Horik Gudfredsson was the King of the Danes. He lorded it up over the Danish people during the onset of the Viking Age. The main threat to his realm during his reign was from the Christian Franks in the west, who, under the rule of the emperor Charlemagne, had previously conquered the pagan Frisians in the Netherlands and the Saxons of northern Germany. And to the east were the Polabian Slavic tribes in northern Germany and Poland.
Horik's cousin, Hemming was briefly king of the Danes after succeeding Horik's father, King Gudfred. Horik, with the aid of his brothers, would usurp Hemming from the throne.
During his reign, Horik would oppose the efforts of the Franks to convert his people. In response to the missionary activities of Archbishop Anskar of Hamburg-Bremen, Horik would attack Hamburg and destroy St Mary's Cathedral.
Later in his reign, Horik denied responsibility for the Viking raids against the Frankish kingdoms, supposedly because he feared that Viking jarls would use their stolen wealth to set themselves up in opposition against him. However, he may have been complicit with the raids and probably accepted a portion of the spoils as tribute.
As the king of Denmark, Horik's seat of residence may have been either the trading centre of Ribe in south-western Denmark, the settlement of Jelling in the south-eastern mainland, or the town of Roskilde on the island of Sjaelland.
King Horik attended the pilgrimage in Uppsala, where he met the renowned Earl Ragnar. King Horik immediately asked Ragnar to help settle his land dispute against Jarl Borg. Both refused to agree to any terms, and the conflict soon led to a proclamation of war.
King Horik shows himself to be a master manipulator - when it seems that he, Ragnar and Jarl Borg will all raid England together - he persuades Ragnar to leave Borg out of the raid; enraged at losing "face" Borg raids Ragnar's lands. Later, King Horik and Ragnar's men are ambushed by soldiers of King Ecbert. His second eldest son Ari is killed by an arrow during the opening salvo. Despite being taken by surprise they manage to survive the attack with minimal loses. Later, upon receiving the news of the attack on Kattegat, Ragnar returns home leaving King Horik in Wessex to further negotiate with King Ecbert. However, Ecbert sends a large army which defeat many of King Horik's men. Barely escaping with his eldest son Erlendur, Horik returns to Kattegat with the intention of getting revenge on King Ecbert. King Horik proposes to Ragnar that Borg should be invited to rejoin their alliance. Although not enthusiastic about the idea, Ragnar agrees and sends Rollo to Götaland. Meanwhile, King Horik wants his son to learn the games he plays, so he coerces Siggy into having sex with Erlendur. Borg agrees to the invitation. King Horik is surprised that Ragnar took his advice, but he is misled, as Ragnar's true intention is to subject Jarl Borg to the Blood Eagle, a torturous ritual execution method. King Horik asks Ragnar to wait with the execution as it might deter possible new allies. With the Jarl of Götaland in captivity Jarl Borg proposes to Horik that he help him escape and they together kill Ragnar. However, Lagertha, now under the name of Earl Ingstad, after she killed Earl Sigvard of Hedeby, arrives as their new ally. Having no purpose for Jarl Borg, King Horik coldly allows Ragnar to perform the blood eagle ritual.
Preparing for their second journey to Wessex, King Horik reminds Lagertha they are all equal, one more than the other. He urges her to prepare her ships and men as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Horik seems to have sunken his talons in Floki, manipulating the shipwright to betray Ragnar. After setting up camp in Wessex, King Horik notices Torstein riding away on horse. Ragnar has sent him to deliver a message to King Ecbert that they want to negotiate for peace with the King of Wessex. Infuriated at not being consulted first, King Horik confronts Ragnar, reminding the Earl of Kattegat he is King and not Ragnar. When an envoy with Aethelwulf in the arrives, King Horik secretly sends his son Erlendur and some men away. Ragnar tells King Ecbert's son they wish to speak with him. Returning to the King's villa, Aethelwulf is attacked by a party of Norsemen under Erlendur's command, sparing only the prince himself. Being left no choice, King Ecbert sends word to King Aelle of Northumbria to bring his men to fight the Norsemen. Confident about their chances, King Horik and his men advance towards a small force of Wessex soldiers under command of Aethelwulf. However, this turns out to be a ruse as King Ecbert, having learned from old documents about Caesar's victories in the Roman era, planned a pincer movement attacking the Viking forces from two sides with groups of soldiers hidden behind the hills. Not able to set up a unified shield wall, the Viking forces are routed easily by the Anglo-Saxon soldiers, reinforced by King Aella's forces as well. Floki persuade King Horik to retreat. Back in the camp, Ragnar sarcastically asks Horik whether he still thinks they shouldn't have talked to King Ecbert first. King Horik replies the Gods cannot be second guessed and they were fated to fight against King Ecbert. However, King Ecbert thinks annihilating the Viking force will not stop their incursions and might even result in having more Northmen forces arriving in England and that the Norsemen could be hired to fight for Princess Kwenthrith in Mercia. They send Athelstan as the emissary to bring his message. King Horik calls the former priest King Ecbert's dog, licking his fingers and even his behind. However, Lagertha and Ragnar agree to talk to King Ecbert, with King Horik grudgingly following. King Ecbert offers them land and a flat fee if they are willing to fight for Kwenthrith. With some Norsemen accepting to fight in Mercia, Ragnar returns to Kattegat with a critically injured Rollo and Athelstan who decided to go with the Norsemen. King Horik goes to Kattegat as well, having a proposition for Floki.
