Harold Godwinson
Overview
 
Harold Godwinson (c. 1022 – 14 October 1066) was the last Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 King of England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

.It could be argued that Edgar the Atheling, who was proclaimed as king by the witan but never crowned, was really the last Anglo-Saxon king. Harold reigned from 6 January 1066 until his death at the Battle of Hastings
Battle of Hastings
The Battle of Hastings occurred on 14 October 1066 during the Norman conquest of England, between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy and the English army under King Harold II...

 on 14 October of that same year, fighting the Norman
Normans
The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

 invaders led by William the Conqueror
William I of England
William I , also known as William the Conqueror , was the first Norman King of England from Christmas 1066 until his death. He was also Duke of Normandy from 3 July 1035 until his death, under the name William II...

 during the Norman conquest of England
Norman conquest of England
The Norman conquest of England began on 28 September 1066 with the invasion of England by William, Duke of Normandy. William became known as William the Conqueror after his victory at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066, defeating King Harold II of England...

.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Harold Godwinson (c. 1022 – 14 October 1066) was the last Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 King of England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

.It could be argued that Edgar the Atheling, who was proclaimed as king by the witan but never crowned, was really the last Anglo-Saxon king. Harold reigned from 6 January 1066 until his death at the Battle of Hastings
Battle of Hastings
The Battle of Hastings occurred on 14 October 1066 during the Norman conquest of England, between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy and the English army under King Harold II...

 on 14 October of that same year, fighting the Norman
Normans
The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

 invaders led by William the Conqueror
William I of England
William I , also known as William the Conqueror , was the first Norman King of England from Christmas 1066 until his death. He was also Duke of Normandy from 3 July 1035 until his death, under the name William II...

 during the Norman conquest of England
Norman conquest of England
The Norman conquest of England began on 28 September 1066 with the invasion of England by William, Duke of Normandy. William became known as William the Conqueror after his victory at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066, defeating King Harold II of England...

. Harold is the first of only three Kings of England to have died in warfare; the other two were Richard I
Richard I of England
Richard I was King of England from 6 July 1189 until his death. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Count of Nantes, and Overlord of Brittany at various times during the same period...

 and Richard III
Richard III of England
Richard III was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty...

.

Family background

Harold was a son of Godwin
Godwin, Earl of Wessex
Godwin of Wessex , was one of the most powerful lords in England under the Danish king Cnut the Great and his successors. Cnut made him the first Earl of Wessex...

, the powerful Earl of Wessex
Earl of Wessex
The title Earl of Wessex has been created twice in British history, once in the pre-Conquest Anglo-Saxon nobility of England and once in the Peerage of the United Kingdom...

, and his wife Gytha Thorkelsdóttir
Gytha Thorkelsdóttir
Gytha Thorkelsdottir , also called Githa, was the daughter of Thorgil Sprakling . She married the Anglo-Saxon nobleman Godwin of Wessex....

, whose supposed brother Ulf Jarl
Ulf Jarl
Ulf was a Danish earl, in Scandinavia known as a jarl. As a Viking chieftain he participated in Cnut the Great's conquest of England as one of his most trusted men. He married Cnut's sister Estrid Svendsdatter and from c. 1024 he was his appointee as regent of Denmark, probably as the guardian of...

 was the son-in-law of Sweyn I and the father of Sweyn II of Denmark
Sweyn II of Denmark
Sweyn II Estridsson Ulfsson was the King of Denmark from 1047 to 1074. He was the son of Ulf Jarl and Estrid Svendsdatter. He was married three times, and fathered 20 children or more, including the five future kings Harald III Hen, Canute IV the Saint, Oluf I Hunger, Eric I Evergood and Niels...

.

Godwin and Gytha had several children, notably sons Sweyn
Sweyn Godwinson
Sweyn Godwinson , also spelled Swein, was the eldest son of Earl Godwin of Wessex, and brother of Harold II of England.- Early life :...

, Harold, Tostig
Tostig Godwinson
Tostig Godwinson was an Anglo-Saxon Earl of Northumbria and brother of King Harold Godwinson, the last crowned english King of England.-Early life:...

, Gyrth
Gyrth Godwinson
Gyrth Godwinson was the fourth son of Earl Godwin, and thus a younger brother of Harold II of England. He went with his eldest brother Swegen into exile to Flanders in 1051, but unlike Swegen he was able to return with the rest of the clan the following year...

 and Leofwine
Leofwine Godwinson
Leofwine Godwinson was a younger brother of Harold II of England, the fifth son of Earl Godwin.When the Godwin family was exiled from England in 1051 he went with Harold to Ireland...

 and a daughter, Edith of Wessex
Edith of Wessex
Edith of Wessex married King Edward the Confessor of England on 23 January 1045. Unlike most wives of kings of England in the tenth and eleventh centuries, she was crowned queen, but the marriage produced no children...

