Greatest Viking Kings List

Are you interested in the Greatest Viking Kings List? Then this guide is for you!

Vikings ruled the North from around 700 CE to 1100 CE. This period is generally considered the age of the Vikings.

Much of what we know about Viking kings today comes from traditions passed by the Norsemen from one generation to the next.

The Norse primarily relied on oral traditions to transmit their culture. Most of these traditions found their way into the Viking Sagas, from where most of the information about Viking kings comes.

In later years, however, historians emerged and recorded what had been preserved of the Norse culture.

Archeology has also played an important role in unraveling who the greatest Viking kings were and what they were best known for.

While some people focus on the fearlessness and brutality of these kings, others concentrate on their bravery and power.

Here’s a look at some of the most remarkable Viking kings:

Who Are the Most Famous Viking Kings?

#1 – Ragnar Lothbrok

Ragnar Lothbrok is arguably the most famous Viking king. His stature had been propelled further by the History Channel’s Viking series.

History Channel must have chosen to feature Ragnar as the protagonist of their show because of his prominence in the sagas.

Many sagas portray Ragnar Lothbrok as a fearless, aggressive king. He led his people to conquer and loot lands in Anglo-Saxon, England, and Francia.

#2 – Erik the Great (Erik Thorvaldsson)

This king was also referred to as Erik the Red – probably because of the red color of his hair. Erik the Great is arguably the most bloodthirsty of the Viking kings.

It was believed that violence ran in his family. His father, Thorvald Asvaldsson, was involved in the manslaughter of many men in Iceland – some of them his family members.

Thorvald Asvaldsson was banished from Norway when Erik the Great was still a young man. Erik’s reputation as a violent man also saw him banished to Greenland.

It is believed that this king founded Greenland.

#3 – Leif Erikson

Leif Erickson was the son of Erik the Great. But, unlike his father and grandfather before him, Leif’s claim to fame was not so much because of his violence but because he loved to explore.

He is regarded as the first European to sail to North America – about five centuries before Christopher Columbus.

His journey to North America was not intentional. Instead, he veered off course as he headed to Greenland and landed in Newfoundland, which he referred to as Vinland at the time.

#4 – Hastein

King Hastein wanted to conquer the whole of Europe by subduing Rome. In his quest, he first subjugated France and Spain.

He could not conquer Rome through military might because of its formidable fortifications. So, still determined to take the Holy City, he developed a cunning strategy to infiltrate it.

He pretended to be a wounded soldier who desired to be converted to Christianity.

Hastein surrounded himself with his warriors disguised as monks, who pleaded for him to be admitted into the Holy City.

However, his ruse was soon discovered, and he could not achieve his objectives.

#5 – Queen Freydis Eiriksdottir

Most of the information about this queen comes from two Vinland sagas. We know, for instance, that she is the daughter of Erik the Great and a sister to Leif Erikson.

We also know that she traveled to Newfoundland with her brother. However, her claim to fame comes from tales of her outstanding bravery.

For example, during their early days in Newfoundland, she was cornered by a band of natives who wanted to kill her.

Despite the heavy pregnancy she was carrying, she single-handedly fought them off – armed with only a sword.

#6 – Rollo, the King of Normandy

Rollo is famous for leading aggressive raids and incursions into France. With each foray, France would suffer severe defeat under Rollo’s hands.

Exasperated by all these raids, the King of West Francia, Charles the Simple, gave Rollo vast lands in the North Man’s Land or Normandy.

In exchange, Rollo promised to protect the king against other raiding parties. Rollo is credited with giving Vikings safe passage on their raids into other lands.

#7 – William the Conqueror

William the Conqueror was also known as William I. He was the great-great-great-grandson of Rollo, the First King of Normandy.

William the Conqueror ruled Normandy about 140 after Rollo. Since William grew up in Normandy, he had a good understanding of how things worked around there.

It was easier for him to grasp the political undertones of the region, having been raised as the Duke of Normandy.

