Union Of Denmark, Sweden, And Norway
Author: Sinding, Paul C.

Union Of Denmark, Sweden, And Norway


Canute the Great, King of England and Denmark, by successful wars added
almost the whole of Norway to his dominions. At his death in 1035 his
kingdoms were divided, and fell into anarchy and discord for two centuries,
until the tyrant Black Geert, who had driven out Christopher II, and been for
fourteen years the virtual sovereign of Denmark, was assassinated by the
Danish patriot Niels Ebbeson.

Christopher's third son, Waldemar, surnamed Atterdag, because he used to
say when a misfortune happened, "To-morrow it is again day," was recalled from
Bavaria and crowned king as Waldemar IV. He commenced at once with vigor and
marked success the improvement of the internal conditions of the country, and
strove to encompass his chief ambition, the reunion of the ancient Danish

By marrying his daughter Margaret to Hakon VI, King of Norway and son of
Magnus Smek, King of Sweden, Waldemar laid a basis for a junction of the three
great Scandinavian kingdoms. The union was realized under the administration
of his illustrious and sagacious daughter, Margaret, known as the "Semiramis
of the North."

Waldemar Atterdag left no direct male issue. But his two grandsons,
Albert the Younger, of Mecklenburg, a son of Ingeborg, Waldemar's eldest
daughter, and of Henry of Mecklenburg; and Olaf, a son of Margaret, his
younger daughter, and of Hakon VI of Norway, were now claiming the hereditary
succession to the throne. One party declared for Olaf, but, as he was the son
of the younger daughter, his claim was very doubtful. But because the house
of Mecklenburg had acted with hostility toward Denmark, and Olaf had
expectation of Norway and claims to the crown of Sweden, as a grandson of
Magnus Smek, Denmark was, by his election, in hopes of one day seeing the
three crowns united on the same head. It was therefore not long before this
important affair was determined. The preference was given Olaf, who, although
only six years of age, was, under the name of Olaf V, elected king of Denmark,
under the guardianship of Margaret his mother; and after the death of his
father Hakon VI, he became also king of Norway, the two kingdoms thus being
united. This union, till the expiration of four hundred and thirty-four
years, was not dissolved. When Olaf V, seven years after, died in Falsterbo,
both kingdoms elected Margaret their queen, though custom had not yet
authorized the election of a female.

During the reign of this great Princess, who deservedly has been called
the "Semiramis of the North," Denmark and Norway exercised in Europe an
influence the effects of which were long felt throughout the Scandinavian
countries with their vast extent and rival races. She united wisdom and
policy with courage and determination, had strength of mind to preserve her
rectitude without deviation, and her efforts were crowned by divine Providence
with success. She is justly considered one of the most illustrious female
rulers in history. Her renown even reached the Byzantine emperor Emanuel
Palaeologus, who called her Regina sine exemplo maxima. But under her
successors - destitute of her high sense of duty, great ability, and
consistent virtue - her triumphs proved a snare instead of a blessing. The
great union she created dissolved in a short time, and its downfall was as
sudden as its elevation had been extraordinary. She was born in 1353. Her
father was, as we have seen, Waldemar Atterdag, her mother Queen Hedevig, and
she became queen of Denmark and Norway in 1387. She was no sooner elected
queen of Denmark, and homaged on the hill of Sliparehog, near Lund, in
Ringsted, Odensee, and Wiborg, than she sailed to Norway to receive their
homage. But a remarkable occurrence is mentioned by historians as occurring
about this time. A report prevailed that King Olaf, the Queen's son, was not
dead; it was propagated by the nobility, and very likely set on foot by them,
in order to punish Margaret for her liberality to the clergy. An impostor
claimed the crown of Denmark and Norway, and gained credit every day by making
discoveries which could only be known to Olaf and his mother. Margaret,
however, proved him to be a son of Olaf's nurse. Olaf had a large wart
between his shoulders - a mark which did not appear on the impostor. The false
Olaf was seized, broken on the wheel, and publicly burned at a place between
Falsterbo and Skanor, in Sweden, and Margaret continued uninterruptedly her

