Harold II (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: Harold Godwinson was elected English king in 1066 and defeated a Norse invasion at Stamford Bridge, but he was himself defeated at Hastings by William the Conqueror and the Normans.
Harold Godwinson lived during, and was part of, the domination of Saxon England by Viking invaders. Although sometimes called “the last Saxon king,” Harold II was not of royal birth and was half Danish. His father, Godwin, was an English warrior during the confused attempts of King Ethelred “Redeless” (“without counsel”) (978-1016) to resist Scandinavian invaders. On Ethelred’s death, Godwin supported the Danish monarch Canute as English king (1017-1035), became Earl of Wessex, and fathered a family of eight by marriage to a Danish noblewoman. Godwin’s support of Canute’s heirs may have involved him in the treacherous murder of Ethelred’s son Prince Alfred in 1036. However, when Canute’s last son died in 1042 “as he stood at his drink,” Godwin supported Ethelred’s remaining son, Edward, recently returned from exile in Normandy. King Edward “the Confessor” (1042-1066) married Godwin’s daughter Edith in 1045 but abstained from sexual relations in symbolic gratitude for church protection during his Norman exile. A future succession problem was thus inevitable. Meanwhile, though, the Godwins prospered, and in 1045 Godwin’s second son, Harold, was made Earl of East Anglia....
(The entire section is 2025 words.)
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