HAROLD (II, Godwinson, King of England 1066)

 Born  1022   Born At  
 Died  14 Oct 1066   Buried At  
 Father  Godwin (Earl of Wessex)   Mother  Gytha
Preceded by  Edward (The Confessor, King of England 1042-1066) Succeeded by  William (I, the Conqueror, King of England 1066-1087)
 Royal House   Wessex

Titles Include

King of England from 1066

arold II was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England. He was killed in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings when William the Conqueror invaded England. Harold was the second son of Earl Godwin, Earl of Wessex, and his wife Gytha, The Godwin family rose to power in England under King Canute and in 1044 Harold became the Earl of East Anglia. This power was interupted by a dispute with Edward the Confessor in 1051 leading to the Godwin family fleeing the country.

Expelled

The Godwin family was expelled from England in 1051 by the King, Edward the Confessor. A year later the King was forced to accept the family back when they sailed up the Thames to London with a large force of men. In 1053, Harold's father died and as the eldest son, Harold inherited the title of Earl of Wessex. The king, Edward the Confessor concentrated on the affairs of the church which left Harold to run the affairs of the country, which included fighting the Welsh. Harold had two wives, both called Edith. His second wife was the widow of the Welsh Prince who Harold had defeated in 1063.

Question of succession

Edward the Confessor had no children and an heir to the English throne needed to be found. When it was discovered that Edward the Exile who was the son of Edmund II (Ironside) was still alive, the problem of succession to the throne seemed to be solved and Edward the Exile was invited back to England. Shortly after Edward arrived in England he mysteriously died. Harold may have had something to do with the death as without a nominated heir to the throne, Harold himself could win approval of the English people to be elected King. Edward the Exile brought his family with him to England, including his eldest son, Edgar the Aetheling. After Edward the Exile's death, his family were cared for by Edward the Confessor who nominated Edgar the Aetheling as heir the English throne.

Tostig

Tostig was Harold's younger brother and Earl of Northumbria. In 1065 he escaped to Flanders after a rebellion against him led by Morcar forced him out of England.

Mysterious events in Normandy

A mysterious meeting is reported to have taken place in Normandy between William the Conqueror and Harold in either 1064 or 1065. In the meeting it was claimed that Harold agreed that William should become King of England when Edward the Confessor died. From what is known of Harold it seems unlikely that he would agree to something like this. Even if the agreement was made, we know that he went against it when assumed the role as King after Edward's death. The Bayeaux Tapestry shows Harold travelling to, or being shipwreked on the land of Guy, count of Ponthieu. Harold was captured by Guy and held at his castle at Beaurain until William the Conqueror arranged for his release. The tapestry possibly shows Harold swearing an oath while his hands rest on what appear to be sacred relics. After this his returns to England.

As King of England

Edward the Confessor died in early January of 1066. Edgar the Aetheling was too young to rule and Harold was crowned King at Westminster Abbey on January 6th.

Invasions

Tostig was the first to take advantage of King's death and in May invaded England. Tostig was unsuccessful and he had to escape to Scotland where he found refuge. He then travelled to Norway to the court of the Harold Hardrada where he persuaded the Viking leader to assist him with his invasion plans. in September 1066, Tostig and Harold attacked Yorkshire with a huge army of men. At Fulford Gate on September 20th the invaders were met by an English army led by earls Morcar and Edwin and a battle commenced. The invaders won this battle, but on September 25th after marching from the south coast, an English army led by Harold II defeated the invaders in Yorkshire at Stamford Bridge. Tostig and Harold Hardrada were killed in the battle. Shortly after the victory, news that William the Conqueror had landed on the south coast of England meant Harold had to march his army back down the country to fight off another invasion force. On a hill near Hastings, the two armies met. Harold's men fought hard and could have won but after the long marches north and south it may have been to much to ask. William's army was victorious and Harold was killed in the battle. Probably not by an arrow in the eye as hinted at in the Bayeux Tapestry. By December 1066, William, now know as the Conqueror had the support of enough English earls and churchmen to become King of England.

Family Tree Details
Father: Godwin (Earl of Wessex) ( - d.1053)
Mother: Gytha
HAROLD (II, Godwinson, King of England 1066) (b.1022 - d.1066)

View Graphical Family Tree

Family Tree Details

Father: Godwin (Earl of Wessex) ( - d.1053)
Mother: Gytha

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Partial Personal Timeline

YearMonthAgeEvent
1052 May  30yrsGodwines invade England
 Godwine, Earl of Wessex, his son Harold and a large fleet sailed up the Thames to London forcing Edward to reinstate them into their previous positions of power.

Episode: Edward the Confessor and Earl Godwine  
1053   31yrsEdward the Exile invited to England
 Harold Godwinson invited the exiled Edward the Exile back to England in the hope that he could claim the English throne from Edward the Confessor.

Episode: Reasons for the Norman Invasion  
 Apr  Harold becomes Earl of Wessex
 Godwine, Earl of Wessex, died and Harold inherited his title.

Episode: Edward the Confessor and Earl Godwine  
1057   35yrsEdward (the Exile) dies
 Edward the Exile died in mysterious circumstances. Edward was the rightful heir the throne of England and Harold, Earl of Wessex benefited from Edward's death.

Episode: Reasons for the Norman Invasion  
1062 Dec  40yrsHarold, earl Wessex, attacked Rhuddlan
 Harold led an attack on the stronghold of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn at Rhuddlan in north Wales. The attack was a success but the Welsh Prince managed to escape.[1] 
1063   41yrsEarl Harold invades Wales
 Harold invaded south Wales while Tostig of Northumbria attacked the north. 
1064   42yrsMysterious meeting in Normandy
 A mysterious meeting is reported to have taken place in Normandy between William the Conqueror and Harold in 1064 or 1065. In the meeting it was claimed that Harold agreed that William should become King of England when Edward the Confessor died. From what is known of Harold it seems unlikely that he would agree to something like this. We know that he went against this agreement when assumed the role as King after Edward's death. The Bayeaux Tapestry shows Harold travelling to, or being shipwreked on the land of Guy, count of Ponthieu. Harold was captured by Guy and held at his castle at Beaurain until William the Conqueror arranged for his release. The tapestry possibly shows Harold swearing an oath while his hands rest on what appear to be sacred relics. After this his returns to England.

Episode: Reasons for the Norman Invasion  
1066 Jan 6  44yrsHarold II Godwinson is crowned King of England
 Harold was chosen as king but his reign was not to last very long.

Episode: Norman Invasion  
 Jul  Harold prepares for William's invasion
 Harold, King of England, gathered an army and waited on the south coast of England to defend the country against an William's invasion.

Episode: Norman Invasion  
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