She bore him 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. It is through this union that the Godwinesson line would remain in European nobility and would, ironically (given that this line was ended due to the Norman invasion of 1066), reenter English royalty, making the current ruler of England, Queen Elizabeth II the 29th great-granddaughter of King Harold II and Edith Swan-Neck.
Though King Harold II would "legally" marry Edith (Ealdgyth) of Mercia, the widow of the Welsh ruler Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, (who he defeated in battle), in 1064, this is seen by most modern scholars as a marriage of political means. 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 battle so that she may 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. 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.
Deeply the Abbot of Waltham sighedWhen he heard the news of woe:How King Harold had come to a pitiful end,And on Hastings field lay low.Asgod and Ailrik, two of his monks,On the mission drear he spedTo search for the corse on the battle-plainAmong the bloody dead.The monks arose and went sadly forth,And returned as heavy-hearted.O Father, the world's a bitter world,And evil days have started.For fallen, alack! is the better man;The Bastard has won, and knavesAnd scutcheoned thieves divide the land,And make the freemen slaves.The veriest rascals from Normandy,In Britain are lords and sirs.I saw a tailor from Bayeux rideWith a pair of golden spurs.O woe to all who are Saxon born!Ye Saxon saints, beware!For high in heaven though ye dwell,Shame yet may be your share.Ah, now we know what the comet meantThat rode, blood-red and dire,Across the midnight firmamentThis year on a broom of fire.Twas an evil star, and Hastings fieldHas fulfilled the omen dread.We went upon the battle-plain,And sought among the dead.While still there lingered any hopeWe sought, but sought in vain;King Harold's corse we could not findAmong the bloody slain.Asgod and Ailrik spake and ceased.The Abbot wrung his hands.Awhile he pondered, then he sighed,Now mark ye my commands.By the stone of the bard at Grendelfield,Just midway through the wood,One, Edith of the Swan's Neck, dwellsIn a hovel poor and rude.They named her thus, because her neckWas once as slim and whiteAs any swan's--when, long ago,She was the king's delight.He loved and kissed, forsook, forgot,For such is the way of men.Time runs his course with a rapid foot;It is sixteen years since then.To this woman, brethren, ye shall go,And she will follow you fainTo the battle-field; the woman's eyeWill not seek the king in vain.Thereafter to Waltham Abbey hereHis body ye shall bring,That Christian burial he may have,While for his soul we sing.The messengers reached the hut in the woodAt the hour of midnight drear.Wake, Edith of the Swan's Neck, riseAnd follow without fear.The Duke of Normandy has wonThe battle, to our bane.On the field of Hastings, where he fought,The king is lying slain.Arise and come with us; we seekHis body among the dead.To Waltham Abbey it shall be borne.Twas thus our Abbot said.The woman arose and girded her gown,And silently went behindThe hurrying monks. Her grizzly hairStreamed wildly on the wind.Barefoot through bog and bush and briarShe followed and did not stay,Till Hastings and the cliffs of chalkThey saw at dawn of day.The mist, that like a sheet of whiteThe field of battle cloaked,Melted anon; with hideous dinThe daws flew up and croaked.In thousands on the bloody plainLay strewn the piteous corpses,Wounded and torn and maimed and stripped,Among the fallen horses.The woman stopped not for the blood;She waded barefoot through,And from her fixed and staring eyesThe arrowy glances flew.Long, with the panting monks behind,And pausing but to scareThe greedy ravens from their food,She searched with eager care.She searched and toiled the livelong day,Until the night was nigh;Then sudden from her breast there burstA shrill and awful cry.For on the battle-field at lastHis body she had found.She kissed, without a tear or word,The wan face on the ground.She kissed his brow, she kissed his mouth,She clasped him close, and pressedHer poor lips to the bloody woundsThat gaped upon his breast.His shoulder stark she kisses too,When, searching, she discoversThree little scars her teeth had madeWhen they were happy lovers.The monks had been and gotten boughs,And of these boughs they madeA simple bier, whereon the corseOf the fallen king was laid.To Waltham Abbey to his tombThe king was thus removed;And Edith of the Swan's Neck walkedBy the body that she loved.She chanted litanies for his soulWith a childish, weird lamentThat shuddered through the night. The monksPrayed softly as they went.