King Harold I Harefoot 1016 – 1040

Harold Harefoot

Family tree for King Harold Harefoot, son of King Canute the Great, showing:

Short Biography

Harold was born in 1016 and died on 17th March 1040. He was the second son of King Canute the Great and Aelfgifu of Northampton, his brother Sweyn had been born in 1015.

Harold’s father had successfully taken the English throne after conquering the country in 1016. Although Harold’s mother was still alive, Canute married King Aethelred’s widow, Emma of Normandy, to help gain the trust of the English people. When their first son, Harthacnut, was born Harold was displaced as heir to the throne. King Canute died on 12th November 1035. Harthacnut was declared King but was in Denmark where he had been sent as regent for his father.

In December 1035 Emma of Normandy’s sons by her first marriage, Edward and Alfred arrived in England. Edward landed at Southampton and Alfred in Kent, it is believed they hoped to take the throne back for the house of Wessex. Earl Godwin, the most powerful noble, who had allied himself with Harold Harefoot, met Alfred in Kent. He took him captive, blinded him and sent him to the monastery at Ely where he died of his injuries. Godwin would later claim that he was acting on Harold’s instructions. On hearing of his brother’s fate, Edward returned to Normandy.

In 1037, Harold took the throne because Harthacnut, was unable to return to England due to problems in Denmark. Hardly any details are recorded of Harold’s reign. He married a lady by the name of Aelfgifu but no details survive as to her parentage or her dates of birth and marriage. Her name disappeared from the records after Harold died in 1040. They had a son, Aelfwine but again no dates are recorded. It is believed he became a monk on the continent.

Harold died on 17th March 1040 at the age of 24 years. The cause of his death is not known. He was succeeded by his half-brother, Harthacnut.


First published 2017; updated and re-published Jul 27 2020 @ 4:54 pm – Updated – Sep 23, 2021 @ 2:16 pm

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2017 – 2020). King Harold I Harefoot 1016 – 1040. Available: Last accessed September 29th, 2021