This is a short scene set entirely at Waltham Abbey where King Harold is convalescing. In the previous blog post I mentioned that Harold had married Eadgyth, the elder sister of Edwin and Morcar of the house of Wessex. This was very much a political move on Harold’s part. He had been married by common-law to another woman, also called Eadgyth, who was the mother of his children. However, it seems that Harold was keen to legitamise his ascent to the throne and Eadgyth Swan-neck, as she was popularly known due to her graceful beauty, could not do that for him. Eadgyth of Wessex offered him the chance of uniting two great eorldoms that had often been at odds with each other. If successful it would have given Harold a strong power-base. It might have been for this reason that when, in 1065, the people of Northumbria revolted against the rule of their then eorl, Tostig Godwinson, Harold sided with them against his own brother and advised King Edward to depose Tostig and promote Morcar in his place. Tostig himself certainly seems to have blamed Harold for his fall from grace, although his frequent absences from Northumbria to spend time either with King Malcolm of Scotland or King Edward in Westminster might have had something to do with it. It is difficult to know whether the people preferred his absence because he was a harsh and violent ruler of his eorldom by all accounts.
Although the politics are interesting I did not write this scene to explore them. Rather, I was interested in supposing what Harold’s relationship with his new wife Eadgyth might have been like. Contemporary sources suggest that they were fond of each other, despite the political inspiration for their marriage. Eadgyth was a widow already and not, therefore, some naive girl. Her father, Eorl Aelfgar of Wessex had raised her knowing very well that she was valuable to him in a political sense. Aelfgar had married her to Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, King of Wales, after he had himself been banished from England by King Edward. In his attempts to win back his eorldom, Aelfgar had allied himself with the Welsh to try and force King Edward’s hand. Eadgyth was a noblewoman of experience by the time she married Harold Godwinson.
As mentioned, Harold already had children, and so did Eadgyth. I presumed that she might see her pregnancy as a means of fostering a stronger bond with her husband. Certainly, it would provide a link in blood between him and her brothers. It might also provide some degree of security for her unborn children, she was pregnant with twins it seems. I wrote this scene to present Harold as more of a man than a historical figure. I wanted to round out his character. Although not important to the story that immediately follows this does explain why King Harold was not present at Westminster when the news of Harald Hardrada’s invasion reached London.
Below is a PDF file of the chapter under discussion. Please, click on the link and enjoy.