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44. Valdemar Atterdag

46. Margrete 1.

Denmark's History

45. Oluf 2.

1. Introduction 2. Oluf 2.
3. Election of king 4. The Hand-binding
5. The Mecklenburgers 6. King Håkon Magnusson
7. Norwegian Tax Lands 8. The Paradise
9. Scanian Castles 10. Southern Jutland
11. Bo Jonsson's Will 12. Death and Burial
13. Literature

1. Introduction

Oluf was the son of King Håkon 6. of Norway and his queen, Margrete, who was the daughter of Valdemar Atterdag. After Valdemar's death in 1375, the then 5-year-old Oluf was elected Danish king in 1376 with his parents as guardians.

Oluf 2. in a section from the Kronborg tapestries

The young Oluf 2. in a section from the Kronborg tapestries made by Hans Knieper 1581-1584. The tapestries were made around 200 years after Oluf's death and cannot be expected to have portrait likeness. Photo Hans Knieper Wikipedia.

When King Håkon also died in 1380, the young Oluf also became king of Norway with his mother as guardian. It was the beginning of the royal union between Denmark and Norway, which was to last for 484 years until the Peace of Kiel on 14 January 1814.

It is said that Oluf came of age in 1385 at the age of 15, after which he traveled around and received homage at the county tings of his kingdoms. But his mother, Queen Dowager Margrete, was still the effective regent of the two kingdoms.

However, during a stay at Falsterbo Castle in Scania in 1387, he suddenly fell ill and died. Being only 17 years old and unmarried, he left no heirs.

Royal families throughout Denmark's history

Denmark's kings divided into Dynasties. But, all the kings - apart from Magnus the Good - are descended from "Hardegon, son of a certain Sven" who conquered a large part of Jutland around the year 917 as reported by Adam of Bremen in the section on bishop Hoger. The line of kings and the years of war and peace are the backbone of history - not that accounts of culture and the living conditions of ordinary people are not important - but without the line of kings, history can easily turn into a kind of fireplace passiar about aspects of Danish history that cannot easily be fixed in the memory. It is beneficial for clarity to divide the succession of kings - and thus the history of Denmark - into manageable sections.
The Knytlinge family got its name from a Hardecnudth, who was probably the son of Sven. He is also called Canute 1. and was with great certainty the father of Gorm the Old, as told by Adam of Bremen in the section on Bishop Unni.
Magnus the Good, who became king in 1047, was the son of the saint king Olav of Norway; his reign is a transitional period to the period of Sweyn Estridsson and his sons and grandsons.
The rival kings, Svend, Knud and Valdemar, from 1146 to 1157, all descended from Sweyn Estridsson; their time forms an interregnum to the time of the Valdemars.
Many historians, probably most, only consider Valdemar the Great and his sons, Canute the Sixth and Valdemar the Victorious, to be the Valdemars. But no one can have a patent on such a definition, and it seems pedagogically advantageous for the author to also include their less successful descendants - which are Erik Ploughpenning, Abel and Christoffer 1, Erik Klipping, Erik Menved and Christoffer 2. who was the last king before the kingless time.
Valdemar Atterdag recreated Denmark and thus the possibility of the Kalmar Union with Norway and Sweden, one might say - with a little good will. His daughter Margrete 1. became queen of this Scandinavian Union.
The first Oldenborg kings were also Union kings - but only for shorter periods.
The civil war, The Count's Feud, in 1534-36 was a turning point in Denmark's history. The Lutheran Reformation took place at the same time, and allowed the kings to confiscate the third of Denmark's agricultural land that belonged to the church. This fabulous wealth made it possible for them to cow Denmark's old nobility and after some time establish the autocracy that characterized Denmark's historical decline. In 1848, a democratic constitution was introduced without civil war or other violent events.
The Oldenburg royal line died out in 1863 with the childless Frederik 7. After that, Christian 9. of Glücksborg became king.

2. Oluf 2.

In Norway he was called Olav and in Denmark he was called Oluf. He was named after the Norwegian saint king, Olav the Holy, and that is almost the only thing we know about him. We know nothing of his personality or appearance, and there are no handed down statements or tales of special feats attributed to him.

For most of his reign, Oluf was a minor and his mother, Margrethe, ruled for him. At his death he was king of both Denmark and Norway.

Simplified family tree for Oluf 2.

Simplified family tree for Oluf 2. On his father's side, Oluf descended from both the Norwegian kings since King Sverre and the first effective king of a united Sweden, Magnus Ladelås. Through his mother he descended from Valdemar Atterdag and the old Danish kings.

The young Oluf had the perfect family tree for a king over a united Scandinavia. He was of the Norwegian royal family as well as of the Swedish and the Danish. The Scanian Yearbook writes that he was "of a nobler descent than any that time living king because of the ancient blood of his family and its royal origin both on the sword and the spinning side".

However - as mentioned above - in 1387 he suddenly fell ill and died, just 17 years old, at Falsterbo Castle in Scania. He did not get any children.

However, in the year 1402 - 15 years after his death - a man from Bohemia claimed to be the still living Oluf. However, the man confessed that he had lied when it turned out that he could not speak any Nordic languages. The fake Oluf was then taken to Lund, where he was sentenced to be burned on the stake. The letters he had written to the queen were hung around his neck and he was given a false crown on his head, after which he suffered death in the flames.

Valdemar Atterdag and the Union Kings

Valdemar Atterdag was the son of the last of the Valdemars, Christoffer 2, but he nevertheless represents a new beginning, a new dynasty. He was the king, who returned. He collected the sad remains of a Danish kingdom and rebuilt Denmark. Many new things came about during his reign. It is in his time that we hear for the first time that the people are made up of different estates "Knights and squires, ladies and maidens, merchants, guests, peasants and nobles" and in his reconstructed kingdom the difference between the estates of the royal office, called kongelev, and estades of the royal family, called patrinomium, disappeared.
Valdemar's grandson Oluf 2. was of both the Norwegian royal family and the Swedish royal family. He had the potential to unite the three Nordic kingdoms, but unfortunately he died early.
On Valdemar's death in 1375, Oluf was elected king of Denmark with his parents, King Håkon of Norway and Margrete, Valdemar's youngest daughter, as guardians. On King Håkon's death in 1380, Margrete also became Oluf's guardian in Norway and at the same time she was named "Full ruler and husband and guardian of the whole of Denmark". Shortly afterwards she received similar titles in Norway and in 1388 also in Sweden. We remember her as Margrete 1.
In 1396 she adopted her late sister's grandson, Bugislav, and made him king of the three Nordic countries under the name Erik of Pomerania with herself as guardian, while he was a minor. To the detriment of the Nordic unity, first the Swedish Council and then the Danish renounced loyality and allegiance to king Erik in 1439 and he retreated to Gotland and later to Pomerania.
Then Christoffer 3. of Bavaria became king of the union in 1440. He was the son of Eric of Pomerania's sister, Katarina, and thus great-great-grandson of Valdemar Atterdag. He was a flexible politician who made the councils of the three Nordic countries to work together, but unfortunately he died childless after only eight years.

Oluf was just 10 years old when he, on 29 June 1381 - on Sct. Olav's Day - was hailed in the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim as Norway's king. But in Denmark he was never crowned in a cathedral by the archbishop, as other young royal sons had been since the time of Valdemar the Great.

3. The Election of King 1376

Valdemar Atterdag died at Gurre Castle west of Helsingør on 24 October 1375 surrounded by quite a few members of the royal council.

Only a few years ago, the country had survived the total disintegration under Christopher 2. and in the kingless period. It was alone King Valdemar's merit that Denmark still existed as an independent kingdom. And now he had died without leaving an heir to the throne! Members of the kingdoms council confided to emissaries from the Hanseatic Cities, who happened to be present, as negotiations were planned about the Scanian Castles, that they now feared unrest in the kingdom.

Håkon 6's seal

Håkon 6's seal dated to 1358–76. He sits on the throne with the royal orb and a coat of arms, which shows the Norwegian lion. The text says something like "igillum haconis dei graciA REGIS NORRVEGie et swecIE", which must mean "Håkon's seal by the grace of God king of Norway and Sweden". Drawing by Hakon Thorsen (dead before 1924) - Chr. Brinchmann: "Norske Konge-sigiller og andre Fyrste-sigiller fra Middelalderen" (1924) Wikipedia.

Denmark was an electoral kingdom, but a successor to the throne was usually chosen from within the royal family. Therefore, there were basically no other options than the sons of Valdemar's two daughters. One was the ten-year-old junker Albreckt of Mecklenburg, who was the son of Duke Henrik of Mecklenburg and Valdemar's eldest daughter, Ingeborg. The other was the four-year-old Prince Oluf of Norway, who was the son of King Håkon and Valdemar's youngest daughter, Margrete.