 (1029–1075), who became Queen consort
Queen consort
A queen consort is the wife of a reigning king. A queen consort usually shares her husband's rank and holds the feminine equivalent of the king's monarchical titles. Historically, queens consort do not share the king regnant's political and military powers. Most queens in history were queens consort...

 of Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor also known as St. Edward the Confessor , son of Æthelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, was one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England and is usually regarded as the last king of the House of Wessex, ruling from 1042 to 1066....

.

Powerful nobleman

As a result of his sister's marriage to the king, Godwin's second son, Harold, became Earl of East Anglia in 1045. Harold accompanied his father into exile in 1051, but helped him to regain his position a year later. When Godwin died in 1053, Harold succeeded him as Earl of Wessex
Earl of Wessex
The title Earl of Wessex has been created twice in British history, once in the pre-Conquest Anglo-Saxon nobility of England and once in the Peerage of the United Kingdom...

 (a province at that time covering the southernmost third of England). This arguably made him the most powerful figure in England after the king.

In 1058, Harold also became Earl of Hereford
Earl of Hereford
The title of Earl of Hereford was created six times in the Peerage of England. See also Duke of Hereford, Viscount Hereford. Dates indicate the years the person held the title for.-Earls of Hereford, First Creation :*Swegen Godwinson...

, and replaced his late father as the focus of opposition to growing Norman
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

 influence in England under the restored monarchy (1042–66) of Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor also known as St. Edward the Confessor , son of Æthelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, was one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England and is usually regarded as the last king of the House of Wessex, ruling from 1042 to 1066....

, who had spent over twenty-five years in exile in Normandy. He gained glory in a series of campaigns (1062–63) against Gruffydd ap Llywelyn
Gruffydd ap Llywelyn
Gruffydd ap Llywelyn was the ruler of all Wales from 1055 until his death, the only Welsh monarch able to make this boast...

 of Gwynedd
Kingdom of Gwynedd
Gwynedd was one petty kingdom of several Welsh successor states which emerged in 5th-century post-Roman Britain in the Early Middle Ages, and later evolved into a principality during the High Middle Ages. It was based on the former Brythonic tribal lands of the Ordovices, Gangani, and the...

, the ruler of Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

. This conflict ended with Gruffydd's defeat, and death at the hands of his own troops, in 1063.
In 1064, Harold was apparently shipwrecked in Ponthieu
Ponthieu
Ponthieu was one of six feudal counties that eventually merged together to become part of the Province of Picardy, in northern France. Its chief town is Abbeville.- History :...

. There is much speculation about this voyage. The earliest post-conquest Norman chroniclers report that at some prior time, Robert, Archbishop of Canterbury had been sent by the childless king to appoint as his heir Edward's maternal kinsman, William of Normandy, and that at this later date Harold was sent to swear fealty
Fealty
An oath of fealty, from the Latin fidelitas , is a pledge of allegiance of one person to another. Typically the oath is made upon a religious object such as a Bible or saint's relic, often contained within an altar, thus binding the oath-taker before God.In medieval Europe, fealty was sworn between...

. 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 sitting monarch. Instead the Witenagemot
Witenagemot
The Witenagemot , also known as the Witan was a political institution in Anglo-Saxon England which operated from before the 7th century until the 11th century.The Witenagemot was an assembly of the ruling class whose primary function was to advise the king and whose membership was...

, 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
Edward the Exile , also called Edward Ætheling, son of King Edmund Ironside and of Ealdgyth. After the Danish conquest of England in 1016 Canute had him and his brother, Edmund, exiled to the Continent...

, son of king Edmund Ironside
Edmund Ironside
Edmund Ironside or Edmund II was king of England from 23 April to 30 November 1016. His cognomen "Ironside" is not recorded until 1057, but may have been contemporary. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, it was given to him "because of his valour" in resisting the Danish invasion led by Cnut...

, from Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 in 1057.Edward may not have been blameless in this situation, as at least one other man, Sweyn II of Denmark, also thought Edward had promised him the succession. Howarth, 1066: The Year of the Conquest, pp. 69-70. 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, and was blown off course, landing on the coast of Ponthieu. He was captured by Count Guy I of Ponthieu
Guy I of Ponthieu
Guy I of Ponthieu was born sometime in the mid to late 1020s. He was the son of Count Enguerrand II and the grandson of Hugh II.-Caught between William of Normandy and Henry I of France:...

, and was then taken hostage to the count's castle at Beaurain
Beaurainville
Beaurainville is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:Beaurainville is a small town situated some 6 miles southeast of Montreuil-sur-Mer, on the D130 road and on the banks of the river Canche.-History:In 1064, two years before the Battle...

