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Friday, 29 May 2015

King Harold II of England

King Harold II was born around 1022, the son of Godwin (1001–1053), the powerful Earl of Wessex. His mother, Gytha Thorkelsdóttir, was sister-in-law of Cnut, King of Denmark and England.

His sister, Edith of Wessex, married English king Edward the Confessor.

For some twenty years Harold was married to Edith the Fair (Edith Swannesha) and had at least six children with her. The marriage was widely accepted by the laity, although Edith was considered Harold's mistress by the clergy.

King Harold had a tattoo over his heart that read: "Edith and England.".

In 1064 Harold was shipwrecked at Ponthieu. off the coast of Normandy in 1064. William of Normandy (William the Conqueror) claimed that Harold pledged support for his succession to England’s throne (see below).

 ("Harold made an oath to Duke William"). (Bayeux Tapestry) 

Due to Edward the Confessor’s vow of chastity, his marriage was childless and the question of succession became a prominent one as he neared the end of his reign. One of the claimants was the king's cousin William of Normandy whom Edward promised would succeed him.

Edward the Confessor died on January 5, 1066. The English king disinherited William of Normandy on his deathbed and appointed Harold instead as his successor. His coronation quickly followed on January 6, 1066.

King Harold II places the crown on his own head

Shortly before the Battle of Hastings, Harold sent William an envoy who admitted that Edward had promised the throne to William but argued that this was over-ridden by his deathbed promise to Harold. In reply, William argued that Edward's prior promise to him took precedence.

William and Harold's armies clashed at the Battle of Hastings on  October, 14, 1066, where after nine hours of hard fighting, Harold was killed and his forces routed.

Harold's death depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry,

The earliest account of the Battle of Hastings said that Harold had been killed and dismembered by four knights. The first report of Harold being shot in the eye with an arrow did not appear until 30 years later.

Two of Harold’s six brothers, Gyrth and Leofwine, also died at the Battle of Hastings.

It was Edith the Fair who identified Harold after the Battle of Hastings. His body was horribly mutilated  and Edith the Fair walked through the carnage of the battle so that she might identify Harold by markings on his chest known only to her. It was because of Edith the Fair's identification of Harold's body that Harold was given a Christian burial by the monks at Waltham Abbey.

Source Daily Express

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