HOME

TheInfoList




Harold Godwinson ( – 14 October 1066), also called Harold II, was the last crowned
Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Cultural identity is a part of a person's identity Identity may refer to: Social sciences * Identity (social science), personhood or group affiliation in psychology and sociology Group expression ...
king of
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. E ...

England
. Harold reigned from 6 January 1066 until his death at the
Battle of Hastings The Battle of Hastings or nrf, Batâle dé Hastings was fought on 14 October 1066 between the Norman-French army of William, the Duke of Normandy, and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Cu ...

Battle of Hastings
, fighting the
Norman Norman or Normans may refer to: Ethnic and cultural identity * The Normans The Normans (Norman language, Norman: ''Normaunds''; french: Normands; la, Nortmanni/Normanni) were inhabitants of the early medieval Duchy of Normandy, descended from ...

Norman
invaders led by
William the Conqueror William I (c. 1028Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 33 – 9 September 1087), usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first House of Normandy, Norman List of English monarchs, monarch of Engl ...

William the Conqueror
during the
Norman conquest of England The Norman Conquest (or the Conquest) was the 11th-century invasion and occupation of England England is a that is part of the . It shares land borders with to its west and to its north. The lies northwest of England and the to ...
. His death marked the end of Anglo-Saxon rule over England. Harold Godwinson was a member of a prominent Anglo-Saxon family with ties to
Cnut the Great Cnut the Great (; ang, Cnut cyning; non, Knútr inn ríki ; or , no, Knut den mektige, sv, Knut den Store. died 12 November 1035), also known as Canute, was King of England This list of kings and queens of the Kingdom of England Th ...
. He became a powerful earl after the death of his father,
Godwin, Earl of Wessex Godwin of Wessex ( ang, Godwine; died 15 April 1053) became one of the most powerful earl Earl () is a rank of the nobility in Britain. The title originates in the Old English word ''eorl'', meaning "a man of noble birth or rank". The word is ...
. After his brother-in-law, King
Edward the Confessor Edward the Confessor ( ang, Ēadƿeard Andettere ; la, Eduardus Confessor , ; 1003 – 5 January 1066) was one of the last Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the so ...

Edward the Confessor
died without an heir on 5 January 1066, the ''
Witenagemot 300px, Anglo-Saxon king with his witan. Biblical scene in the Illustrated Old English Hexateuch (11th century), portraying Pharaoh in court session, after passing judgment on his chief baker and chief cupbearer. The Witenaġemot (; ang, witena ...
'' convened and chose Harold to succeed him; he was probably the first English monarch to be crowned in
Westminster Abbey Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is a large, mainly Gothic Gothic or Gothics may refer to: People and languages *Goths or Gothic people, the ethnonym of a group of East Germanic tribes ...

Westminster Abbey
. In late September, he successfully repelled an invasion by rival claimant
Harald Hardrada Harald Sigurdsson, also known as Harald of Norway (; – 25 September 1066) and given the epithet ''Hardrada'' (; modern no, Hardråde, roughly translated as "stern counsel" or "hard ruler") in the saga Sagas are prose Prose is a form ...
of Norway in
York York is a cathedral city City status in the United Kingdom is granted by the monarch of the United Kingdom The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy of the United ...

York
before marching his army back south to meet
William the Conqueror William I (c. 1028Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 33 – 9 September 1087), usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first House of Normandy, Norman List of English monarchs, monarch of Engl ...

William the Conqueror
at Hastings two weeks later.


Family background

Harold was a son of Godwin (–1053), the powerful
earl of Wessex Earl of Wessex is a title that has been created three times in British history, once in the pre-Norman conquest of England, Conquest Anglo-Saxon nobility of England, once in the post-conquest Peerage of England, and once in the Peerage of the United ...
, and of
Gytha Thorkelsdóttir Gytha Thorkelsdóttir ( ang, Gȳða Þorkelsdōttir, 997 – c. 1069), also called Githa, was a Danish noblewoman. She was the mother of King Harold Godwinson and of Edith of Wessex, queen consort of King Edward the Confessor of England. Biograph ...
, whose brother
Ulf the Earl Ulf (or Ulf Jarl) (Ulf Thorgilsson) was a Denmark, Danish Earl#Scandinavia, earl (''jarl'') and regent of Denmark. Ulf was the father of King Sweyn II of Denmark and thus the progenitor of the House of Estridsen, which would rule Denmark from 1047 ...
was married to
Estrid SvendsdatterEstrid Svendsdatter of Denmark (''Estrith'', ''Astrith'': 990/997 – 1057/1073), was a Danish princess and titular queen, a Russian princess and, possibly, duchess A duke (male) can either be a monarch ranked below the emperor An empero ...
(c. 1015/1016), the daughter of King
Sweyn Forkbeard Sweyn Forkbeard ( non, Sveinn Haraldsson tjúguskegg, ; da, Svend Tveskæg; 17 April 963 – 3 February 1014) was king of Denmark The monarchy of Denmark is a constitutional political system, institution and a historic office of the ...

