Eric Bloodaxe - King of Norway (sagas)

King of Norway (sagas)

The dominant theme of the sagas about Harald's numerous sons is the struggle for the Norwegian throne, in particular the way it manifests itself in the careers of Haakon and his foil Eric. According to Heimskringla, Harald had appointed his sons as client kings over the various districts of the kingdom, and intended Eric, his favourite son, to inherit the throne after his death. At strife with his half-brothers, Eric brutally killed Ragnvald (Rögnvaldr), ruler of Hadeland, and Bjørn Farmann, ruler of Vestfold. Some texts maintain that towards the end of his life, Harald allowed Eric to reign together with him (Heimskringla, Ágrip, Fagrskinna). When Harald died, Eric succeeded to the realm, slaughtered the combined forces of his half-brothers Olaf and Sigrød, and gained full control of Norway. At the time, however, Eric's younger and most famous half-brother Haakon, often nicknamed Aðalsteinsfóstri, had been staying at the West-Saxon court, having been sent there to be reared as fosterson to King Æthelstan (r. 924–939). Eric's rule was reputedly harsh and despotic and so he fell rapidly out of favour with the Norwegian nobility. At this propitious time, Haakon returned to Norway, found a nobility eager to accept him as king instead and ousted Eric, who fled to Britain. Heimskringla specifies that Haakon owed his success in large part to Sigurd, earl of Lade.

Determining the date and length of Eric's reign (before and after his father's death) is a challenging and perhaps impossible task based on the confused chronology of our late sources. It is also unfortunate that no contemporary or even near contemporary record survives for Eric’s short-lived rule in Norway, if it is historical at all.

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