What happened to Harold Godwinson’s children after the Battle of Hastings?

In the aftermath of William the Conqueror's victory, Anglo-Saxon England was turned upside down, not least for the seven children of the defeated King Harold

Harold Godwinson’s two eldest sons fled to Ireland after the Battle of Hastings, where they lived as guests of the King of Leinster. (Photo by Duncan1890 via Getty Images)

William of Normandy, who became King of England after Harold Godwinson was supposedly killed by an arrow to the eye at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, was not the forgiving sort. Leaving ‘spares’ to the throne simply wouldn’t do

Advertisement

That’s why Harold’s two eldest sons, Godwin and Edmund – in their late teens in 1066 – fled to Ireland, where they lived as guests of the King of Leinster.

In 1069, they came back with a fleet of ships hoping to raise an army and regain the throne. They were defeated in a battle at the River Taw in Devon. They escaped alive, but their fate is unknown.

Harold’s 11-year-old daughter, Gunhilda, was being educated at Wilton Abbey in 1066. She finished her education and was married to Alan Rufus, one of William’s henchmen. The marriage appears to have been happy and they had at least one child.

Gytha, who was 13, fled to her uncle, King Sweyn of Denmark, with her younger brothers Magnus, Harold and Ulf. The fates of the boys are unknown, but Gytha married Vladimir Monomakh, Prince of the Rus, and so was the ancestress to the later Tsars of Russia.

Advertisement

This article was taken from BBC History Revealed magazine