But the Queen, not wishing to contract a new marriage, and comprehending
the importance of having a successor elected to the throne, proposed her
nephew, Eric, Duke of Pomerania. This proposal the clergy and nobility
approved, and they elected him to be king of Denmark and Norway after
Margaret's death. Meanwhile Albert, King of Sweden, having, on account of his
preference given to German favorites, incurred the hatred of his people, the
Swedes requested Margaret to assist them against him, which she promised to do
if they in return would make her queen of Sweden. Moreover, Albert had highly
offended the Danish Queen; had, though hardly able to govern his own kingdom,
assumed the title "king of Denmark," and laid claim to Norway, too; and when
she blamed him for it he had answered her disdainfully. In a letter he had
used foul and abusive language, calling her "a king without breeches," and the
"abbot's concubine" (abbedfrillen), on account of her particular attachment to
a certain abbot of Soro, who was her spiritual director. It is, however,
true, that her intimacy with this monk gave room for some suspicion that her
privacies with him were not all employed about the care of her soul.
Afterward, to ridicule her yet more, King Albert sent her a hone to sharpen
her needles, and swore not to put on his nightcap until she had yielded to
him. But under perilous circumstances Margaret was never at a loss how to
act. She acted here with the utmost prudence, trying first to gain the favor
of the peers of the state, and solemnly promising to rule according to the
Swedish laws. War now broke out between Albert and Margaret, whose army was
commanded by Jvar Lykke. The encounter of the two armies - about twelve
thousand men on each side - took place at Falkoping, September 21, 1388. A
furious battle was fought, in which the victory for a long while hung in
suspense. But Margaret's good fortune prevailed; Albert was routed and his
army cut to pieces, and Margaret was now mistress of Sweden.

While this was passing, the Queen tarried in Wordingborg Sjelland,
ardently desiring to learn the result. But no sooner did she hear that the
victory was gained, and the Swedish King and his son Eric taken prisoners,
than she hastened to Bahus, in Sweden, where the King and his son were brought
before her. Lost in joy and amazement at having her enemy in her power, the
Queen now retorted upon King Albert with revilings, and she made him wear a
large nightcap of paper - a retaliation proportioned to his offensive words.
He and his son were thereupon brought to Lindholm, a castle in Skane, where
they were kept prisoners for seven years. When they entered the castle, a
dark, square room was assigned them, and when the King said, "I hope that this
torture against a crowned head will only last a few days," the jailer replied:
"I grieve to say that the Queen's orders are to the contrary; anger not the
Queen by any bravado, else you will be placed in the irons, and if these fail
we can have recourse to sharper means." To the excessive self-love,
intemperance, conceitedness, and want of foresight which had characterized all
his actions, the unhappy Albert had to ascribe his present situation.

The year following, the Queen stormed the important city of Calmar, yet
siding with the imprisoned King. She made several wise alliances with Richard
II of England, and other potentates, and concluded a truce for two years with
the princes of Mecklenburg, and the cities of Rostock and Wismar, which had
begun to raise fresh levies in favor of the unfortunate Albert. This period
expired, she laid siege to Stockholm and other fortified places, of which
John, Duke of Mecklenburg, and other friends of the imprisoned King had become
masters. But the cause of Albert was little forwarded, and Margaret gained
ground every day. She compelled the capital to surrender to her and do homage
to her as its sovereign; whereafter a peremptory peace was concluded on Good
Friday, which restored tranquillity to the three kingdoms. The imprisoned King
and his son were delivered up to the Hanseatic towns, and they obtained their
liberty for sixty thousand ounces of silver, upon condition that they should
resign all claims to Sweden if the amount were not paid within three years.
As soon as the King and his son were delivered to the deputies, they solemnly
swore to a strict observance of this article, the Hanse towns engaging
themselves to guarantee the treaty. The money, however, not being paid by the
stipulated time, Margaret became undisputed sovereign of Sweden, the third
Scandinavian kingdom.

About this time the "Victuals Brethren," so called because they brought
victuals from the Hanse towns to Stockholm while besieged, began to imperil
Denmark, plundering the Danish and Norwegian coasts, and destroying all
commercial business along the Baltic. But Margaret ordered the harbors of the
maritime towns to be blockaded, thus putting a quick stop to their cruelties
and piracies. The Queen's principal care was now to visit the different
provinces, to administer justice and redress grievances of every kind. Among
other salutary regulations, the affairs of commerce were not forgotten. It
was, for instance, decreed that all manner of assistance should be given to
foreign merchants and sailors, particularly in case of misfortune and
shipwreck, without expectation of reward; and that all pirates should be
treated with the greatest rigor.

Eric of Pomerania was, as we have said, elected to be king of Denmark and
Norway after Margaret's death. But wishing to have him also elected her
successor to the Swedish throne, Margaret brought him to Sweden, and
introduced him to the deputies, one by one, whom she requested to confirm his
election to the succession. The majesty of the Queen's person, the strength
of her arguments, and the sweetness of her eloquence gained over the deputies,
who, on July 22, 1396, elected him at Morastone by Upsala, to succeed her also
in Sweden. But Margaret, soon discovering his inability and impetuousness,
took pains to remedy these defects, as much as possible, by procuring for him
as a wife the intelligent and virtuous princess Philippa, a daughter of Henry
V of England, and shortly after had got Catharine, her niece and Eric's
sister, married to Prince John, a son of the German emperor Ruprecht; John
being promised the Scandinavian crowns if Eric of Pomerania should die
childless. Thus having strengthened and consolidated her power by influential
connections and relationships, the Queen, upon whose head the three northern
crowns were actually united, now proceeded to realize the great plan she had
long cherished - to get a fundamental law established for a perpetual union of
the three large Scandinavian kingdoms. The realization of this purpose
immortalized her, securing for her the admiration of the world, whose most
eminent historians do not hesitate to surname her the "Great," and to compare
her with the loftiest Greek and Roman heroes and statesmen.

