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Who was Harold Godwinson? - Learn the Important Bits in this KS2 Guide

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

Harold shot in the eye with an arrow - ouch!

Harold II was the last king of the Anglo-Saxons.

But he wasn't always a king. In 1053, Harold became Earl of Wessex after his father died and passed the title down to him. During this time, Edward the Confessor was king.

Harold crowns himself King Harold II

In January 1066, King Edward died. Edward had no children and so there was no clear heir to take his place. In stepped Harold. As Earl of Wessex, he was the most powerful man in England after the king. Harold claimed that Edward had named him heir to the throne and took the crown.

But there was a problem. Two years earlier, when Harold had been shipwrecked off the coast of Normandy, he had had a very important conversation with William, Duke of Normandy. In this chat, William had forced Harold to swear an oath. William believed that he, not Harold, was actually heir to the throne of England. Harold swore to support William in his claim for the crown after King Edward died.

Harold swears an oath to William, Duke of Normandy

So when Harold crowned himself King in 1066, William was understandably a bit miffed. William, gathered an army of Normans and set course for England. He even used Harold's sworn oath to get support for this invasion from the Pope!

As William arrived in England, poor Harold was already fighting a battle elsewhere. As soon as Harold defeated The King of Norway, Harald Hardrada, and his forces at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, he rushed his army down the country to meet William and the Normans.

The pair and their armies met on 14th October 1066 and fought at the Battle of Hastings. William, now calling himself "William the Conqueror", won the battle (but with a name like that he was always going to win really, wasn't he?).

Harold was killed by supposedly being shot in the eye by an arrow during the battle. At least that’s what is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry. There are conflicting reports on how he actually died, one account states he was chopped up in to little pieces by four knights instead.

Not sure which is the best way to go.


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