The Historical Truth Behind King Horik

King Horik is one of the main characters in the Irish-Canadian TV series ‘Vikings’ from History Channel. Along with many other historical characters portrayed in the show, King Horik was erroneously depicted. The historical inaccuracy in the show stems entirely from the artistic license of the serial’s producers/writers, primarily in order to make it more attractive to larger audiences.

In the TV show, during the first two seasons, Horik Gudfredsson was initially forging an alliance with the then earl Ragnar Lothbrok in order to defeat his cousin Hemming, becoming as such king in his place. After Hemming’s usurpation from the throne of Denmark, Horik gradually became more and more concerned about Ragnar’s ambitions, fearing there will be a day when he might be actually threatening him. Eventually, Horik will be murdered at the hands of Ragnar.

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King Horik played by Canadian actor Donal Logue in History Channel’s ‘Vikings’. Image source:

In reality however, King Horik was the leader of the Danish Vikings during the early Middle Ages (specifically in the time of the Viking Age). His reign lasted from 827 to 854. He opposed conversion to Christianity and conducted many raids in the Frankish Empire during Louis the Pious’ reign.

Horik was the son of Gudfred, a legendary Norse chieftain who is also renowned for his raids in the Frankish Empire during Charlemagne’s reign. During Horik’s reign, the Danish Vikings made several incursions in Frisia and present-day northern Germany, sacking the cities of Hamburg and Dorestad as well as plundering the island of Walcheren (located in contemporary Netherlands) in the process.

He met with an unfortunate end though, yet not exactly as portrayed in the show. His real life death wasn’t at the hands of Ragnar Lothbrok (who had actually been ordered by him to plunder Paris in 845). Horik is said to have been killed by one of his nephews whom he had exiled. In the meantime, this particular nephew went to be a very powerful raider.

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