Harold Harefoot – Reign 1035-1040

Harold Harefoot was the King of England from 1035 to 1040.

Harold was the son of King Cnut the Great and Ælfgifu of Northampton. Harold assumed control after the death of his father Cnut in 1035.

Early Medieval King Harold Harefoot

King Harold was called Harefoot because he was very fast when he used to hunt and was a great huntsman. He was quick and speedy.

Initially, it was on a temporary basis as he was ruling in place of his brother Harthacnut who was busy in Denmark as a rebellion had broken out in Norway.

Harold wanted a coronation in 1935 but Æthelnoth, Archbishop of Canterbury refused, so he was finally proclaimed King in 1937 with the support of Earl Leofric and others. Harold Harefoot belonged to the House of Denmark and was Christian by faith.

Harold Harefoot Timeline

  • Harold Harefoot was born around 1016
  • His father “King Cnut the Great” died on 12th November 1035
  • He ruled England from 12th November 1035 to 17th March 1040
  • In 1036 Invasion by Ælfred and Edward took place
  • His coronation took place in 1037
  • He died on 17th March 1040

Why was King Harold called Harefoot?

King Harold was called Harefoot because he was very fast when he used to hunt and was a great huntsman. He was quick and speedy. But it is believed that the term harefoot was used only in the contemporary world and was not used before the late middle ages.

King Harold Harefoot and Paternity

Although it was claimed that King Harold was the son of “Cnut the Great” and Ælfgifu of Northampton, it is believed that it was not true and he was not the legitimate son of King Cnut.

It is believed that Ælfgifu wanted to have a son from the King, but she was not able to, hence she adopted a son from unknown people and she pretended that she had given birth to Harefoot.

As per historical chronicles, Harold was the son of a cobbler. On the other hand, it is also believed that Svein Knutsson, Harold’s brother, was also an illegitimate son of a priest and Ælfgifu fooled Cnut into believing that the bothers were his sons.

There is also a view that negates these claims and according to them, such myths were only created to defame Cnut.

King Harold’s Rule

Harthacnut who was the half-brother of Harold Harefoot was the legitimate heir to the throne of England and Denmark after the death of their father Cnut.

But Harthcnut was not available in England and was busy fighting and defending the Danish kingdom against the attacks of King Magnus I of Norway and King Anund Jacob of Sweden.

So it was initially decided to install Harold as a temporary regent or joint monarch due to the unavailability of Harthacnut. Although the idea was opposed by Godwin, the Earl of Wessex, and the Queen he was eventually crowned.

During his reign, Harold with the support of Anglo-Danish nobility stopped the invasion of Ælfred and Edward and was indeed regarded as the rightful heir to the throne.

Harold Harefoot’s Death

Harold Harefoot died on 17th March 1040 at Oxford. He was buried at the Westminster Abbey. The exact cause of the death of Harold at such a young age is unknown and it is believed that he died of a mysterious disease.

Harold’s half-brother Harthacnut succeeded him after his death.