His vast knowledge of the dynamics at play at the time enabled him to conquer great lands easily.

By around 1066, he had conquered the Anglo-Saxon tribes and installed himself as the first Norman monarch of England.

This kingdom went to his second son, Rufus, upon William the Conqueror’s death.

#8 – Olaf Tryggvason

Although Olaf Tryggvason spent the better part of his childhood in Russia, he knew almost everything there was to know about Norway, his motherland.

When he came of age, he traveled to Norway, from where he organized fearless incursions into England.

He is credited with being the first Viking king to introduce taxation on the conquered tribes, which became known as Danegeld or Dane Gold.

Olaf Tryggvason also brought the whole of Norway into one political umbrella under his leadership. He further coerced his subjects to embrace the new religion, Christianity, and abandon their pagan ways.

Of course, many were unwilling to abandon their fathers’ ways. Still, they only did so for fear of reprisals from Olaf Tryggvason.

#9 – Ivar the Boneless

Ivar the Boneless was one of Ragnar Lothbrok’s sons. He was so named because of a bone condition that made his leg bones fracture easily.

This king was known for his brutality. He did not believe in taking his enemies alive, especially if they violently resisted his invasion.

He fought in a trance-like fury that seemed to drive his warriors into a killing frenzy. He worked alongside his two brothers to invade several Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.

#10 – Bjorn Ironside

This was another of Ragnar Lothbrok’s sons who became a fearsome Swedish king. From a tender age, he was well tutored by his father in the art of war.

When Ragnar Lothbrok felt that his son was ready, he sent him to conduct raiding parties in England, the Iberian coast, France, and the Mediterranean coastline.

He was so successful that he soon carved a name for himself.

#11 – Gunnar Hamundarson

Gunnar Hamundarson is renowned for his great physical strength. It was said that he could jump higher than his height – even in full armor!

His great deeds are recorded in the Brennu-Njals Saga. They depict a ferocious king who leads his army to pillage the coasts of Norway and Denmark.

#12 – Agil Skallagrimsson

This king is known for displaying two wildly opposing personalities – both of which he carried out with much flair.

On the one hand, He is said to have led a bloody life since the age of seven, when he killed another boy.

He conducted violent raids that spared no one who tried to resist his invasion.

On the other hand, he was a great poet and could write some of the most soul-soothing pieces of verse.

Egil Saga indicates that he was as feared as his people loved him. It further states that his enemies trembled at the mention of his name.

#13 – Cnut the Great

This king is well known for creating one of the greatest empires during the Viking era. Cnut the Great’s empire extended from Norway and Denmark to England.

It came to be commonly known as his Great North Sea Empire. He subdued this kingdom by sheer brute force.

He would behead all the household members of any leader who dared oppose his decrees and policies.

Cnut the Great got a lot of support from the church, enabling him to extend his influence further overseas.

#14 – Eric Haraldson (Eric Bloodaxe)

Eric Bloodaxe was one of the sons of Norway’s king, Herald Fairhair. Eric Bloodaxe was born and grew up in the Viking way of life.

He quickly learned that he needed to use violence and cunning strategies to subdue his enemies. By the age of 12, he had started eliminating his brothers to ward off competition for kingship.

He was nicknamed Eric Bloodaxe because of his brutal nature – with an ax being his weapon of choice.

#15 – Herald Hardrada

This king was nicknamed the Hard Ruler (Hardrada) because of his brutality and mercilessness.

He believed that the only way to express his authority was by eliminating all his enemies and constantly being aggressive towards his subjects.

He is believed to have been the last Viking king. During his time, most of Europe was being dominated by Christianization, and Norway was no exception.

Although there was much progress during his time, he could not abide by the dictates of Christianity because he felt the new faith disagreed with his methods.

He died in 1066 when he was shot with an arrow in the neck. He had led a raiding party against England but was caught off-guard by a larger, well-prepared army led by King Harold.

The Vikings could not stand a chance and were mercilessly slaughtered alongside their king.

