King of England from 1035 to 1040. He was said to be the son of Canute the Great, King of England, of Denmark, of Norway, some of Sweden, by his handfast wife Aelgifu of Northampton, although there was some skepticism that he was Canute's son. He earned the name "Harefoot" for his speed, and the skill of his huntsmanship.
Upon Canute's death (November 12, 1035), Harold's younger
half-brother Harthacanute, the son of Canute and his queen, Emma of Normandy, was legitimate heir to the thrones of both the Danes and the English, but was unable to travel to his coronation, because his Danish kingdom was under threat of invasion by King Magnus I of Norway and King Anund Jacob of Sweden. England's magnates favoured the idea of installing Harold Harefoot temporarily as regent, due to the difficulty of Harthacanute's absence, and despite the opposition of Godwin the Earl of Wessex and the Queen, they succeeded.
Harold survived an attempt to unseat him led by his half-brothers Alfred the Aetheling and Edward the Confessor, Emma's sons by the long-dead Ethelred the Unready, in 1036. Harold died at Oxford on March 17, 1040, just as Harthacanute was preparing an invasion force of Danes, and was buried at the abbey of Westminster, largely rebuilt by Edward the Confessor. His body was subsequently exhumed, beheaded, and thrown into a fen bordering the Thames when Harthacanute assumed the throne in June, 1040. His supporters later rescued the body, to be buried in a church fittingly named St Clement Danes.