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King Harold

Edward the Confessor, King of England from 1042 to 1066, had a close friendship with Harold Godwinson. He was married to his sister, Edith of Wessex and took the advice from his father from Godwine of Wessex during the early years of his reign. Although, the close relationship was not without its problems. Due to a disagreement over a riot in 1051 Godwine and his family were outlawed (including Edward’s wife who was sent to a nunnery!)

The exile did not last long and the family were once again Royal Favourites. When Godwine died in 1053, Harold Godwinson took over as the Earl of Wessex and continued to work very closely with the King.

King Harold II places the crown on his own head.


Edward the confessor is ill - harold is told he will be king

© Reading Museum (Reading Borough Council)

When Edward the Confessor died in January 1066, he was childless and therefore did not have an obvious heir. Whilst on his deathbed, Edward the Confessor named Harold as his successor and the following day Harold Godwinson was crowned the King of England.

This unfortunately was not without its dispute, a few others felt that they were the true King of England or that they wanted to be - Edgar the Ætheling, Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, Svein Estrithsson, King of Denmark, and William the Conqueror


Harold’s reign on the throne began as a competition. Shortly before the Battle of Hastings, in September 1066, England was invaded by Harald Hardrada, King of Norway - in the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

Although successful at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, King Harold’s resources were exhausted and another invasion only a few weeks later was the last thing he needed! He had to make a journey with his Army down from Stamford Bridge (near York) to meet William and his Army in Battle (near Hastings).

HAROLD GODWINSON FALLS AT HASTINGS. HAROLD WAS STRUCK IN THE EYE WITH AN ARROW (LEFT), SLAIN BY A MOUNTED NORMAN KNIGHT (RIGHT) OR BOTH.

HAROLD GODWINSON FALLS AT HASTINGS. HAROLD WAS STRUCK IN THE EYE WITH AN ARROW (LEFT), SLAIN BY A MOUNTED NORMAN KNIGHT (RIGHT) OR BOTH.


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DID YOU KNOW...?

Harold was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England. In fact, he was the last King to speak English as a first language for 300 years!