, 24 1/2 km up the River Canche
Canche
The river Canche is one of the rivers that flow from the plateau of the southern Boulonnais and Picardy, into the English Channel. The Somme is the largest example. The basin of the Canche extends to 1,274 square kilometres and lies in the southern end of the département of Pas-de-Calais...

 from where it meets the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 at what is now Le Touquet. Duke William arrived soon after and ordered Guy to turn Harold over to him.
Harold then apparently accompanied William to battle against William's enemy, Conan II, Duke of Brittany
Conan II, Duke of Brittany
Conan II of Rennes was Duke of Brittany, from 1040 to his death. Conan was the eldest child and heir of Alan III, Duke of Brittany by his wife Berthe de Blois, and member of the House of Rennes...

. While crossing into Brittany
Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

 past the fortified abbey of Mont St Michel, Harold is recorded as rescuing two of William's soldiers from the quicksand
Quicksand
Quicksand is a colloid hydrogel consisting of fine granular matter , clay, and water.Water circulation underground can focus in an area with the optimal mixture of fine sands and other materials such as clay. The water moves up and then down slowly in a convection-like manner throughout a column...

. They pursued Conan from Dol de Bretagne to Rennes
Rennes
Rennes is a city in the east of Brittany in northwestern France. Rennes is the capital of the region of Brittany, as well as the Ille-et-Vilaine department.-History:...

, and finally to Dinan
Dinan
Dinan is a walled Breton town and a commune in the Côtes-d'Armor department in northwestern France.-Geography:Its geographical setting is exceptional. Instead of nestling on the valley floor like Morlaix, most urban development has been on the hillside, overlooking the river Rance...

, where he surrendered the fortress's keys on the point of a lance. William presented Harold with weapons and arms, knighting him. The Bayeux Tapestry, 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 Harold's death, the Normans were quick to point out that in accepting the crown of England, Harold had perjured himself of this alleged oath.

The chronicler Orderic Vitalis
Orderic Vitalis
Orderic Vitalis was an English chronicler of Norman ancestry who wrote one of the great contemporary chronicles of 11th and 12th century Normandy and Anglo-Norman England. The modern biographer of Henry I of England, C...

 wrote: "This Englishman was very tall and handsome, remarkable for his physical strength, his courage and eloquence, his ready jests and acts of valour. But what were these gifts to him without honour, which is the root of all good?".

Due to an unjust doubling of taxation instituted by Tostig in 1065 that threatened to plunge England into civil war, Harold supported Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

n rebels against his brother, Tostig
Tostig Godwinson
Tostig Godwinson was an Anglo-Saxon Earl of Northumbria and brother of King Harold Godwinson, the last crowned english King of England.-Early life:...

, and replaced him with Morcar. This strengthened his acceptability as Edward's successor, but fatally divided his own family, driving Tostig into alliance with King Harald Hardrada ("Hard Ruler") of Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

.

Marriages and children

For some twenty years Harold was married More danico
More danico
The phrase more danico is a Mediaeval Latin legalistic expression which may be translated as "in the Danish manner" or "by Norse customary law". It designates a type of traditional Germanic marriage practiced in northern Europe during the Middle Ages....

(Latin: "in the Danish manner") to Edith Swannesha and had at least six children by her. The marriage was widely accepted by the laity, although Edith was considered Harold's mistress by the clergy.At this time there were a range of spousal relationships, from outright concubinage to fully recognized, church-sanctioned marriages. There are no contemporary sources for Harold's marriages, just the writings of later Norman chroniclers, who had a more church-centered view, and also had motivation to diminish the status of Harold's children. Consequently, the exact status of the relationship between King Harold and Edith the Fair is unclear. Their children were not treated as illegitimate..

According to Orderic Vitalis
Orderic Vitalis
Orderic Vitalis was an English chronicler of Norman ancestry who wrote one of the great contemporary chronicles of 11th and 12th century Normandy and Anglo-Norman England. The modern biographer of Henry I of England, C...

, Harold was at some time betrothed to Adeliza
Adeliza
Adeliza was the daughter of William I of England. There is considerable uncertainty about her life, including dates of birth and death.-Biography:...

, a daughter of William, Duke of Normandy
Duke of Normandy
The Duke of Normandy is the title of the reigning monarch of the British Crown Dependancies of the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey. The title traces its roots to the Duchy of Normandy . Whether the reigning sovereign is a male or female, they are always titled as the "Duke of...

, later William the Conqueror; if so, the betrothal never led to marriage.

About January 1066, Harold married Edith (or Ealdgyth)
Edith of Mercia
Ealdgyth , also Aldgyth or anglicized, Edith, was a daughter of Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia, the wife of Gruffudd ap Llywelyn Ealdgyth (fl. c. 1057–1066), also Aldgyth or anglicized, Edith, was a daughter of Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia, the wife of Gruffudd ap Llywelyn Ealdgyth (fl. c. 1057–1066), also...

, daughter of Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia
Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia
Ælfgar was son of Leofric, Earl of Mercia,by his well-known wife Godgifu . He succeeded to his father's title and responsibilities on the latter's death in 1057....

