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Edward the Exile (1016 – February 1057), also called Edward Aetheling, son of King Edmund Ironside and of Ealdgyth, gained the name of "Exile" from his life spent mostly far from the England of his forefathers. After the Danish conquest of England in 1016 Canute had him and his brother, Edmund, exiled to the continent, perhaps with the intention of arranging their deaths. Edward was only a few months old when he was brought to the court of Olof Skötkonung. Instead, Edmund was secretly sent to Kiev, where Olof's daughter Ingigerd was the Queen, and then made his way to Hungary, probably in the retinue of Ingigerd's son-in-law, King András.

On hearing the news of his being alive, Edward the Confessor recalled him to England and made him his heir. Edward offered the last chance of an undisputed succession within the Saxon royal house. News of Edward's existence came at time when the old Anglo-Saxon Mmonarchy, restored after a long period of Danish domination, was heading for catastrophe. The Confessor, personally devout but politically weak, was unable to make an effective stand against the steady advance of the powerful and ambitious sons of Earl Godwin. From across the Channel William, Duke of Normandy also had an eye on the succession. Edward the Exile appeared at just the right time. Approved by both king and by the Witan, the Council of the Realm, he offered a way out of the impasse, a counter both to the Godwins and to William, and one with a legitimacy that could not be readily challenged.

Edward, who had been in the custody of Henry III, the Holy Roman Emperor, finally came back to England at the end of August 1057. But he died within two days of his arrival. The exact cause of Edward's death remains unclear, but he had many powerful enemies, and there is a strong possibility that he was murdered, although by whom it is not known with any certainty. It is known, though, that his access to the king was blocked soon after his arrival in England for some unexplained reason, at a time when the Godwins, in the person of Harold Godwinson, were once again in the ascendant. This turn of events left the throne of England to be disputed by Earl Harold and Duke William, ultimately leading to the Norman Conquest of England.

Edward's wife was a woman named Agatha, whose origins are disputed. Their children were Edgar Aetheling, Saint Margaret of Scotland and Cristina. Edgar was nominated as heir apparent, but was too young to count for much, and was eventually swept aside by Harold Godwinson.