Difference between revisions of "Harold Godwinson"

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#REDIRECT[[Harold Godwinsson]]
'''Harold Godwinson''', arguably the most bare-faced usurper of the English throne, was born ca. 1022. His reign lasted from January 5 1066 to October 14 1066, when he was killed at the [[Battle of Hastings]].
Harold's father was Godwin, the powerful [[Earl of Wessex]], and thus he was grandson to Wulfnoth Cild, [[Thegn]] of [[Sussex]]. Godwin married twice, first to Thyra Sveinsdttir (994 - 1018), a daughter of Sweyn I of [[Denmark]], who was [[King]] of Denmark, of [[Norway]], and of [[England]]. His second wife was Gytha Thorkelsdttir, who was a granddaughter to the legendary [[Sweden|Swedish]] [[viking]] Styrbjrn Starke and great-granddaughter to [[Harold Bluetooth]], King of [[Denmark]] and [[Norway]], father of Sweyn I. This second marriage resulted in the birth of two sons Harold and Tostig Godwinson, and a sister Edith of Wessex (1020 - 1075) who was [[Queen consort]] of [[Edward the Confessor]].
Created [[Earl]] of East Anglia in 1045, Harold was sent, with his father Godwin, into exile in 1051, for leading opposition to [[Edward the Confessor|King Edward]] but helped him to regain his position by force of arms a year later. When Godwin died in 1053, Harold succeeded him as earl of [[Wessex]] (a province at that time covering the southernmost third of England), which made him the second most powerful figure in England after the king.
In 1058 Harold also became Earl of Hereford, and he replaced his late father as the focus of opposition to growing [[Norman]] influence in England under the restored Saxon monarchy of [[Edward the Confessor]], who had spent more than a quarter of a century in exile in Normandy.
Harold sought glory in a series of campaigns, between 1062 and 1063 against the ruler of [[Gwynedd]] in [[Wales]], Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, who had conquered all of [[Wales]]; this conflict ended with Gruffydd's defeat (and death at the hands of his own troops) in 1063. Around 1064, Harold married Edith, daughter of the Earl of Mercia, who was also the former wife of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn. By Harold, Edith had two sons - possibly twins - named Harold and Ulf, both of whom survived into adulthood and probably ended their lives in exile. Harold entered into this marriage (which amassed even more opower for him) despite that fact that, by the Danish law then pertinent, he was already married to Ealdgyth or Edith, known as the "swan-neck", by whom he had several (possibly 5) children.
In 1065 Harold supported a rebellion against his brother Tostig, Earl of Northumbria, who was replaced by Morcar. This strengthened Harold's acceptability as Edward's successor, but fatally divided his own family, driving Tostig into alliance with [[Harald Hardrada]], [[King]] of [[Norway]].
At about the same time, King [[Edward the Confessor|Edward]] had sent Harold as his envoy to Normandy, and to its duke, William, to whom Edward had promised the English throne some 10 years earlier, impressed by the [[Norman]] skill of government. In the course of his visit (which began with shipwreck) Harold swore on holy relics to uphold William's right to succeed (although he was later, whilst acknowledging the oath, to say that it had been given under duress and without knowledge of the relics -- a mere spoken promise).
Upon Edward the Confessor's death on (January 5 1066), however, Harold claimed that Edward had promised him the crown on his deathbed, and compelled the Witenagemot (the assembly of the kingdom's leading notables) to approve him for coronation as king, which then took place on the following day.
However, the country was invaded, by both Harald of Norway and [[William the Conqueror|William]], [[Duke]] of [[Normandy]]. The first argued that he had an hereditary right (and a strong enough army) to govern [[England]], while [[William]] pointed out that in accepting the crown of England, Harold had perjured himself of his recent oath.
Invading what is now Yorkshire in September, 1066, [[Harald Hardrada]] and Tostig defeated the English [[earl]]s, Edwin, of Mercia, and Morcar, of Northumbria, at the Battle of Fulford near [[York]] (on September 20), but were in turn defeated and slain by Harold's army five days later at the Battle of Stamford Bridge (September 25).
Harold now forced his army to march 240 miles to intercept William, who had landed perhaps 7000 men in [[Sussex]] in southern England three days later, on September 28. Harold established his army in hastily built earthworks near Hastings. The two armies clashed near Hastings on October 14, where after a hard fight Harold was killed and his forces routed. <br>
Harold's wife, Edith Swan-neck, was called to identify the body, which she did by some private mark (the face being destroyed) known only to herself.
Harold did have one lasting effect on history: his illegitimate daughter, Gytha of Wessex, married Vladimir Monomakh, the Grand Duke of the Kievan Rus', and is ancestor to several Russian rulers. Consequently the Russian Orthodox Church has recently recognised Harold as a [[martyr]] with October 14 as his feast day.
A Saxon cult of hero worship rose around Harold (as a focus of anti-[[Norman]] sentiment) and by the 12th century legend said that Harold had indeed survived the battle, had spent two years in Winchester after the battle recovering from his wounds, and then had traveled to Germany where he spent years wandering as a pilgrim. As an old man he was supposed to have returned to England and lived as a hermit in a cave near Dover. As he lay dying, he had confessed that although he went by the name of Christian, he had been born Harold Godwineson. Various versions of this story persisted throughout the Middle Ages, and have little claim to fact.
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Preceded by:<br>[[Edward the Confessor]]
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[[English Monarchs]]
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Succeeded by:<br>[[William the Conqueror]]
This has been adapted from material from Wikipaedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Godwinson], with small additions.

Latest revision as of 09:26, 26 October 2007

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