Horik II

Horik II

Horik II also know as Erik Barn (Danish: Erik the Child) was King of Denmark from the murder of Horik I in 854 to c. 873. After a brief civil war which nearly wiped out the branches of the royal family, legend has it that a single royal child was left alive, hence the name Erik the Child. The problem with the story is that at the time there was no hereditary kingship. Kings were literally shouted into office at the assemblies (Danish:landsting) by the chiefs and peasants who supported him. Horik II, whose own lands lay in extreme southern Denmark, including Hedeby, emerged as the strongest of the claimants. Little is known about him except for few references in Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum and The Life og Ansgar by Rimbert.

Horik was probably not the son of Horik I, but a close relative perhaps a nephew or grandson of the powerful Gottfredson clan who held power in much of Denmark. Sons were not usually named after fathers in Viking Denmark.

During his reign Danish vikings under Ragnar Lodbrog and others began raiding and then colonizing England, eventually capturing York and much of northeast England.

Although not a Christian, Horik II was tolerant of the Christians among his people and of the missionaries from the Archdiocese of Hamburg-Bremen who found their way north. Horik became acquainted with St Ansgar during Horik I's reign and shared his view that regarding religious matters there was no better or upright man in his kingdom. After a brief closure of the church at Hedeby by Jarl Hovi, Horik II was persuaded by Ansgar to reopen the ruined church and permit a new church at Ribe. Horik even allowed them to ring church bells for the first time, much to the disgust of the non-Christians who believed the bells would frighten off the land sprites (Danish:landvætter) and ruin the harvest. [Hvitfeldt, Arild.Danmarks Riges Krønike]

In 857 the Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Bald ordered Horik to give up his lands between the Eider River and the North Sea in retaliation for Viking raids on Paris and the Loire Valley. Rorik of Dorestad was attempting carve out a Frisian kingdom between the Saxons and the Danes with the help of the emperor. Rorik had a claim on the throne as valid as Horik's, and after three failed attempts to take Schleswig, he enlisted the emperor's help. While Rorik was off on a Viking raid, other vikings sacked his capital at Dorestad. Horik was able to hold onto southern Denmark in spite of Rorik and the emperor's demands. Horik prevented a thinly veiled attempt to add southern Denmark to the Carolingian Empire. [Gesta Danorum]

In 864 Pope Nicholas I wrote to Horik encouraging him to become a Christian. When Horik refused, the pope asked Charles II to coerce the conversion of Horik. [Gesta Danorum]

About 866 Horik gave permission for a third Danish church to be built in Århus during the time of Bishop Rimbert, Ansgar's successor. ["Ancient See of Aarhus".The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913]


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