Gytha Thorkelsdóttir

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Gytha Thorkelsdóttir
Countess Gytha St Nectans.jpg
depicted by modern stained glass artists
Spouse(s) Godwin, Earl of Wessex
Noble family House of Knýtlinga (by birth)
House of Godwin (by marriage)
Father Thorgil Sprakling

Gytha Thorkelsdóttir (Old English: Gȳða Þorkelsdōttir, c. 997 – c. 1069), also called Githa, was the daughter of Thorgil Sprakling (also called Thorkel).[1] 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:

  1. Sweyn Godwinson, Earl of Herefordshire, (c. 1020 - 1052), at some point he declared himself an illegitimate son of Canute the Great but this is considered to be a false claim
  2. Harold II of England, (c. 1022 – October 14, 1066)
  3. Edith of Wessex, (c. 1025 - December 19, 1075), queen consort of Edward the Confessor
  4. Tostig Godwinson, Earl of Northumbria (c. 1026 – September 25, 1066)
  5. Gyrth Godwinson, (c. 1030 – October 14, 1066)
  6. Gunhilda of Wessex, a nun (c. 1035–1080)
  7. Leofwine Godwinson, Earl of Kent (c. 1035 – October 14, 1066)
  8. Ælfgifu of Wessex, (c. 1035)
  9. Wulfnoth Godwinson, (c. 1040–1094)

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.[2] 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 (as her granddaughter and namesake), where she had relatives.

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

Family Trees[edit]


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ Hoskins, W. G. (2004). Two Thousand Years in Exeter (Revised and updated ed.). Chichester: Phillimore. pp. 25–26. ISBN 1-86077-303-6.