Sweyn Forkbeard
Walker ''Harold'' p. 10 (died 1014) and sister of King
Cnut the Great Cnut the Great (; ang, Cnut cyning; non, Knútr inn ríki ; or , no, Knut den mektige, sv, Knut den Store. died 12 November 1035), also known as Canute, was King of England This list of kings and queens of the Kingdom of England Th ...
of England and Denmark. Ulf and Estrith's son would become King
Sweyn II of Denmark Sweyn II Estridsson ( on, Sveinn Ástríðarson, da, Svend Estridsen) ( – 28 April 1076) was King of Denmark from 1047 until his death in 1076. He was the son of Ulf the Earl, Ulf Thorgilsson and Estrid Svendsdatter, and the grandson of King Sw ...
Barlow ''Feudal Kingdom'' p. 451 in 1047. Godwin was the son of Wulfnoth, probably a ''
thegn The term ''thegn'', also thane, or thayn in Shakespearean English Early Modern English or Early New English (sometimes abbreviated EModE, EMnE, or EME) is the stage of the English language from the beginning of the Tudor period to the English ...
'' and a native of Sussex. Godwin began his political career by supporting King
Edmund Ironside Edmund Ironside (30 November 1016; , ; sometimes also known as Edmund II) was King of the English This list of kings and queens of the Kingdom of England begins with Alfred the Great, who initially ruled Kingdom of Wessex, Wessex, one of t ...

Edmund Ironside
(reigned April to November 1016), but switched to supporting King Cnut by 1018, when Cnut named him Earl of Wessex.Walker ''Harold'' pp. 7–9 Godwin remained an earl throughout the remainder of Cnut's reign, one of only two earls to survive to the end of that reign.Walker ''Harold'' p. 12 On Cnut's death in 1035, Godwin originally supported
Harthacnut Harthacnut ( da, Hardeknud; "Tough-knot";  – 8 June 1042), sometimes referred to as Canute III, was King of Denmark The Monarchy of Denmark is a constitutional political system, institution and a historic office of the Kingdom of ...
instead of Cnut's initial successor
Harold Harefoot Harold I (died 17 March 1040), also known as Harold Harefoot, was King of England This list of kings and queens of the begins with , who initially ruled , one of the which later made up modern England. Alfred styled himself King of the ...
, but managed to switch sides in 1037—although not without becoming involved in the 1036 murder of
Alfred Aetheling Alfred Aetheling, also Ælfred Æþeling (English: ''Alfred the Noble'') ( 1005–1036), was one of the eight sons of the English king Æthelred the Unready Æthelred (Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest rec ...
, half-brother of Harthacnut and younger brother of the later King
Edward the Confessor Edward the Confessor ( ang, Ēadƿeard Andettere ; la, Eduardus Confessor , ; 1003 – 5 January 1066) was one of the last Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the so ...

Edward the Confessor
.Walker ''Harold'' pp. 13–15 When Harold Harefoot died in 1040, Harthacnut ascended the English throne and Godwin's power was imperiled by his earlier involvement in Alfred's murder, but an oath and large gift secured the new king's favour for Godwin.Walker ''Harold'' p. 16 Harthacnut's death in 1042 probably involved Godwin in a role as kingmaker, helping to secure the English throne for Edward the Confessor. In 1045 Godwin reached the height of his power when the new king married Godwin's daughter Edith.Walker ''Harold'' pp. 17–18 Godwin and Gytha had several children—six sons:
Sweyn Sweyn is a Scandinavian masculine given name A given name (also known as a first name or forename) is the part of a personal name A personal name, or full name, in onomastic Onomastics or onomatology is the study of the etymology, hist ...
, Harold,
Tostig Tostig Godwinson ( 1023/102825 September 1066) was an Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior Behavior (American English ...
,
Gyrth Gyrth Godwinson (Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a ...
, Leofwine and Wulfnoth; and three daughters:
Edith of Wessex Edith of Wessex ( 1025 – 18 December 1075) was Queen of England from her marriage to Edward the Confessor Edward the Confessor ( ang, Ēadƿeard Andettere ; la, Eduardus Confessor , ; 1003 – 5 January 1066) was one of the last A ...
(originally named Gytha but renamed Ealdgyth (or Edith) when she married King Edward the Confessor), Gunhild and Ælfgifu. The birthdates of the children are unknown, but Harold was the second son, Sweyn being the eldest.Mason ''House of Godwine'' p. 10 Harold was aged about 25 in 1045, which makes his birth year around 1020.Rex ''Harold'' p. 31.


