Harold II Godwinson King of England
(Abt 1022-1066)


Family Links

1. Ealdgyth of Mercia

  • Harold
2. Eadgyth
  • Godwin of England
  • Edmund Godwinson
  • Magnus Godwinson
  • Gytha Godwinson
  • Ulf Godwinson
  • Godwinson
  • Gunhild Godwinson

Harold II Godwinson King of England 2 3 4

  • Born: Abt 1022 2
  • Marriage (1): Ealdgyth of Mercia between 1064 and 1066 1
  • Partnership (2): Eadgyth 2
  • Died: 14 Oct 1066, "Battle of Hastings", Senlac Hill, Battle, East Sussex, TN33, GB aged about 44 2
  • BuriedMale: Waltham Abbey, Abbey Court, Waltham Abbey, Essex, EN9 1XG, GB

  General Notes:

HAROLD Godwinson, son of GODWIN Earl of Wessex & his wife Gytha of Denmark ([1022/25]-killed in battle Hastings 14 Oct 1066, bur [Waltham Abbey]). His parentage is confirmed in several places in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. He was created Earl of the East Angles, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire in 1044 by King Edward "the Confessor". King Edward granted him part of the earldom of his brother Svein, after the latter was outlawed following his seduction of the Abbess of Leominster. After joining his father's threatened armed rebellion against the king in 1051, he fled to Ireland with his brother Leofwine. He returned from Ireland the following year and joined forces with his father. Harold was appointed to succeed his father as Earl of Wessex in 1053, his own earldom of the East Angles passing to Ælfgar son of Leofric Earl of Mercia. He led the counter-offensive against Gruffydd ap Llywellyn Prince of Wales in 1063, in reprisal for Welsh raids. On a mission to France in [1064], he was captured by Guy [de Ponthieu] Comte d'Abbeville and imprisoned at Beaurain. Guillaume II Duke of Normandy, Guy's suzerain, secured Harold's release, possibly in return for the latter's acknowledgement of Duke Guillaume as successor to the English throne, the event being recorded in the Bayeux tapestry. Harold Godwinsson's visit to Normandy, and swearing allegiance to Duke William, is recorded by William of Jumièges. According to Eadmer, the reason for Harold's visit to Normandy was to negotiate the release of his brother Wulfnoth and nephew Haakon, both of whom had been held hostage there since 1051. In spite of earlier promises to Duke Guillaume, on his deathbed King Edward "the Confessor" bequeathed the kingdom to Harold. The choice was unopposed at court and Harold succeeded as HAROLD II King of England, crowned 6 Jan 1066. It is unclear whether there was a meeting, formal or informal, of a council to consider the matter, or whether members of such council took part in some form of election as it might be recognised today. There would probably have been little need for formality as the succession was presumably a foregone conclusion. Duke Guillaume branded Harold a perjurer and appealed to Pope Alexander II for support. After receiving a papal banner in response to this request, the duke gathered a sizable army during Summer 1066 ready for invasion. In response to the invasion by his brother Tostig and Harald III "Hardråde" King of Norway (who also claimed the throne of England), King Harold marched northwards and defeated the invaders at Stamford Bridge 25 Sep 1066. Harold returned south, but meanwhile Duke William's army had set sail from Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme 28 Sep. King Harold hastily reassembled his army to meet this second invasion at Hastings 14 Oct 1066, where he was killed. The Chronique de Normandie, based on le Roman de Rou, records that King Harold II was killed at Hastings by "un chevalier…Robert fils Herveis". According to the Waltham Chronicle written some time after 1177, King Harold's body was identified on the battlefield by his mistress Eadgyth Swanneshals and taken to Waltham for burial. William of Malmesbury also says that King Harold was buried at Waltham, though by his mother.

