|Ymma – Twice Queen Consort and Twice Queen Mother of England|
by Polina Coffey
Harthaknut mounted an expedition to invade England to claim the crown but Harold died in 1040 before the expedition landed. Harthaknut met no opposition and was elected king. He immediately set about to punish the English by imposing a punitive fleet-tax to pay for his expedition. This ensured his universal unpopularity amongst his new subjects. One of his early acts was to invite his half-brother Edward to return to England. This may or may not have been at Ymma’s instigation. Certainly, Harthaknut was not yet married and the succession was not therefore secured. Until such time as the king should marry and produce a male successor it was unquestionably in Ymma’s interests to have Edward on hand as a creditable successor.
Harthaknut died suddenly – of convulsions at a drinking party – in June 1042 at the age of 23. Edward (later known as “The Confessor”) ascended the throne without opposition and began the long reign which ended in 1066. He does appear to have resented his mother’s marriage settlement with Knut which effectively saw him disinherited from the crown of England. In late 1043 he and his chief ministers arrived at her residence in Winchester and deprived her of her estates and treasure. She was allowed to continue in residence at Winchester with suitable provision for all of her comforts but she played no further role in the politics of the realm.
The episode has never been satisfactorily explained but it does seem as if politics played a large part in its planning. Edward, after all, was intent on establishing an English dynasty and Ymma may have been seen by many as being still too close to the Danish interest. She died at Winchester in 1052 and was buried beside Knut in Winchester Cathedral. This forceful, ambitious and even unscrupulous woman perhaps had the last laugh. When Edward The Confessor died in 1066 her great-nephew, Duke William of Normandy, began the preparations for the invasion that would see him crowned king of England and irrevocably set the English Monarchy on the path that has brought it into the twenty-first century. He based his claim, of course, on the fact that he was the senior male descendant of Ymma.