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Ealdgyth Swan-Neck

Ealdgyth Swan-Neck, also known as Edith Swan-neck or Edith the Fair, lived with King Harold II of England for 20 years as his common-law wife. The church did not recognise this relationship, considering Harold to be officially married to Edith of Wessex, the widow of the Welsh ruler Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, who Harold had defeated in battle.

When Harold was killed at the Battle of Hastings, the Normans horrifically mutilated the body and would not hand it over for burial, even though his mother offered to pay Harold’s weight in gold for the body.

Ealdgyth walked through the carnage of the battlefield and identified Harold’s body by markings on his chest known only to her. It was because of this identification that Harold was given a Christian burial by the monks at Waltham. Although official history tells that the markings were tattoos spelling Ealdgyth and England, it has been speculated that the markings known only to her were actually love-bites from a passionate night of love-making on the eve of the battle.

One of Harold and Ealdgyth’s daughters, Gytha Haraldsdatter (i.e. Harold’s daughter) married the Grand Duke Of Kiev, Vladimir Monomakh. Phillippa of Hainault, the consort of Edward III, was a direct descendant of Vladimir and Gytha, and thus ironically Harold’s blood line re-entered the English royal line. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the 29th great-granddaughter of King Harold II and Ealdgyth Swan-Neck.

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