, and widow of the Welsh prince Gruffydd ap Llywelyn
Gruffydd ap Llywelyn
Gruffydd ap Llywelyn was the ruler of all Wales from 1055 until his death, the only Welsh monarch able to make this boast...

 an enemy of the English. Edith had two sons—possibly twins—named Harold and Ulf (born c. November 1066), both of whom survived into adulthood and probably lived out their lives in exile.

After her husband's death, the queen is said to have fled for refuge to her brothers Edwin, Earl of Mercia
Edwin, Earl of Mercia
Edwin was the elder brother of Morcar, Earl of Northumbria, son of Ælfgār, Earl of Mercia and grandson of Leofric, Earl of Mercia. He succeeded to his father's title and responsibilities on Ælfgār's death in 1062...

 and Morcar of Northumbria
Morcar of Northumbria
Morcar was the son of Ælfgār and brother of Ēadwine. He was himself the earl of Northumbria from 1065 to 1066, when he was replaced by William the Conqueror with Copsi....

 but both men made their peace with the Conqueror initially before rebelling and losing their lands and lives. Aldith may have fled abroad (possibly with Harold's mother, Gytha, or with Harold's daughter, Gytha). Harold's sons Godwine and Edmund fled to Ireland and then invaded Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

 but were defeated by Brian of Brittany
Brian of Brittany
Brian of Brittany in English, or Brien de Bretagne in French, was a Breton noble who fought for William I of England. He was born in about 1042, the second son of Odo, Count of Penthièvre...

.At midsummer
Midsummer
Midsummer may simply refer to the period of time centered upon the summer solstice, but more often refers to specific European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice, or that take place on a day between June 21 and June 24, and the preceding evening. The exact dates vary between different...

 in 1069, Brian and Alan the Black led a force that defeated a raid by Godwine and Edmund, sons of Harold Godwinson, who had sailed from Ireland with a fleet of 64 ships to the mouth of the River Taw
River Taw
The River Taw rises at Taw Head, a spring on the central northern flanks of Dartmoor. It reaches the Bristol Channel away on the north coast of Devon at a joint estuary mouth which it shares with the River Torridge.-Watercourse:...

 in Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

. They had escaped to Leinster after the Battle of Hastings
Battle of Hastings
The Battle of Hastings occurred on 14 October 1066 during the Norman conquest of England, between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy and the English army under King Harold II...

 in 1066 where they were hosted by Diarmait
Diarmait mac Mail na mBo
Diarmait mac Maíl na mBó was King of Leinster, and also High King of Ireland .He was one of the most important and significant Kings in Ireland in the pre-Norman era...

. In 1068 and 1069 Diarmait lent them the fleet of Dublin for their attempted invasions of England.

Family tree

Reign as king

At the end of 1065, King Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor also known as St. Edward the Confessor , son of Æthelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, was one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England and is usually regarded as the last king of the House of Wessex, ruling from 1042 to 1066....

 ailed and fell into a coma without clarifying his preference for the succession. On 5 January 1066, according to the Vita Ædwardi Regis, he died, but not before briefly regaining consciousness and commending his widow and the kingdom to Harold's "protection". The intent of this charge is ambiguous, as is the Bayeux Tapestry
Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth—not an actual tapestry—nearly long, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings...

, which simply depicts Edward pointing at a man thought to represent Harold.Frank Barlow points out that the author of the Vita, who appears to have looked favorably on Harold, was writing after the Conquest and may have been intentionally vague. Frank Barlow, Edward the Confessor, University of California Press: Los Angeles, 1970, p. 251. When the Witenagemot
Witenagemot
The Witenagemot , also known as the Witan was a political institution in Anglo-Saxon England which operated from before the 7th century until the 11th century.The Witenagemot was an assembly of the ruling class whose primary function was to advise the king and whose membership was...

 convened the next day, they selected Harold to succeed,This was in preference to Edward's great-nephew, Edgar Ætheling
Edgar Ætheling
Edgar Ætheling , or Edgar II, was the last male member of the royal house of Cerdic of Wessex...

, who had yet to reach maturity.
and his coronation followed on 6 January, most likely held in Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

, however there is no surviving evidence from the time to confirm this. Although later Norman sources point to the suddenness of this coronation, it is possible that it took place because all the nobles of the land were present at Westminster for the feast of Epiphany, and not because of any usurpation of the throne on Harold's part.

In early January of 1066, hearing that Harold had been crowned King, Duke William II of Normandy
William I of England
William I , also known as William the Conqueror , was the first Norman King of England from Christmas 1066 until his death. He was also Duke of Normandy from 3 July 1035 until his death, under the name William II...

 began plans to invade by building 700 warships and transports at Dives-sur-Mer
Dives-sur-Mer
-Transport:Dives-sur-Mer is on the line from Deauville to Dives-sur-Mer. The station is open, train services operate year round at weekends as well as on week days during the summer season. Dives is also on line #20 of the Calvados bus company Bus Verts du Calvados....

