Biography of Harold "Harefoot" King England 1016-1040

1017 Marriage of Canute and Emma of Normandy

1035 Death of Canute

1036 Murder of Aelfred Ætheling Wessex by Godwinson

Before 1016 [his father] King Canute of England (age 21) and [his mother] Aelfgifu Northumbria (age 25) were married. She the daughter of Aelfhelm Northumbria and Wulfruna. He the son of Sweyn "Forkbeard" King Denmark King Norway King England.

Around 1016 Harold "Harefoot" King England was born to King Canute of England (age 21) and Aelfgifu Northumbria (age 26).

Marriage of Canute and Emma of Normandy

Around Aug 1017 [his father] King Canute of England (age 22) and [his step-mother] Emma aka Ælfgyfu of Normandy Queen Consort England (age 32) were married. She the daughter of Richard "Fearless" Normandy I Duke Normandy and Gunnora Countess Ponthieu. He the son of Sweyn "Forkbeard" King Denmark King Norway King England.

Death of Canute

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 1035. This year died [his father] King Knute (age 40) at Shaftesbury, Dorset, on the second day before the ides of November; and he is buried at Winchester Old Minster in the old minster. He was king over all England very near twenty winters. Soon after his decease, there was a council of all the nobles at Oxford; wherein Earl Leofric, and almost all the thanes north of the Thames, and the naval men in London, chose Harold (age 19) to be governor of all England, for himself and his brother [his half-brother] Hardacnute (age 17), who was in Denmark. Earl Godwin (age 34), and all the eldest men in Wessex, withstood it as long as they could; but they could do nothing against it. It was then resolved that Elfgiva (age 45), the mother of Hardacnute (age 19) [Note. [his mother] Aelfgifu Northumbria (age 45) is the mother of Harold "Harefoot" King England (age 19), [his step-mother] Emma aka Ælfgyfu of Normandy Queen Consort England (age 50) is the mother of King Harthacnut of Denmark and England (age 17)], should remain at Winchester with the household of the king her son. They held all Wessex in hand, and Earl Godwin (age 34) was their chief man. Some men said of Harold (age 19), that he was the son of King Knute (age 40) and of Elfgive (age 45) the daughter of Alderman Elfelm; but it was thought very incredible by many men. He was, nevertheless, full king over all England. Harold himself said that he was the son of Knute and of Elfgive (age 45) the Hampshire lady; though it was not true; but he sent and ordered to be taken from her all the best treasure that she could not hold, which King Knute possessed; and she nevertheless abode there continually within the city as long as she could.

John of Worcester. 1035. [his father] Canute (age 40), king of England, before his death, gave the kingdom of Norway to Sweyn (age 19), who was reported to be his son by Elfgiva of Northampton (age 45) [Note. Possibly a mistake for Northumberland?], the daughter of Alfhelm the ealdorman, and the noble lady [his grandmother] Wulfruna. Some, however, asserted that this Elfgiva desired to have a son by the king (age 40), but as she could not, she caused the new-born child of a certain priest to be brought to her, and made the king (age 40) fully believe that she had just borne him a son. He also gave the kingdom of Denmark to [his half-brother] Hardicanute (age 17), his son by the queen [his step-mother] Elfgiva (age 50). Afterwards, the same year, he departed this life at Shaftesbury on Wednesday, the second of the ides [the 12th] of November; but he was buried at Winchester in the Old Minster, with due honours. After his burial the queen Elfgiva (age 50) took up her abode there. Harold (age 19) also said that he was the son of king Canute (age 40) and Elfgiva of Northampton (age 50), although that is far from certain; for some say that he was the son of a cobbler, and that Elfgiva (age 50) had acted with regard to him as she had done in the case of Sweyn: for our part, as there are doubts on the subject, we cannot settle with any certainty the parentage of either. Harold (age 19), however, assuming the royal dignity, sent his guards in the utmost haste to Winchester, and tyrannically seized the largest and best part of the treasure and wealth which king Canute (age 40) had bequeathed to queen Elfgiva (age 50), and having thus robbed her, permitted her to continue her residence at Winchester. He then, with the consent of many of the higher orders of England, began to reign as though he was the lawful heir; but he had not the same power as Canute (age 40), because the arrival of Hardicanute (age 17), the more rightful heir, was looked for. Hence, shortly afterwards, the kingdom was divided by lot, Harold (age 19) getting the northern, and Hardicanute (age 17) the southern portion.

On 12 Nov 1035 [his father] King Canute of England (age 40) died at Shaftesbury, Dorset. His son Harold "Harefoot" King England (age 19) succeeded King England.

