Harold II, King of England
Harold, the son of Godwin, Earl of Wessex and Gytha of Denmark,
was born in 1022.
Harold being offered the English Crown (Bayeux Tapestry)
Harold proved his ability to rule and was chosen to become King on the death of Edward the Confessor. His succession launched the Norman invasion of England led by William of Normandy which ended the Saxon era in England.
While William was preparing to invade, Harold's brother, Tostig, earlier expelled from his earldom of Northumbria, sailed up the River Ouse and landed at Riccall, Yorkshire, with a large band of Vikings led by Harald, King of Norway.
Harold raced north to surprise the Vikings and a battle took place at Stamford Bridge near York. He inflicted a crushing defeat, the River Derwent was said to have turned red with the blood of the victims. Only 24 of the 300 Vikings ships were needed to carry the survivors back to Norway.
Harold learned that the Normans had landed in England while he was recouping in York, and hurried south. Twelve days later he was in position at Hastings ready to fight the invaders. Next day he was killed, cut to pieces by Norman swords at the height of the battle, leaving William of Normandy free to claim the English crown.