On This Day

Harold II

King of England Harold II

Full Name: Harold Godwinson
Profession: King of England

Nationality:
England
English

Why Famous: Harold was the last crowned Anglo-Saxon king of England, reigning from January 6, 1066, until his defeat and death at the Battle of Hastings by William the Conqueror and his Norman army on October 14 the same year.

His predecessor Edward the Confessor died childless. When the Witenagemot met (the council of Anglo-Saxon nobles) they chose Harold, Edward's brother-in-law, to succeed. His reign was beset by threats immediately; in Normandy, William the Conqueror (then just Duke William II of Normandy) began preparations to invade as he also had a claim on the English throne, believing that Edward had promised England to him and that Harold had promised to support William's claim. The basis for this claim was in an incident in 1064 when Harold was shipwrecked at Ponthieu in Normandy, with Norman sources claiming Harold was not released from Normandy until he swore on sacred relics to support William's claim.

William was not the only one after Harold's crown. The Norwegians, aided by Harold's brother Tostig and led by King Harald Hardrada, invaded northern England, but were defeated at Stamford Bridge on September 25, 1066. Three days later, William landed in Sussex, and waited for Harold's troops to march south. On October 14, the famous Battle of Hastings occurred, and Harold was killed in battle. Legend says he died from an arrow in the eye, though this claim is disputed by historians.

Though his mother offered William the weight of her son's body in gold in return for his body, William declined, and the site of his burial is not known for sure - though possibly at Bosham Church near Chichester Harbour. Harold was succeeded by Edgar Atheling but he was never crowned before William himself was crowned King of England on Christmas Day 1066.

Birthplace: Wessex, England

Died: October 14, 1066
Cause of Death: Killed at the Battle of Hastings

Articles and Photos

Historical Events

  • 1066-09-25 Battle of Stamford Bridge: English army under King Harold II defeat invading Norwegians led by King Harald Hardrada and Harold's brother Tostig, who were both killed
  • 1066-10-14 Battle of Hastings: William, Duke of Normandy and his Norman army defeat the English forces of Harold II who is killed in the battle

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