Harold "Harefoot" King England (age 19) succeeded King England.

John of Worcester. 1036. The innocent ethelings Alfred (age 31) and Edward, sons of Ethelred, formerly king of England, sailed from Normandy, where they had been for many years at the court of their uncle Richard, and, attended by many Norman knights, crossed over to England with a small fleet to confer with their [his step-mother] mother (age 51), who still abode at Winchester. Some of the men in power were very indignant at this, being much more devoted to Harold (age 20), however unjustly, than to the ethelings: especially, it is said, earl Godwin (age 35). The earl, therefore, arrested Alfred (age 31) on his road to London to confer with King Harold (age 20) as he had commanded, and threw him into prison.

Murder of Aelfred Ætheling Wessex by Godwinson

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 1036. This year came hither Alfred the innocent etheling (age 31), son of King Ethelred, and wished to visit his [his step-mother] mother (age 51), who abode at Winchester: but Earl Godwin (age 35), and other men who had much power in this land, did not suffer it; because such conduct was very agreeable to Harold (age 20), though it was unjust.

Him did Godwin let, and in prison set. His friends, who did not fly, they slew promiscuously. And those they did not sell, like slaughter'd cattle fell! Whilst some they spared to bind, only to wander blind! Some ham-strung, helpless stood, whilst others they pursued. A deed more dreary none in this our land was done, since Englishmen gave place to hordes of Danish race. But repose we must in God our trust, that blithe as day with Christ live they, who guiltless died- their country's pride! The prince with courage met each cruel evil yet; till 'twas decreed, they should him lead, all bound, as he was then, to Ely-bury fen. But soon their royal prize bereft they of his eyes! Then to the monks they brought their captive; where he sought a refuge from his foes till life's sad evening close. His body ordered then these good and holy men, according to his worth, low in the sacred earth, to the steeple full-nigh, in the south aile to lie of the transept west- his soul with Christ doth rest.

After 1036 [his mother] Aelfgifu Northumbria (age 46) died.

John of Worcester. 1037. Harold (age 21), king of Mercia and Northumbria, was elected by the nobles, and the whole people, king of all England; [his half-brother] Hardicanute (age 19) being entirely deposed, because he wasted his time in Denmark, and deferred coming over, as he was requested. His mother [his step-mother] Elfgiva (age 52), formerly queen of England, was banished from the kingdom, without mercy, at the beginning of winter. As soon as a ship could be got ready she sailed for Flanders, where she received an honourable welcome from the noble count Baldwin (age 24), who, with a liberality becoming his rank, took care that she should be freely supplied with all things needful, as long as she required it. A little before this, the same year, Ælfic, dean of Evesham, a man of deep piety, died.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 1037. This year men chose Harold (age 21) king over all; and forsook [his half-brother] Hardacnute (age 19), because he was too long in Denmark; and then drove out his mother [his step-mother] Elgiva (age 52) [Note. See above for the confusion over the mother of King Harthacnut of Denmark and England (age 19)], the relict of King Knute, without any pity, against the raging winter! She, who was the mother of Edward as well as of King Hardacnute (age 19), sought then the peace of Baldwin by the south sea. Then came she to Bruges [Map], beyond sea; and Earl Baldwin well received her there; and he gave her a habitation at Bruges [Map], and protected her, and entertained her there as long as she had need. Ere this in the same year died Eafy, the excellent Dean of Evesham.

John of Worcester. 1038. Æthelnoth, archbishop of Canterbury, departed this life on the fourth of the calends of November [29th September]. Seven days after, Ethelric, bishop of Sussex, died; for he had prayed to God that he might not long survive his beloved father Ethelnoth. Grimkytel succeeded him in the bishopric, and Eadsige, one of the king's chaplains, succeeded Ethelnoth in the archbishopric. In the same year died Ælfric, bishop of East-Anglia, and Brihteag, bishop of the Hwiccas [Worcester], ended his days on Wednesday the third of the calends of January [20th December], whose see king Harold (age 22) gave to Living, bishop of Crediton. Stigand, the king's chaplain, was appointed in Ælfric's place, but was afterwards ejected, and Grimkytel chosen in his stead; so that he held for the tune the two dioceses of Sussex and Essex; but Stigand was restored, and Grimkytel ejected, and Stigand kept the bishopric of Sussex for himself, and procured that of East-Anglia for his brother Ethelmar; but not satisfied with this, he was raised to the thrones of Winchester and Canterbury: he also strove hard to hold with them the bishopric of Sussex, and nearly carried his point. Ethelmar; was succeeded by Ærfast, bishop of Elmham, who, lest he should have seemed to have done nothing—for the Normans are very ambitious of future renown—transferred the see from Elmham to Thetford.

