Meet the Contenders in 1066

Here the contenders for the English throne in 1066 tell you about themselves.

Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex
Harold Godwinson
Harold Godwinson

My dad was a bit of a tough nut, but he was really good at politics! He always wanted us kids to become part of the royal family, and he managed to get my sister Edith married to Edward, the King of all England. I think if Edward could get rid of us Godwins, he would, but he’s just too scared of us! Dad wanted me to be king when Edward dies, and Edward kind of agreed, I think. Anyway, after all Dad’s hard work, I’m not going to just let these Normans walk in and claim the throne. I’m a bit worried about this oath thing, but I don’t like to talk about it. If it comes to a fight with William, I can handle myself pretty well (I sorted out the Welsh in ’63!). I’m also rich, I have a lot of powerful friends, and I’m English. As for my brother Tostig, he’s finished: he led a rebellion in ’64, and I helped crush it. He got thrown out of England: serves him right.

Harald Hardrada of Norway

An Englishman called Tostig has arrived in my court. He says his brother Harold wants to be next king of England when old Edward dies. But apparently Harold’s going to have a fight on his hands with William of Normandy. Now Tostig has had a big row with Harold, and hates him. He says that if I invade England from the north, it’ll be more than Harold can deal with – and he says he’ll fight with me against his own brother! I’ve spent all my life fighting, and they say I’m the toughest fighter in Europe. It’s all very tempting…

William, Duke of Normandy

My grand-dad’s sister was Emma, who was queen of England. In fact, she was queen of England twice! She was Æthelred’s wife, and then she married Cnut, the Viking king of England. Edward the old king is going to die soon, and Emma was his mum! Edward and Emma spent years at our court when they were young, and they both kind of told me I could be king of England myself one day. Trouble is, those Godwins have got themselves in with old Edward, and Harold seems to think the throne is going to him. If he does, he’ll have to fight me for it: England’s a prize worth fighting for!
But here’s the best bit: Harold got himself shipwrecked and captured on our coast a while back, and I got him out of trouble. We got to be good friends, sort of, but I made him promise under oath that he would let me be king of England when the time came. If he goes back on that, I can complain to the Pope himself!

William Duke of Normandy
William Duke of Normandy
Edgar Atheling

‘Ætheling’ just means ‘prince’. Old King Edward was my dad’s uncle. They got on really well together. We were invited to court and lived there for a bit. Old Edward was really fond of me and my brothers when we were babies, and he once said he wanted me to be king when he died. I’m not sure my claim to the throne is really that strong, though. I’m only fourteen, and I’m not rich and powerful like the Godwins or William of Normandy.