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Harold Godwinson's claim to the throne


Harold was the eldest son of Earl Godwin.  The Godwin family were the most powerful in England,  controlling the area known as Wessex.

Harold's sister - Edith - was married to King Edward the Confessor.

The Godwins were powerful as they were related to the King and controlled Wessex

Harold Godwinson had a great deal of power by 1066.  His father had died, so he was now head of the powerful Godwin family.

When King Edward the Confessor lay dying in early January 1066, his wife Edith and Harold Godwinson were at his bedside. 

According to Harold, King Edward's dying words were:
"I commend my wife and all my kingdom to your care"

If this was true, Harold had a rightful claim Definition as he was carrying out the King's last wish.

However - there are questions about Harold's claim:

  • Did the words really mean King Edward wanted Harold to become King?  Was Edward just asking Harold to look after his wife?
  • Why did Edward suddenly change his mind?

  • Do we believe Harold? His only proper witness was his sister!  There were probably others there, but nobody who would have been prepared to go against Harold.

  • Harold was crowned King very quickly after King Edward's death.  Usually there would be a period of mourning Definition.  Was Harold trying to rush because he was covering something up?

There is no clear evidence to say Harold did have a claim.  Yet there is also no clear evidence to say that he did not!

One source Definition claims that King Edward had already chosen Harold Godwinson as the next King.

If King Edward's dying wish was for Harold to become King, then Harold had the rightful claim Definition.  A King's dying wish replaced all previous promises or plans.

Was this King Edward's dying wish though?  It was extremely convenient Definition for Harold Godwinson if it was!

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Last updated Wednesday, 02 July 2003