Harald Godwin's son (or Harald II, Harold Godwinson, circa 1022 - October 14, 1066) was the last crowned Anglo-Saxon King of England. Harald ruled from January 6 to October 14, 1066, when he was killed in the Battle of Hastings.
Childhood and adolescence
Harald's father was Godwin, an influential Earl of Wessex. Godwin himself was possibly the son of Sussex's Thegn Wulfnoth Cild, a branch of the old Wessex family.
Godwin's wife was Gytha Thorkelsdóttir, whose brother Ulf was the thread of King Knuut the Great of Denmark. The couple had several children, the most notable of whom were sons Svein Godwin's son, Harald and Tostig Godwin's son, and daughter Edith, who was the wife of King Edward the Confessor.
As Edith married the king, the result was that Harald became the Earl of East England in 1045. Harald followed his father into exile in 1051, but helped him return the following year. When Godwin died in 1053, Harald followed him as Earl of Wessex. This made him the second most influential person on earth after the king.
As an influential nobleman
In 1058 Harald also became Earl of Hereford and began to focus more and more like his father on resisting the growing Norman influence in England. Norman influences stemmed from the seated King Edward the Confessor, who had lived more than a quarter of his life in exile in Normandy.
Harald increased his reputation by leading several battles against the ruler of Gwynedd, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, between 1062 and 1063. This had conquered all of Wales. The events ended in Gruffydd’s defeat (and death at the hands of his own troops) in 1063.
In 1064 Harald was shipwrecked in Ponthieu and encountered the Duke of Normandy, Wilhelm. Wilhelm considered himself a possible successor to the childless Edvard Confessor, and he caused Harald to swear an oath by which he would support Vilhelm as the future King of England.
In 1065, Harald supported the rebels of Northumbria who rose up against his brother Tostig for this unjustified taxation. Harald replaced Tostig with Morcar as Earl of Northumbria. This strengthened Harald’s position as a possible successor to Edvard, but divided his own family when Tostig allied with Norwegian Harald Ankara.
Marriages and children
Harald was married to the Danish Eithgyth Swan-neck for about twenty years and they had at least six children. The clergy considered Edith to be Harald’s mistress and not a spouse and their children were not considered legal heirs. Among the children was Gytha, who later became the wife of Russian Prince Vladimir Monomah. Through this Anglo-Saxon-Russian alliance, Harald is related to the later kings of England.
By January 1066, Harald married Aldith (or Aldgyth), the daughter of Mercia Earl Ælfgar. This was the widow of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn. Aldith and Harald had two sons - possibly twins - named Harold and Ulf (born about November 1066) who survived into adulthood and probably lived in exile. After the death of his wife, Aldith is said to have sought asylum from his brothers Edvin (Earl of Mercy) and Morcar, who both made peace with the Conqueror Wilhelm (until they rose up in resistance and lost their status and land). Aldith may have gone abroad.
Harald as King
After the death of Edvard the Confessor in early January 1066, Harald claimed that Edvard had promised him a crown on his deathbed. This was accepted by Witenagem and the first coronation was held at Westminster Abbey the following day.
However, the land ruled by Harald was conquered, by Harald Ankara and Vilhelm the Conqueror, who claimed both Edward (probably in 1052) and Harald (in Normandy 1064 or 1065)