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This article is about the consort of Harold II. For his wife, also named Edith, see Edith of Mercia.
Edith the Fair
Edith discovering the body of Harold.jpg
Edith discovering the body of Harold Godwinson
Born c. 1025
Died c. 1086
Religion Chalcedonian Christianity
Spouse(s) Harold Godwinson
Children Godwin

Edith Swannesha (Old English: Ealdgȳð Swann hnesce, "Edith [the] Gentle Swan"; c. 1025 – c. 1086), also known as Edith Swanneschals or Edith the Fair,[note 1] was the first wife or mistress of King Harold II of England.[1] She is also commonly known as Edith Swanneck (or Swan-Neck) but this comes from a historical misinterpretation that her nickname represented Old English swann hnecca, "swan neck".[2] She is sometimes confused with Ældgyth, daughter of Ealdorman Ælfgar of Mercia, and Harold's Queen consort.

Consort of King Harold[edit]

She may be identical with Eadgifu the Fair, who was one of the wealthiest magnates in England on the eve of the Norman Conquest. Their children included Gunhild, who became the mistress of Alan Rufus, and Gytha, who was taken by her grandmother to Denmark in 1068.[1] Gytha was addressed as "princess" and married the Grand Duke of Kiev, Vladimir Monomakh.[3]

Though King Harold II is said to have lawfully married Edith of Mercia, the widow of the Welsh ruler Gruffydd ap Llywelyn whom he had defeated in battle, that marriage in spring 1066 is seen by most modern scholars as one of political convenience.[4] Mercia and Wales were allied against England, and the marriage gave the English claim in two very troublesome regions, and also gave Harold Godwinesson a marriage deemed "legitimate" by the clergy, unlike his longtime common law marriage with Edith the Fair.

Edith the Fair was remembered in history and folklore chiefly because it was she who identified Harold's body after the Battle of Hastings.[5] The body was horribly mutilated after the battle by the Norman army of William the Conqueror, and, despite pleas by Harold's mother for William to surrender Harold's body for burial, the Norman army refused, even though Harold's mother offered Harold's weight in gold. It was then that Edith the Fair walked through the carnage of the battle so that she might identify Harold by markings on his chest known only to her. It was because of Edith the Fair's identification of Harold's body that Harold was given a Christian burial by the monks at Waltham Abbey.[6] This legend is recounted in the well-known poem by Heinrich Heine, "The Battlefield of Hastings" (1855), which features Edith the Fair (as Edith Swan-Neck) as the main character and claims that the 'marks known only to her' were love bites.

Historical fiction[edit]

The relationship between Harold Godwinson and Edith Swanneschals is the subject of several novels

Ealdgyth was portrayed by Janet Suzman in the two-part BBC TV play Conquest (1966), part of the series Theatre 625.

The German poet Heinrich Heine wrote Schlachtfeld bei Hastings (published 1851, in Romanzero).[7] In this poem, Edith and two monks (Asgod and Ailrik) search the battlefield for the body of King Harold.


  1. ^ Her first name is also spelled Ealdgyth, Aldgyth, Edeva or Eddeva, and sometimes appears as Ēadgȳð and Ēadgifu. (Compare Godgifu which was modified to Godiva in Latin texts.)


  1. ^ a b Williams, Ann (2004). "Eadgifu [Eddeua] the Fair [the Rich] (fl. 1066), magnate". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/52349. Retrieved 19 March 2014.  (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  2. ^ Ardagh, Philip. Philip Ardagh's Book of Kings, Queens, Emperors and Rotten Wart-Nosed Commoners. 
  3. ^ Poole, Russell Gilbert (1998). Old English Wisdom Poetry. D.S.Brewer. p. 238. ISBN 978-0859915304. 
  4. ^ Jones, Kaye (2011). 1066: History in an Hour. p. 32. 
  5. ^ Jones, Kaye (2011). 1066: History in an Hour. p. 33. 
  6. ^ Mason, Emma (2004). The House of Godwine: The History of a Dynasty. p. 178. 
  7. ^ "Schlachtfeld bei Hastings". Projekt Gutenberg-DE. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 


  • A History of Britain: At the Edge of the World, 3500 BC - 1603 AD by Simon Schama, BBC/Miramax, 2000 ISBN 0-7868-6675-6
  • The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 06: Masterpieces of German Literature Translated into English in Twenty Volumes by Kuno Francke www.gutenberg.org/etext/12473
  • Great Tales from English History: The Truth About King Arthur, Lady Godiva, Richard the Lionheart, and More by Robert Lacey, 2004 ISBN 0-316-10910-X
  • House of Godwine: The History of Dynasty by Emma Mason, 2004 ISBN 1-85285-389-1
  • Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America Before 1700 by Frederick Lewis Weis, Lines: 176-2, 176A-4, 177-1
  • 'Who Was Eddeva?' by J.R. Boyle, F.S.A.; Transactions of East Riding Antiquarian Society, Volume 4 (1896); pages 11-22

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_the_Fair — Please support Wikipedia.
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i used to know a little square so long ago, when i was small all summer long it had a fair wonderful fair with swings and all i used to love my little fair and at the close of every day...

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Edith Piaf - La Vie en Rose (BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode 2 Soundtrack)

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StArt Scarborough Fest 2013 - Scarborough Fair harp performance by Edith

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6 news items


Mon, 09 Feb 2015 08:04:47 -0800

Legend has it that Harold's long term mistress, Edith the Fair, secretly visited the battlefield, found Harold's corpse and had it buried at Waltham Abbey. After such a decisive victory, William had expected to be accepted by the Anglo-Saxons as their ...

Telegraph.co.uk (blog)

Telegraph.co.uk (blog)
Tue, 14 Oct 2014 00:42:11 -0700

There's a new theory that King Harold survived the Battle of Hastings and was buried, as a pensioner in his 70s, in Waltham Abbey, Essex. How wonderful if it's true! And how wonderful if the team that found Richard III's skeleton find Harold's too. It ...

Herts and Essex Observer

Herts and Essex Observer
Thu, 23 Oct 2014 09:28:37 -0700

Mr Muff said his research supported that theory: "King Harold II, his long-term wife/lover Edith the Fair and his two brothers, Leofwine and Gyrth, all, in fact, lie in a long-forgotten vault at St Michael's Church, where there are four surviving ...

Chichester Observer

Chichester Observer
Mon, 10 Nov 2014 02:07:30 -0800

“King Harold II, his long-term wife/lover Edith the Fair and his two brothers, Leofwine and Gyrth, all, in fact, lie in a long-forgotten vault at St Michael's Church, where there are four surviving, intact Norman stone coffins which have not even been ...

Herts and Essex Observer

Herts and Essex Observer
Thu, 30 Oct 2014 08:44:42 -0700

... have carried out extensive research which they believe indicates that the remains of the vanquished monarch, shot through the eye at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, were brought to the town by his common law wife Edith the Fair, who had a home ...
Tiền Phong Online
Tue, 28 Oct 2014 00:37:15 -0700

Họ khẳng định thi hài của ông đã được vợ là Edith Người Đẹp (Edith the Fair) đưa tới Giám mục Stortford ở Hertforshire và chôn tại nhà thờ thánh Michael ở. Stortford (Anh). Hai anh em khẳng định có bốn quan tài đá thời Norman vẫn còn nguyên vẹn trong ...

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