Powerful nobleman

Edith married Edward on 23 January 1045 and, around that time, Harold became
Earl of East AngliaThe Earls of East Anglia were governors of East Anglia during the 11th century. The post was established by Canute the Great, Cnut in 1017 and disappeared following Ralph Guader's participation in the failed Revolt of the Earls in 1075. Ealdormen of ...
. Harold is called "earl" when he appears as a witness in a will that may date to 1044; but, by 1045, Harold regularly appears as an earl in documents. One reason for his appointment to East Anglia may have been a need to defend against the threat from King
Magnus the Good Magnus Olafsson (Old Norse: ''Magnús Óláfsson''; Norwegian language, Norwegian and Danish language, Danish: ''Magnus Olavsson''; – 25 October 1047), better known as Magnus the Good (Old Norse: ''Magnús góði'', Norwegian and Danish: ''Mag ...
of Norway. It is possible that Harold led some of the ships from his earldom that were sent to Sandwich in 1045 against Magnus.Walker ''Harold'' pp. 18–19 Sweyn, Harold's elder brother, had been named an earl in 1043.Barlow ''Edward the Confessor'' p. 74. It was also around the time that Harold was named an earl that he began a relationship with
Edith the Fair Edith the Fair ( ang, Ealdgȳð Swann hnesce, "Edyth the Gentle Swan"; c. 1025 – c. 1066), also known as Edith Swanneck,Her first name is also spelled Ealdgyth, Aldgyth, ''Edeva'' or Eddeva, and sometimes appears as ''Ēadgȳð'' and ''Ēadgifu ...
, who appears to have been the heiress to lands in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Essex, lands in Harold's new earldom.Walker ''Harold'' p. 20. The relationship was a form of marriage that was not blessed or sanctioned by the Church, known as ''
More danico The phrase ''more danico'' is a Medieval Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...
'', or "in the Danish manner", and was accepted by most laypeople in England at the time. Any children of such a union were considered legitimate. Harold probably entered the relationship in part to secure support in his new earldom.Walker ''Harold'' pp. 127–128. Harold's elder brother Sweyn was exiled in 1047 after abducting the abbess of
Leominster Leominster ( ) is a market town A market town is a European that obtained by custom or royal charter, in the , a market right, which allowed it to host a regular ; this distinguished it from a or . In Britain, small rural towns with a ...
. Sweyn's lands were divided between Harold and a cousin,
Beorn Beorn is a fictional character created by J. R. R. Tolkien, and part of his Middle-earth Middle-earth is the fictional Setting (narrative), setting of much of the English writer J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy. The term is equivalent to the ''M ...
.Walker ''Harold'' p. 22 In 1049, Harold was in command of a ship or ships that were sent with a fleet to aid
Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor Henry III (28 October 1016 – 5 October 1056), called the Black or the Pious, was Holy Roman Emperor The Holy Roman Emperor, originally and officially the Emperor of the Romans ( la, Imperator The Latin word "imperator" derives from the ...

Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor
against Baldwin V, Count of Flanders, who was in revolt against Henry. During this campaign, Sweyn returned to England and attempted to secure a pardon from the king, but Harold and Beorn refused to return any of their lands, and Sweyn, after leaving the royal court, took Beorn hostage and later killed him.Walker ''Harold'' pp. 24–25. When in 1051 Earl Godwin was sent into exile, Harold accompanied his father and helped him to regain his position a year later. Then Godwin died in 1053, and Harold succeeded him as Earl of Wessex (the southern third of England). This arguably made him the most powerful figure in England after the king. In 1055 Harold drove back the Welsh, who had burned
Hereford Hereford () is a cathedral city City status in the United Kingdom is granted by the monarch of the United Kingdom The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy of the ...

Hereford
. Harold also became
Earl of Hereford The title of Earl of Hereford was created six times in the Peerage of Peerage of England, England. Dates indicate the years the person held the title for. Earls of Hereford, First Creation (1043) *Sweyn Godwinson, Swegen Godwinson (1043–1051) ''e ...
in 1058, and replaced his late father as the focus of opposition to growing
Norman Norman or Normans may refer to: Ethnic and cultural identity * The Normans The Normans (Norman language, Norman: ''Normaunds''; french: Normands; la, Nortmanni/Normanni) were inhabitants of the early medieval Duchy of Normandy, descended from ...

Norman
influence in England under the restored monarchy (1042–66) of Edward the Confessor, who had spent more than 25 years in exile in Normandy. He led a series of successful campaigns (1062–63) against
Gruffydd ap Llywelyn Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (  5 August 1063) was the King of Wales and had repeatedly defeated the English forces. He was the son of King Llywelyn ap Seisyll Llywelyn ap Seisyll (died 1023) was an 11th-century King of Gwynedd, Powys and Deheubarth. ...
of
Gwynedd Gwynedd (; ) is a county A county is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of ...
, king of
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It ...

Wales
. This conflict ended with Gruffydd's defeat and death in 1063.


