relied largely for his support upon Archbishop Stigand and upon Earls Edwin of Mercia and Morcar of Northumbria and, when this weakened, (within a matter of days of the witan), Edgar was forced inevitably to submit to William at Berkhamstead 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, though defeated, he fled to the court of Malcolm III of Scotland. The next year Malcolm married Edgar's sister Margaret, and agreed to support Edgar in his attempt to claim the English crown. Edgar now made common cause with Swein, king of Denmark and nephew of Canute, who believed he was the rightful king of England. 

    Their combined forces invaded England in 1069. They captured York, but did not proclaim the independence of Northumbria. William marched on the north, devastating the land as he went. He paid the Danes to leave, whilst Edgar fled to Scotland. He remained in refuge there until 1072 when William successfully enforced a peace treaty on 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. He supported Robert, duke of Normandy, against William II in 1091 and again found himself seeking refuge in Scotland. He also supported his nephew, Edgar, in gaining the Scottish throne, overthrowing Donald III. 

    In 1099 he set off on crusade, and was taken prisoner at the Battle of Tinchebrai in 1106 fighting for Duke Robert against Henry I. He returned to England where 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 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. 

    Preceded by:
    Harold II
    List of British Monarchs Succeeded by:
    William I



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