Created earl of Wessex in 1018, Godwin supported the accession of Canute's legitimate son Harthacanute (1040) and the subsequent restoration to the English kingship (1042) of the native royal house of Wessex under Edward the Confessor, who had spent most of the previous thirty years in Normandy.
Despite his alleged responsibility for the death (1037) of Edward's brother Alfred, Godwin secured the marriage (1045) of his daughter Edith (Eadgyth) to Edward. Godwin soon became the leader of opposition to growing Norman influence as Edward drew advisers, nobles and ecclesiastics from his former place of refuge.
Exiled from the kingdom in September 1051 for refusing to punish the people of Dover for a violent clash with the visiting Eustace, count of Boulogne, Godwin returned the following year with an armed force, compelling Edward to restore his earldom.
On his death Godwin was succeeded as earl of Wessex (an area then covering roughly the southernmost third of England) by his son Harold, later (1066) king of England.