On June 17, 1397, Margaret summoned to an assembly at Calmar, in the
province of Smaland, Sweden, the clergy and the nobility of Denmark, Norway,
and Sweden, and established, by their aid and consent, a fundamental law. This
was the law so celebrated in the North under the name of the "Union of
Calmar," and which afterward gave birth to wars between Sweden and Denmark
that lasted a whole century. It consisted of three articles. The first
provided that the three kingdoms should thenceforward have but one and the
same king, who was to be chosen successively by each of the kingdoms. The
second article imposed upon the sovereign the obligation of dividing his time
equally between the three kingdoms. The third, and most important, decreed
that each kingdom should retain its own laws, customs, senate, and privileges
of every kind; that the highest officers should be natives; that any alliance
concluded with foreign potentates should be obligatory upon all three kingdoms
when approved by the council of one kingdom; and that, after the death of the
King, his eldest son, or, if the King died childless, then another wise,
intelligent, and able prince, should be chosen common monarch; and if anyone,
because of high treason, was banished from one kingdom, then he should be
banished from them all. A month after, on the Queen's birthday, July 13th, a
legitimate charter was drawn up, to which the Queen subscribed and put her
seal; on which occasion Eric of Pomerania was anointed and crowned by the
archbishops of Upsala and Lund as king of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The Te
Deum was sung in the churches of Calmar, the assembly crying out: "Haecce unio
esto perpetua! Longe, longe, longe, vivat Margarethe, regina Daniae,
Norvegiae et Sveciae!"

This strict union of the three large states became a potent bulwark for
their security, and made them, in more than one century, the arbiter of the
European system; the three nations of the northern peninsula presenting a
compact and united front, that could bid defiance to any foreign aggression.

Although Eric of Pomerania was elected king, and in 1407 passed his
minority, Margaret continued governing until the day of her death. "You have
done all well," wrote the people to her, "and we value your services so highly
that we would gladly grant you everything." The union of the three
Scandinavian kingdoms having been established in Calmar, all her efforts were
now aimed at regaining the duchy of Schleswig, which circumstances had
compelled her to resign to Gerhard IV, Count of Holstein. For such a reunion
with Schleswig a favorable opportunity appeared, when Gerhard was killed in an
expedition against the Ditmarshers, leaving behind three sons in minority.
Elizabeth, Gerhard's widow, fled to Margaret for succor against her violent
brother-in-law, Bishop Henry of Osnabrueck. Margaret, fond of fishing in foul
water, was very willing to help her, but availed herself of the opportunity to
annex successively different parts of Schleswig.

The dethroned Swedish King, Albert, never able to forget his anger toward
Margaret or her severity against him, and continually cherishing a hope of
reascending the Swedish throne, and considering the Union of Calmar a breach
of peace, contrived to make the Swedish people displeased with her, and
thought it a suitable time to revolt from her dominion. He established a
strong camp before Visby, the capital of the island of Gulland, having six
thousand foot and, at some distance, nine thousand horse. Determined to
engage before their junction could take place, the Queen's commander-in-chief,
Abraham Broder, immediately advanced until in sight of the enemy, and then
endeavored to gain possession of Visby and the ground near by. In this he was
so far successful that Albert and his army had to leave the camp and conclude
a truce. But nevertheless he did not till after a lapse of seven years give
up his hope of remounting the throne of Sweden, making a final peace with
Margaret, and henceforward living in Gadebush, Mecklenburg, where in 1412 he
closed his inglorious life.

Soon after, October 27th, Queen Margaret died on board a ship in the
harbor of Flensburg, at the age of fifty-nine, after an active and notable
reign of thirty-seven years. Her funeral was attended with the greatest
solemnity, and her corpse was brought to the Cathedral of Roeskilde, where
Eric of Pomerania, her successor, in 1423, caused her likeness to be carved in
alabaster. Her acts show her character. She displayed judiciousness united
with circumspection; wisdom in devising plans, and perseverance in executing
them; skill in gaining the confidence of the clergy and peasantry, and thereby
counterbalancing the imperious nobility. On the whole she applied herself to
the civilization of her three kingdoms, and to their improvement by excellent
laws, the great aim of which was to undermine the nobility. She pursued the
plan of her great father to recall all rights to the crown lands, which during
the reign of her weak and inefficient predecessors had been granted to the
nobility. The prosecution of this plan for the perfect subversion of the
feudal aristocracy was unfortunately interrupted by her death; her imprudent
and weak successor having no power to restrain the turbulent spirit of a
factious nobility.


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