Betrothed ([1064]) to ADELISA de Normandie, daughter of GUILLAUME II Duke of Normandy & his wife Mathilde de Flandre ([1055]-7 Dec, 1066 or after). Orderic Vitalis records the betrothal of Adelaide and Harold Godwinson, listing her after Agatha and before Constance in his description of the careers of the daughters of King William. The sources are contradictory concerning the name of the daughter betrothed to Harold Godwinson, as well as the timing of her death. The only near certainty is that it would presumably have been the oldest available daughter who was betrothed to Harold. Matthew of Paris does not name her but lists her fourth among the daughters of King William, while distinguishing her from the fifth daughter betrothed to "Aldefonso Galiciæ regi". Guillaume de Jumièges records that Duke Guillaume betrothed his daughter Adelise to Harold, in a later passage (in which he does not repeat her name) stating that she was the third daughter and that she died a virgin although she was of an age to marry. Chibnall specifies that this reference is contained in the interpolations written by Orderic Vitalis, the latter chronicler therefore contradicting his statement in his own work that Agatha was the name of the daughter who was betrothed to King Harold. Orderic Vitalis says that Adelaide "a most fair maiden vowed herself to God when she reached marriageable age and made a pious end under the protection of Roger of Beaumont". The daughter betrothed to Harold was alive in early 1066, according to Eadmer of Canterbury who says that Duke Guillaume requested King Harold, soon after his accession, to keep his promise to marry his daughter. This is contradicted by William of Malmesbury, who says that her death before that of Edward "the Confessor" was taken by King Harold II as marking absolution from his oath to Duke Guillaume. She died as a nun at Préaux. The necrology of Chartres cathedral records the death "VII Id Dec" of "Adeliza filia regis Anglorum", stating that her father made a donation for her soul. The necrology of Saint-Nicaise de Meulan records the death of "Adelina filia regis Anglorum", undated but listed among deaths at the end of the calendar year.

m ([1064/early 1066]) as her second husband, EALDGYTH of Mercia, widow of GRUFFYDD ap Llywellyn Prince of Gwynedd and Powys , daughter of ÆLFGAR Earl of Mercia & his first wife Ælfgifu. Florence of Worcester´s genealogies name "regina Aldgitha, comitis Ælfgari filia" as mother of King Harold´s son "Haroldum". Orderic Vitalis records that "Edwinus…et Morcarus comites, filii Algari…Edgivam sororem eorum" married firstly "Gritfridi…regis Guallorum" and secondly "Heraldo". Her parentage and marriage with King Harold is confirmed by Florence of Worcester who records that "earls Edwin and Morcar…sent off their sister Queen Elgitha to Chester" after the battle of Hastings. There is no source which pinpoints the date of Ealdgyth´s second marriage. Freeman suggests that the absence of any reference to his queen in the sources which record the circumstances of Harold´s accession and coronation may indicate that his marriage took place afterwards. If Harold's son Ulf was legitimate, the marriage would have taken place in the earlier part of the date range which is shown above.

Mistress (1): EADGYTH "Swanneshals [Swan-neck]", [daughter of --- & his wife Wulfgyth] (-after 1066). A mid-12th century manuscript concerning the foundation of Waltham abbey names "Editham cognomento Swanneshals" as "cubicularia" of King Harold when recording that she recovered the king´s body for burial after the battle of Hastings. The later Vita Haroldi records that "a certain woman of a shrewd intelligence, Edith by name" recovered the king´s body from the battlefield, chosen to do so "because she loved him exceedingly…[and] had been frequently present in the secret places of his chamber". The only source so far identified which refers to an earlier document which names Eadgyth is the history of the abbey of St Benet, Holme, written by John of Oxnead in 1292, which records donations to the abbey, confirmed by King Edward in 1046, including the donation by "Edgyue Swanneshals" of "Thurgertone" (Thurgarton, Norfolk). The fact of this donation is confirmed by the corresponding charter of King Edward, reproduced in Dugdale´s Monasticon, which refers to the donation of "ecclesiam de Thurgartun cum tota villa" but omits the name of the donor. Barlow suggests that Eadgyth may have been "Ealdgyth" who is named in the will of her mother "Wulfgyth", dated to [1042/53], who bequeathed land "at Stisted, Essex to her sons Ælfketel and Ketel…at Saxlingham, Norfolk and Somerton, Suffolk to her daughters Gode and Bote, at Chadacre, Suffolk and Ashford to her daughter Ealdgyth, and at Fritton to Earl Godwin and Earl Harold". The connection between Wulfgyth´s family and St Benet´s, Hulme is confirmed by the testament of "Ketel" (named in his mother´s will quoted above), dated to [1052/66], which includes bequests of land to the abbey. However, Ketel´s testament names his two sisters Gode and Bote, who are also named in their mother´s will, but does not name "Ealdgyth", suggesting that the latter may have predeceased her brother. None of the sources so far identified suggests, even indirectly, that Eadgyth "Swanneshals" was the mother of the seven illegitimate children of King Harold who are shown below, but this has been assumed to be the case in secondary sources.

