When the Godwin family was exiled from England in 1051 he went with Harold to Ireland, where they were sheltered and helped by Diarmait mac Máel na mBó, King of Leinster. He would have returned with the rest of the family the following year, but was not present at the death-bed of his father in April 1053.
Following the death of his father in April 1053, the Godwinsons managed to retain their hold on England. Harold inherited the Earldom of Wessex and became second in power only to the king. Leofwine was made Earl of Kent, Essex, Middlesex, Hertford, Surrey and probably Buckinghamshire some time between 1055 and 1057. Together with his brother Gyrth's Earldoms of East Anglia, Cambridgeshire and Oxfordshire the Godwinsons now controlled the entire East England.