Gytha Thorkelsdóttir

Gytha depicted in modern stained glass.

Gytha Thorkelsdóttir (Old English: Gȳða Þorkelsdōttir, c. 997 – c. 1069), also called Githa was a Danish noble. She was the mother of King Harold Godwinson and of Edith of Wessex, queen consort of King Edward the Confessor of England.[1]


Gytha Thorkelsdóttir was the daughter of Danish chieftain Thorgil Sprakling (also called Thorkel).[2] Gytha was also the sister of the Danish Earl Ulf Thorgilsson who was married to Estrid Svendsdatter, the sister of King Cnut the Great. She married the Anglo-Saxon nobleman Godwin of Wessex. They had a large family together, of whom five sons became earls at one time or another, three remaining earls in 1066:

Two of their sons, Harold and Tostig, faced each other at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, where Tostig was killed. Less than a month later, three of her sons, Harold, Gyrth, and Leofwine, were killed at the Battle of Hastings.

Shortly after the Battle of Hastings, Gytha was living in Exeter and may have been the cause of that city's rebellion against William the Conqueror in 1067, which resulted in his laying siege to the city.[3] She pleaded unsuccessfully with him for the return of the body of her slain son, king Harold. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Gytha left England after the Norman conquest, together with the wives or widows and families of other prominent Anglo-Saxons, all the Godwin family estates having been confiscated by William. Little else is known of Gytha's life after that time, although it is probable that she went to Scandinavia where she had relatives.

Her surviving (and youngest) son, Wulfnoth, lived nearly all his life in captivity in Normandy until death of William the Conqueror in 1087. Only her eldest daughter, Queen Edith (d. 1075), still held some power (however nominal) as the widow of King Edward the Confessor.


See also


  1. Mercedes Rochelle (2014). "Gytha, wife of Godwine". Historical Britain. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  2. Late pedigrees make Thorgil the son of the disinherited Swedish prince Styrbjörn Starke, the conqueror of Jomsborg, and Tyra, the daughter of Harold Bluetooth king of Norway and Denmark. However, this descent from the old Swedish and Danish royal houses is believed to be a late invention to give her brother, the ancestor of later Danish kings, some claim to royal blood.
  3. Hoskins, W. G. (2004). Two Thousand Years in Exeter (Revised and updated ed.). Chichester: Phillimore. pp. 25–26. ISBN 1-86077-303-6.

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