[Mistress (2): --- (-after 1086). Domesday Book records "quædam concubina Heraldi" as holding three houses in Canterbury. It is not known whether this unnamed person was the same as Eadgyth "Swanneshals".]

King Harold II & his wife had one son: Harold.

King Harold had [seven] illegitimate children by [Mistress (1)]: Godwin, Edmund, Magnus, [Gytha], [Ulf], a child and Gunhild.

[FMG/Medieval Lands]


On the history of the Earldom of Huntingdon:

There seems to have been an Earldom of Huntingdon before the Norman Conquest, among its holders then being King Harold, according to the chronicler Florence of Worcester, and Tostig, Harold's brother.

[Burke's Peerage]


Harold II, also called HAROLD GODWINESON or GODWINSON (b. c 1020 - d. 14 Oct 1066, near Hastings, Sussex, England), last Anglo-Saxon king of England. A strong ruler and a skilled general, he held the crown for nine months in 1066 before he was killed at the Battle of Hastings by Norman invaders under William the Conqueror.

Harold's father, Godwine, Earl of Wessex and Kent, was the most powerful man in the kingdom early in the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042-1066). About 1044 Godwine, obtained for Harold the earldom of East Anglia. In 1051 Edward banished Godwine and his sons for defying royal authority, but Harold led the forces that in 1052 invaded England and forced the king to restore the family.

Upon Godwine's death in 1053, Harold succeeded to his father's earldoms and became the chief power in the land. By 1057 he had obtained earldoms for his three brothers, Tostig, Gyrth, and Lefowine. His only rival was the house of Leofric of Mercia. Leofric's outlawed son, Aelfgar, raided Mercia with help from the Welsh, and in retaliation Harold and Tostig subjugated Wales in 1063. In 1065 the Northumbrians revolted against Tostig, their earl. Bowing to rebel demands against Tostig, Harold gave Tostig's earldom to Morcar of the house of Mercia, but by doing so he made Tostig his bitterest enemy. Nevertheless, Harold's postiion remained unshaken.

On his deathbed Edward the Confessor had supposedly designated Harold the royal heir. Earlier, Edward had, however, promised the crown to William, Duke of Normandy. Moreover, Harold himself, when shipwrecked on the coast of Normandy, had been forced to promise to support William's claim. Hence, when Harold assumed power on the death of Edward (5 Jan 1066), he was immediately threatened with the rivalry of William and another royal claimant, Haral III Hardraade, king of Norway, as well as with the enmity of Tostig. In May, Harold mobilized his fleet and army against an expected invasion by William. Instead, he had to use his forces to repel Tostig's raids on the south and east coasts of England. He dismissed his men in early September because he had run short of supplies. Thus, William was free to cross the English Channel unopposed. Tostig and Harald III Hardraade joined forces and were defeated near York, on 25 Sep 1066. Three days later William landed near Hastings on October 14, and in an all-day battle the king, Gyrth, and Leofwine were killed. The accession of William to the English throne as King William I ended the Anglo-Saxon phase of English history.

[Encyclopaedia Britannica]

Harold married Ealdgyth of Mercia, daughter of Ælfgar of Mercia Earl of Mercia and Ælfgifu of Mercia, between 1064 and 1066.1 (Ealdgyth of Mercia died after 1066 1.)

Harold had a relationship with Eadgyth.2 (Eadgyth died after 1066.)

  Marriage Notes:

"handfast" wife - non christian marriage


1 Frederick Lewis Weis, Walter Lee Sheppard, David Faris, <i>Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America Before 1700: The Lineage of Alfred the Great, Charlemagne, Malcolm of Scotland, Robert the Strong, and Some of Their Descendants</i> (Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1992), 176a-4.

2 Frederick Lewis Weis, Walter Lee Sheppard, David Faris, <i>Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America Before 1700: The Lineage of Alfred the Great, Charlemagne, Malcolm of Scotland, Robert the Strong, and Some of Their Descendants</i> (Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1992), 1b-23.

3 Charles Mosley, <i>Burke's Peerage & Baronetage</i> (Burke's Peerage, 1999), 1474.

4 Encyclopedia Britannica, Treatise on, Godwine (d. 1053), Earl of Wessex (alleged descendant of Aethelred I).

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