Harold in northern France

In 1064, Harold apparently was shipwrecked at
Ponthieu Ponthieu (, ) was one of six feudal counties that eventually merged to become part of the Province of Picardy Picardy (; Picard and french: Picardie, , ) is a historical territory and a former administrative region of France France (), ...
. There is much speculation about this voyage. The earliest post-conquest Norman chroniclers report that King Edward had previously sent Robert of Jumièges, the archbishop of Canterbury, to appoint as his heir Edward's maternal kinsman, Duke
William II of Normandy William I (c. 1028Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 33 – 9 September 1087), usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first House of Normandy, Norman List of English monarchs, monarch of Engla ...
, and that at this later date Harold was sent to swear
fealty An oath Traditionally an oath (from Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour ...
.Howarth ''1066'' pp. 69–70 Scholars disagree as to the reliability of this story. William, at least, seems to have believed he had been offered the succession, but there must have been some confusion either on William's part or perhaps by both men, since the English succession was neither inherited nor determined by the reigning monarch. Instead the
Witenagemot 300px, Anglo-Saxon king with his witan. Biblical scene in the Illustrated Old English Hexateuch (11th century), portraying Pharaoh in court session, after passing judgment on his chief baker and chief cupbearer. The Witenaġemot (; ang, witena ...
, the assembly of the kingdom's leading notables, would convene after a king's death to select a successor. Other acts of Edward are inconsistent with his having made such a promise, such as his efforts to return his nephew
Edward the Exile Edward the Exile (1016 – 19 April 1057), also called ''Edward Ætheling'', was the son of King of the King of the Romans (variant used in the early modern period) File:Nezahualpiltzintli.jpg">Aztec King Nezahualpiltzintli of Texcoco K ...

Edward the Exile
, son of King Edmund Ironside, from Hungary in 1057. Later Norman chroniclers suggest alternative explanations for Harold's journey: that he was seeking the release of members of his family who had been held hostage since Godwin's exile in 1051, or even that he had simply been travelling along the English coast on a hunting and fishing expedition and had been driven across the Channel by an unexpected storm. There is general agreement that he left from
Bosham Bosham is a coastal village and civil parishes in England, civil parish in the Chichester (district), Chichester District of West Sussex, England, centred about west of Chichester with its nucleated village, clustered developed part west of thi ...
, and was blown off course, landing at Ponthieu. He was captured by Count
Guy I of Ponthieu Guy I of Ponthieu (also known in the Bayeux Tapestry The Bayeux Tapestry (, ; french: Tapisserie de Bayeux or ; la, Tapete Baiocense) is an embroidered cloth nearly long and tall that depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of En ...
, and was then taken as a hostage to the count's castle at
Beaurain
Beaurain
, up the River Canche from its mouth at what is now
Le Touquet Le Touquet-Paris-Plage (; pcd, Ech Toutchet-Paris-Plache; vls, 't Oekske, older nl, Het Hoekske), commonly referred to as Le Touquet (), is a commune An intentional community is a voluntary residential community designed from the sta ...
. Duke William arrived soon afterward and ordered Guy to turn Harold over to him. Harold then apparently accompanied William to battle against William's enemy Duke Conan II of Brittany. While crossing into
Brittany Brittany (; french: link=no, Bretagne ; br, Breizh, or ; Gallo: ''Bertaèyn'' ) is a peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to ...
past the fortified abbey of
Mont Saint-Michel Le Mont-Saint-Michel (; Norman language, Norman: ''Mont Saint Miché'', ) is a tidal island and mainland Communes of France, commune in Normandy (administrative region), Normandy, France. The island lies approximately one kilometre () off the ...

Mont Saint-Michel
, Harold is recorded as rescuing two of William's soldiers from
quicksand Quicksand is a colloid A colloid is a mixture in which one substance of microscopically dispersed insoluble particles are suspended throughout another substance. However, some definitions specify that the particles must be dispersed in a ...
. They pursued Conan from
Dol-de-Bretagne Dol-de-Bretagne (, Gallo: ''Dóu''), cited in most historical records under its Breton name of Dol, is a commune An intentional community is a voluntary residential community designed from the start to have a high degree of group cohesive ...

Dol-de-Bretagne
to
Rennes Rennes (; br, Roazhon ; Gallo: ''Resnn''; ) is a city in the east of Brittany Brittany (; french: link=no, Bretagne ; br, Breizh, or ; Gallo: ''Bertaèyn'' ) is a peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "islan ...

Rennes
, and finally to
Dinan Dinan (; ) is a walled Breton Breton most often refers to: *anything associated with Brittany Brittany (; french: link=no, Bretagne ; br, Breizh, or ; Gallo language, Gallo: ''Bertaèyn'' ) is a peninsula and cultural region in the west ...

Dinan
, where he surrendered the fortress's keys at the point of a lance. William presented Harold with weapons and arms, knighting him. The
Bayeux Tapestry The Bayeux Tapestry (, ; french: Tapisserie de Bayeux or ; la, Tapete Baiocense) is an embroidered Embroidery is the craft of decorating fabric or other materials using a needle to apply thread or yarn. Embroidery may also incorporate o ...
, and other Norman sources, then record that Harold swore an oath on sacred relics to William to support his claim to the English throne. After Edward's death, the Normans were quick to point out that in accepting the crown of England, Harold had broken this alleged oath. The chronicler
Orderic Vitalis Orderic Vitalis ( la, Ordericus Vitalis; 16 February 1075 – ) was an Historians in England during the Middle Ages, English chronicler and Benedictine monk who wrote one of the great contemporary chronicles of 11th- and 12th-century Norman ...
wrote of Harold that he "was distinguished by his great size and strength of body, his polished manners, his firmness of mind and command of words, by a ready wit and a variety of excellent qualities. But what availed so many valuable gifts, when good faith, the foundation of all virtues, was wanting?" Due to a doubling of taxation by Tostig in 1065 that threatened to plunge England into civil war, Harold supported
Northumbria Northumbria (; ang, Norþanhymbra Rīċe; la, Regnum Northanhymbrorum) was an early medieval Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Cultural identity is a part of a person's identity Identity may refer to: Social scie ...

