King Harold Godwinson



Edward the Confessor was a weak king – it was said of him that he would have preferred to be a monk rather than a king.  During his reign the country was invaded by the Vikings and the Welsh – Edward was unable to defend his own country.

He also was unable to control his nobles, particularly the powerful Godwin family.  In 1051, in an attempt to get rid of them, with the help of some Norman noblemen, Edward gathered an army, drove the Godwins out of England, and named William of Normandy as his heir.

But next year Earl Godwin and his son Harold returned, defeated Edward in battle, and until the king’s death in 1066 they controlled the country; in 1063 Harold was officially named a ‘under-king’.

When Edward died, Harold immediately seized the throne.

Study these three Sources, then answer the question sheet by clicking on the 'Time to Work' icon at the top of the page.


The following websites will help you research further:


Harold's coronation:

Long Live the King - simple site

Doug Larsen's detailed account of the scene

• Artists' impressions -  1, 2,




1  The Death of Edward the Confessor

This was written in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the year 1066.

(The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was a record of all the events of the time, written down as they happened by Saxon monks for the kings of England.)

Now did Edward, Lord of the English,

Send his godly soul to Christ.

Here in the world he lived for a time

In royal majesty, wise in his thinking,

A gentle ruler for 24 years, ruler of warriors ...

A king of great goodness, pure and kind,

Until suddenly came that bitter death.


Yet did the wise king give his kingdom

To a man of high rank, to Harold Godwinson himself,

The noble earl who always obeyed his lord.


2  Harold Godwinson, King of the English

This scene from the Bayeux Tapestry shows Harold with his Saxon nobles, and Archbishop Stigand, who crowned Harold king. 

The scene is posed and false, and the presence of Stigand (who had been excommunicated) was meant to show that Harold had not been properly crowned.

The Latin words mean: 'Here sits Harold, king of the English'.


3  Harold Godwinson, The Doomed King

This source shows the very next tableau from the Bayeux Tapestry; it portrays a very different scene, full of bad omens. 

The Latin words mean: 'They are terrified by the star'.