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Harold II, "Harold Godwinson" 1066

Although on Edward the Confessor's bequest William of Normandy was to be his successor the Saxon council or Witanagemot would not follow his wishes. Upon Edward's death the son of that arch-meddler in the politics of the time, Earl Godwin of Wessex and Kent, was elected the new King of England.

Harold had become a close ally to Edward and had helped his predecessor rule in the capacity of an under-king.

As with many of the successions to the throne in these times there were of course more than one claimant to the crown. With an almost indecent haste Harold had himself crowned at the newly built Westminster Abbey just one day after the death of Edward. His coronation led to his immediate priority in ruling his nation being its defence. He faced not only the Normans from the south but also the Norwegians, under Harold Hardrada in alliance with the exiled Earl of Northumbria, to the north.

The Norwegians struck first, with their King throwing back his claim to the throne to the days of Magnus and Harthacnut. Harold may have been ambitious in the extreme but he was no less a warrior and at the Battle of Stamford Bridge despatched the Norwegian claims along with the lives of King Magnus and the Earl of Northumbria.

It was while he and his army celebrated their victory that they learned of William's landing along the Sussex coast, many miles from their present position in York. It took a full fourteen days for the Saxons to march south and prepare for the Battle of Hastings, time used wisely by the Normans to organise their order of battle. October 14, was a long and bloody day. The Normans and the Saxons exchanging fortunes at every turn. The bloodshed finally ended at sunset when Harold was cut down by a Norman arrow and killed by the heavily armoured Norman foot soldiers.

If Harold had won the battle and had survived on the throne he would have altered the course of British history.

Harold was married twice. His first wife, Eadgyth Swan-neck presented him with six children; Godwine, Eadmund, Magnus, Ulf, Gytha and Gunhild.His second wife, Ealdgyrth ap Llywelyn, (Widow of the Ruler of All Wales) produced one son, Harold It is thought that Harold II was in his early forties when he died.

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