Harold II

 


Harold II was the last Anglo-Saxon king of England. He was son of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, and became the second most powerful man in England when he succeeded his father’s titles in 1053. Learn a little more about his short rule below.

Dates:

  • Born 1022
  • Ruled from 1066
  • Died 1066

Named King...

When Edward the Confessor died in January 1066, the Witan - a group of powerful men and advisers to the king - chose Harold Godwinson as his heir.

Harold Godwinson places the crown on his head
Harold Godwinson places the crown on his head

Unfortunately there were two other men who wanted to be king! The first was William, Duke of Normandy, a distant cousin of Edward the Confessor, who claimed that Edward had promised the throne to him. The second was Norway’s king Harold Hardrada, who claimed that former leaders Cnut and Hardicnut had made promises to his father).

Poor King Harold! In September 1066, Hardrada and his army invaded from the north. Harold’s soldiers marched 250 miles to defeat them at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire.

Meanwhile, William was gathering a huge army and fleet. No sooner was the Battle of Stamford Bridge won that William's army crossed the English Channel. King Harold and his men had to walk the long journey back to confront them.

They met at the Battle of Hastings on 14th October 1066. William had the bigger, stronger, fresher army, but Harold's men fought for their country.

It was a long, drawn-out battle but eventually Harold was killed, along with his brothers Gyrth and Leofwine.

King Harold's death shown on the Bayeux Tapestry
King Harold's death shown on the Bayeux Tapestry

William seized the throne, becoming William I - known forever after as William the Conqueror. England fell under the rule of the House of Normandy.

Succeeded By...

William the Conqueror
William the Conqueror

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