Viking Leaders – 9 Famous Vikings

9 Viking RulersFamous Vikings

Vikings were the inhabitants of Scandinavia from 8th to 11th centuries.

The term also included the people of Norse home communities.

The Viking Age is the period during which they expanded throughout Europe after the main Migration European period.

They were Norse explorers, warriors and merchants and were famous for the navigational and sailing skills and trading with people of other countries.

The Vikings created an extensive trade network with other parts of the world and navigation opened trade in Eastern lands. They also built trade networks with the Byzantine Empire.


Following are some of the most Famous Vikings – Leaders’ of the Viking Age!

1 – Cnut the Great | Famous Vikings

Cnut the Great was the king of Denmark, England and Norway. He became the king of England in 1016 and of Scotland in 1017. By 1018, he had the throne of Denmark and England together.

His empire was commonly known as the ‘North Sea Empire’. His legacy was lost after the Norman Conquest of England – in 1066 and he was misinterpreted as a delusional monarch who believed he had supernatural powers.

He brought Danes and English together under cultural bonds of custom and wealth through power and brutality. He claimed the throne of Norway in 1028 after years of conflict with opponents of Scandinavia.

2 – Eric Bloodaxe – Famous Vikings

Eric Bloodaxe was one of the Famous Vikings, the Norwegian ruler in the 10th century and one of the best known names in the Viking history.

He was nicknamed Bloodaxe because of his Vikings raids in Scotland and the killing of his brothers to keep the crown.

He was an independent king in the Viking kingdom of Northumbria and was made the ruler of Northumbria to protect the land against the Scots and the Irish.

After his death in 954, the independence of Northumbria came to an end.

He is portrayed as a glorious Viking hero whose violent performances brought him successes but made him unpopular as a ruler.

3 – Ragnar Lodbrok – Famous Vikings

Ragnar Lodbrok was a Norse Viking hero and Scandinavian king.

He was the son of the legendary Scandinavian king Sigurd Ring and ascended the throne after the death of his father in 804.

He gained popularity through raids against Eastern Europe, Ireland, Britain and Francia during the 9th century.

His glorious kingdom included parts of Denmark, Sweden and Norway. In 845, he invaded Rouen, a city in the North of France and after defeating Charles the bald, entered Paris.

He and other Vikings with him occupied the city until Charles paid a heavy ransom of gold and silver.

He was executed by Aelle, king of Northumbria, by throwing him into the snake infested pit.

4 – Harald Fairhair

Harald Fairhair was the first king of Norway who ruled from 872 to 930. He succeeded on the death of his father.

The unification of Norway started with the rejection of his marriage proposal by Gyda, who was the daughter of Eirik, king of Hordaland.

She refused to marry Harald “before he was king over all the Norway." Ten years later, he became the king of Norway.

He conquered many kingdoms of Norway, including the Varmland in Sweden.

After the great victory at Hafrsfjord between 872 and 900 that resulted in the unification of Norway, he became the king of the Norwegians.

His realm was threatened by invasions and at last Herald was forced to clear the islands and Scottish mainland of some Vikings.

He died in 933 and his sons succeeded him.

5 – Harald Hardrada

Harald Hardrada was the king of Norway from 1015 to 1066.

He unsuccessfully claimed the Danish throne in 1064 and the English throne in 1066.

He was a part of the Varangian guard in the Byzantine Empire and rose to become the commander of the guard.

He left the Byzantines in 1042 and started preparing for reclaiming the Norwegian throne.

In 1046, he started raiding the Danish coast and joined forces with the rivals of Magnus in Denmark.

Magnus agreed to share kingship with Harald but the co-rule ended because of the death of Magnus.

Harald became the ruler of Norway and his reign was the most stable and peaceful.

He started various successful campaigns but was not able to conquer Denmark. He was defeated and killed by Harold Godwinson’s forces.

His death was considered as the end of the Viking age.

6 – Sweyn Forkbeard – Famous Vikings

Sweyn Forkbeard was the ruler of Denmark from 986 to 1014. He took the throne from his father by revolting against him. He also became the first Danish king of England in 1013.

He was a pagan who oppressed Christianity and expelled German bishops from Scania and Zealand.

He lost Norwegian claims after his defeat against the German army in 964.

He built an alliance with the Swedish king against the Norwegian king Olaf Tryggvason.

Olaf Tryggvason was defeated in the Western Baltic Sea and Norway was divided by the victors.

As a result of this victory, Sweyn regained control of Viken district.

He also raided his forces against England and was declared the king of England in 1013 but died on 3 February 1014 after five weeks of ruling in England.

7 – Rollo Duke of Normandy

Rollo Duke of Normandy was a famous Viking leader and the first ruler of Normandy from 918 to almost 928.

His followers and off spring were known as the Normans.

In the early 10th century, Rollo’s army attacked France and settled the area along the Seine River.

He gave Rouen in exchange of his alliance with France and it was agreed that he would extend his authority over Viking settlers.

Rollo soon realized that his pledge to the king was void and he raided in the west where a new agreement was recorded.

Normans were given the provinces of Bessin and Maine. He died in 928 and was succeeded by his sons.

8 – Ivar the Boneless

Ivar the Boneless was a Viking leader who invaded Anglo-Saxon England. He was the oldest son of Ragnar Lodbrok.

This invasion was to take the revenge of his father from Aelle king of Northumbria who had executed his father Ragnar in 865.

The invasion resulted in reconciliation after some fighting. However, Aelle was captured and executed in 867 by Ivar’s army.

His army conquered the kingdom of Mercia and the town of Nottingham.

According to some historians, he died in 870.

9 – Leif Erikson

Leif Erikson was a Norse explorer and warrior who established Norse settlement in Vinland.

His father, Eric the red was the first one to establish a Norse settlement in Greenland.

Leif and his people traveled from Greenland to Norway in 999.

In Norway, he became the hirdman of King Olaf Tryggvason.

Upon hearing the story of the merchant Bjarni Herjolfsson who claimed he had seen the land on the West of Greenland, Leif gathered a crew. He discovered lands and named them.

During their explorations, they reached the land full of grapes and vines so they named it Vinland. It is believed that Vinland was an area in Canada.

He died sometime between 1019 and 1025.

Famous Vikings – Fast Facts

  • Cnut the Great was a Viking king who ruled over Denmark, England and Norway.
  • Cnut was King of England from 1016, of Denmark from 1018 and of Norway from 1028 to 1035.
  • Eric Bloodaxe was a notable Viking hero who ruled over Norway and later over Northumbria. He died in 954. He was the son of Harald Fairhair. Ragnar Lodbrok was a legendary Viking king who ruled over parts of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. He lived in the 9th century and led raids against Britain, France and Ireland.
  • Harald Fairhair was the first king to rule over a unified Norway from 872 to 930. Harald Hardrada was a Viking ruler who was the King of Norway from 1046 until his death in 1066. He unsuccessfully tried to invade England in 1066 but was defeated and killed.
  • Sweyn Forkbeard was a Viking ruler who was the King of Denmark from 986 to 1014. He was also the King of Norway and briefly, the King of England.
  • Rollo, the Duke of Normandy, was a Viking leader who settled in French region of Normandy and became its first ruler. He oversaw the establishment of permanent Viking settlements in the region.
  • Ivar the Boneless was the eldest son of Ragnar Lodbrok. He invaded England with the Great Heathen Army in a bid to avenge his father’s death.
  • Leif Erikson was a Viking explorer who is credited with first setting foot on North America, centuries before Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ it.
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