Valdemar himself had apparently been inclined to prefer junker Albreckt. In any case, in the peace treaty between Mecklenburg and Denmark in 1371, he had made the promise to the old duke Albreckt that his grandson, Junker Albreckt, should be king in Denmark: "that if We abdicate or die without a male heir - then after Our death, no one shall have the kingdom of Denmark and hold it as king with all royal rights, except Duke Henrik's son with Our eldest daughter Ingeborg".

It was something contrary to what Henning Podebusk and the kingdoms council had promised the Hanseatic League at the peace of Stralsund. Namely that the cities should have the right to approve a future candidate for the Danish throne.

Mural showing  a ship having problems in a storm in Bregninge Church from the end of the 1300's

Mural showing a ship having problems in a storm in Bregninge Church from the end of the 1300's. The devils of the storm are tearing the sail and trying to tear apart the stern deck. A devil tries to tear the anchor overboard and another produces the roar of the storm. But the patron saint of seafarers, St. Nikolaus rushes to help. Photo kalkmalerier.dk

The news of Valdemar's death on Wednesday 24 October 1375 reached the Duke of Mecklenburg while he was visiting Lübeck with Emperor Karl 4, accompanied by a large princely entourage including the Archbishop of Cologne. The 10-year-old junker Albreckt was immediately titled "Koning der Denen".

Emperor Karl had sent out a solemn letter already on November 6, in which he called on all clerical and secular dignitaries in Denmark to elect the young Albreckt as king, since Valdemar had died without leaving behind "legitima masculini sexus", meaning a legitimate male heir to the throne.

In January 1376 a meeting was held in Grevesmühle not far from Wismar, attended by the Mecklenburg and Holstein counts. The Holstein counts were promised the duchy of Southern Jutland, which fief Valdemar had unfortunately failed to cancel after the death of the childless duke Henrik, together with Als, Langeland and all the islands in return for supporting Junker Albreckt's claim to the Danish throne. At the same time, the young "king" pawned a number of areas, which he had not yet come into possession of, namely the whole of Lolland with the castles of Ålholm and Ravnsborg and Ribe and Kolding to the Holstein counts for 30.000 marks. When Fyn had been conquered, these areas had to be returned.

Chalk painting of a ship in Skamstrup Church from the end of the 1300's

Mural with a ship in Skamstrup Church from the time of King Oluf. The ship has a very large sterncastle from which archers can shoot on the crew in lower-lying ships. The lone archer in the picture is not just anyone. It is Olav the Holy, who is racing with his half-brother, Harald Hårderåde, for the Kingdom of Norway. He sailed so fast that the arrow he shot in the sailing direction fell behind the ship. However, in this painting it looks like he is cheating and shooting the arrow against aft. Perhaps the artist had never sailed on the sea. Foto kalkmalerier.dk

The meeting in Grevesmühle was also attended by a number of Jutland noblemen led by Heneke Lembek, who was the son of the former drost and rebel Claus Lembek. He promised to serve "the high prince and lord Albreckt, king of Denmark", with 50 armed men.

But the predominant mood among the members of the Danish council was probably against the Mecklenburgs, who not many years ago had attacked Denmark together with the Holstenians. They were probably aware that if they got kingship in Denmark, as they already had in Sweden, they would come to dominate the whole of the Nordic countries. Moreover, one could think that the widespread pawn fiefs, which was known from the kingless times, would return. The Mecklenburger Sweden was thus largely pawned to German knights.

There is nothing to suggest that Margrete was already staying in Denmark at the time of her father's death. We must believe that her usual place of residence was Akershus Castle in Oslo. But she arrived in Denmark very soon after her father's death.

At this time of the year sailing at sea was generally suspended, but it is easy to imagine that the kingdoms council or the Drost, Henning Podebusk, sent a fast ship to Norway regardless of the danger of autumn storms. Margrete must have immediately understood the seriousness of the situation and boarded with her four-year-old son despite the harsh weather conditions. Just three weeks after her father's death, she was safely in Denmark. King Håkon arrived later.


Akershus at the time of Christian 4. drawing by M. Sinding Larsen 1907.

As early as 11 November 1375 we find her at Kalundborg Castle, presumably with her son.

She was very ambitious. From the start she called herself "queen of Denmark, Sweden and Norway" although strictly speaking she was only queen of Norway. She immediately set to work for her son's candidacy and, unlike Duke Albreckt, she did not hand out birds on the roof but real estates.

The bishop of Roskilde, Niels Ulfeldt, had for many years held a grudge against King Valdemar because he had seized Copenhagen and because the Hanseatic cities had demolished Copenhagen Castle during the war, while it was in Valdemar's possession. Margrete appeased him in December 1375 by gifting him the castle of Nebbe and mortgaging him Sømme and Ramsø manors and three quarters of Roskilde - how that is to be understood.

Also in December 1375, she handed over Drost Henning Podebusk Holbæk Castle and three Sjællland manors for only 400 marks, in exchange for that he by his seal recognized her as "Queen of Denmark, Norway and Sweden".

She won Erik Nielsen to Hørningsholm for herself by making him commander at Søborg Castle. She won Bent Byg to Gunderslevholm for herself by giving him a large and much-needed loan.

Glaspainting in Døllefjelde Church on Lolland

Glaspainting in Døllefjelde Church on Lolland. The inscription reads "d(omi)ni hinric: plot", which means Mr. Henrik Plot. Knight Henrik wears a barrel helmet, shield and sword. He wears chain mail under a plate armor, iron gauntlets and protections on his thighs and lower legs. Photo Nationalmuseets samlinger.

In January 1376, Emperor Karl IV ordered the city of Lübeck not to assist or help the Queen of Norway and her son. The emperor wrote that because Albreckt "is the eldest son of the eldest daughter of the late King Valdemar of Denmark, he and not the queen of Norway's son has the right to the throne of the same kingdom, Denmark" .

As mentioned, by the Treaty of Stralsund, the Hanseatic Cities had been given the right to approve a candidate for the Danish throne after Valdemar's death. They ended up supporting Margrete and Oluf.

The Hanseatic cities had their own interests. They must have believed that if the Mecklenburgers also came to power in Denmark, they would control both Sweden, Denmark and Mecklenburg proper, and this could endanger their trading privileges.

In order not to leave anything to chance, Anders Jepsen Lunge and Drost Henning Podebusk conveyed on Queen Margrete's behalf in February 1376 in Stralsund a proposal for peace between her husband King Håkon of Norway and the Hanseatic League, and at the same time she promised to ratify all their privileges in Denmark.

It is said that the Sjælland people were the first to decide to choose Oluf. Then followed the Jutlanders. "The Jutlanders finally made up their mind to choose Mr. Oluf" writes Arild Huitfeldt, and "when the Scanians heard this, they also did not want to distinguish and separate them from their countrymen but has also entered the same choice."

The letter in which Scania, Halland and Blekinge join the Jutland in the decision to elect Oluf as king is still in existence. They decided: "to elect Mr. Oluf the mighty king Håkon's son as our lord and king in return for their rights being assured" - "both in law books and in handbinding contract".

On 3 May 1376 in Slagelse, the Danes hailed Oluf as Danish king, much to the anger of the Mecklenburgers and Emperor Karl 4.

Also in 1376, the town of Visby on Gotland declared King Oluf its "heir lord" and swore allegiance to him. The city council declared the city an "open castle" for the Danes and promised to pay the king 60 Lübeck marks annually.

4. The Hand-binding Contract

At the same time as Oluf's election as king at the Danehof in Slagelse in 1376, a hand-binding contract was adopted. It was in 35 paragraphs and written in Latin.

Tombstone for Peder Jensen Lodehat, drawn by Søren Abildgård in 1763

Tombstone for Peder Jensen Lodehat, drawn by Søren Abildgård in 1763. He was a priest in Roskilde in 1375 and already then Queen Margrete's faithful adviser. On her recommendation, he became bishop of Växjö in 1382. Later in 1386 he became bishop in Århus, and finally in 1395 bishop in Roskilde. As the queen's chancellor and personal advisor, he participated in a number of important state negotiations, and he was one of the main men behind the Kalmar Union and perhaps the author of the union treaty in 1397. He may also have been one of the men behind Olufs 2's hand-binding contract. Photo Nationalmuseets samlinger.

Like previous hand-binding contracts, it began with the rights of the church - because the clergy was the most important estate.

The Church was to be "free and exempted" from all royal taxes. The king and his bailiffs were not allowed to claim the church tithe.

All churches and monasteries were to be completely self-governing and clerics could only be judged by an ecclesiastical court. Monasteries and clerics were not to be bothered with the guesting of horses and dogs.