 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 in Ponthieu
Ponthieu
Ponthieu was one of six feudal counties that eventually merged together to become part of the Province of Picardy, in northern France. Its chief town is Abbeville.- History :...

, William was given the Church's blessing and nobles flocked to his cause. In anticipation of the invasion, Harold assembled his troops on the Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is a county and the largest island of England, located in the English Channel, on average about 2–4 miles off the south coast of the county of Hampshire, separated from the mainland by a strait called the Solent...

 but, claiming unfavourable winds, the invasion fleet remained in port for almost seven months. On 8 September with provisions running out Harold disbanded the army and he returned to London. On the same day Harald Hardrada of Norway, who also claimed the English crownHis claim came through a succession pact concluded between Harthacnut, king of England and Denmark, and Magnus I of Norway
Magnus I of Norway
Magnus I , known as the Good or the Noble, was the King of Norway from 1035 to 1047 and the King of Denmark from 1042 to 1047. He was an illegitimate son of king Olaf II of Norway, but fled with his mother in 1028 when his father was dethroned. In 1035 he returned to Norway and was crowned king at...

, whereby the kingdoms of the first to die were to pass to the survivor. Magnus had thus gained Denmark on Harthacnut's death but had not pursued the other crown. Hardrada, uncle and heir of Magnus, now claimed England on this basis.
joined Tostig and invaded, landing his fleet at the mouth of the Tyne
River Tyne
The River Tyne is a river in North East England in Great Britain. It is formed by the confluence of two rivers: the North Tyne and the South Tyne. These two rivers converge at Warden Rock near Hexham in Northumberland at a place dubbed 'The Meeting of the Waters'.The North Tyne rises on the...

.

Invading what is now Yorkshire
Yorkshire
Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform...

, Harald Hardrada and Tostig defeated the English earls Edwin
Edwin, Earl of Mercia
Edwin was the elder brother of Morcar, Earl of Northumbria, son of Ælfgār, Earl of Mercia and grandson of Leofric, Earl of Mercia. He succeeded to his father's title and responsibilities on Ælfgār's death in 1062...

 of Mercia
Mercia
Mercia was one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. It was centred on the valley of the River Trent and its tributaries in the region now known as the English Midlands...

 and Morcar of Northumbria at the Battle of Fulford
Battle of Fulford
The Battle of Fulford took place at the village of Fulford, near York in England on 20 September 1066, when King Harald III of Norway - also known as Harald Hardrada and Tostig Godwinson, his English ally, fought and defeated the Northern Earls Edwin and Morcar. Tostig was Harold Godwinson's...

 near York
York
York is a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence...

 on 20 September. They were in turn defeated and slain by Harold's army five days later at the Battle of Stamford Bridge
Battle of Stamford Bridge
The Battle of Stamford Bridge took place at the village of Stamford Bridge, East Riding of Yorkshire in England on 25 September 1066, between an English army under King Harold Godwinson and an invading Norwegian force led by King Harald Hardrada of Norway and the English king's brother Tostig...

, Harold having led his army north on a forced march from London in four days and caught them by surprise. According to Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson was an Icelandic historian, poet, and politician. He was twice elected lawspeaker at the Icelandic parliament, the Althing...

, before the battle a man bravely rode up to Harald Hardrada and Tostig and offered Tostig his earldom if he would but turn on Harald Hardrada. When Tostig asked what his brother Harold would be willing to give Harald Hardrada for his trouble, the rider replied that he would be given seven feet of ground as he was taller than other men. Harald Hardrada was impressed with the rider and asked Tostig his name, Tostig replied that the rider was none other than Harold Godwinson. According to Henry of Huntingdon
Henry of Huntingdon
Henry of Huntingdon , the son of a canon in the diocese of Lincoln, was a 12th century English historian, the author of a history of England, Historia anglorum, "the most important Anglo-Norman historian to emerge from the secular clergy". He served as archdeacon of Huntingdon...

, "Six feet of ground or as much more as he needs, as he is taller than most men," was Harold's response. It is, however, unknown whether this conversation ever took place.

Battle of Hastings

On 12 September William's fleet sailed.Historians do not accept that from January to September the wind was never favourable for an invasion as William claimed. It is generally believed he knew of Harald Hardrada's plans and waited for Harold Godwinson to be weakened or engaged with fighting in the north before he proceeded with his own plans. Several ships sank in storms and the fleet was forced to take shelter at Saint-Valery-sur-Somme
Saint-Valery-sur-Somme
Saint-Valery-sur-Somme is a commune in the Somme department. The village is a popular tourist destination because of its medieval character and ramparts, Gothic church and long waterside boardwalk.-Geography:...

