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In 1055 Harold Godwinsson's brother, Tostig, became earl of Northumbria. In 1063 Harold and his brother Tostig subdued Wales. In 1064 Harold was shipwrecked in Normandy and possibly tricked into swearing an oath to support William of Normandy's claim to England.

When Edward died without an heir in 1066, Harold Godwinsson was chosen to replace him. His brother, Tostig, joined forces with Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, to invade England in September. Harold's army defeated and killed them both at the battle of Stamford Bridge. While Harold and his army were in the north, William of Normandy landed on the south coast of England. Harold marched south and met William's army at the battle of Hastings just 19 days after the battle of Stamford Bridge. Harold was killed and his army defeated.

The popular theory that King Harold died at the Battle of Hastings with an arrow in his eye originates in the tapestry's depiction of a soldier, struck in the eye by an archer, underneath the caption 'Harold rex interfectus est' - 'King Harold is killed'. Some scholars now hold that the next image, showing a man falling beneath the sword of a mounted knight, also depicts the king.

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