Harold Harefoot, was born to Canute
, son of Sweyn Forkbeard
daughter of the Earldorman of Northampton. He was nicknamed Harefoot because he could run fast.
Harold’s father, Canute had been prevented from succeeding his father to the English throne by the Witan who had preferred King Aethelred the Unready
. Canute was not happy and continued to press his claim to the English throne.
1016 (23rd April)
King Aethelred died. He was succeeded by his son, Edmund Ironside as King Edmund II
1016 (9th May)
Battle of Brentford
Canute’s force was defeated by Edmund Ironside.
1016 (18th October)
Battle of Assandun
Canute defeated Edmund Ironside and left him in control of only Wessex.
1016 (after 18th October)
Harold’s father, Canute negotiated a treaty with King Edmund whereby they agreed to share the rule of the country. Canute ruled Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia while Edmund ruled Wessex. It was agreed that on the death of either party the other would rule all of England.
1016 (30th November)
Edmund Ironside died and Canute seized the throne of England. Harold became heir to the throne.
Harold’s father, Canute, was crowned King of England at St Paul’s Cathedral.
1017 (2nd July)
Even though Harold’s mother was still alive, Canute married Aethelred’s widow, Emma
. This was a political move to secure the support of Normandy, Emma’s sons by Aethelred, and the people of England over whom Emma had been queen for 15 years. It was agreed that the succession would be with the children of Emma and Cnut.
A son, Harthacnut
was born to Cnut and Emma. The birth of Harthacnut meant that Harold was no longer heir to the throne.
Harold’s father, Canute inherited the throne of Denmark when his brother died.
Harold’s half-sister, Gunhilda, was born to Emma and Cnut.
Canute became King of Norway. He was now King of England, Denmark and Norway and was referred to as Cnut the Great.
1028 (late Summer)
Harold’s half-brother, Harthacnut, son of Emma and Cnut, was made regent of Denmark.
1035 (12th November)
King Canute died. Harthacnut was nominated as his successor but he was absent from England in Denmark where he was regent of the country.
Harold’s elder brother, Sweyn, died in Denmark.
Harold attempted to gain the crown claiming that he was the only one of Cnut’s sons in England, however, Harthacnut’s mother, Emma of Normandy, pressed her son’s claim. Earl Godwin of Wessex
decided to back Harold Harefoot. The Witan decided that Harold should act as regent. ruling Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia while Emma would act as regent in Wessex for Harthacnut.
1035 (late December)
Emma’s sons by her marriage to Aethelred, Edward
and Alfred, arrived in England. Edward landed at Southampton and Alfred in Kent. It is thought that they had come to take the throne back for their family. Alfred was met at Guildford by Earl Godwin
, the most powerful nobleman. However, Earl Godwin had not come to meet Alfred since he had allied himself to Harold from his first marriage. Instead he seized Alfred, blinded him and then sent him to the monastery at Ely. On hearing of his brother’s capture, Edward returned to Normandy.
1036 (5th February)
Alfred, Emma of Normandy’s son, died from his injuries.
Harthacnut had still not returned from Denmark to claim the throne and so the English nobles supported Harold’s claim to be King.
Following the decision of the Witan at Oxford to accept Harold I as King, Emma left England and went to Bruges.
1040 (17th March)
Harold died at the age of 24, possibly from a congenital illness. He was succeeded by his half-brother, Harthacnut