 and wait for the wind to change. On 27 September the Norman fleet finally set sail for England arriving it is believed the following day at Pevensey
Pevensey
Pevensey is a village and civil parish in the Wealden district of East Sussex, England. The main village is located 5 miles north-east of Eastbourne, one mile inland from Pevensey Bay. The settlement of Pevensey Bay forms part of the parish.-Geography:The village of Pevensey is located on...

 on the coast of East Sussex. Harold now again forced his army to march 241 miles (386 kilometres) to intercept William, who had landed perhaps 7000 men in Sussex, southern England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. Harold established his army in hastily built earthworks
Earthworks (engineering)
Earthworks are engineering works created through the moving or processing of quantities of soil or unformed rock.- Civil engineering use :Typical earthworks include roads, railway beds, causeways, dams, levees, canals, and berms...

 near Hastings
Hastings
Hastings is a town and borough in the county of East Sussex on the south coast of England. The town is located east of the county town of Lewes and south east of London, and has an estimated population of 86,900....

. The two armies clashed at the Battle of Hastings
Battle of Hastings
The Battle of Hastings occurred on 14 October 1066 during the Norman conquest of England, between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy and the English army under King Harold II...

, at Senlac Hill (near the present town of Battle
Battle, East Sussex
Battle is a small town and civil parish in the local government district of Rother in East Sussex, England. It lies south southeast of London, east of Brighton and east of the county town of Lewes...

) close by Hastings
Hastings
Hastings is a town and borough in the county of East Sussex on the south coast of England. The town is located east of the county town of Lewes and south east of London, and has an estimated population of 86,900....

 on 14 October, where after nine hours of hard fighting and probably less than 30 minutes from victory Harold was killed and his forces routed.Battles of the time rarely lasted more than two hours before the weaker side capitulated, nine hours indicates the determination of William. William's forces had already recovered from a near rout after reports he had been killed but William raised his visor to prove he was alive and his men rallied. Battles were also not fought at night and as Harold would receive fresh reinforcements in the morning he was more or less assured of victory. Harold was killed shortly before sunset. His brothers Gyrth
Gyrth Godwinson
Gyrth Godwinson was the fourth son of Earl Godwin, and thus a younger brother of Harold II of England. He went with his eldest brother Swegen into exile to Flanders in 1051, but unlike Swegen he was able to return with the rest of the clan the following year...

 and Leofwine
Leofwine Godwinson
Leofwine Godwinson was a younger brother of Harold II of England, the fifth son of Earl Godwin.When the Godwin family was exiled from England in 1051 he went with Harold to Ireland...

 were also killed in the battle.

Death

The account of the battle Carmen de Hastingae Proelio ("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 brutally dismembered. Amatus of Montecassino
Amatus of Montecassino
Amatus of Montecassino , a Benedictine monk at the Abbey of Montecassino is one of three Italo-Norman chroniclers, the others being William of Apulia and Goffredo Malaterra...

's L'Ystoire de li Normant ("History of the Normans"), written thirty years after the battle of Hastings, is the first report of Harold being shot in the eye with an arrow. Later accounts reflect one or both of these two versions. A figure in the panel of the Bayeux Tapestry
Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth—not an actual tapestry—nearly long, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings...

 with the inscription "Harold Rex Interfectus Est" (Harold the King 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 prone, 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 (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-color 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. 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

The account of the contemporary chronicler William of Poitiers
William of Poitiers
William of Poitiers was a Norman chronicler most famous for his eulogistic account of Duke William of Normandy , called the Gesta Guillelmi II ducis Normannorum.-Life:...

, states that the body of Harold was given to William Malet
William Malet
William Malet may refer to:* William Malet , Norman lord who fought in the Battle of Hastings* William Malet , Norman lord who forfeited his English lands and was banished from England...

 for burial:

"The two brothers of the King were found near him and Harold himself, stripped of all badges of honour, could not be identified by his face but only by certain marks on his body. His corpse was brought into the Duke's camp, and William gave it for burial to William, surnamed Malet, and not to Harold's mother, who offered for the body of her beloved son its weight in gold. For the Duke thought it unseemly to receive money for such merchandise, and equally he considered it wrong that Harold should be buried as his mother wished, since so many men lay unburied because of his avarice. They said in jest that he who had guarded the coast with such insensate zeal should be buried by the seashore".

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 herself. Harold's strong association with Bosham
Bosham
Bosham is a small coastal village and civil parish in the Chichester District of West Sussex, England, about ) west of Chichester on an inlet of Chichester Harbour....

, 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
Diocese of Chichester
The Diocese of Chichester is a Church of England diocese based in Chichester, covering Sussex. It was created in 1075 to replace the old Diocese of Selsey, which was based at Selsey Abbey from 681. The cathedral is Chichester Cathedral and the bishop is the Bishop of Chichester...

 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 which is only yards from Chichester Harbour
Chichester Harbour
Chichester Harbour is a large natural harbour to the south west of the city of Chichester on the Solent. It straddles the boundary of West Sussex and Hampshire. Geographically it is a ria. It is one of four natural harbours in that area of the coastline, the others being Portsmouth Harbour,...

 and in sight of the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

.

