Edith was born. Her exact date of birth, location and names of her parents are unknown. She was nicknamed Edith Swanneck, Edith Swannesha and Edith the Fair.
Edith married Harold Godwinson
, Earl of East Anglia, son of Earl Godwin of Wessex
. They were married by the Danish handfasting ceremony which was not recognised by the Church. The couple had five children, Godwin
, Gunhilda and Gytha but there are no records of the exact dates of their birth.
A group of Normans including William Duke of Normandy
, had visited Edward the Confessor
in London. On their return journey they had been involved in a conflict with the people of Dover and some were killed. Edward the Confessor asked Harold’s father, Earl Godwin to punish the townspeople of Dover. Earl Godwin refused to carry out the King’s demand and instead raised an army against the King. Not wanting civil war, the Witan intervened and the Godwin family were exiled. Edith’s husband, Harold, went to Dublin with his brother Leofwine
. It is not known if Edith went with him or stayed in England.
Harold and his family returned to England at the head of an army. King Edward was unable to raise a force that would defeat them and was forced to sue for peace terms. It was agreed that the Godwin family could return to England and their former lands would be restored to them. A large number of King Edward’s Norman supporters at court had fled to Normandy in the face of the Godwin invasion. It is likely that Harold’s brother Wulfnoth
and his nephew Hakon
were taken to Normandy as hostages.
1053 (15th April)
Edith Swanneck’s husband Harold became Earl of Wessex and the most powerful nobleman in England when his father Earl Godwin, died.
Harold took a boat journey, setting sail from Bosham in the south. The purpose of the journey is not known but it may have been to try to secure the release of his brother Wulfnoth and nephew Hakon, or that he was simply taking a fishing trip. However, his boat was blown off course and he was shipwrecked off the coast of Ponthieu. William, Duke of Normandy ordered that Harold be brought to him. Harold rode into battle with William and helped to defeat Conan II of Brittany
. After the battle William knighted Harold before he returned to England with his nephew Hakon. The Normans claimed that Harold then swore an oath to support William’s claim to the throne of England after the death of Edward. The oath is not recorded in any Anglo-Saxon sources.
1066 (5th January)
King Edward the Confessor died. It was claimed that he nominated Harold as his successor.
1066 (6th January)
Harold was crowned King Harold II. The church did not recognise Edith and Harold’s marriage so she was given no royal status.
Harold Godwinson married Edith, sister of the Earl of Mercia. This was likely a political marriage to strengthen ties with Mercia and ensure Harold has support in case his rule was challenged. Harold’s two sons by Edith, Harold and Ulf, were born after his death. Edith Swanneck’s feelings about this marriage are not recorded.
1066 (8th September)
supported by Harold’s brother Tostig
invaded England. They sailed through the Humber estuary and into the River Ouse.
1066 (11th September)
Harold Godwinson learned of Harald Hardrada’s invasion. Having just disbanded his army he was forced to recall his troops.
1066 (20th September)
Battle of Fulford
Harold’s earls Morcar and Edwin were defeated by the Viking forces of Harald and Tostig at this battle. The two earls fled the battlefield.
1066 (after 20th September)
Harold Godwinson marched rapidly north calling for men to join him along the way.
1066 (25th September)
Battle of Stamford Bridge
Harold Godwinson’s English army reached the north and surprised Harald Hardrada and Tostig who were completely unprepared for battle. Harald Hardrada was killed around midday. Tostig Godwinson was offered a pardon but he refused and the fighting continued until Tostig was killed in the early evening.
1066 (28th September)
William, Duke of Normandy sailed overnight and landed at Pevensey on the South coast of England in the morning. He was surprised to find no army waiting for him.
1066 (1st October)
Harold learned of the Norman invasion. He immediately made plans to return South.
1066 (6th October)
Harold Godwinson reached London. He sent out a call to arms for men to join his army.
1066 (11th October)
Harold left London at the head of the Saxon army. He ordered that his men should muster at Caldbec Hill just north of Hastings.
1066 (13th October)
Harold reached Caldbec Hill. He had hoped to make a surprise attack on the Norman camp at Hastings but he found out that William knew of his presence and had to change tactic.
1066 (14th October)
Battle of Hastings
After fighting all day, it is thought that an arrow went through the eye slit of Harold’s helmet and struck him in the eye or near to the eye. It is thought that while reeling from this injury he was cut down by a sword, possibly to his thigh, or an axe and died of his injuries.
1066 (15th October)
The Normans had been unable to identify Harold’s body. Edith Swanneck was summoned to identify the body, which she was able to do by marks on the body that only she was aware of. Harold’s mother Gytha
offered William her son’s weight in gold for the body but William refused. The exact burial place of Harold’s body remains a matter of dispute but a body found at Bosham in 2003 which was lacking a head and leg is a likely candidate.
1066 (after 15th October)
Edith Swanneck disappeared from records after this date. She may have joined Harold’s mother and her sons in Exeter, or she may have left England and gone to Denmark with her sons and daughter Gytha, or she may have entered a nunnery.