John of Worcester. 1040. Godwin (age 39), to obtain the king's favour, presented him with a galley of admirable workmanship, with a gilded figure-head, rigged with the best materials, and manned with eighty chosen soldiers splendidly armed. Every one of them had on each arm a golden bracelet weighing six ounces, and wore a triple coat of mail and a helmet partly gilt, and a sword with gilded hilt girt to his side, and a Danish battle-axe inlaid with gold and silver hanging from his left shoulder; in his left hand he bore a shield, the boss and studs of which were also gilt, and in his right hand a lance, called in the English tongue "Atagar."61 Moreover, he made oath to the [his half-brother] king (age 22), with almost all the chief men and greater thanes in England, that it was not by his counsel, or at his instance, that his brother's eyes were put out, but that he had only obeyed the commands of his lord, king Harold (age 24).

Note 61. Anglo-Saxon, atgar; old Norsk, atgeirr.

John of Worcester. 1040. Harold (age 24), king of England, died at London, and was buried at Westminster. After his funeral, the nobles of almost the whole of England sent envoys to [his half-brother] Hardicanute (age 22) at Bruges, where he was staying with his [his step-mother] mother (age 55), and, thinking it was for the best, invited him to come to England and ascend the throne. Thereupon, he fitted out fifty ships, and embarking Danish troops, before midsummer sailed over to England, where he was received with universal joy, and shortly afterwards crowned; but during his government he did nothing worthy his royal power. For as soon as he began to reign, calling to mind the injuries which both he and his mother had suffered at the hands of his predecessor, and reputed brother, king Harold (age 24), he despatched to London, Ælfric, archbishop of York, and earl Godwin (age 39), with Stor, the master of his household, Edric, his steward, Thrond, captain of his guards, and other men of high rank, with orders to dig up the body of Harold (age 24) and throw it into a sewer; and when it was thrown there, he caused it to be dragged out and cast into the river Thames. Shortly afterwards, it was picked up by a fisherman, and being immediately brought to the Danes, was honourably buried by them in a cemetery they possessed at London.60 After this, he ordered that eight marks should be paid to every rower in his fleet, and twelve to each steersman, to be levied from the whole of England; a tax so burthensome, that scarcely any one would pay it, and he became thoroughly detested by those who at first were most anxious for his coming. Besides, he was greatly incensed against earl Godwin (age 39), and Living, bishop of Worcester, for the death of his brother Alfred, of which they were accused by Ælfric, archbishop of York, and some others. In consequence, he took the bishopric of Worcester from Living and gave it to Ælfric; but the following year, he ejected Ælfric and graciously restored Living, who had made his peace with him.

Note 60. The cemetery of St Clement-Danes, where the Northmen had a settlement on the bank of the Thames, outside the walls of London. The Saxon Chronicle is silent as to Harold's corpse being thrown into the Thames and fished up, but Henry of Huntingdon gives the same account as our author.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 1040. This year died King Harold (age 24) at Oxford, Oxfordshire [Map], on the sixteenth before the calends of April; and he was buried at Westminster. He governed England four years and sixteen weeks; and in his days tribute was paid to sixteen ships, at the rate of eight marks for each steersman, as was done before in King Knute's days. The same year they sent after [his half-brother] Hardacnute (age 22) to Bruges [Map], supposing they did well; and he came hither to Sandwich, Kent [Map] with sixty ships, seven nights before midsummer. He was soon received both by the Angles and Danes, though his advisers afterwards severely paid for it. They ordered a tribute for sixty-two ships, at the rate of eight marks for each steersman. Then were alienated from him all that before desired him; for he framed nothing royal during his whole reign. He ordered the dead Harold (age 24) to be dragged up and thrown into a ditch. This year rose the sester of wheat to fifty-five pence, and even further. This year Archbishop Edsy went to Rome.

On 17 Mar 1040 Harold "Harefoot" King England (age 24) died at Oxford, Oxfordshire [Map]. His half brother [his half-brother] King Harthacnut of Denmark and England (age 22) succeeded King England.

Ancestors of Harold "Harefoot" King England 1016-1040

GrandFather: Sweyn "Forkbeard" King Denmark King Norway King England

Father: King Canute of England

Harold "Harefoot" King England

GrandFather: Aelfhelm Northumbria

Mother: Aelfgifu Northumbria

GrandMother: Wulfruna