Harald Godwinson or Harald II (Anglo-Saxon: Harold Godƿinson; Latin: Haroldus; born about 1022, died 14 October 1066) was the last Anglo-Saxon king of England. Harald ruled from 6 January 1066 at the death of Edward the Confessor the day before, and until his death at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October the same year in battle against a Norman invasion led by William the Bastard (after the victory known as William the Conqueror). Harald's death marked the end of Anglo - Saxon rule over England.
Harald was a powerful earl and a member of the prominent and powerful Anglo-Saxon family who came to power under Knut the Mighty. When the childless Edward the Confessor died in January 1066, the Anglo - Saxon council, Witenagemot, elected Harald to take the throne. He was crowned at Westminster Abbey. At the end of September, he had to march north to repel a Norwegian invasion of England by Harald Hardråde, who was killed in the battle of Stamford Bridge together with Harald Godwinson's brother Tostig who fought on the Norwegian side. Then he had to quickly march south with the army to meet William, Duke of Normandy at Hastings about two weeks later. Along with three of his brothers, Harald Godwinson was killed at the Battle of Hastings, and the Norman conquest of England was a fact.
Life and work
Harald was the son of Godwin (1001–1053), the powerful earl of Wessex, and Gyda Torkelsdatter. Gyda's brother was Earl Ulf Torgilsson, married to Estrid Sveinsdatter, sister of Knut the Mighty. Ulf and Estrid's son, Svein Estridsson, finally became king of Denmark in 1047. Godwin had no claim to political influence through an old family. His father's name was Wulfnoth, and his father has been identified with some degree of probability by Wulfnoth Cild, a Sgnx thegn who in a conflict had led some of the royal ships into piracy during the battles with the Vikings in 1008-1009. Little is known about Godwin before Knut made him earl in 1018, and soon after lets him marry Gyda, sister of Knut's brother-in-law. Among Knut's many Norse earls in England, Godwin obviously won the trust, and through his marriage he became part of the king's closest. Towards the end of Knut's reign, many of the Norse earls he had given positions, including Norwegian Eirik Håkonsson, who was earl of Northumbria, disappeared or died, and no new Norse have joined, except Danish Siward, who replaced Eirik Håkonsson. The two foremost of Knut's advisers were Anglo - Saxons, Leofric, Earl of Mercia, and Godwin, Earl of Wessex. Harald Godwinson's fate was determined by his father's actions which led to his becoming first earl, and finally king.
At Knut's death in 1035, he had a legitimate son, Hardeknut, who was already king of Denmark. The great men of England were willing to accept Hardeknut as successor, but Magnus Olavsson had become king of Norway and had his revenge against Denmark. It was therefore impossible for Hardeknut to leave Denmark to take up the legacy in England. It left the great men of England with the difficult matter of choosing a ruler. The crisis divided the decisions; Queen Emma, supported by Earl Godwin, was willing to take the risk of choosing an absent king. The others, led by Leofric, and supported by London, wanted to postpone the final decision until the situation in Denmark was resolved, and promoted the innovation with a regent, Harald Harefot, son of Knut and Ælfgifu of Northampton. A council in Oxford decided to go for the compromise: Harald Harefot became regent and Emma was to live in Winchester with the royal treasury, protected by some of Knut's housekeepers. Not long after, Harald sent a force to Winchester to take care of the treasury against the Queen's will. Towards the end of 1037, Harald was recognized as England's new king in Hardeknut's absence while Queen Emma fled to Flanders.