Viking Kings and Christianity

During the Viking Age, the Norse people were known for their pagan beliefs and practices.

However, as time passed, many Viking kings began to convert to Christianity, marking a significant shift in their culture and way of life.

One notable Viking king who embraced Christianity was Olaf Tryggvason of Norway. He introduced Christianity to his people and played a crucial role in replacing the Vikings’ pagan beliefs with Christian teachings.

Under his rule, many churches were built, and he even went on a mission to spread Christianity in neighboring countries.

Meanwhile, in England, King Ethelred and later Alfred the Great worked to defend their kingdoms against Viking invasions and also promoted Christianity.

Alfred the Great, in particular, is credited with establishing a network of schools and monasteries to promote education and Christian values.

The adoption of Christianity by Viking kings was not without controversy, as many of their subjects clung to their old Norse beliefs.

However, over time, Christianity became more widely accepted, and the old ways began to fade away.

Today, the legacy of the Viking kings and their conversion to Christianity can still be seen in the many churches and Christian traditions that exist in Scandinavia and other parts of the world with a Viking heritage.

Viking Kings and Their Conquests

The Viking Age was a time of great conquests and exploration by the Norsemen. Viking kings played a significant role in shaping the history of Europe, the North Atlantic, and beyond.

Here are some of the most famous Viking kings and their notable conquests:

  • Harald Fairhair: Harald Fairhair is considered one of the greatest Viking kings in history. He is credited with unifying the petty kingdoms of Norway into a single kingdom and laying the foundation for the Norwegian monarchy. He also conquered parts of Scotland and established the Orkney and Shetland Islands as Viking territories.
  • Cnut the Great: Cnut the Great was a powerful Viking political figure who ruled over England, Denmark, and Norway between 1016 and 1035. He is known for his successful conquest of England and his establishment of a vast territorial empire that was commonly called “The North Sea Empire.”
  • Ragnar Lodbrok: Ragnar Lodbrok was a legendary Viking king known for his successful raids and conquests throughout Europe. He is said to have conquered parts of England, France, and Italy and even made it as far as Constantinople.
  • Ivar the Boneless: Ivar the Boneless was a Viking king who led the Great Heathen Army in their conquest of England. He is also known for his successful raids in Ireland and Scotland.
  • Harold Godwinson: Harold Godwinson was the last Anglo-Saxon king of England before the Norman Conquest. He is remembered for his defeat at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, where he successfully defended England against an invasion by the Norwegian king, Harald Hardrada.
  • Rollo of Normandy: Rollo of Normandy was a Viking leader who established the Duchy of Normandy in France. He is known for his successful conquest of the city of Rouen and his establishment of a Viking presence in the region.
  • Leif Eriksson: Leif Eriksson was a Viking explorer who is credited with being the first European to set foot in North America. He established a settlement in Newfoundland, Canada, which he called Vinland.

These Viking kings and their conquests played a significant role in shaping the history of Europe and beyond.

Their legacy is still felt today, and their stories continue to inspire people all over the world.

Viking Kings and Their Impact

Viking kings played a significant role in shaping the history of the Viking Age. Their impact on the Norse settlement, culture, and art is still felt today.

Many Viking kings were known for their stability and leadership, which allowed them to establish strong and prosperous kingdoms.

One of the most notable Viking kings was Harald Fairhair, who unified the petty kingdoms of Norway into a single kingdom and laid the foundation for the Norwegian monarchy.

His reign brought stability to the region and allowed for the expansion of Norse settlement.

Another significant event in Viking history was the Great Heathen Army, led by Viking kings such as Ivar the Boneless and Björn Ironside.

This army invaded England and played a crucial role in the establishment of the Danelaw, a region of England under Viking control.

The Normans, led by Viking leader Rollo, also had a significant impact on history. Rollo and his followers settled in what is now Normandy, France, and eventually became assimilated into the local culture.