Northumbria
n rebels against his brother,
Tostig Tostig Godwinson ( 1023/102825 September 1066) was an Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior Behavior (American English ...
, and replaced him with
Morcar Morcar (or Morkere) ( ang, Mōrcǣr) (died after 1087) was the son of Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia, Ælfgār (earl of Mercia) and brother of Edwin, Earl of Mercia, Ēadwine. He was the earl of Northumbria from 1065 to 1066, when he was replaced by Wil ...
. This led to Harold's marriage alliance with the northern earls but fatally split his own family, driving Tostig into alliance with King
Harald Hardrada Harald Sigurdsson, also known as Harald of Norway (; – 25 September 1066) and given the epithet ''Hardrada'' (; modern no, Hardråde, roughly translated as "stern counsel" or "hard ruler") in the saga Sagas are prose Prose is a form ...
("Hard Ruler") of Norway.


Reign

At the end of 1065 King
Edward the Confessor Edward the Confessor ( ang, Ēadƿeard Andettere ; la, Eduardus Confessor , ; 1003 – 5 January 1066) was one of the last Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the so ...

Edward the Confessor
fell into a coma without clarifying his preference for the succession. He died on 5 January 1066, according to the ''
Vita Ædwardi Regis
Vita Ædwardi Regis
'', but not before briefly regaining consciousness and commending his widow and the kingdom to Harold's "protection". The intent of this charge remains ambiguous, as is the
Bayeux Tapestry The Bayeux Tapestry (, ; french: Tapisserie de Bayeux or ; la, Tapete Baiocense) is an embroidered Embroidery is the craft of decorating fabric or other materials using a needle to apply thread or yarn. Embroidery may also incorporate o ...
, which simply depicts Edward pointing at a man thought to represent Harold. When the
Witan 300px, Anglo-Saxon king with his witan. Biblical scene in the Illustrated Old English Hexateuch (11th century), portraying Pharaoh in court session, after passing judgment on his chief baker and chief cupbearer. The Witan (; ang, witena ġemō ...
convened the next day they selected Harold to succeed, and his coronation followed on 6 January, most likely held in
Westminster Abbey Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is a large, mainly Gothic Gothic or Gothics may refer to: People and languages *Goths or Gothic people, the ethnonym of a group of East Germanic tribes ...

Westminster Abbey
, though no evidence from the time survives to confirm this. Although later Norman sources point to the suddenness of this coronation, the reason may have been that all the nobles of the land were present at Westminster for the feast of
Epiphany Epiphany may refer to: * Epiphany (feeling), an experience of sudden and striking insight Religion * Epiphany (holiday), a Christian holiday celebrating the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ ** Epiphany season, or Epiphan ...
, and not because of any usurpation of the throne on Harold's part. In early January 1066, hearing of Harold's coronation, Duke William II of Normandy began plans to invade England, building 700 warships and transports at
Dives-sur-Mer Dives-sur-Mer ( nrf, Dives sus Mé) is a commune A commune is an intentional community of people sharing living spaces, interests, values, beliefs, and often property Property (''latin: Res Privata'') in the Abstract and concrete, abstr ...
on the Normandy coast. Initially, William could not get support for the invasion but, claiming that Harold had sworn on sacred relics to support his claim to the throne after having been shipwrecked at
Ponthieu Ponthieu (, ) was one of six feudal counties that eventually merged to become part of the Province of Picardy Picardy (; Picard and french: Picardie, , ) is a historical territory and a former administrative region of France France (), ...
, William received the Church's blessing and nobles flocked to his cause. In anticipation of the invasion, Harold assembled his troops on the
Isle of Wight The Isle of Wight () is a Counties of England, county and the List of islands of England, largest and second-most populous island of England. It is in the English Channel, between two and five miles off the coast of Hampshire, from which it is ...

Isle of Wight
, but the invasion fleet remained in port for almost seven months, perhaps due to unfavourable winds. On 8 September, with provisions running out, Harold disbanded his army and returned to London. On the same day
Harald Hardrada Harald Sigurdsson, also known as Harald of Norway (; – 25 September 1066) and given the epithet ''Hardrada'' (; modern no, Hardråde, roughly translated as "stern counsel" or "hard ruler") in the saga Sagas are prose Prose is a form ...
of Norway, who also claimed the English crown, joined Tostig and invaded, landing his fleet at the mouth of the Tyne. The invading forces of Hardrada and Tostig defeated the English earls
Edwin of Mercia Edwin (Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval Englan ...
and
Morcar of Northumbria Morcar (or Morkere) ( ang, Mōrcǣr) (died after 1087) was the son of Ælfgār (earl of Mercia Mercia (, ang, Miercna rīċe; la, Merciorum regnum) was one of the kingdoms of the . The name is a of the or (West Saxon dialect; in the ...
at the
Battle of Fulford The Battle of Fulford was fought on the outskirts of the village of Fulford near York York is a cathedral city with Roman origins at the confluence of the rivers River Ouse, Yorkshire, Ouse and River Foss, Foss in North Yorkshire, England ...

