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British History/The English crown - 1066 (ish)


QUESTION: Edward the Confessor's probable heirs are well documented. However, there was one candidate to the throne that seems to have escaped all historical commentary. Harold - son of Ralph de Mantes (Ralph the Timid). I believe that Harold was only 15 or 16 years of age in 1066 but as great nephew of Edwards and brought up in the Royal Court, (Grandson of Edaward's sister), was actually the closest blood relative. Why has history forgotten this line and what were the circumstances that precluded this lineage - and why didn't Harold D'Ewyas together with supporters press his claim to the throne?

ANSWER: Hello James.
The main reason for overlooking Harold of Hereford, other than his youth, was the fact that he was not from the direct male line. Although there was no specific law against succession through the female line (or indeed female succession itself) it had never been contemplated in England before and with an adult male and proven soldier in Earl Godwin young Harold was ignored.  
There is some evidence that the Witan briefly considered his father Ralph, Earl of Hereford as a potential candidate for the Throne in 1051 after King Edward nominated William, Duke of Normandy as his heir, but he was quickly sidelined due to his claims coming via the female line.   
"Harold, The Last Anglo-Saxon King" by Ian W Walker goes into a little more detail about Harold of Hereford's position.
"The Lost King of England, the East European Adventures of Edward the Exile" by Gabriel Ronay mentions Ralph's brief moment in the spotlight.

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QUESTION: Mark, thanks for the previous. Would you know of any sources I can use for my research that will give me more detail about the life of Harold D'Ewyas; he seems to have had a very quiet life for a such prominent and well connected individual especially during this very turbulent time - I have plenty of information about his offsprings and following generations but this individual seems almost 'ghostlike'.

Hello James.
He is certainly a very shadowy figure. There's some genealogical information about him on the Foundation for Mediaeval Genealogy website (fmg), it mentions a book from 1902 "The History of Ewyas Harold" by A T Bannister, but even there he's only covered on pages 20-21. > Projects > Mediaeval Lands > Click Here to Access > British Isles > England, nobility > Untitled English Nobility > Families D-K > Ewias.

There are some amazing things on the internet, but the FMG is one of the most absorbing I've ever found.


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Mark Smith


I have a good basic knowledge of British political history, but my speciality is the Kings and Queens of England and Scotland from 927 AD. Please no social history questions, it's not my strong point and I'm unlikely to answer them.


No professional experience, but a lifelong interest and access to a variety of sources of information.

"A" level in History.

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