Silver penny of Eric Bloodaxe

Viking, AD 947-54
York, England

The last Viking king of York

Eric Bloodaxe was the last Viking king of York (AD 947-48 and 952-54), and a rather colourful figure. The son of Harald Finehair, king of Norway, Eric earned his nickname by murdering several of his brothers in order to secure his succession to the Norwegian throne. According to later sagas, Eric was unpopular because of the cruelty of his wife Gunnhild. The people gave their support instead to Eric's younger brother, Håkon the Good, who had been brought up in England.

Eric fled to England, and became a client king, ruling the kingdom of York on behalf of the Wessex dynasty. However, he ruled in York only intermittently, spending some years raiding in Scotland and around the Irish Sea. He was also driven out of York at least twice, and following his death at the battle of Stainmore in 954, York was absorbed into the emerging kingdom of England.

Eric's coins reflect his changing relationship with the Anglo-Saxon dynasty in Wessex. His early coins had a small cross on each side, like contemporary Anglo-Saxon coins. This later coin shows a Viking sword. The sword was the symbol of St Peter, and had earlier been used on Viking coins struck at York in the name of St Peter. However, it also symbolised warfare and conquest, and may signify that in his later years Eric tried to hold York by force against his former overlords.

Find in the collection online

More information

Bibliography

M.M. Archibald and C.E. Blunt, British Museum, Anglo Saxon co, Sylloge of coins of the British Isles 34 ()

M. Dolley, Viking coins of the Danelaw an (London, The British Museum Press, 1965)

Dimensions

Diameter: 20.500 mm
Weight: 1.220 g

Museum number

CM SCBI 1228; BMC II, p.238, no.1112

CMB25588

Location

Find in the collection online



Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore