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Harald Harefoot

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Harald Harefoot (c. 1015 – March 17, 1040) was King of England from 1035 to 1040. His cognomen "Harefoot" was for his fleetness of foot and his skill as a huntsman. He was the son of Canute the Great, King of England, Denmark, Norway, and some of the Kingdom of Sweden, through his handfast wife Aelgifu of Northampton. In some quarters there were doubts that he was a true son of Knutr, although his supporters claimed this was mere rumor-mongering by his enemies.

Harold harefoot

Harold Harefoot

Upon Knutr's death on November 12, 1035, Harald's younger half-brother Harthacanute, the son of Canute and his queen, Emma of Normandy, was held to be heir to the thrones of both the Danes and the English. He was, however, unable to travel to his coronation, because his Danish kingdom was under threat of invasion by King Magnus I of Norway and King Anund Jacob of Sweden. England's magnates favored the idea of installing Harold Harefoot temporarily as regent, due to the difficulty of Harthacanute's absence, and despite the opposition of Godwin, the Earl of Wessex, and the Queen, he eventually wore the crown, although the Archbishop of Canterbury refused to place it upon his head.

Harald survived an attempt to unseat him led by Alfred Aetheling and Edward the Confessor, Emma's sons by the long-dead Ethelred the Unready, in 1036. Harold died at Oxford on March 17, 1040, just as Harthacanute was preparing an invasion force of Danes, and was buried at the abbey of Westminster. His body was subsequently exhumed, beheaded, and thrown into a fen bordering the Thames when Harthacanute assumed the throne in June, 1040. His supporters later rescued the body, to be buried in a church which was fittingly named St Clement Danes.

Harold had a son, Elfwine, who departed for the mainland to become a monk in later years.

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