There were legends of Harold's body being given a proper funeral years later in his church of Waltham Holy Cross
Waltham Abbey (abbey)
The Abbey Church of Waltham Abbey has been a place of worship since at least 1030, and is in the town of Waltham Abbey, Essex, England. The Prime Meridian passes through its grounds. Harold Godwinson is said to be buried just outside the present abbey...

 in Essex
Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

, which he had refounded in 1060. There is a legend that Henry I of England
Henry I of England
Henry I was the fourth son of William I of England. He succeeded his elder brother William II as King of England in 1100 and defeated his eldest brother, Robert Curthose, to become Duke of Normandy in 1106...

 met an elderly monk at Waltham Abbey, who was in fact a very old Harold. King Harold had a son posthumously, called Harold Haroldsson, who may have been this man, and may also be the occupant of the grave.

Legacy and legend

Harold's daughter Gytha of Wessex
Gytha of Wessex
Gytha of Wessex was one of several daughters of Edith Swanneck by Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England.According to Saxo Grammaticus, two of Harold's sons and a daughter escaped to the court of their uncle, king Sweyn Estridsson of Denmark. They were treated by Sweyn with hospitality,...

 married Vladimir Monomakh Grand Duke (Velikii Kniaz) of Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....

 and is ancestor to dynasties of Galicia, Smolensk
Smolensk
Smolensk is a city and the administrative center of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Dnieper River. Situated west-southwest of Moscow, this walled city was destroyed several times throughout its long history since it was on the invasion routes of both Napoleon and Hitler. Today, Smolensk...

, and Yaroslavl
Yaroslavl
Yaroslavl is a city and the administrative center of Yaroslavl Oblast, Russia, located northeast of Moscow. The historical part of the city, a World Heritage Site, is located at the confluence of the Volga and the Kotorosl Rivers. It is one of the Golden Ring cities, a group of historic cities...

, whose scions include Modest Mussorgsky
Modest Mussorgsky
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was a Russian composer, one of the group known as 'The Five'. He was an innovator of Russian music in the romantic period...

 and Peter Kropotkin
Peter Kropotkin
Prince Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin was a Russian zoologist, evolutionary theorist, philosopher, economist, geographer, author and one of the world's foremost anarcho-communists. Kropotkin advocated a communist society free from central government and based on voluntary associations between...

.

Isabella of France
Isabella of France
Isabella of France , sometimes described as the She-wolf of France, was Queen consort of England as the wife of Edward II of England. She was the youngest surviving child and only surviving daughter of Philip IV of France and Joan I of Navarre...

 (consort of Edward II
Edward II of England
Edward II , called Edward of Caernarfon, was King of England from 1307 until he was deposed by his wife Isabella in January 1327. He was the sixth Plantagenet king, in a line that began with the reign of Henry II...

) was also a direct descendant of Harold via Gytha, and thus the bloodline of Harold was re-introduced to the Royal Line. Subsequently, undocumented claims that the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 has recently recognised Harold as a martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

 have been made.

Harold's son Ulf, along with Morcar and two others, were released from prison by King William as he lay dying in 1087. He threw his lot in with Robert Curthose, who knighted him, and then disappeared from history.

Two of his other sons, Godwine and Edmund, made a number of attempts at invading England in 1068 and 1069 with the aid of Diarmait mac Mail na mBo
Diarmait mac Mail na mBo
Diarmait mac Maíl na mBó was King of Leinster, and also High King of Ireland .He was one of the most important and significant Kings in Ireland in the pre-Norman era...

.At midsummer
Midsummer
Midsummer may simply refer to the period of time centered upon the summer solstice, but more often refers to specific European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice, or that take place on a day between June 21 and June 24, and the preceding evening. The exact dates vary between different...

 in 1069, Brian of Brittany
Brian of Brittany
Brian of Brittany in English, or Brien de Bretagne in French, was a Breton noble who fought for William I of England. He was born in about 1042, the second son of Odo, Count of Penthièvre...

 and Alan the Black led a force that defeated a raid by Godwine and Edmund, sons of Harold Godwinson, who had sailed from Ireland with a fleet of 64 ships to the mouth of the River Taw
River Taw
The River Taw rises at Taw Head, a spring on the central northern flanks of Dartmoor. It reaches the Bristol Channel away on the north coast of Devon at a joint estuary mouth which it shares with the River Torridge.-Watercourse:...

 in Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

. They had escaped to Leinster after the Battle of Hastings
Battle of Hastings
The Battle of Hastings occurred on 14 October 1066 during the Norman conquest of England, between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy and the English army under King Harold II...

 in 1066 where they were hosted by Diarmait
Diarmait mac Mail na mBo
Diarmait mac Maíl na mBó was King of Leinster, and also High King of Ireland .He was one of the most important and significant Kings in Ireland in the pre-Norman era...

