King '''Harold II of England''' (ca. 1022 - [[October 14]], 1066) was the last crowned Anglo-Saxon king of England. He was the son of Earl Godwin of Wessex, succeeded St. [[Edward the Confessor]] to the throne of England, but served as its king for less than a year, dying on the field of battle at Hastings in southern England in 1066, when England was invaded by William the Bastard ("the Conqueror"), Duke of Normandy. He ruled from [[January 5]], 1066 to [[October 14]], the day of his death.
He is regarded by many Orthodox Christians as a [[passion-bearer]] or even [[martyr]] and as the last Orthodox king of England.
[[Image:Harold.jpg|right|frame|Harold II Godwinson of England<br>(Bayeux Tapestry)]]
Harold's father was Godwin, the powerful Earl of Wessex. Godwin was himself a son to Wulfnoth Cild, Thane of Sussex, and had married twice. His first marriage was to Thyra Sveinsdóttir (994 - 1018), a daughter of Sweyn I who was king of Denmark,
king of Norway and England. His second wife was Gytha Thorkelsdóttir who was a granddaughter to the legendary Swedish viking Styrbjörn Starke and great-granddaughter to Harold Bluetooth, King of Denmark and Norway, father of Sweyn I. This second marriage resulted in the birth of two sons, Harold and Tostig Godwinson, and a sister, Edith of Wessex (1020 - 1075) who was Queen consort of St. [[Edward the Confessor]].
Created Earl of East Anglia in 1045, Harold accompanied Godwin into exile in 1051 but helped him to regain his position a year later. When Godwin died in 1053, Harold succeeded him as Earl of Wessex (a province at that time covering the southernmost third of England). This made him the second most powerful figure in England after the king.
Hildebrand had previously been at the head of efforts to disentangle the election of popes from secular politics, thus bolstering the power and solidity of the papacy. (He was eventually elected pope himself, styled Pope Gregory VII, and is a saint in the [[Roman Catholic Church]].) Such an opportunity as Lanfranc's proposal presented to increase the papacy's influence over secular politics could not be missed. Being the most skilful politician at the Vatican, he saw to it that a papal court was held in Rome ("without the slightest reference to the facts," says Howarth on p. 102) at which Harold was entirely unrepresented. As Howarth says:
:It is not recorded whether he was invited to send an advocate, but it is very unlikely. To ride from Rome to Bosham [where Harold was in England] and back again to Rome suggests a month on the road, and nobody was prepared to waste as much time as that. If he had been invited, he and the witan would certainly have answered, quite correctly, that the choice
og a King of England had nothing to do with the Pope (p. 102).
The court ruled against Harold, and the Pope
After Harold had returned from his brilliant defeat of Harald of Norway in the north of England, he learned quickly of the Norman invasion. He'd been suspecting it for some time, but it fell hard on the heels of victory at Stamford Bridge that he would have to defend his country in the south, as well.
Upon his return to southern England, he soon received word from William's forces that he had been excommunicated by the Pope and that the Normans carried papal blessing to invade England. All evidence suggests that this news utterly demoralized King Harold. While he had been a powerful commander against the Norsemen, upon hearing news of the alleged excommunication, he declared, "May the Lord now decide between William and me" (Howarth, p. 164), and before going to battle, "the terrible rumour was starting to spread that the King was excommunicated and the same fate hung over any man who fought for him" (ibid., 165).
Records of how the battle actually went suggest that instead of the dynamic fighting force Harold had inspired just days before, the English mainly stood in one place and were slaughtered. Harold had been transformed by his betrayal by the Pope, and his defeat by William (which from a purely military standpoint was by no means assured) marked the end of the ecclesial distinctiveness of the English church and its subsequent capitulation to Rome under Norman rule. Lanfranc himself, as Archbishop of Canterbury, led the Latinization and Normanization of the English church, while William brutalized the English people.
*[http://uk.geocities.com/guildfordian2002/AngloSaxon/FallOrthodoxEngland.htm The Fall of Orthodox England] by Vladimir Moss