Battle of Fulford
near
York York is a cathedral city City status in the United Kingdom is granted by the monarch of the United Kingdom The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy of the United ...

York
on 20 September 1066. Harold led his army north on a forced march from London, reached Yorkshire in four days, and caught Hardrada by surprise. On 25 September, in the
Battle of Stamford Bridge The Battle of Stamford Bridge ( ang, Gefeoht æt Stanfordbrycge) took place at the village of Stamford Bridge, East Riding of Yorkshire Stamford Bridge is a village and civil parishes in England, civil parish on the River Derwent, Yorkshire, ...
, Harold defeated Hardrada and Tostig, who were both killed. According to
Snorri Sturluson Snorri Sturluson (Old Norse: ; ; 1179 – 23 September 1241) was an Icelandic historian, poet, and politician. He was elected twice as lawspeaker of the Icelandic parliament, the Althing. He is commonly thought to have authored or compiled port ...
, before the battle a single man rode up alone to Harald Hardrada and Tostig. He gave no name, but spoke to Tostig, offering the return of his earldom if he would turn against Hardrada. Tostig asked what his brother Harold would be willing to give Hardrada for his trouble. The rider replied "Seven feet of English ground, as he is taller than other men." Then he rode back to the Saxon host. Hardrada was impressed by the rider's boldness, and asked Tostig who he was. Tostig replied that the rider was Harold Godwinson himself. According to
Henry of Huntingdon Henry of Huntingdon ( la, Henricus Huntindoniensis; 1088 – AD 1157), the son of a canon Canon or Canons may refer to: Places * Canon, Georgia Canon is a city in Franklin County, Georgia, Franklin and Hart County, Georgia, Hart counties in t ...
, Harold said "Six feet of ground or as much more as he needs, as he is taller than most men."


Battle of Hastings

On 12 September 1066 William's fleet sailed from Normandy. Several ships sank in storms, which forced the fleet to take shelter at
Saint-Valery-sur-Somme Saint-Valery-sur-Somme (, literally ''Saint-Valery on Somme''), commune A commune is an intentional community of people sharing living spaces, interests, values, beliefs, and often property Property (''latin: Res Privata'') in the Abs ...

Saint-Valery-sur-Somme
and to wait for the wind to change. On 27 September the Norman fleet set sail for England, arriving the following day at
Pevensey Pevensey ( ) is a village and civil parish in the Wealden district of East Sussex East Sussex is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (ed.), 20 ...
on the coast of East Sussex. Harold's army marched 241 miles (386 kilometres) to intercept William, who had landed perhaps 7,000 men in
Sussex Sussex (), from the Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, e ...

Sussex
, southern England. Harold established his army in hastily built
earthworks Earthworks may refer to: Construction *Earthworks (archaeology), human-made constructions that modify the land contour *Earthworks (engineering), civil engineering works created by moving or processing quantities of soil *Earthworks (military), mil ...
near
Hastings Hastings () is a seaside town A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages and smaller than city, cities, though the criteria to distinguish between them vary considerably in different parts of the world. Origi ...

Hastings
. The two armies clashed at the Battle of Hastings, at
Senlac Hill Senlac Hill (or Senlac Ridge) is the generally accepted location in which Harold Godwinson deployed his army for the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066. It is located near what is now the town of Battle, East Sussex. The name ''Senlac'' was p ...
(near the present town of
Battle A battle is an occurrence of combat in warfare between opposing military units of any number or size. A war usually consists of multiple battles. In general, a battle is a military engagement that is well defined in duration, area, and force ...
) close by Hastings on 14 October, where after nine hours of hard fighting, Harold was killed and his forces defeated. His brothers
Gyrth Gyrth Godwinson (Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a ...
and Leofwine were also killed in the battle, according to the ''Anglo-Saxon Chronicle''.