The king could not start a war without the consent of the church and the nobles of the kingdom, and if a knight was captured in war, the king had to redeem him within a year.

There was a general ban on collecting Valdemar Atterdag's extraordinary taxes. The king promised not to issue new taxes and duties.

No one should have the right to deprive the peasant of his land, and if a peasant wanted to move, he was free to do so.

A completely new court was established, as the possibility was opened that a commission consisting of twelve men - appointed by the bishop of the diocese in question - could judge regarding property that the crown had taken. The paragraph determined that anyone who had wrongfully lost land to the Crown should have it returned. This rule was clearly aimed at Valdemar's many and sometimes tough estate interventions in favor of the crown. Such commissions apparently gained great importance for the Holsteinians estates in Southern Jutland, which Valdemar otherwise seemed to have reduced in his last years.

Watermill wheel according to the Breastshot principle

Watermill wheel according to the breastshot principle. In a breastshot mill, water had to be applied a little up the wheel and then force the wheel to turn because of the applied weight in the filled blades and then in approximately the lowest position let the blades release the water again. A suitable arrangement can only be found in a few places in nature, and this type of mill was therefore often accompanied by raising water in a dammed mill lake connected to a high-lying water channel or gutter, which could ensure that the water was applied to the blades of the mill wheel as high up as possible. In connection with Valdemar Atterdag's water mills, Sjællandske Krønike writes about dams, which suggests that they could have been of this type. Foto KVDP DanMS at English Wikipedia. (Original text: Daniel M. Short).

The king promised that the peasants should not be forced to rebuild or repair the royal farms, water mills and castles, unless the nobles had given their consent.

In addition, the previous rule was established that no one could be imprisoned unless he had voluntarily confessed his guilt or had been legally convicted. We also find the habeas corpus rule that no man may be arrested without his case being brought before the court.

Moreover: "No man of whatever status and rank he may be shall oppress or threaten any of lesser rank than himself, whether clerical or worldly."

If someone had been wronged by the king and his men and brought the case to the court, he was not to be subjected to revenge and hatred for that reason.

No one was to be accused outside the borders of his shire, and the king's officials were not allowed to judges over the peasants themselves.

Oluf 2's seal as used on the hand-binding contract

Oluf 2's seal as used on the hand-binding contract. He sits on the throne and holds the lily scepter and the royal orb. It is clear that he is a child. Foto "Danske kongelige Sigiller" by Anders Thiset 1917.

In serious cases, according to old custom, the convict had to be given the opportunity to escape from the kingdom.

There should be granted safe conduct to those who appeared at the Danehof two weeks before and two weeks after, so that even those - for whom a verdict was against them - could return home safely.

It was once again determined that the Danehof should be held every year on John the Baptist's day - that is St. Hans Day.

The following year, 1377, the hand-binding contract was supplemented by a "Land peace", where everyone promised each other "on our faith and honor forever to maintain and unbendingly follow all rights, law, privileges and courtly customs" which King Valdemar and his ancestors had established. In addition, it was promised that "if any clergy or worldly against the laws of the land were subjected to oppression or coercion by anyone", then one should "without hesitation and arguments - put life and goods in action", if the drost, the marsk or the bailiff demanded it.

Mural in Højby Church St. Olav's sailing race

Mural from 1380 in Højby Church west of Nykøbing Sjælland, which illustrates the legend and the folk song about St. Olav's sailing race with his brother Harald Hardrada for the throne of Norway. In contrast to the representation in Skamstrup, which is the only other representation of the race in Danish chalk murals, the painting in Højby church follows the wording of the folk song carefully, it is said. Despite the fact that the two half-brothers exchanged ships, with Harald getting Olav's "Ormen hin snare", while Olav sailed in Harald's "Oxen hin lade", and that King Olav and his men took the time to attend mass before departure, Olav's ship came first to Trondheim. By divine power, his vessel sailed so fast that the arrow he shot from the ship in the sailing direction landed behind the ship. The picture shows Olav the Saint aboard "Oksen hin lade" with the bow in hand and the arrow pointing the right way. Photo Højby Sjælland Church. Foto Højby Sjælland Kirke.

At the same Danehof in 1377, the provisions regarding property which had possibly been unlawfully brought under the crown were further specified. It was decreed that "all deeds enforced by fetters or captivity shall be of no effect", and if any one claimed that he had been forced to deed something by fear or threats and had not received half the price of these estates' value, then the case had to be heard by a court.

One undeniably suspects that Valdemar had used extremely rough methods to strengthen the royal power, perhaps especially after he returned from his stay abroad during the Second Hanseatic War and was faced with the problem that the Jutland nobles had for the third time made common cause with the Holstenians and others of the kingdom's enemies in rebellion against their king. He must have felt disappointed. As we remember, he hesitated for a long time to return, and in the peace with Mecklenburg is mentioned the possibility that he would abdicate, it says: "that if We resign or die"..

Chalk mural in Højby Church with St. Olav's sailing race

Chalk mural from 1380 in Højby Church west of Nykøbing Sjælland, which illustrates the legend of St. Olav's sailing race with his half-brother Harald Hardrada for the throne of Norway. The picture shows Harald Hardrada on board "Ormen hin Snare". He is hopelessly behind and his men seek to increase speed by rowing and correcting the sail. Photo Højby Sjælland Church.

At the Danehof in Nyborg in 1377, the offices of the kingdom were also defined. The drost was to "manage the kingdom when the king was absent, appoint and dismiss officials and bailiffs, manage the king's revenues and decide all appealed lawsuits in the king's name." The marsk was to "lead in war at the expense of the kingdom" . The chancellor was responsible for customs revenue from the country's ferry ports, minting and safe keeping of the kingdom's seal. The gælker in Scania was to "preside over Scania in the king's name, appoint and dismiss bailiffs, collect the king's revenues and decide everything in Scania as if the king was there, but he was accountable to the drost and should act according to his advice. In court cases, it could be appealed from him to the Drost".

In the High Middle Ages, over 90% of Danes were employed in agriculture. Historian Erik Arup has estimated that they were distributed in around 80,000 farms. Most were serfs. Only about 12% were self-employed. A similar 12% was connected to the crown's estates, while the church and the nobles owned around 38% each. The dependence on the church and lords was, however, in principle of a voluntary nature without the humiliating conditions that were to prevail in the later 1500's and 1600's.

The culture of the High Middle Ages was imbued with a passion for laws and justice, belief in the Christian God and chivalric romance. A nobleman's position in society depended a lot on whether he had received the knighthood, if not, he only had the rank of armsman.

Detail of Knights of Christ by Jan van Eyck

Detail of Knights of Christ by Jan van Eyck Ghent Altarpiece. The entire knighthood legend was characterized by courtly and moral ideals. Telling the truth and keeping one's promises was fundamental.
In 1891, the French literary historian Leon Gautier defined the medieval ten commandments for knights:

1. Thou shalt believe all that the Church teaches.
2. Thou shalt defend the Church.
3. Thou shalt respect and defend all weaknesses.
4. Thou shalt love your country.
5. Thou shalt not recoil before thine enemy.
6. Thou shalt make war against the infidels without cessation.
7. Thou shalt perform scrupulously thy feudal duties, if they be not contrary to the laws of God.
8. Thou shalt never lie, and shalt kep your word.
9. Thou shalt be generous to everyone.
10. Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against injustice and evil.

In the later Middle Ages, wealthy merchants strove to adopt the attitudes of the aristocracy. The sons of the bourgeoisie were raised to chivalry. It was this democratization of chivalry that created the "gentleman" ideal, which emphasized a man's honor, love of country, bravery, loyalty, respect for women, and compassion for the less fortunate.
One can regard the ideal of chivalry as a curious but meaningless old-fashioned romanticism. But the ideals of chivalry remained a very important element of Western civilization for centuries and are in fact an important prerequisite for later capitalism.
Because - capitalism is characterized by a network of mutual agreements between many agents, who respect each other. It is rare that a financial agreement involves the simultaneous exchange of goods and services - as in a marketplace. You can pay first and promise to perform the service later, or you can receive the goods first and promise to pay later. Therefore, the wealth of a society depends on the economic agents speaking the truth, keeping their promises and respecting each other's property.
Societies with more cunning and less virtuous economic agents will be characterized by that if an entrepreneur succeeds in creating some value, it is only a matter of time before a group ready for violence appears and demands protection money.
Photo Jan van Eyck Wikipedia.

Valdemar Atterdag, for example, was deeply fascinated by the knight chivalry. He traveled to the Holy Land and had himself knighted at the Tomb of Christ. He admired King Johan 2. of France because he kept his word and voluntarily returned to his captivity in England.