. In 1068 and 1069 Diarmait lent them the fleet of Dublin for their attempted invasions of England.
They raided Cornwall as late as 1082, but died in obscurity in Ireland.

In a pedigree in the Book of Baglan
Book of Baglan
The Book of Baglan is a collection of old Welsh manuscripts, containing much genealogical data, compiled by John Williams from several sources between 1600 and 1607. It was transcribed from the original manuscript preserved in the public library at Cardiff, and edited by Joseph Bradney with...

 a Harold Godwinson, earl of Wessex and Cornwall, is listed as a male line descendant of the Dukes of Cornwall.

In popular culture

Fictional accounts based on the events surrounding Harold's brief reign as king of England have been published, notably the play Harold, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in 1876; and the novel Last of the Saxon Kings, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, in 1848. Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English poet, short-story writer, and novelist chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, tales and poems of British soldiers in India, and his tales for children. Kipling received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature...

 wrote a short story, included in his 1910 collection, Rewards and Fairies
Rewards and Fairies
Rewards and Fairies is a historical fantasy book by Rudyard Kipling published in 1910. The title comes from the poem Farewell, Rewards and Fairies by Richard Corbet. The poem is referred to by the children in the first story of the preceding book Puck of Pook's Hill...

, where an aged King Harold meets Henry I and dies in the arms of a Saxon knight.

Modern novels have included The Golden Warrior by Hope Muntz, The Interim King by James Colman McMillan,, Lord of Sunset by Parke Godwin, The Last English King
The Last English King
The Last English King is a historical novel by English writer Julian Rathbone. The novel covers the time of the Battle of Hastings. It revolves around Walt Edwinson, a housecarl of Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England. The story starts with Walt returning to his home at Iwerne in...

by Julian Rathbone, Warriors of the Dragon Gold by Ray Bryant, and the novel God's Concubine by Sara Douglass. The one-act play A Choice of Kings by John Mortimer
John Mortimer
Sir John Clifford Mortimer, CBE, QC was a British barrister, dramatist, screenwriter and author.-Early life:...

 deals with his deception by William after his shipwreck.

On screen, Harold has been portrayed by Rex Reason
Rex Reason
Rex Reason is an American actor.He is the brother of actor Rhodes Reason, who is two years younger...

 in the film Lady Godiva of Coventry
Lady Godiva of Coventry
Lady Godiva of Coventry is an American historical film, directed by Arthur Lubin and released in 1955. It starred Maureen O'Hara in the title role.-Synopsis:...

(1955), Patrick Newell
Patrick Newell
Patrick David Newell was a British actor known for his large size. It is reputed he gained weight as a deliberate attempt to boost his career, marking him out for some niche roles...

 in the comedy film Father Came Too!
Father Came Too!
Father Came Too! is a 1963 British comedy film directed by Peter Graham Scott. It is a sequel to The Fast Lady.-Plot:Dexter and Juliet Munro are a married couple who move to a run-down cottage in hopes of escaping from Juliet's overbearing father. However, the couple are soon confronted by their...

(1962), Michael Craig
Michael Craig (actor)
Michael Craig is a British actor, known for his work in film and television in both the United Kingdom and Australia. Craig was born in Poona, Maharashtra, British India, the son of Donald Gregson, a captain in the 3rd Indian Cavalry. He came to England with his family when aged three, and went to...

 in a TV adaptation of A Choice of Kings in the ITV
ITV
ITV is the major commercial public service TV network in the United Kingdom. Launched in 1955 under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority to provide competition to the BBC, it is also the oldest commercial network in the UK...

 Play of the Week series (1966), Barrie Ingham
Barrie Ingham
Barrie Ingham is an English actor in stage, TV and film.-Life and career:Ingham was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, the son of Irene and Harold Ellis Stead Ingham. He was educated at Heath Grammar School and became a Royal Artillery Officer. His major theatre debut was at Manchester Library...

 in the two-part BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 TV play Conquest (1966; part of the series Theatre 625
Theatre 625
Theatre 625 is a British television drama anthology series, produced by the BBC and transmitted on BBC2 from 1964 to 1968. It was one of the first regular programmes in the line-up of the channel, and the title referred to its production and transmission being in the higher-definition 625-line...

), Norman Chappell
Norman Chappell
Norman Chappell was a British character actor most known for his roles in the Carry On films and in The Avengers...

 in an episode of the TV comedy series Carry On Laughing
Carry On Laughing
Carry on Laughing is a British television comedy series produced in 1975 for ATV. Based on the Carry On films, it was an attempt to address the films' declining cinema attendance by transferring the franchise to television...

entitled "One in the Eye for Harold" (1975), and Jâms Thomas in an episode of the British educational TV series Historyonics entitled "1066" (2004).

Ancestry



Literature


External links


|-
|-
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK