Harald I Harefoot
Harald I Harefoot (The Kalmar Union).png
Harald I Harefoot
King of Anglia
Reign 12th August, 1032 - 8th April, 1059
Coronation n/a
Predecessor Cnut I
Successor Aelfwine
Born c. January, 1015
Northampton, Anglia
Died 8th April, 1059
Norwich, Anglia
Spouse Aelfgifu
Issue Aelfwine


Full name
Harald I Cnutsson
House Denmark, or Gorm
Father Cnut I
Mother Aelfgifu of Northampton

King Harald I was the 3rd Danish king of Anglia. He succeeded his father, Cnut I in August 1032.

Born in 1015 to Cnut I and his first wife, Aelfgifu of Northampton Harald would spend many years in the household of Cnut's rival, Edmund II as a hostage to keep the peace between the two English successor kingdoms. The relationship and friendship built between Harald and the future Edward III of Wessex would serve both kingdoms when they took their respective thrones. He received the nickname 'Harefoot' as recognition of his hunting skills.

Although Harald did not inherit any of his father's overseas possessions involvement in the politics of Scandinavia did not end. Harald was often in dispute with the rulers of Hordaland but it would soon become clear that his main enemies would be his father's second wife, Emma of Normandy, and her children. His half-brother Harthacnut had succeeded to Denmark and began his reign by almost immediately preparing an invasion of Anglia, regarding Harald as a usurper. Reasoning that a friend on the Anglian throne was a far better propect than an unknown quantity Edward rallied to his childhood friend's side and the two kings destroyed Harthacnut's tentative invasion force in 1036. Danish domestic troubles soon put pay to any further invasions although the threat remained.

Emma's two other children by Aethelred II, Edward and Alfred, might have been expected to have an easier ride but again Edward III had no wish to see an Norman-backed Anglia compete and their invasion was comprehensively crushed by a Anglian-Wessex army at London in 1041.

The increased threat of invasion added to an more disturbed domestic scene as Cnut's old appointees died. Harald struggled with the nobility to place his own men in crucial places and poor choices regarding Mercia kept it in near constant revolt from 1039 onwards. Harald does seem in general to have upset the good government that Cnut I had introduced, however as his reign continued a return to the status quo occurred. He certainly did not pay as much attention to the church as Cnut did, probably not helping his reputation amongst the chroniclers.

Meanwhile raids from Hordaland escalated as did incursions by Wessex nobles eager to increase their standings by raiding the beleagured Danes. Edward would be forced to pay Harald homage in 1049 after his brother Edmund was caught and killed whilst raiding Coventry. Many historians have questioned why Harald did not take the opportunity to go for all-out conquest of Wessex as he certainly had the moral right. However the threat of invasion from Normandy and Scandinavia probably convinced both kings to keep their feuding from escalating too far.

Harald I would die in 1059, probably of natural causes, and was succeeded by his 14-year old son Aelfwine. A much younger daughter, Gytha, probably went to the Hungarian court as marriage material but sources are unclear. Some Hungarian noble families insert her into their own lineage but they are contradictory so cannot be trusted.

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