5. The Mecklenburgers

The old Duke Albrecht of Mecklenburg felt cheated. He had been promised that if Valdemar Atterdag died or abdicated without male heirs, then his own grandson, who was the son of Valdemar's eldest daughter, Ingeborg, would be king of Denmark. And that is exactly what happened, Valdemar died without male heirs, and yet his little Albrecht did not become king of Denmark.

Model of the medieval Kalundborg Castle

Model of the medieval Kalundborg Castle in Kalundborg Museum's garden. One can wonder that Margrete did not make her father's Vordingborg Castle her main residence and instead preferred Kalundborg Castle. But perhaps Kalunborg represented a more convenient port for connection to Norway and at the same time as it was also centrally located. Furthermore, it had been the widowed duchess Ingeborg's favorite place and the family probably still owned estates in the area. Ingeborg was the mother of Magnus Smek and thus the grandmother of Margrete's husband, Håkon. Foto Waymarking

Already in the summer of 1376 the duke landed on Sjælland and began a siege of Copenhagen. However, he did not seem to be particularly warlike, because already in September he had started negotiations with the kingdoms council, during which he recognized the right of the Danes to choose their king in exchange for the young Albrecht having large fiefs in Denmark. Lolland, Falster, Møn, Langeland and half of Funen were on the table. But the old duke did not allow himself to be satisfied, he demanded more and more and the negotiations dragged on.

In the meantime, Denmark got its back free in relation to the Hanseatic Towns. In August 1376, King Håkon, Drost Henning Podebusk and the rest of the Danish Council met with representatives of the cities in Kalundborg and finally ratified the peace in Stralsund with the great royal seal. However, the towns' right to approve the election of Danish kings was removed, and also the provision that the fortress Varberg should be open to the towns.

Medieval miniature from around 1350 showing the Kiss of Judas

Medieval miniature from around 1350 showing the Kiss of Judas. Photo Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt.

While the negotiations between the Royal council and the Mecklenburgers had been going on for several years, the Mecklenburgers secretly worked to recruit supporters for a new war against Denmark.

The gælker in Scania, Tue Galen, was one of the first to support the election of Oluf. But he played a dangerous double game. Only one month after the Danehof in Nyborg in 1377, he and the Scanian knight and member of the Royal council, Anders Jacobsen Grim, secretly took the oath of allegiance to Duke Albreckt of Mecklenburg. They declared that they "immediately, without delay, together with all our friends and all those whom we can manage to associate with us, we must help the aforesaid Duke Albreckt, King Valdemar's daughter's child." The letter still exists in the archive in Schwerin. The betrayal was not revealed until 1384.

In May 1378, three more Scanian noblemen secretly swore allegiance to "King Albreckt" in Rostock. Jacob Axelsens Thott promised to provide 20 armed men, Jens Due and Peder Due promised to provide 50 men for the showdown with Margrete and her son. In return, they received various areas in Scania as pawns, areas that "King Albreckt" did not yet have in his possession.

Chalk mural in Slesvig Cathedral showing the Holy Three Kings

Chalk mural in Slesvig Cathedral from 1330, which shows the holy three kings Melchior, Kasper and Balthesar on their way to Bethlehem. Photo kalkmalerier.dk

But Margrete's diplomacy also worked at intensly. First, she renewed connections with Valdemar's old allies, the Pomeranian dukes. Together with the son of King Valdemar's lifelong friend, Duke Erik of Sachen Lauenburg, she formed a confederation aimed at Mecklenburg. King Oluf - that is Margrete - received from Duke Erik the Scanian castles of Oppensten and Laholm as well as Falkenberg in Halland in exchange for payment of 5,500 Lümarks.

However, in 1379 the old duke died without a settlement having been reached, and all negotiations and plans for a new war went down the drain, surely to Margrete's great relief.

6. King Håkon Magnusson of Norway

Oluf's father, King Håkon Magnusson, became king of Norway in 1355, perhaps 15 years old. He was also elected Swedish king in 1362. He ruled Sweden together with his father, Magnus, whom posterity has bynamed Smek.

In 1363, Håkon married Valdemar Atterdag's daughter, Margrete, who was then 6-7 years old.

However, the Swedish nobles rebelled as early as 1364 and instead elevated Albreckt of Mecklenburg to Swedish king. The father, King Magnus, was captured, while Håkon himself escaped home to Norway.

Håkon 6. Magnusson's coat of arms

Håkon 6. Magnusson's coat of arms contains no less than five Norwegian lions. Foto Wikiwand.

Throughout the rest of his life, King Håkon waged war in Sweden to regain his kingship there. In June 1366 he reached the Baltic Sea and took Øland with the fortress Borgholm, but lost the island again. In 1371 he led a large army to Stockholm, where he managed to free his father, Magnus, after six years of captivity.

In 1370, Queen Margrete gave birth to his son Olav.

We cannot say much about Håkon's personality. But he must have been stubborn and determined as he consistently waged war to achieve his goals and never gave up. He was undoubtedly a dutiful son, a great warrior, yet a kind-hearted man. The Flatøbook says: "People consider him a good man".

After Oluf became king of Denmark in 1376 he had only been in Denmark once in a while. He cannot have seen much of his son and Margrete during this time.

In 1380, King Håkon of Norway died - only about 40 years old - and since Norway was a hereditary kingdom, he was automatically succeeded by his son Olav Håkonsson, whom we in Denmark call Oluf 2.

The king died either during a campaign in Sweden or just after he had returned home. The cause of death is unknown, we can only guess. It cannot have been pure holiday to wage war in Sweden's forests and mountains year after year. He may have had a wound, broken bone, infection in a wound, or perhaps pneumonia due to the cold.

His son was only 10 years old and thus a minor and had his mother, Margrete, as a guardian also as king of Norway. On 29 June 1381 - on Sct. Olav's Day - he was hailed in Nidaros as King of Norway.

Olav Håkonsson's reign ushered in 434 years of Danish-Norwegian union.

7. Norwegian Tax Lands

The Norway that Oluf 2. took over from his father was larger than the nation that we know today as Norway.

Norgesvældet i Nordatlanten

The Norwegian tax lands in the North Atlantic. Wikipedia.

In addition to the kingdom of Norway itself, Oluf's kingdom included the so-called Norwegian tax lands. It was about the islands in the Atlantic Ocean, which in the early Viking Age had been populated by peasants from western Norway who fled from the rule of Harald Fairhair.

These are the Faroe Islands, the Orkney Islands, the Shetland Islands, Iceland and Greenland. These countries were not part of Norway, but they recognized the king of Norway as their overlord and paid tribute to him. One can understand it as a Norwegian Commonwealth.

Furthermore, the Norway of the time included some areas that Sweden later conquered from Denmark-Norway, namely Härjedalen, Jämtland and Bohuslen.

The Magnus Cathedral on the Faroe Islands

The Magnus Cathedral in Kirkjubøur on the Faroe Islands was built on the initiative of Bishop Erlendur of the Faroe Islands around the year 1300. Photo Erik Christensen, Porkei, Wikipedia

The Faroe Islands were populated by Irish monks as early as the 500's. At the beginning of the 700's, however, they were displaced by immigrants from Western Norway. In the Faroe Saga, it is told that Grimur Kamban was the first to settle on the Faroe Islands, and that shortly after the battle in Hafrsfjord, many in Norway fled from Harald Fairhair's tyranny and settled on the remote islands in the Atlantic. Only in 1035 did they recognize the Norwegian king and promised to pay taxes to him.

The Orkney Islands - or simply Orkney - were populated by Picts many thousands of years before the Norwegians arrived. Among other things, the Picts have left behind the stone circle "Ring of Brodgar". Celtic missionaries came to the islands around the year 565 and Christianized the Picts, as many tomb inscriptions prove. But already around the year 700, the first Norwegian emigrants made themselves masters of the archipelago. Unlike the settlers in Iceland and the Faroe Islands, they allowed an original Celtic population to still live on the islands. After Harald Fairhair united Norway into one kingdom around 875, many of his opponents fled and also settled in Orkney. In the Viking Age and the Middle Ages, the islands were ruled by earls - until 1231 of Norwegian descent - then they came from Scottish noble families.

The Magnus Cathedral on the Faroe Islands

St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands was built by Ragnvald Orknøyjarl in honor of his uncle Magnus Orkneyjarl. Construction work started in 1137. Photo Stevekeiretsu Wikipedia.

The Shetland Islands were called Hjaltland in the Middle Ages. Like Orkney, the islands were originally inhabited by Picts, who left behind megaliths and large windowless stone towers. Norwegians fleeing from Harald Hårfager's rule took possession of the islands in the 700's. In 1194, the sheriff Hallkjell Jonsson gathered an army called the Øyskjeggs from Orkney and Shetland and sailed towards Norway. As a royal subject they had Sigurd, son of King Magnus Erlingsson. The Øyskjeggs were defeated in a bloody battle at Florvåg outside Bergen. Hjaltland then came under Norwegian rule.

