Godwin Haroldson was born to Harold Godwinson
and Edith the Fair
also known as Edith Swanneck. His birth date has been estimated based on records that indicate he was the eldest son of the couple and was considered to be too young to fight in 1066. He was named after his grandfather, Earl Godwin. His sister, Gunnhild may have been born before Godwin as in 1066 she was old enough to be living in Wilton Abbey.
1047 – 1055 (around)
Godwin’s brothers Magnus and Edmund were born to Harold Godwinson and Edith Swanneck. The exact dates of their birth are not recorded and it is not known which of the two sons was the eldest. A sister, Gytha was also born.
All descendants of Godwin’s grandfather, Earl Godwin
, were exiled by King Edward the Confessor
after the Earl refused to obey the King’s orders and punish the townspeople of Dover. Instead Earl Godwin raised an army against the King. It is not known whether Godwin, his mother and siblings were also exiled but his father, Harold went to Dublin, Ireland.
The Godwin exiles 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 and their former lands would be restored to them.
1053 (15th April)
Godwin’s father, Harold became Earl of Wessex and the most powerful nobleman in England when Earl Godwin, died.
As son of the most important nobleman in England, Godwin Haroldson would have received a good education.
1058 (date unknown)
Godwin’s father, Harold was created Earl of Hereford.
Godwin’s father, 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.
The people of Northumbria rebelled against the rule of Godwin’s uncle Tostig
. In the interests of peace in England Godwin’s father sided with the Northumbrians and sent his brother into exile. Tostig never forgave Harold for this action.
1066 (5th January)
Godwin’s father became King after Edward the Confessor died. It was claimed that Edward nominated Harold as his successor before he died. The closest blood relative to Edward, Edgar the Aetheling
, was considered too young to take the throne.
1066 (6th January)
Godwin’s father Harold was crowned King Harold II
Godwin’s father married Edith, daughter of the Earl of Mercia. This was likely a political marriage to strengthen ties with Mercia and ensure Harold had support in case his rule was challenged. He was able to make this marriage because he had married Godwin’s mother by the Danish handfasting ceremony which was not recognised by the church. Harold’s two sons by Edith, Harold and Ulf, were born after his death.
1066 (5th May)
Godwin’s exiled uncle Tostig made a series of raids along the South Coast and landed on the Isle of Wight.
1066 (20th May)
William Duke of Normandy made a case against King Harold for breaking an oath sworn on holy relics and presented it to the Pope. He was successful and gained papal backing for his invasion. The Pope sent him a banner to carry into battle.
1066 (late Spring)
Anticipating a challenge to his Kingship by William of Normandy, Godwin’s father Harold stationed militia along the South coast and on the Isle of Wight.
Godwin Haroldson’s uncle Tostig Godwinson tried to invade Mercia but was defeated by Earls Morcar
. He then persuaded Harald Hardrada
to invade England.
1066 (8th September)
Harald Hardrada supported by Harold’s brother Tostig invaded England. They sailed through the Humber estuary and into the River Ouse.
1066 (11th September)
Godwin’s father Harold Godwinson learned of Harald Hardrada’s invasion and mustered his troops.
1066 (20th September)
Battle of Fulford
Harold’s earls Morcar
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. The English army defeated the Norwegians, many of whom had not put on their protective chain mail or armour. 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 Godwinson 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)
Godwin’s father, King 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 (14th October)
Battle of Hastings
After a long fight that lasted most of the day, Harold Godwinson was struck by an arrow either in the eye or close to his 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. Harold’s body was so mutilated that it could only be recognised from marks on the body and may have been identified Godwin’s mother, Edith Swanneck. Godwin Haroldson’s grandmother, 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 14th October)
Edgar the Aetheling was named King by the Witan.
1066 (late October)
Godwin, his brothers Magnus and Edmund and sister Gytha are likely to have fled to Exeter with their grandmother Gytha. In Exeter, Gytha sought to raise a force to defeat William. where she began to raise a force to defeat William of Normandy.
Edgar, the Witan and other nobility were forced to submit to William Duke of Normandy. William took Edgar into his custody.
1066 (25th December)
William Duke of Normandy was crowned King William I of England
1067 (after 7th December) or 1068 (during)
King William lay siege to the city of Exeter. He dug tunnels under the city walls to weaken them and the city fell after 18 days. Gytha and her granddaughter, Gytha fled to the island of Flat Holm in the Bristol Channel. Godwin and his brothers fled to Ireland.
Battle of Bleadon
Godwin, Edmund and Magnus Haroldson returned to England with a fleet of 52 ships. They tried to take Bristol as their base in England but the people of Bristol were worried about the consequences of supporting the Haroldsons and a force led by Eadnoth the Staller fought them off at Bleadon. Eadnoth was killed and Magnus Haroldson may also have been killed during the battle.
1068 (late Summer)
It is believed that Gytha left England with her granddaughter, Gytha. She either entered the convent at St Omer or returned to Denmark.
Two sons of Harold Godwinson, probably Godwin and Edmund Haroldson, attempted to launch an invasion of England from Exeter. They raided much of the south-west but failed to gain any support for a bid to replace King William on the throne.
It is likely that Godwin Haroldson, his brother Edmund and sister Gunnhild went to the continent and met their grandmother and sister.
1069 (late Autumn)
Godwin, Edmund and their sister Gytha went to the court of King Swein Estrithson in Denmark where they hoped to gain support for an invasion of England. Swein refused to support them.
Godwin Haroldson disappeared from the records. It has been suggested that he may have travelled further east, married and settled there.