One of Rollo’s descendants, William the Conqueror, would go on to conquer England and establish the Norman dynasty.

Treaties between Viking kings and other rulers were also essential in shaping history.

The Treaty of Wedmore, for example, ended the conflict between the Anglo-Saxons and the Great Heathen Army and allowed for the establishment of the Danelaw.

Viking kings also had a significant impact on Norse mythology, as many of them were believed to be descendants of the gods.

King Harald Bluetooth, for example, was credited with the Christianization of Denmark and was believed to be a descendant of the god Thor.

While Viking kings were known for their pillaging and expansionist tendencies, they also had a profound impact on the culture and history of the Viking Age.

Their legacy can still be felt today in the art, literature, and mythology of the Norse people.

Notable Viking Kings

When it comes to Viking kings, there are many notable figures in history. Here are a few of the most prominent:

Sweyn Forkbeard

Sweyn Forkbeard was a Danish king who ruled from 986 to 1014. He was known for his military prowess and his successful invasions of England. He was also a patron of the arts and literature in his kingdom.

Bjorn Ironside

Bjorn Ironside was a legendary Viking king who lived in the 9th century. He was known for his fierce fighting skills and his leadership on the battlefield.

He was also a skilled sailor and explorer, and he is said to have traveled as far as the Mediterranean.

Gorm the Old

Gorm the Old was a Danish king who ruled from around 936 to 958.

He is best known for his contributions to Danish history, including the construction of the Jelling Stones, which are considered to be some of the most important artifacts from the Viking Age.

Eric Bloodaxe

Eric Bloodaxe was a Norwegian king who ruled from 930 to 934 and again from 937 to 939.

He was known for his brutal tactics and his willingness to use violence to maintain his power. He was eventually overthrown by his people and forced to flee the country.

Egil Skallagrimsson

Egil Skallagrimsson was a legendary Icelandic poet and warrior who lived in the 10th century.

He was known for his skill in battle and his ability to compose poetry on the spot. He is considered to be one of the greatest poets of the Viking Age.

Hastein

Hastein was a Viking chief who lived in the 9th century. He was known for his daring raids on the coasts of France and Italy, and he is said to have led an expedition to the Mediterranean that included over 60 ships.

He was eventually captured and executed by the Franks.

Final Thoughts…

The Viking kings had a reputation for being aggressive and bloodthirsty. A king built his status on the number of raids he led and their success.

All the same, not all Viking kings grew their name through violence. Some expanded their influence into other territories through peaceful means.

Many were great explorers; some sent their people on massive trade missions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who were the most powerful Viking leaders?

The most powerful Viking leaders were those who could conquer and rule over the most territory.

Some of the most notable Viking leaders in history include Knútr (a.k.a. Knud, Knut, Canute, Cnut), who established a Norse rule in the North Sea for the first and only time in history, and Cnut the Great, who was the king of England, Denmark, and Norway between 1016 and 1035.

Who are some famous Viking warriors?

Some of the most famous Viking warriors include Ragnar Lothbrok, Ivar the Boneless, and Erik the Red.

These warriors were known for their strength, bravery, and cunning tactics on the battlefield.

What are the names of some famous Vikings?

There were many famous Vikings throughout history. Some of the most notable include Leif Erikson, who is credited with discovering North America, and Harald Hardrada, who was king of Norway from 1046 to 1066.

What was the significance of Viking kings?

Viking kings were significant because they were able to unite various Viking clans and tribes under one ruler, creating a more organized and powerful society.

Viking kings were also responsible for leading their people in battle and making important decisions regarding trade and diplomacy.

What makes a Viking king great?

A Viking king was considered great if they were able to successfully lead their people in battle, expand their territory, and establish a strong and prosperous society.

A great Viking king was also someone who was respected and admired by their people.

Who were the most successful Viking clans?

There were many successful Viking clans throughout history, but some of the most notable include the Vikings of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

These clans were known for their fierce warriors, skilled shipbuilders, and advanced trading networks.

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