Gunhild of Wessex

Gunhild of Wessex (ft 1066-1093) was the eldest daughter of Harold Godwinson and his first wife or mistress, Edith the Fair, who may have been the wealthy magnate Eadgifu the Fair.[1]


Gunhild remained in England after her father's death at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and received her education at Wilton Abbey. This was a centre of learning, which attracted many high-born women, both English and Norman. Matilda of Scotland was educated here, with her sister Mary. It was also the home of the poet Muriel.[2]

According to Danelaw, she was the heiress of her mother's claims to some counties, properties which had been acquired by Alan Rufus (Alan the Red). It may be for this reason that she attracted Alan's attention, who, some claim, abducted her, though Anselm of Canterbury, in letters addressed to her, stated that they loved each other.

The historian Richard Sharpe has argued that Alan and Gunhild had a daughter named Matilda who was the wife of Walter D'Aincourt.

After Alan Rufus's death in 1093, Gunhild lived with (some say married) his brother Alan Niger (Alan the Black) whom she may have predeceased.[3]


  1. Williams, Ann (2004). "Eadgifu [Eddeua] the Fair [the Rich] (fl. 1066), magnate". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/52349. Retrieved 19 March 2014. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  2. Honeycutt, Lois (2003). Matilda of Scotland: a Study in Medieval Queenship. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press. p. 18.
  3. Honeycutt, p. 24
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