Biography of King Harold II
The biographies of the leaders of
the Battle of Hastings provide an insight into what led to the
events leading to the Battle of Hastings. Harold Godwinson was
a key figure in this saga.
Harold was born in
1022 and was the son of Earl Godwin of Wessex and Gytha
Sprakling (990 - 1069). Gytha was the great-granddaughter of
Harold Bluetooth, King of Denmark and Norway. He had three
brothers Swegen, Tostig and Gyrth and a sister called Edith.
In 1046, his brother, Swegen, was sent into exile for seducing
the abbess of Leominister.
In 1051 Harold's
father Godwin raised an army against King Edward the Confessor
but a war was averted when it was agreed that the Witan ( a
council consisting of 60 powerful nobles) would sort out the
dispute. The Witan declared that Earl Godwin and his sons
should be banished from England. Godwin and his sons, Tostig
and Gyrth went Flanders and Harold went to Ireland. The
following year they all returned and sailed up the Thames in
force. They resumed their place as the richest and most
powerful nobles in England and forced Edward the Confessor to
send the Normans in the English court back to Normandy. King
Edward the Confessor is also 'persauded' to marry Edith, the
daughter of Earl Godwin and Harold's sister.
In 1053 Godwin
died and his son Harold succeeded him as the Earl of Wessex.
In 1055 Harold's brother Tostig became the Earl of
Northumbria. Harold and Tostig were great fighters and in 1063
Harold and Tostig subdue Wales.
Harold had two
wives, both called Edith. Harold first married Edith, the
daughter of the powerful Earl of Mercia. They had two sons,
who are believed to have died in exile. Harold also had
several illegitimate children by his beautiful mistress (or
wife, according to Danish law), called "Edith Swan-neck".
1064 was an
unfortunate year for Harold who was shipwrecked in Normandy.
Whilst there, he swears a sacred oath to support William of
claim to the English throne. Harold later insists that he was
tricked into taking this oath.
Northumbria rebels against the tyrannical Tostig, who is
exiled and goes to Normandy. He joins with Duke William
against his brother Harold. The treacherous brother then
changes allegiance again and joins with the Viking King,
In 1066 Edward the
Confessor dies. When King Edward
the Confessor lay dying his wife Edith and Harold Godwinson
were at his bedside. According to Harold, King Edward's
dying words were:
"I commend my wife and
all my kingdom to your care"
that he had been tricked into taking the sacred oath of
allegiance he had made to Duke William. And that he was not
told that he was swearing the pledge on sacred religious
relics - in his view he had been duped and owed the Norman
Duke no allegiance and refuted his claim to the English
The Witan voted
that Harold Godwinson should become King of England, over the
rightful heir, Edgar the Aethling who was only ten years old. Harold Godwinson asserted
that he had been chosen by Edward the Confessor to be the
next King of
England. Harold Godwinson Earl of Wessex was crowned King of
England on January 6th 1066.
There followed all
of the events leading to the Viking and Norman Invasions
and the Battle of Hastings on October 14th, 1066 when King
Harold II of England was killed.
fascinating Biographies surrounding the Battle of Hastings:
Edward the Confessor
Biography of William the
Godwinson of Wessex claim