The Norsemen of Orkney, Shetland and other Norwegian settlements north of Scotland developed the West Norse language "Norn", which was still spoken until the mid-1800's on the Orkney and Shetland Islands.

Iceland was settled by people from Western Norway who did not accept Harald Fairhair's taxes and new laws. The island was virgin and had never before been inhabited by humans except for a very few Irish monks. Ingolf Arnarson was the first to take possession of land in Reykjavik in 874. In 1262 the Icelanders surrendered to the Norwegian king on the condition that they were be given peace and could keep their own Icelandic laws.

Greenland was settled in 986 by Eric the Red, who arrived from Iceland with a small fleet. They found the land uninhabited. The settlers founded the Eastern settlement and the Western Settlement. In 1261 the Greenlanders surrendered to the Norwegian king and promised to pay him taxes.

The Lewis chessmen

The Lewis chessmen found on the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides archipelago, which in the Middle Ages was called the Sudr-Islands and was part of the "Kingdom of the Isles". They are almost all carved from walrus teeth, probably from Greenland. It is believed that they were made in or around Trondheim, as a piece in a completely similar style was found during the excavation of the city's archbishop's castle and one in Nidaros Cathedral. Photo Medieval Histories. Wikipedia.

According to the Orkneyinga Saga, Harald Hårfager became king of a united Norway around 872, and many of his opponents fled to the islands off Scotland, including the Outer and Inner Hebrides on the west coast, Dublin and the Isle of Man, which islands and lands declared themselves the legendary "Kingdom of The Isles". It was never subject to the Norwegian king, since it was precisely populated by men, who had fled from the Norwegian king's power.

King Magnus Barefoot tried in 1102 to gain control over these islands, but he did not succeed, and he himself fell in Ireland. However, the dioceses of Man and the Sudr Islands - as the Hebrides were called - were subject to the archbishop of Nidaros throughout the Middle Ages.

In 1266 the Norwegian king Magnus Lagabøte accepted Scottish supremacy on Man and the other islands in the "Kingdom of The Isles", in return for Scotland accepting Norwegian supremacy in Shetland and Orkney.

8. The First Circle of Paradise

In 1432, a few survivors from a Venetian merchant ship that sank in the Atlantic drifted ashore on the island of Røst in Lofoten. The leader of the group was the merchant Pietro Querini, who on his return delivered an account of the shipwreck to the senate in Venice. He describes the hospitality, piety and innocence of the islanders and calls his time on the island a stay "in the first circle of Paradise".

A Venetian ship from the 1400's

A Venetian ship from the 1400's, as one might think it looked like. Querini speaks of "the middle mast" and of "all the masts of the ship" so we must believe that his ship really had three masts with several sails on each. In addition, it had two large lifeboats with room for the entire crew. It has been a large and advanced ship for its time. Photo Pietro Querinis fantastiske reise.

Querini's account of his shipwreck and life on Røst is the best description of daily life in Norway at the time of the union, where Oluf became king in 1381 - and it is also a good story.

On April 25, 1431, Querini set out from Crete on a ship loaded with cotton, spices, and many other valuables that they planned to sell in Flanders.

During the voyage they were exposed to a series of accidents, and in November they ran into a violent storm, which broke the mast, destroyed the rudder, and carried them far out into the Atlantic. The ship sank - probably off Ireland - and the crew had to go into two lifeboats.

View of the cliffs south of Røst

View of the cliffs south of Røst where the shipwrecked went ashore. Photo Matmik Wikipedia.

The smallest lifeboat with 21 men immediately disappeared from sight and was never seen again. The largest with 47 men on board managed to stay afloat.

But it was difficult with water and provisions: "Then we had very little wine left, and it therefore became necessary to make a decision. We took 1/4 cup, and not a large one, twice a day; it was a misery. But with food we were somewhat better off, for there was a fair supply of salted meat, cheese, and dry bread. But as we lacked drink, we were afraid to eat salty food."

The men began to die, one by one: "they showed no sign in advance that death was near, but they suddenly fell dead before our eyes." - "One day two died, another day three or four died, and this was between l9. and December 29; we immediately threw them into the sea."

"Some of us unfortunates started to drink urine and that became the main reason we stayed alive. In order not to be tormented even more by thirst, I refrained almost entirely from eating, for we had nothing but salty food."

The island of Røst or Røstlandet

The island of Røst or Røstlandet is today inhabited by 360 people, who mainly support themselves by fishing and sheep breeding. There is a church and an airport on the island. The island's highest point is 3 meters above sea level. Photo Google Maps

But on January 5, the shipwrecked managed to land on an uninhabited rocky island near the island of Røst in Lofoten: "As if by a miracle our leader and savior led us, tired and exhausted, to the only small beach that existed, weak birds that reach the ground after their flight is over. At that place we set up the boat with the prow, and those who were fore jumped at once ashore; the place was completely covered with snow, and of that they took a quantity to quench their burning thirst. Then they handed us, who remained on board the weak boat to prevent it from breaking apart, snow in a bucket and in a kettle. I assure you I ate so much snow that I would not have been able to carry it on my shoulders; I thought that my whole salvation and well-being depended on getting enough. But quite the opposite was the case with five of the unhappy crew, for that night, while they were still eating much snow, they expired their lives. We supposed that the salt water which they had first drunk was the first cause of their death."

After a few weeks, the 11 survivors - out of a crew of 68 - were discovered by fishermen on Røst. The fishing families gave the Italians care and attention. The local priest acted as interpreter. They spent the following 3 1/2 months on Røst, and Querini describes the life of the local fishermen in his report.

"On the said island lived 120 souls." - "They had no other means of livelihood than fishing, as in this distant region no kind of grain grows."

Fishermen on Lofoten row out to the fishing grounds in traditional Nordland boats

Fishermen on Lofoten row out to the fishing grounds in the traditional Nordland boats in 1860. Photo Wikipedia.

"Three months of the year, in June, July and August, there is always day and the sun never sets, and in the corresponding months in winter it is as if it were always night, and they still have the light of the moon"

Querini tells: "The inhabitants of these islands are very clean people and good looking, and so it is with the women there. Their habits are so simple that they do not bother to lock up their belongings, nor do they have any suspicion of their women. We felt this clearly; for in the same rooms where the husbands and wives and their daughters slept, we also slept, and in our sight they dressed naked when they had to go to bed. They used to take sauna baths every Thursday, and then they would undress at home and go as far as a arrowshot naked to the sauna and be with the men."

"Their houses are built of wood and are round. They have but one window, and that is in the middle of the roof, and as it is bitterly cold in the winter, they keep it covered with the skins of some large fish; they have prepared the skin in such a way that a lot of light comes through. They use cloths of coarse wool from London and elsewhere; they do not use fur except very simply, for they will accustom themselves to the cold climate, and they also have great ability to endure the cold. When the little children are born and are four days old, they lay them naked under the skylight, which they have opened, that the snow may fall on them. All winter from the 5. of February to the 14. of May, as long as our stay lasted, it snowed almost constantly. The children who get beyond childhood are so hardened and used to the cold that as adults they care little or nothing about it."

Drying cod on Lofoten

Drying cod on Lofoten. Photo Wikimedia Commons.

"During the year they catch an enormous amount of fish, but only two species. The one, which is found in great, nay immeasurable masses, is called stockfish, the other species, that is flounder, is less numerous, but of an astonishing size, being up to 200 pounds each. They dry the stockfish in the wind and sun without salt, and since these fish do not contain much moisture or much fat, they become as dry as wood. When they are going to eat them, they beat them with the hammer of the axe, and thereby they become threaded like sinews; then they add butter and spices to give them flavor." - "The large flounder are cut into pieces and salted, and then they become good to eat."

"Then in the month of May they set off on a rather large boat of 50 boats (barrels), laden with fish. They go to a place in Norway called Bergen, more than 1000 miglie away. To this trading town come ships of 300-350 boats carrying all kinds of merchandise from Germany, England, Scotland, and Prussia, all such things as are necessary for food and clothing. There are countless people who come with their fish and countless boats, and then the fish are exchanged for goods that they need; for, as I have said before, nothing can be bred where they live. They have not and use no coins, and when they have exchanged it as they will, they return; they always make sure to have a place where they can supply themselves with firewood for the whole year and with other necessities."

