Jelling kirke, Gorms grav

Jelling kirke, Gorms grav
Jelling kirke, Gorms grav

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Valdemar I den Store 1131-82



Valdemar I, 1131-82, King, son of Knud Lavard and Ingeborg, was born 14. January 1131, 8 days after his father's murder; he was named after his mother's paternal grandfather Storfyrst (Grand Prince) Vladimir Monomachos of Novgorod/Russia. He was brought up by Asser Rig in Fjenneslevlille and was from childhood connected in a faithful friendship with his sons, the little older Absalon and his brother Esbern. He and his cousin Svend Eriksen, although still boys, determined to move Knud Lavard's mortal remains from the grave to a shrine, and they did it without asking archbishop Eskil. When the kingdom was divided between Svend and Knud, Valdemar went to service the first and was made Jarl of Schleswig; in the fights against Knud Valdemar showed great courage. But Svend's unreliability and his lacking abilities as a regent became more and more clear to V.; Knud's friends aranged an engagement between V. and Knud's halfsister Sophie. When Svend tried to ambush V., he turned to Knud and became his co-regent. After an agreement was made about dividing the country into three by V.'s mediation, Svend treacherously during a gathering in Roskilde assaulted his co-kings; Knud was killed, Valdemar was wounded, but escaped in the darkness. (9 August 1157). He hid for some time in the woods, until he with the help from Esbern managed to cross the waters to Jutland in a terrible storm. In the battle at Grathehede 23. October 1157 Svend suffered a crucial defeat and was killed on his flight. V. showed a great mildness to his opponents, only two of Svend's men were killed after the battle on the request of Knud's warriors.

The first big task V. had to do was to free Denmark from the Wendic attacks and clear the Danish waters for these pirates. During the throne disputes and the inner unrests in the previous generation the Wendic pirates had enjoyed free rein, many districts had been desolate and all the Danish citizens were scared and prevented from doing their daily work. Absalon was elected bishop in 1158, and he saw more clearly than V. how important this case was, but also how to solve it, and he became not only his persevering helper, but a pioneer in this warfare. It seemed to be a very large mission, and it was probably necessary to make an alliance with hertug Henrik Løve in the action against the Wends, yet the advantages in such an alliance were few, and V. and Absalon soon scared the Wends from showing their face in the Danish waters.

The center of the Wendic paganism and pirate-life was still Rügen, and the purpose was to conquer this island and destroy its shrine Arkona. Together with the Pommeranians V. made an expedition and captured Arkona, and on St. Viti Dag 15. June 1169 he made his entry in the castle. Pope Alexander III placed via a papal bull the island under Roskilde bishopric. In several later expeditions, especially to the countries at the Oder-outflow, V. succeeded in restraining both the Wends and the Pommeranians. By putting the war system in order and building fortifications he also took care of the defence of his homeland; he let build a thick and long wall at Danevirke, and a strong tower at Sprogø, surrounded by a fortification-wall.

When V. ascended the throne, the kingdom's relations abroad were unsteady, and the king felt it necessary to pay tribute to the German emperor Frederik, because he asked him to. When the emperor returned from Italy, he had summoned a Rigsdag and a synod at Dole in France Comté. (1162) Here had to be judged in the large church feud between the two popes Victor IV and Alexander III, who both claimed that they were rightfully elected pope, and both had great parties in the various countries. The emperor asked V. to be present, and although Absalon and Esbern advised hom not to, he went down there. Churchwise the meeting was without any importance, since Alexander's followers were not present, but V., who until that point had joined pope Victor, although archbishop Eskil had taken the side of Alexander, discovered the danger in such a support. The oath he had to give Frederik I was of lesser importance, since it did not order him any duties as vasal. Not long after his homecoming V. changed his church-view, and Eskil, who, caused by his hot-tempered attitude towards the king in the church-feud had to leave the country, could come back again.

V. had shortly after his accession to the throne promised the Norwegian chief Erling Skakke his help, if his son Magnus, when he won the throne of Norway, would give Vigen (in Norway) to V. After Magnus had been crowned king (1164), he did not keep his promise, why V. made two expeditions to Norway (1165, 1168), but with little profits. However the trouble was stressing to the Norwegians, and Erling achieved in a visit by Valdemar in Randers 1170 a peace, in which Vigen came to Denmark, but Erling had to be endowed with it. The same year V. had achieved, what he for a long time had worked for in Rome, that his father Knud (Lavard) was declared a saint. In a great celebration in Ringsted the day after St. Hans 1170 (24 June) the papal bull was announced; Knud's bones were placed in a magnificent reliquary. Immediately after this V.'s seven year old son Knud, who already had been acclaimed heir to the throne by the magnates of the country, was anointed and crowned by archbishop Eskil.

During all his rule V. worked closely together with the church. The feud he had for a time with archbishop Eskil was fully made up, and when Eskil resigned, he was by the pope allowed to choose his successor, and he chose Absalon. V. supported the church and kloster in many privileges and favours, he founded the richly equipped Vitskøl kloster as a thanks for his victory over Svend, he established the first Danish Johanitterkloster in Antvorskov for the goods of sick and worn-out warriors, and he gave large gifts to Ringsted kirke and many other churches in the country.

King Valdemar's ruling period was darkened by only few shadows. There were some fatal conspiracies, where Buris Henriksen, Magnus, Erik Lam's son and Eskil's daughter's sons Carl and Knud were guilty; Carl was killed in the fight, the three others were put in lifelong prison at Søborg. V. showed forbearance when dealing with these men, but he might be blamed for being hard and unforgiving during the rebellion of people in Skåne in 1180-81, when they drove away the officials, who were not from Skåne, and denied to pay tax to the bishop and other duties. Saxo does not approve his hard treatment of the rebels, and Svend Ågesen (Aggesen) who was a friend of the Skånings and wrote immediately after the rebellions, seems to blame V. for that he was more cruel to his own people than was right.

Svend praised the king for being an excellent warrior, very handsome, acute, cultured and right-minded, and all agreed in this opinion. His open kindness and complete lack of arrogance won many hearts, everyone esteemed highly his courage and generosity to his enemies . But although he was enthusiastic and resolute, when danger was present and fight was near, he would in quiet circumstances show a slowness around decisions which was not good; a certain shyness in expressing himself let him withhold burst of anger, which would have been natural and at any rate have prevented him from bearing a grudge which became fixed in his mind, which often happened.

Much of what V. fought for became an advantage of his son and came to him almost without effort, says Saxo. And V., who all his life had fought against the narrow-mindedness of the Jutlanders, had on his deathbed at Vordingborg to see that the navy gave up and expedition to the Wend because of the contrary Jutlanders. His fever worsened because of that, and on 12. May he died. The peasants came to bear their king upon their shoulders to his last resting place; he had been the liberator and innovator of the mother country, and here in Ringsted kirke Absalon read deeply touched the soul mass over the king, his fosterbrother.

Valdemar had with Sophie, whom he had married before the battle at Grathehede, 2 sons: Knud and Valdemar, and 6 daughters, Sophie, who married Siegfried of Orlamünde, Richiza, the Swedish king Erik's wife, Ingeborg, married to Pihip August of France, Helene, Vilhelm of Lüneburg's wife and 2 daughters, who became nuns. - Before his marriage V. had with his mistress Tove a son, Christoffer.

From Johannes C.H.R. Steenstrup's Danish text: grethe bachmann
Dansk Biografisk Lexicon
Carl Fr. Bricka
Project Runeberg.

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