Harold Harefoot

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Harold Harefoot (or Harold I) (c. 1015 – 17 March 1040) was King of England from 1037 to 1040. His cognomen "Harefoot" referred to his speed, and the skill of his huntsmanship.[1] He was the son of Cnut the Great, king of England, Denmark, and Norway by Ælfgifu of Northampton. Though there was some scepticism that he was really Cnut's son,[2] this was probably just propaganda by those who opposed his kingship.

Contents

Harthacnut's reign

Upon Cnut's death (12 November 1035), Harold's younger half-brother Harthacnut, the son of Cnut and his queen Emma of Normandy, was legitimate heir to the thrones of both the Danes and the English. Harthacnut, however, was unable to travel to his coronation in England because his Danish kingdom was under threat of invasion by King Magnus I of Norway and King Anund Jacob of Sweden. England's magnates[3] favoured the idea of installing Harold Harefoot temporarily as regent, due to the difficulty of Harthacnut's absence, and despite the opposition of Godwin, the Earl of Wessex, and the Queen, he eventually wore the crown.

Harold survived an attempt to unseat him jointly led by Ælfred Ætheling and Edward the Confessor, Emma's sons by the long-dead Æthelred the Unready, in 1036.

Assumes the throne

In 1037, Emma of Normandy fled to Bruges, in Flanders, and Harold "was everywhere chosen as king".[2] Harold himself is somewhat obscure; the historian Frank Stenton considered it probable that his mother Ælfgifu was "the real ruler of England" for part or all of his reign.[5]

With the north at least on Harold's side, in adherence to the terms of a deal, which Godwin was part of, Emma was settled in Winchester, with Harthacnut's huscarls. Harold soon "sent and had taken from her all the best treasures" of Cnut the Great,[6] and the Kingdom of England was practically his.

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