Tostig Godwinson, Earl of Northumbria – a summary

Born c.1029, Tostig Godwinson, the third son of Earl Godwine, was exiled with the rest of the family by England’s Edward the Confessor in 1051. On their return in the following year, Tostig married Judith of Flanders who bore him two sons; Skuli and Ketil. The couple were well-known for their generous alms-giving and devotion, including, in 1061, a pilgrimage to Rome.

In 1055 Tostig became the earl of Northumbria. An area known for its lawlessness, Tostig was able to subdue Northumbria by implementing new laws and severely punishing offenders. He ruled until 1065 when rebellion broke out and he was accused of increasing brutality and misrule. His lands were confiscated by the king and Tostig was forced to take refuge in his wife’s native home in Flanders.

Battle of Stamford Bridge

Tostig Godwinson and HaroldShortly after his brother’s, Harold II, coronation in January 1066, which Tostig did not attend, he visited Duke William of Normandy in the hope of forming an alliance. He was unsuccessful but eventually persuaded King Harald Hardrada of Norway to undertake a joint invasion of England.

They arrived on the English coast in early September and plundered the local towns and villages. They defeated the armies of the northern earls at the Battle of Fulford Gate and were able to take the city of York.

(Pictured: brothers Tostig and Harold (the future King Harold II) fighting, bottom right, at a feast hosted by King Edward the Confessor).

On 25 September 1066, Tostig and Harald met the English army at Stamford Bridge. King Harold offered to reinstate Tostig’s lands if he switched sides but Tostig refused. He was killed during the battle, alongside Harald Hardrada.

Following the death of Harald Hardrada, shot in the throat with an arrow, Harold II renewed his offer of reconciliation. Again, Tostig refused and picked up the Norwegian battle standard. It took the alleged gruesome decapitation of Tostig Godwinson by his own brother, Harold, to end the battle.

1066 in an hourKaye Jones

For more about the Norman Invasion see 1066: History In An Hour
 published by Harper Press.

See also articles on the Battle of Hastings, Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror.