August 4, 2004: |
Carol Nelson of Kentucky, listed on the Cousin’s Corner, and
Luis Eastman of Argentina have been corresponding and exchanging
Edith Swannesh (Old English: Ealdgyo Swann hnesce,
"Edith [the] Gentle Swan", c. 1025 - c. 1086), also
known as Edith Swanneschals or Edith the Fair, is best
known as the unwedded consort of King Harold II of
England. Her common name comes from a historical
misinterpretation that her nickname represented Old
English swann hnecca, "swan neck". She is sometimes
confused with Ældgyth, daughter of Ealdorman Ælfgar
of Mercia, and Harold's Queen consort.
She bore Harold several children and was his common law wife (according to Danish law, by a civil "handfast" marriage) for over 20 years. Though she was not considered Harold's wife by the Church, there is no indication that the children she bore by Harold were treated as illegitimate by the culture at the time. In fact, one of Harold Godwinesson and Edith Swan-Neck's daughters, Gyda Haraldsdatter, (also known as Gytha of Wessex), was addressed as "princess" and was married to the Grand Duke Of Kiev, Vladimir Monomakh.
Though King Harold II is said to have lawfully married Edith of Mercia, the widow of the Welsh ruler Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, (whom he defeated in battle), in 1064, this is seen by most modern scholars as a marriage of political means, or even dismissed as misunderstanding or propaganda. Since at the time Mercia and Wales were allied against England, the political marriage would give the English claim in two very troublesome regions, as well as give Harold Godwinesson a marriage deemed "legitimate" by the clergy of the Church, something his longtime common law wife, Edith Swan-Neck unfortunately could not provide.
Edith Swan-Neck would be remembered in history and folklore for one very important thing: it was she who identified Harold after his defeat at The Battle of Hastings. Harold's body was horrifically mutilated after the battle by the Norman army of William the Conqueror, and, despite the pleas by Harold's own mother for William to surrender Harold's body for burial, the Norman army refused, even though Harold's mother offered William Harold's weight in gold. It was then that Edith Swan-Neck walked through the carnage of the battle so that she might identify Harold by markings on his chest known only to her. It was because of Edith Swan-Neck's identification of Harold's body that Harold was given a Christian burial by the monks at Waltham Abbey. This legend was recounted in the well-known poem by Heinrich Heine, "The Battlefield of Hastings" (1855), which features Edith Swan-neck as the main character and claims that the 'marks known only to her' were in fact love bites.
Article and image source: PediaView.com