Saint Birgitta of Vadstena

Saint Birgitta of Vadstena on the altarpiece in Salem Church in Sweden. Already as a child she had visions, at the age of seven she saw herself being crowned by the Virgin Mary, and later she saw how Christ was tormented and died on the cross. During a visit to Vadstena Castle, she had the rules for a monastic order dictated by Christ. In one of her visions, she saw the birth of Jesus and described it in detail as only a woman could, mentioning both the placenta, umbilical cord and afterbirth.
Birgitta worked to raise the Virgin Mary's status as a model for the Christian person and wrote: "I want to establish this order in honor of my much-loved mother and above all for women". Photo Hermann Rode late 1400 tallet - "Svenska folket genom tiderna. Vårt lands kulturhistoria i skildringar och bilder. Andra bandet. Den medeltida.

Norwegian sailing along the coast behinds the islands was well developed. Querini relates: "Thus we sailed for 15 days almost all the time with a good wind, always steering for cairns on the tops of the islands, which indicated the best and deepest route."

In Bergen it was decided that the Italians should then seek out a countryman, "Mr. Zuan Franco, who had been knighted by the king of Denmark; he was of our nation and lived in a castle in the kingdom of Sweden, 50 days' journey away."

On the journey down through Norway and Sweden, Querini tells that: "In several places they ground in the mill the bark of trees, cut like pumpkins, and mixed it with milk and butter and made it like bread fried in the ashes; they used that instead of regular bread. They gave us milk, butter and cheese and sour milk water to drink." - "But one thing we found everywhere, and that was loving and kind people who received and treated us well".

Vadstena Monastery and Monastery Church

Vadstena Monastery and Monastery Church. Photo Sancta Birgitta Klostermuseum.

The Italians came to Vadstena: "But first we came to a place called Vadstena, where the holy St. Birgitta is born. She established a strict order for women and priests. In her honor the kings and princes of the west built a very respectable and strange church, in which I counted sixty-two altars. The roof was made entirely of copper. Very pious nuns live here with their priests, and they live according to the rules of the mentioned order. In the said monastery we were received as strangers and needy, as it is rich and prosperous; according to the pious custom they give shelter to the poor, so they also gave us food in abundance."

They finally reached their compatriot Mr. Zuan, who arranged ship's passage against Venice from Lødøse in Scania, partly via England and partly via Germany.

9. The Pirates and the Scanian Castles

At the peace of Stralsund in 1370 between Denmark and the Hanseatic Towns, the towns got possession of the castles in Helsingborg, Malmø, Skanør and Falsterbo and the right to 2/3 of the custom revenue on the Scania market for 15 years until 1385, as well as the right to approve a Danish candidate for the throne after the death of King Valdemar.

Reconstruction of Helsingborg's castle in the early 1400's

Reconstruction of Helsingborg's castle in the early 1400s by Sven Rosborn. Photo Sven Rosborn Wikipedia.

Their motive for gaining dominion in Scania during these 15 years was to earn a financial profit that could compensate for the expenses they had incurred in waging the war against Denmark. However, it turned out that the expenses for the operation of the castles were much higher than expected and the income from the Scania market disappointed.

Moreover, immediately after the peace of Stralsund, pirates appeared in Danish waters, who brought up the towns' ships, took the crews prisoner and sold the cargo. They caused further heavy losses to the merchants of the towns. Their ships began to assemble to sail in convoy through Danish waters.

The merchants placed the responsibility for the pirat activity in Danish waters with the Danish government, and submitted a stream of complaints and demands for compensations, all of which, however, were rejected with the pious reply: "One should not let the innocent suffer for the guilty."

It must have been common knowledge that Margrete and the Danish government were in reality fully capable of fighting the pirates. The kingdom did not lack fighting forces to create law and order. For example, we know that at the Danehof in 1377, 132 nobles swore allegiance to the king and that they would "put life and goods in action" to "maintain the laws of the land."

The Bremer kogge

Den rekonstruerede Bremerkogge fra omkring 1380. Foto Elbe Erlebnistörns.

Objectively speaking, the pirates were an advantage for Margrete and the council, as the queen probably held back her fighting forces to put pressure on the towns.

The queen let the towns understand that she was unable to fight the pirates effectively as she could not control the Scanian castles, which should motivate the towns to return the castles - preferably before time. It should also turn out that as soon as Denmark got Scania back, the pirates disappeared from Danish waters as if by magic.

But in October 1377 they were particularly aggressive. In a letter from Lübeck to the Prussian towns it is said: "As it has probably come to your knowledge that the pirates have done great and significant damage to the sea, have hijacked ships and goods and have taken men captive and have brought it home to New Lindholm on Fyn, where they lie strong, as we have heard, so that they probably number 400, and are still strengthened more and more from time to time, we therefore fear that if it is not stopped, then great damage can occur as a result."

On a Hanseatic day in Lübeck in 1378 it is said: "It is exceedingly bad at sea so that people have recently been plundered and murdered." The towns decided to equip "peace ships" which were ships manned by armed men to fight the pirates.

The King of Sweden, Albrecht of Mecklenburg, on the left with his father, the Old Duke of Mecklenburg, on the right.

On the left, the King of Sweden, Albreckt of Mecklenburg. On the right is his father, the old Duke Albreckt of Mecklenburg, from an illustration in the Mecklenburg Chronicle. Albreckt was the first Swedish king, who has been shown with three crowns, which shows that the three crowns symbolize the original three Swedish kingdoms, namely Östre og Vestre Götaland og Svealand omkring Mälern. The Kalmar union of the three Nordic lands did not exist in King Albreckt's time. Photo Wikitrans.

As mentioned above, the old Duke Albrecht of Mecklenburg landed on Sjælland in 1376 and began a siege of Copenhagen. But he very quickly entered into negotiations with the Council, and thereby his ships and soldiers became, so to speak, unemployed. One can believe that the Mecklenburg ships remained in Danish waters to take part in the piracy in order to get something out of it.

It is supported by the fact that the Prussian and Slaw towns complained that the Mecklenburg Hanseatic towns, Rostock and Wismar, would not pay for the "peace ships": "if their lord of Mecklenburg reconciles with the kingdom of Denmark, and the pirates also happen to be on the sea, so they, like other cities, must do what is due to them". Which suggests that the Mecklenburg towns themselves had pirates in the sea.

In 1381, the merchants caught the pirate Rambow on the sea off Helsingborg. He had a wife and children in Wismar. Rambow himself and five of his closest men were beheaded on the spot and the rest of his crew were thrown overboard. The severed heads were put on stakes in Helsingør for fear and warning.

But in the Slaw Hanseatic towns it was believed that Queen Margrete was not entirely innocent. There it was rumored that she protected the pirates, and the looted goods were brought to her castles. Which the queen's men completely rejected.

The fortress Varberg in Halland

The fortress Varberg in Halland seen from the south. It was built at the end of the 1200's by the outlaw Count Jakob of North-Halland, and was expanded in the 1500's and early 1600's. Photo David J. from Skara, Sweden Wikipedia.

But the rumor probably contained some truth. The historian Vivian Etting reports that in 1380, when Margrethe was present at the castle Varberg in Halland, looted goods were distributed among the pirates, and the queen got the largest share. The value of the stolen cargo should have been 40,312 Lübeck marks, which was a staggering amount.

But Margrete must have had, if not a share in the piracy, at least awareness. How else could it be that in September 1381 she could arrange truce negotiations between the Danish pirates and the Hanseatic towns and further promise to bring "the leaders of the pirates and arsonists" to the meeting in Nykøbing in March 1382. At this occasion, a number of named Danish nobles guaranteed safe conduct for several pirates.

The Scania market by Olaus Magnus

The Scania market by Olaus Magnus 1555. Photo The Reader View of Wikipedia.

At the meeting, a truce was agreed between the pirates and the towns. It was also agreed that if the parties wished to terminate the ceasefire, they should notify the other party in writing four weeks in advance. The pirates had to send a message to Lübeck or Stralsund, while the Hanseatic cities had to write to Henning Podebusk, who would then pass the letters on to the pirates. This makes it clear that the Hanseatic towns did not know the whereabouts of the pirates, but Henning Podebusk and the Danish council did, which shows that they had more detailed information.

But perhaps Margrete and the royal council had more than awareness. Among the names of the pirates we can recognize:

Knight Niels Jensen Svarteskåning, whom Margrete had referred to just two months before as "the honorable man", as "in return for the service that he must render and has rendered us", was given large estates by Margrethe herself. Niels Svarteskåning enjoyed a very special protection from the part of the majesty, in that if anyone troubled him, they had to be submitted to "our royal punishment". He was a trusted knight, who would later act as Margaret's army commander in the battle against the Swedish king Albreckt.

Henrik Wardenberg, who was also Margrete's trusted man. He put his seal under the letter in Kalmar about King Erik's election as king and the following year was associated with the army master of the Teutonic Order. In 1402 he was commander of Næsbyhoved Castle and in 1407 commander at Vordingborg.

Henneke Grubendal, who was the crown's commander at Søborg.

