During their reign the Jarls converted to Christianity. One Christian version of Eirik's conversion has him promising to convert if he won a victory at the Battle of Svolder. Another Christian slant on the story is that Eirik replaced the image of Thor on his ship with a cross after conversion. Fagrskinna, however, tells us that although the Jarls were baptized, they did not force Christianity on the populace. This tells me that their " conversion " may have been merely political, and in accordance with their Christian allies in Sweden and Denmark. Sources written by strictly Heathen sources mention nothing of the conversion, and that they fought in the name of the old Gods. In 1015 Eirik left his son Hakon Eiriksson in charge in Southern Norway, as Jarl, and joined the great warrior king Canute the Great in his attempt to take the English crown. Cnut was young at the time, and Eirik was the perfect seasoned military commander to aid him in his conquest. One source states that Eirik raided independently of King Canute, but this does not match other sources. Besides, there is strength in numbers, and splitting forces, at least in that day and age, was not considered a sound practice.
In 1016 A.C.E Canute's army moved on London. On April 23rd of that year, according to sources, the English King Ethelred died and Prince Edmund succeeded him on the English throne. Several sources show Eirik to be at the siege of London, and after several drawn battles, Canute and now King Edmund made a treaty which divided England between them. A year later Edmund conveniently died, and Canute became the sole King of England. Canute split the kingdom between himself, Thorkell, Eirik, and Eadric. Eirik was given Northumbria, while Eadric, who was given Mercia, was killed in 1017 for being a traitor to King Canute.
Eirik, as Earl, ( Jarl ) ruled over Northumbria for approximately ten years before his death. No one source agrees on the exact date of his death, which is estimated to have been between 1023 - 1033. Viking sources say his death was caused by a medical procedure ( crude I am sure ) which led to him bleeding to death. Incredibly during his reign as Earl of Northumbria he kept the peace with the Scottish people, and the Britons, something his predecessors could not do.
What an incredible man the son of Jarl Haakon was. Eirik Haakonsson fought for or against some of the greatest names known in our Scandinavian history. Famous individuals like Harald Bluetooth, Sweyn Forkbeard, Olaf Tryggvasson, Vladimir I of Kiev, King Ethelred of Britain, and of course Canute the Great of Denmark, intertwine their histories with his. And yet Eirik Haakonsson is not well known at all. I hope that this article will spark some interest in this great warrior who ruled at the end of the Viking Age.
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor' s protection !