Death

The notion that Harold died by an arrow to the eye is a popular belief today, but this historical legend is subject to much scholarly debate. A Norman account of the battle, ''
Carmen de Hastingae Proelio The ''Carmen de Hastingae Proelio'' (''Song of the Battle of Hastings'') is a 20th century name for the ''Carmen Widonis'', the earliest history of the Norman invasion The Norman Conquest (or the Conquest) was the 11th-century invasion and o ...
'' ("Song of the Battle of Hastings"), said to have been written shortly after the battle by Guy, Bishop of Amiens, says that Harold was killed by four knights, probably including Duke William, and his body dismembered. Twelfth-century Anglo-Norman histories, such as
William of Malmesbury William of Malmesbury ( la, Willelmus Malmesbiriensis; ) was the foremost English historian of the 12th century. He has been ranked among the most talented English historians since Bede Bede ( ; ang, Bǣda , ; 672/326 May 735), also kno ...
's ''Gesta Regum Anglorum'' and
Henry of Huntingdon Henry of Huntingdon ( la, Henricus Huntindoniensis; 1088 – AD 1157), the son of a canon Canon or Canons may refer to: Places * Canon, Georgia Canon is a city in Franklin County, Georgia, Franklin and Hart County, Georgia, Hart counties in t ...
's ''Historia Anglorum'' recount that Harold died by an arrow wound to his head. An earlier source,
Amatus of Montecassino Amatus of Montecassino ( la, Amatus Casinensis), (11th century) was a Benedictine The Benedictines, officially the Order of Saint Benedict ( la, Ordo Sancti Benedicti, abbreviated as OSB), are a Christian monasticism, monastic Religious order ...
's ''L'Ystoire de li Normant'' ("History of the Normans"), written only twenty years after the battle of Hastings, contains a report of Harold being shot in the eye with an arrow, but this may be an early fourteenth-century addition. Later accounts reflect one or both of these two versions. A figure in the panel of the
Bayeux Tapestry The Bayeux Tapestry (, ; french: Tapisserie de Bayeux or ; la, Tapete Baiocense) is an embroidered Embroidery is the craft of decorating fabric or other materials using a needle to apply thread or yarn. Embroidery may also incorporate o ...
with the inscription "Hic Harold Rex Interfectus Est" ("Here King Harold is killed") is depicted gripping an arrow that has struck his eye, but some historians have questioned whether this man is intended to be Harold or if Harold is intended as the next figure lying to the right almost supine, being mutilated beneath a horse's hooves. Etchings made of the Tapestry in the 1730s show the standing figure with differing objects. Benoît's 1729 sketch shows only a dotted line indicating stitch marks without any indication of fletching, whereas all other arrows in the Tapestry are fletched. Bernard de Montfaucon's 1730 engraving has a solid line resembling a spear being held overhand matching the manner of the figure to the left. Stothard's 1819 water-colour drawing has, for the first time, a fletched arrow in the figure's eye. Although not apparent in the earlier depictions, the Tapestry today has stitch marks indicating the fallen figure once had an arrow in its eye. It has been proposed that the second figure once had an arrow added by over-enthusiastic nineteenth-century restorers that was later unstitched. Many believe this, as the name "Harold" is above the figure with an arrow in his eye. This has been disputed by examining other examples from the Tapestry where the visual centre of a scene, not the location of the inscription, identifies named figures. Further evidence is that an arrow volley would be loosed before the Norman cavalry charge. A further suggestion is that both accounts are accurate, and that Harold suffered first the eye wound, then the mutilation, and the Tapestry is depicting both in sequence.


Burial and legacy

The account of the contemporary chronicler
William of Poitiers William of Poitiers ( 10201090) (LA: Guillelmus Pictaviensis; FR: Guillaume de Poitiers) was a Frankish Frankish may refer to: * Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (fro ...
states that the body of Harold was given to William Malet for burial: Another source states that Harold's widow, Edith Swannesha, was called to identify the body, which she did by some private mark known only to her. Harold's strong association with
Bosham Bosham is a coastal village and civil parishes in England, civil parish in the Chichester (district), Chichester District of West Sussex, England, centred about west of Chichester with its nucleated village, clustered developed part west of thi ...
, his birthplace, and the discovery in 1954 of an Anglo-Saxon coffin in the church there, has led some to suggest it as the place of King Harold's burial. A request to exhume a grave in Bosham Church was refused by the
Diocese of Chichester The Diocese of Chichester is a Church of England diocese In Ecclesiastical polity, church governance, a diocese or bishopric is the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop. History In the later organization of the R ...
in December 2003, the Chancellor having ruled that the chances of establishing the identity of the body as Harold's were too slim to justify disturbing a burial place. A prior exhumation had revealed the remains of a man, estimated at up to 60 years of age from photographs of the remains, lacking a head, one leg and the lower part of his other leg, a description consistent with the fate of the king as recorded in the Carmen. The poem also claims Harold was buried by the sea, which is consistent with William of Poitiers' account and with the identification of the grave at Bosham Church that is only yards from
Chichester Harbour Chichester Harbour is a biological and geological Site of Special Scientific Interest A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Great Britain or an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) in the Isle of Man and Northern Irelan ...
and in sight of the
English Channel The English Channel,, "The Sleeve"; nrf, la Maunche, "The Sleeve" (Cotentinais Cotentinais is the dialect The term dialect (from Latin , , from the Ancient Greek word , , "discourse", from , , "through" and , , "I speak") is used in two ...

English Channel
.The Debate concerning the remains found in Bosham Church
''Bosham Online Magazine'' 25 November 2003 Updated to include the Chancellor's ruling of 10 December 2003 There were legends of Harold's body being given a proper funeral years later in his church at
Waltham Holy Cross Waltham Abbey is a Civil parishes in England, civil parish in Epping Forest District in Essex, England. Located approximately north-northeast of central London and adjacent to the Greater London boundary, it is a partly urbanised parish with larg ...
in
Essex Essex () is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers (publisher), William and Ro ...

Essex
, which he had refounded in 1060. Legends also grew up that Harold had not died at Hastings but instead fled England or that he later ended his life as a hermit at Chester or Canterbury.Walker ''Harold'' pp. 181–182 Harold's son Ulf, along with
Morcar Morcar (or Morkere) ( ang, Mōrcǣr) (died after 1087) was the son of Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia, Ælfgār (earl of Mercia) and brother of Edwin, Earl of Mercia, Ēadwine. He was the earl of Northumbria from 1065 to 1066, when he was replaced by Wil ...
and two others, were released from prison by King William as he lay dying in 1087. Ulf threw his lot in with
Robert Curthose Robert Curthose ( – 3 February 1134), sometimes called Robert II, was the eldest son of William the Conqueror William I (c. 1028Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 33 – 9 September 1087), usually known as William the Conqueror ...
, who knighted him, and then disappeared from history. Two of Harold's other sons, Godwine and Edmund, invaded England in 1068 and 1069 with the aid of Diarmait mac Máel na mBó (
High King of Ireland The High Kings of Ireland ( ga, Ardrí na hÉireann ) were sometimes historical and sometimes legendary figures who had, or who are claimed to have had, lordship over the whole of the island of Ireland. Medieval and early modern Irish litera ...
). In 1068 Diarmait presented another Irish king with Harold's battle standard.


Marriages and children

For some twenty years Harold was married ''
more danico The phrase ''more danico'' is a Medieval Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...
'' (Latin: "in the Danish manner") to
Edyth Swannesha Edith the Fair ( ang, Ealdgȳð Swann hnesce, "Edyth the Gentle Swan"; c. 1025 – c. 1066), also known as Edith Swanneck,Her first name is also spelled Ealdgyth, Aldgyth, ''Edeva'' or Eddeva, and sometimes appears as ''Ēadgȳð'' and ''Ēadgifu ...
and had at least six children with her. She was considered Harold's mistress by the clergy. According to
Orderic Vitalis Orderic Vitalis ( la, Ordericus Vitalis; 16 February 1075 – ) was an Historians in England during the Middle Ages, English chronicler and Benedictine monk who wrote one of the great contemporary chronicles of 11th- and 12th-century Norman ...
, Harold was at some time
betrothed An engagement or betrothal is the period of time between a marriage proposal and the marriage itself (which is typically but not always commenced with a wedding). During this period, a couple is said to be ''fiancés'' (from wikt:fiancé#French ...
to
Adeliza Adeliza or Adelida (died before 1113) was a daughter of William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders. There is considerable uncertainty about her life, including her dates of birth and death. In a mortuary roll prepared at her siste ...
, a daughter of William the Conqueror; if so, the betrothal never led to marriage. About January 1066, Harold married Edith (or Ealdgyth), daughter of
Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia Ælfgar (died ) was the son of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, by his famous mother Godgifu (Lady Godiva). He succeeded to his father's title and responsibilities on the latter's death in 1057. He gained the additional title of Earl of East Anglia, but a ...
, and widow of the Welsh prince
Gruffydd ap Llywelyn Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (  5 August 1063) was the King of Wales and had repeatedly defeated the English forces. He was the son of King Llywelyn ap Seisyll Llywelyn ap Seisyll (died 1023) was an 11th-century King of Gwynedd, Powys and Deheubarth. ...
. Edith had one son, named Harold, probably born posthumously. Another of Harold's sons, Ulf, son of Harold Godwinson, Ulf, may have been a twin of the younger Harold, though most historians consider him a son of Edyth Swannesha. Both these sons survived into adulthood and probably lived out their lives in exile. After her husband's death, Edith fled for refuge to her brothers, Edwin, Earl of Mercia and
Morcar Morcar (or Morkere) ( ang, Mōrcǣr) (died after 1087) was the son of Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia, Ælfgār (earl of Mercia) and brother of Edwin, Earl of Mercia, Ēadwine. He was the earl of Northumbria from 1065 to 1066, when he was replaced by Wil ...
of Northumbria, but both men made their peace with King William initially before rebelling and losing their lands and lives. Edith may have fled abroad (possibly with Harold's mother, Gytha, or with Harold's daughter, Gytha). Harold's sons, Godwin and Edmund, fled to Ireland and then invaded Devon, but were defeated by Brian of Brittany.


Family tree


References


Notes


Citations


Sources

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * William of Poitiers, ''Gesta Guillelmi II Ducis Normannorum'', or "The Deeds of William II, Duke of the Normans". Quoted by David C. Douglas & George W. Greenaway (eds.), in: ''English Historical Documents 1042–1189'', London, 1959.


Further reading

*


External links

*
BBC Historic Figures: Harold II (Godwineson) (c. 1020–1066)
* , - , - {{DEFAULTSORT:Harold Godwinson 1020s births 1066 deaths Year of birth uncertain 11th-century English monarchs Anglo-Norse monarchs Anglo-Saxon people Anglo-Saxon warriors Anglo-Saxons killed in battle Deaths by arrow wounds Earls of East Anglia Earls of Herefordshire Earls of Wessex English people of Danish descent English Roman Catholics House of Godwin Monarchs killed in action Monarchs of England before 1066 Norman conquest of England People from Bosham