Harold I of Edreland

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Harold I
Harold I with an arrow through his breast, depicted c. 1150
King of Edreland
Reign20 May 1083 - 7 June 1101
Inauguration24 May 1083
PredecessorEdward III
SuccessorHarold II
Died7 June 1101 (aged 41)
BurialMound of the Kings
SpouseJane de Compdon
IssueHarold II
FatherEdward III
MotherConstance Marshall

Harold I (1060 - 7 June 1101) was King of Edreland from 1083 until his death. He spent large sums to finance a crusade to Arabekh that never materialized; in the later years of his reign he faced domestic opposition from his barons. He died in a hunting accident under suspicious circumstances.

Born in 1060 during the reign of his grandfather Edward II, Harold was the second son of Prince Edward, heir to the throne. His elder brother Edward died in 1067, after their father had succeeded to the throne. Surviving exchequer records detail payments to tutors for Harold's education, and by all accounts he was an intelligent and cultured man, well-read for the standards of his time and particularly versed in Alydian philosophy. In 1076 he accompanied his uncle Edwin on a pilgrimage to Laterna, and was present at his bedside when he died on the return journey in August 1077.

Edward III died on 20 May 1083. Harold was invested as king in the as-yet unfinished Cathedral of St. Quentin four days later. The early years of his reign were successful, with work on St. Quentin continuing to completion in 1085. Beginning in 1086, Harold began enthusiastic preparations for a crusade to Arabekh, an idea no doubt germinated in his mind during his education and now encouraged by the Patriarch of the North, who supported the project with a loan. In 1088 Harold levied a tallage on his tenants-in-chief and a carucage, or a land tax, on all mesne lords and freeholders, raising ƒ11,000. An expedition still did not materialize and baronial opposition began to swell.

Harold benefited from the advice of such friendly lords such as his uncle Godfrey, earl of Banshire and Lord Steward. Banshire died in 1091, removing the king's only close advisor. Thereafter Henry de Uaileam, earl of Anshire, and Thomas Marshall, earl of Rosebery, both other uncles of the king who served respectively as Chancellor and Lord Chamberlain, forced Harold to call a general council to hear the grievances of the nobility with regards to royal taxation. The resulting Concord of Irvine, to which Harold set his seal on 8 February 1092, has been hailed as the first reaction against the absolute power of the crown in Edrish history. The king was forced to relinquish his right to taxation for a period of five years and to take as his wife Jane de Compdon, daughter of William de Compdon, earl of Compdon. Royal plans for a crusade were decisively abandoned.

Harold was humiliated and his finances were hamstrung until 1097, when the moratorium on taxation expired. The king immediately moved to levy new taxes and to revenge himself on the lords who had humiliated him and who dominated the royal council. Anshire and Rosebery were both sacked and royal favorites put in their place. The two earls, along with Compdon and Harold's cousin Edward, earl of Banshire, collectively termed the Lords of Concord, united in opposition to the king. Armies were mustered and the kingdom seemed to be on the verge of civil war for the first time. The opposing sides met at Hyffel, near Tremaine, on 22 April 1098. A battle was averted when Queen Jane rode in between the lines, asking her father and husband to make peace. The Concord of Hyffel was sealed on 23 April, with Harold agreeing to refrain from the exploitation of unpopular feudal incidents.

Both king and lords were ultimately dissatisfied. From 1098 on Harold's closest advisor was his cousin Edwin, earl of Sayeton, whom he made Chancellor. On 7 June 1101 Harold I was hunting in Dulwich Forest when he was struck in the breast by an arrow. The bowman has never been conclusively identified, but it was perhaps his cousin Banshire, who had ambitions to become regent for the young heir to the throne, Prince Harold. The king was carried back to his hunting lodge of Newcombe, where he died painfully on the night of 7 June after several hours of medical attention without naming a regent to govern after his death.