Armsman Påskedag Brispe, who was Margrete's faithful man. In 1382, the queen generously redeemed a pawn of 400 marks of silver for the castle Abrahamstrup and then gave him permission to keep the castle as a fief, "in our faithful hands".

The townhall in Lübeck

The townhall in Lübeck was built in 1308, when Erik Menved ruled in Denmark, Many Hanseatic Days were held here. Foto Mylius Wikipedia.

These were not sleazy pirates, they were the crown's most trusted men. Therefore, the historian Erslev must be right when he wrote that one must assume that Margrete "far from doing everything she could against the sea robbers, rather to a certain extent favored the constant uncertainty on the sea."

In the sources after 1384 there is no mention of pirate activity or battles against peace ships. Margrethe had simply pulled her pirates out of Danish waters. The reason may very well have been that there were fightings between King Albreckt of Sweden and Danish forces in Scania and Halland precisely in 1384. Because, as the Holstein Chronicle says, she was "a very cunning woman who did not set fire to several places at the same time."

The Scanian Yearbook reports for this year that "Sweden's king Albreckt, who had gathered not so few soldiers, invaded Scania and Halland and took the castle of Laholm by force, but at last Margrete, the mother of the Danish king Oluf, followed with the drost and chased the Swedes away, which was not done without shame, for they had not expected that a woman would venture to the royal camp."

In the game about the Scanian castles, Margrete also had other strings to play. Back in 1376, at a meeting with the Hanseatic cities at Kalundborg Castle, King Håkon of Norway had accepted a comprehensive, almost unconditional confirmation of the cities' privileges in Norway.

However, King Håkon of Norway died in 1380, and Margrete took over the government of Norway on behalf of the minor Oluf. When the cities asked to have their privileges in Norway renewed after the king's death, Margrete replied that the king of Norway was dead and their agreement on privileges had died with him. The towns must have understood that there could be no talk of renewing their privileges in Norway until the Scanian castles had been returned to the Danish king.

Wooden alley in the Hanseatic neighbourhood, Bryggen, in Bergen

Wooden alley in the Hanseatic neighbourhood, Tyskebryggen - since World War II called Bryggen - in Bergen. The Hanseatic office in Bergen was established around 1350. The Hanseatic merchants gathered in the Bergenfarer company, which emanated from Lübeck and effectively obtained a monopoly on the trade in fish and grain in Bergen and the whole of Northland. The Germans became a permanent colony of 800-1000 people with extensive trading privileges. Photo Nuet.

The handover of the castles to the Danish king was set for Ascension Day 1385, but it was an open secret that the towns would refuse to hand over the castles until Denmark had agreed to pay compensation for the merchants' losses due to pirate attacks in Danish waters.

But nevertheless Queen Dowager Margrete, drost Henning Podebusk and the young King Oluf solemnly appeared in Helsingborg on the agreed day to take possession of the castle. When the castle's commander refused to open the gate for them, they pretended most surprised.

The young King Oluf then wrote a furious letter to the cities in which he threatened with war. Margrete sent a more conciliatory letter, in which she expressed that her son was so excited that she did not think it possible to calm him unless her "dear friends" kept their promises. Henning Podebusk also sent a letter in which he called for reconciliation.

The towns would probably have won such a war - just as they had won 15 years before, but with correspondingly great costs and damage to their trade - which created their wealth - as long as the war lasted. Therefore they gave up and in the autumn the Scanian castles and the dominion of Scania, including the important Scania market, were handed over to the Danish king.

The Vejby treasure

Last century's largest hoard of gold coins was found in the summer of 1979 at Vejby Strand west of Gilleleje by a schoolboy, who had scuba diving as a hobby. Right after midsummer, he found 94 coins exposed in the shallow water and when the National Museum's ship history laboratory was called, they found a further 17, that is a total of 111 coins. They were all - except one - made of gold and the treasure weighs a total of 695 gram. The youngest coins are from the early 1370's. Together with other loose finds, it suggests that a cog was wrecked around 1375 and that the owner must have died, as the coins were not recovered.

In connection with the return of the Scanian castles, Oluf wrote a letter to Lübeck in which it was stated: "we these days have had several faithful men with us in great numbers, through whom we intended to haunt the pirates. When they learned this, they parted and disappeared, and we do not know where they have gone."

Oluf's letter marked the end of the pirate problem between 1370-1385. Soon after, the confidence of the Prussian cities in the peace in Danish waters was restored, and the equipping of peace ships stopped. They wrote that: "it seems good to us that we this year do not equip ships of peace and do not collect any pound duty, but that we believe in the king, since he and his men have sworn and promised to protect the sea to the best of their ability."

10. Southern Jutland

In Detmar's Lübeck Chronicle for 1386 it is stated: "Then the queen of Norway got back the whole kingdom of Denmark to the extent that her father King Valdemar had had it in his time. She got the land of Scania back who had stood out to the sea towns for 15 years because of the injuries they had suffered from the kingdom, and immediately afterwards she went over to the Jutland and reconciled with her enemies, the Holstenians, whom she gave the duchy of Schleswig as a hereditary fief, all done with great wisdom."

German states and principalities

German states and principalities south of Denmark. Htd: Duchy, Gsk: County, Æbd: Archdiocese, Bd: Bishopric, Mgsk: Margrave, Fd: Principality. Photo unknown origin.

It was a great victory to get Scania back, but probably in 1385 Margrete's kingdom was not quite "to the extent that her father King Valdemar had had it in his time". By all accounts, Valdemar Atterdag had won a solid foothold in Southern Jutland after his return from abroad in 1372, a foothold which had meanwhile been lost to the Holstenian counts.

After his return, Valdemar Atterdag was appointed as guardian of Dowager Duchess Ricardis as "guardian of all hers property", namely Als with Sønderborg Castle and five manors. In 1373 he conquered Flensburg. Also in 1373, he bought the pawn right of the town Haderslev and its castles with its annexes from Count Adolf of Holsten-Plön for 5000 marks of silver. Shortly before his death, Duke Henrik of Jutland in 1374 issued a letter testifying that he transferred to the king his right to redeem Gottorp Castle with everything belonging to the Holstenian Counts, who, however, simply refused to accept the money.

Chalk mural in Flensburg Cathedral, which shows the carrying of the cross

Chalk mural in Flensburg Cathedral from 1330, which shows the carrying of the cross. Photo kalkmalerier.dk.

At the Danehoffet in 1377 - a year after the election of Oluf - it was decided that "all deeds which are forced by chains or captivity shall have no force", and if someone claimed that he had had to deed his estates due to fear or threats and has not received half the price of these estates, then the matter should be dealt with by a special commission.

By all accounts, Valdemar had used rather hard-boiled means in his struggle to regain Jutland including Southern Jutland, and his gains may have been lost again thanks to such commissions.

In any case, the Holstein counts sat firmly on the real power in Southern Jutland in 1386, and when Margrete gave the duchy as a hereditary fief to a count of Holstein, she probably just accepted the real world.

In August 1386 the queen held a reconciliation meeting with the counts at Nyborg Castle. She flattered the old Count Claus by addressing him "Father".

Sitting on a throne next to Oluf, she received Jern-Henrik's son, Gerhard, and handed him the duchy as a hereditary fief. As a sign of his new dignity, he received a three-lobed banner.

The knights Hall in Nyborg Castle

The knights Hall in Nyborg Castle, where we can believe that the ceremony was held. But it was in the month of August, so the ceremony may also have taken place outdoors, as was often the case in the Middle Ages. Photo Guide Danmark.

The chronicler Presbyter Bremensis wrote around 1450: "At this time, Queen Margrete, who was a very cunning woman, did not want to light several fires at the same time, but summoned Nicolaus, Duke of Holstein, and made an eternal peace with him and called him father and always called him thus. And his brother Iron-Henrik's son, Gerhard, the same queen, with the consent of the whole council of the kingdom, with great solemnity and flag in the castle of Nyborg on Funen, gave the entire duchy of Southern Jutland or Slesvig to him and his heirs. She sat with her son Oluf, who was then an adult, on the king's throne in the presence of many bishops, priests and noblemen from the Kingdom of Denmark and Holstein standing next to the throne. For all time to come, the Holstenians were to hold Southern Jutland as their inheritance. The newly appointed dukes bowed the knees for Margrete and Oluf and took the oath of allegiance."

"The queen brought this about with great wisdom", the Detmar chronicle from Lübeck says. "She completely reconciled with them to an eternal peace and she and her son granted them the duchy of Slesvig, for them to possess, and for their children after them, so that they had received it as a fief of the kingdom and were to do the king service and manpower from it when he required".

It was wise and necessary to normalize the Holstein counts' possession of Southern Jutland because of their relationship with Mecklenburg. They had been allies with Mecklenburg and the towns in the war against Denmark, and they had supported the Mecklenburg candidate for the throne in the royal election in 1376. In an upcoming confrontation with the Mecklenburgers, both in Sweden and in Mecklenburg itself, Denmark had to have her back free. And that's what happened, the Holstenians were separated from Mecklenburg and they kept remained completely quiet throughout the war for Sweden.

For later posterity, this event has been regarded as a great misfortune, because the separation of Southern Jutland from the Danish kingdom was once again formalized, which, as is well known, was to contribute to Southern Jutland being temporarily lost to the kingdom over the course of four hundred years.

Chalk mural in Skibby Church showing Martin of Tours

Chalk mural from 1350 in Skibby Church south of Fredrikssund showing Martin of Tours sitting on his horse and cutting his cloak in half with his sword to give one half to a poor beggar.

But at that time, the decision was considered nothing less than a stroke of genius. Detmar's Chronicle writes: "When this had thus happened, the whole kingdom's men became very afraid, when they became acquainted with the wisdom and strength of the princess, and they offered themselves in service for her and her son. She demanded the bailiffs in the country for her and went from castle to castle and paid homage, and she sent every bailiff from one castle to another, as an abbot sends monks from monastery to monastery."

It was the Holstenian counts who coined the name "Slesvig" for the duchy. All previous dukes have been dukes of "Jutland", which had sometimes been referred to as "Southern Jutland".

11. Bo Jonsson's Will

In August 1386 - at the same time that Margrete and Oluf made the counts of Holstein dukes of Slesvig - the powerful Swedish drost, Bo Jonsson Grip, died.

Bo Jonsson was one of the Swedish noblemen who in 1363 traveled to Mecklenburg and asked the old duke Albreckt to give them one of his sons - who was also named Albreckt - as king of Sweden. With the new king at the head, they then rebelled against the kings Magnus Smek and his son Håkon - Oluf's father.

But in 1386 a strong anti-German mood prevailed in Sweden. Vadstena Yearbook says that the Mecklenburg nobles "sat like birds of prey on the mountains" on the many castles that King Albreckt had given them as a pawn fiefs. The drost became worried because of the German rule.

Like Valdemar Atterdag in Denmark forty years earlier, it became his goal to redeem the pawnfiefs that the Germans were holding. Gradually, Bo Jonsson's party emerged as a champion of Swedish interests against the influence of foreigners.

Historical map of Bo Jonsson Grif's estates in 1386

Historical map of Bo Jonsson Grif's estates in 1386. Photo Wikitrans.

He also succeeded and by the time he died he had redeemed approximately half of the Swedish kingdom. He ruled the entire Mälerndalen, the southern part of Norrland, all of Finland, large parts of Östergötaland and and Vestergötaland and the coast of Småland. His castles included the Finnish Turku, Tavastehus and Viborg. Also the castles in Kalmar, Stegeborg and Nykøbing.

But to achieve this great goal, Bo Jonsson had taken out huge loans from other nobles, who trusted him. Therefore, he must have felt that he could not simply leave all his extensive properties as an inheritance to his wife and minor children.

In his last will, he had therefore decided that the inheritance should be managed by a group of magnates consisting of two bishops, five knights including Saint Birgitta's son, Birger Ulfsson, and three armsmen.

But King Albreckt could not let such a fortune pass his nose. Bo Jonsson's widow and children authorized him to act on their behalf and then he refused to recognize the authority of the group of executors.

He invited them to come to him and present proof of their right to dispose of Bo Jonsson's Inheritance. But they valued their health and did not come to the king. The tension increased, according to a letter from Bishop Nils in Linköping, conditions were already in August 1387 such that "people hardly ventured out of the house".

In this situation, the executors felt that they alone would not be able to resist King Albreckt and therefore they turned to Oluf and Margrete, probably around August 1387.

No one at this time has been able to imagine that the kingdoms should be ruled by a woman. They have most likely turned to King Oluf, King Håkon's son, who was supported and advised by his wise mother, Margrete.

But it was precisely in this tense situation that lightning struck. The young King Oluf died quite suddenly in August 1387 while he was staying at Falsterbo Castle in Scania.

12. Død og begravelse

King Oluf 2. painted by Agnes Slott-Møller

King Oluf 2. painted by Agnes Slott-Møller. Photo Arslonga.

Queen Margrete worked to achieve a great victory. Her son was to win back the throne that the Swedish nobles had taken from his father and grandfather. Oluf had already started calling himself "true king of Sweden".

But then disaster struck. The young king died suddenly during a stay in Falsterbo.

All summer the Queen and her son had stayed in Scania to follow events in Sweden as closely as possible. The 17-year-old Oluf participated in all important negotiations and put his royal seal on all important documents.

In June, Margrete and Oluf were together in Ystad. After confirming Rönneby's privileges, Oluf and his men rode to Falsterbo, while the queen remained in Ystad

But as soon as the traveling party had arrived at Falsterbohus castle, Oluf suddenly fell ill and on 3 August he died, literally in the arms of chamberlain Folmer Jacobsen. In addition to the chamberlain, several of the king's courtiers were present, including Court Master Bent Byg, food master Mikkel Rud, two chaplains, Jens Due and Jens Rud, as well as the king's cup-bearer, who was called Stokfisk.

The historian Vivian Etting reports that Oluf "was cut open and embalmed, as one usually does with a king and lay in Falsterbo in the church with his face uncovered, so that everyone could see his face". So he was lying on lit de parade and everyone could convince themselves that he was really dead.

Falsterbohus ruin

Falsterbohus ruin, which is located between Falsterbo Golf Club and Falsterbo Museum. Photo Hedning Wikipedia

Oluf's heart and liver were taken to Lund and buried in front of the high altar in Lund Cathedral on 11 August. The body itself was "taken from Falsterbo through Sjælland right to Sorø Monastery". But apparently a long time passed before he could be buried. But on September 18, the queen refused to come to a meeting in Kiel, excusing herself by saying "We have fixed a day when we want to bury our son".

An Icelandic Saga writes: "King Oluf Håkonssøn disappeared. The Danes said he was dead, but the Norwegians would not believe it."

Although Oluf was king of two kingdoms, no great tomb monument was ever made for him. His simple tombstone sits today in the choir of Sorø Monastery Church.

King Oluf 2's tombstone in Sorø Monastery Church

King Oluf 2's tombstone in Sorø Monastery Church, built into the east wall of the choir. The Latin inscription reads: "Hic iacet olavs filius margarete regine que ex hacqvinno rege norvegie genvit", which means: "Oluf, Queen Margrete's son, whom she had with King Håkon of Norway, rests here" (from Arslonga). It shows the Norwegian lion but nothing that represents Denmark. It is not mentioned that Oluf was king of two kingdoms, and there is nothing about "the Slaws and the Goths" nor any Danish lions. Historian Vivian Etting believes that this tombstone was erected in 1525 - more than a hundred years after Oluf's death. There is no information that there have ever been other grave monuments. Photo Orf3us Wikipedia.

In 1393 Margrete donated land of a very considerable extent to various monasteries and bishoprics. The gifts were accompanied by similar letters, which made it a condition that these institutions held masses for the "benefit and salvation of Queen Margrethe's father and her parents and her friends and her own soul" - not a word about her son. A few years later, Margrete donated land to the Roskilde bishopric in return for holding masses at an altar "at our brother's (junker Christoffer's) grave" and praying for her father, ancestors and herself. She does not mention her deceased son here either.

Only in connection with the transfer of the farm Egebjerg to Esrum Monastery in 1400 does she mention her son. The gift was given for "the souls of our lord (husband) and father and mother and their ancestors and our son and our own".

13. Litteratur

Kalkmalerier.dk Kalkmalerier.dk
Den fattige fyrstinde og hendes søn Lex-dk
Norgesveldet Wikipedia
Olav 4. Håkonsson Store norske leksikon
Chivalry Wikipedia.
Er historien om den falske Oluf falsk? Fortidende
Den falske Olav Håkonsson Den katolske kirke
Margrethe den Første og "sagen om den falske Oluf" Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab
Pietro Querinis fantastiske reise Sandalsand.net
For at fredeliggøre havet: om kampe med og mod pirater under Valdemar Atterdag og Margrethe den første i perioden 1367-1398 Bjarne Salling Pedersen
Danmarks Historie Bind 4 "Borgerkrig og Kalmarunion" af Erik Kjersgård - Politikkens Forlag 1963.
"Margrete 1: en regent og hendes samtid" af Vivian Etting - Gyldendal.
"Margrete den 1. - Nordens Dronning" af Michael Linton - Gyldendal.
"Dronning Margrete" af C. Th. Holbøll - Frost-Hansen.
"Margrete 1." af Hans Erik Havsteeen, Anders Olling - Lindhardt og Ringhof.
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