Edward the Confessor died childless on 5th January 1066, leaving no direct heir to the throne. Four people all thought they had a legitimate right to be king.
The claims that they made were connected to three main factors: family ties, promises made, and political realities.
All four claimants had some promise that they believed gave them a right to the English throne. These involved the swearing of oaths, which were taken very seriously in 11th century Europe.
Harold Godwinson almost certainly had the latest promise from the dying king himself, Edward the Confessor. William of Normandy probably had a promise in 1051 from Edward the Confessor, and a promise from the main contender, Harold.
Strongest claim: Harold Godwinson’s claim is strongest here because he was promised the throne as Edward lay dying. The oath Harold swore to William was considered invalid by the Witan because it was made under the threat of death.
Edgar Atheling had the strongest blood tie – but blood ties were not essential for the succession to the English throne at this time.
All the claimants had some kind of family blood tie, except for Harald Hardrada.
Strongest claim: Edgar Atheling was the last surviving member of the Royal House of Wessex that had ruled England for centuries.
All the claimants had a strong degree of political power in 1066, except for Edgar Atheling.
Harold Godwinson was the claimant who was closest to the king when he died. He had military power within England itself in 1066.
William of Normandy and Harald Hardrada were both experienced military commanders. They both had Viking ancestry and had secure control in their own lands.
Strongest claim: Harold Godwinson was the only claimant who had the support of the Witan and all the English nobility therefore he was best suited to both protecting and ruling England after Edward’s death.