Harald I Harefoot
Harold1 Harefoot 02.jpg
Harald Harefoot
King of Jórvík
Reign 1035 - 17 March, 1056
Predecessor Cnut
Successor Aelfwine
Born 1015
Died 17 March, 1056
Jórvík, Jórvík
Spouse Ælfgifu(?)
Issue Ælfwine
Full name
Harald Knutsson
House Denmark
Father Cnut II of Denmark
Mother Ælfgifu of Northampton

Harald I was King of the Kingdom of Jórvík from 1037 until his death in early 1056. He is regarded as the second ruler of an independent Jórvík, though it was under his reign that the governing abilities of the new state were established.


Harald was born sometime during 1015 and depending on the date, could've been born in either Denmark or England. It is known, however, that he was in England during the Battle of Assandun, which divided the Kingdom into Wessex and the Danelaw. After his father, Cnut, also inherited Denmark, and moved his court to Denmark, Harald and his mother, Ælfgifu of Northampton, stayed in Danish England.

Harald would grow up in the Danelaw. As he grew, he would take up hunting, and was given the nickname "Harefoot" in recognition of his skills as such.

When he was 16/17, King Edmund of Wessex died. By the peace accord agrees to by Cnut and Edmund after the Battle of Assandun, his death meant that Cnut would've inherited Wessex. The Saxon nobles declared Edmunds son, Edward, King of Wessex in retaliation for the attempted assassination of Edmund a scant month after Assandun, of which the Danes were accused of masterminding.

Harald was aware that this meant his father would yet again wage war on the Saxons. As his father readied the Danish and Norwegian levies, Harald attempted to summon the forces of the Anglo-Saxon nobles. However, said nobles were slow in raising their armies. When Cnut finally arrived in England, Harald was the one that informed his father of the unprepared nature of the Anglo-Saxon levies. While angered by this, Cnut decided to leave with what he had, as he still outnumbered Edwards force 3:2.

The war saw Cnut make continued attempts to outmaneuver Edwards army, while simultaneously defending his supply lines, and moving on London and Winchester. Harald was present with Cnuts army at the Battle of Lincoln, and it is said that he watched his father take an arrow to the eye, killing him.

With the battle lost, it fell to Harald to make peace. He was aware that Norway was in revolt, and his half-brother Sweyn Knutssnon was killed, and hence, could not sustain combat in England. The peace he agreed to with Edward III solidified the split of Wessex and the Danelaw. Leaving Denmark and the Norwegian revolt to his older brother, Harthacnut, he took the title "King of Jórvík", taking the name of the old Viking-established kingdom.

Harald had gained the support of a number of Anglo-Saxon nobles as a result of his command during the war but was still opposed by a vocal portion of the nobility. In light of this, Harthacnut prepared an invasion of Jórvík, regarding Harald as a usurper. Thankfully for Harald, the Norwegian invasion lead by a vengeful Magnus the Good, preoccupied him.

Cnut, while he ruled what became Jórvík, had done little to bring some sort of central governing body in the territory. His justification was that England would be reunited after the death of Edmund, and the English court would move to London or Winchester. After Harald made peace with Wessex it became clear he needed a proper capital. He chose Jórvík, its name now reverted to the Norse translation, for its relative distance, farther from the Wessexian border than Lincoln or Norwich.

It was this tasked that he committed himself to for his rule. His council often met in the church or an inn while administrative buildings were constructed.

Harald would not see them completed. He dies of a "mysterious illness" on March 17, 1056. His only son was the illegitimate Ælfwine, but the nobility had no wish to get involved in Harthacnuts conflicts with Norway by naming him King. As such, Haralds illegitimate son was named King of Jórvík.

Paternity Dispute

The paternity of Harald is debated, as some scholars theorize that Harald was an illegitimate child of Ælfgifu, who then tricked Cnut into believing Harald was his own. Danish and Jorvikian scholars, however, reject that the man who "masterminded the bloodless takeover of Norway" would've allowed himself to be deceived in such a way. Those same scholars accuse Wessexian and Svealandic scholars, who make up a significant portion of those pushing the theory, of attacking the legitimacy of the Jorvikian (and, by extension, the Danish) royal family.


Harald would marry a woman beloved to be named Ælfgifu, but not much is known of her. His only son was born of an unknown mistress:

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