In Kattegat, King Horik's family arrives to celebrate the alliance between him and Ragnar and what they can achieve together. However, King Horik wants to kill Ragnar and his family and attempts to manipulate Floki and Siggy to kill the loved ones of Ragnar. Floki is to kill Ragnar's son Bjorn and Siggy his other children. Floki first seems to assassinate Rollo and Torstein by poisoning them with mushrooms. In secrecy, King Horik has sent some of his warriors to Kattegat in an attempt to kill Ragnar. During the night, Horik and Erlendur along with their men kill many warriors of Kattegat. When they make their way to the Earl's hall, it turns out that Horik is betrayed by Floki and Siggy, who stood by Ragnar all along. Torstein, who appeared to have died earlier, is alive and well. King Horik's warriors are taken out by Lagertha and her men. Knowing his fate his sealed, Horik pleads to Ragnar to spare Erlendur, who is held with a knife at his throat. Horik is first struck with a sword by Lagertha, axed in the back by Bjorn, and then stabbed by Torstein. Ragnar finishes him off by first stabbing him with the knife Horik gave to Siggy, then headbutting him and further beating him to death. All of King Horik's family, except for Erlendur and three handmaiden servants, have been killed as well by order of Ragnar.
A great Viking warrior, King Horik was proud by his Norse ancestry, and was very faithful toward the Gods. He was also polite toward his interlocutors, loving toward his family, and fierce in battle, always in the forefront. However, his dark side was more prominent than the good. Horik display a deceiver, authoritarian and ruthless face. He compared King Ecbert to Hel, while he conspired against Ragnar since his arrival to Kattegat. Like he conquered his rightful Throne after a bloodbath, Horik was jealous of his own power, always demanding loyalty and obedience from all, but never recognised peers, showing little piety toward his co-combatants, like he called Athelstan useless after his capture by the Saxons. Horik was also fanatic against the non-Norse, and particularly hated Christians, believing that their creed was incompatible with the Norse Gods.
- In the episode Sacrifice, Horik was seen performing the sacrificial rites in Uppsala. In historical accounts, it was actually the King of the Swedes, the one considered king at Uppsala as it was in his territory, who performed the rites, not the king of the Danes.
- If King Horik was the King of the Svear (Swedes) as well as the Danes, which his role at Uppsala may have indicated, then his relationship as Earl Bjarni's cousin could lend credence to that interpretation by the show. Furthermore, Horik's territorial dispute with Geatish Jarl Borg could have been based on the traditional rivalry between the historical Svear/Swedes and Gautar/Geats, and the Danes and Swedes.
- The Old Norse word for king is Konungr.
- Horik was a scion of the Danish royal House of Sigfred. Which was itself likely a branch of the royal Scylding clan, which was believed to be descended from Odin and related to the Ynglings (descended from Frey).
- Horiks centre of power in Denmark may have been either Roskilde on the main Danish island of Sjaelland (Zealand) or Jelling in eastern Jutland.
- The life of King Horik is mentioned in the Gesta Danorum.
- The historical Horik was killed by his nephew, Ericus (Erik) who he had earlier driven into exile.
|Season one appearances|
|Rites of Passage||Wrath of the Northmen||Dispossessed|
|Trial||Raid||Burial of the Dead|
|A King's Ransom||Sacrifice||All Change|
|Season two appearances|
|Brother's War||Invasion||Treachery||Eye For an Eye||Answers in Blood|
|Unforgiven||Blood Eagle||Boneless||The Choice||The Lord's Prayer|