Sunday, March 21, 2010

Niels, - 1134 - ~ Margrethe Fredkulla

Niels, -1134, King of Denmark, the longest living and
the last ruler of Svend Estridsen's illegitimate sons.
He is mentioned for the first time, when he after Knud
den Hellige's kill (1086) was sent to Flandern as a
hostage, so the magnates could pay Oluf Hunger free
and make him king; Niels was close to this brother and
agreed in the reaction against Knud's supremacy. When
the message about Erik Ejegod's death arrived in
Denmark, Niels succeeded in being elected king (1104);
some of his older brothers had died, Svend and Ubbe
Kongsemne (= pretender).

Even the Roskilde Chronicle, which else is friendly to
Niels,regards him not qualified as king. He was ordinary,
but without overview and without royal appearance, and
he was controlled by small-mindedness and greediness and
brought disasters to the country. Misplaced thrift and
greediness made him restrict his entourage and cut off
maintaining discipline and order, so the security from
Erik Ejegod's time was replaced by common insecurity;
among other things he submitted to Harald Kesja's
robberies. His own men did not respect their king, the
chief Christiern Svendsen broke crudely Vederlagsretten,
( =judicial payments),and when king Niels was careless
enough to be content just giving fines,worse ruptures
soon happened among the king's men.

Niels was greedy for estate and did not give his sister's
son, the Wendic prince Henrik his maternal inheritance,
and Henrik started a feud, which brought distress and
misery on Denmark. It would have been much worse if Niels
had not such a strong personality by his side, his wife
Margrethe Fredkulla, whom he married shortly after his
accession to the throne.

A large expedition which Niels made to Ljutka in Holstein
ended - caused by the Jarl Elev's treason - into a defeat,
and not until Knud Lavard became hertug in Sønderjylland
(1115) Denmark achieved peace from its southern neighbour.
But from now on the chivalrus hero Knud Lavard threw his
paternal uncle into the shade. There were enough contrasts
between them. While Knud was the standard bearer of the
advanced European culture,Niels was narrow-minded and held
on to inherited common practice. This was obvious on the
clerical grounds.

Although Niels was friendly with the clergy and especially
gave Roskilde domkirke and Odense kloster privileges,the
pope demanded him to protect the church from assaults and
to reject Niels' un-ecclesiastical demands that Danish
priests were allowed to get married.(1117). On the other
hand king Niels could not prevent the persecution of
married priests at Sjælland (1123) and altogether he
preferred to be an onlooker of events.Sigurd Jorsalfarer
promised him support on a crusade to Småland, but he went
back on his words and the Norwegian king ravaged furiously
one of his farms.

Knud Lavard's growing power and fame caught the jealous
eye of king Niels. He saw that his own son Magnus, whom
he assisted to be king in Sweden, could not compare with
his cousin, who once would be his rival to the throne.
But he dared not act vigorously towards Knud, although
Knud did not show his uncle the necessary consideration.
Niels set on to Knud by Henrik Skadelaar's initiative and
by queen Ulvhild, whom he had married after Margrethe's
death; he complained about Knud at the Thing, but he had
to give up to Knuds frank and proud reply. Niels now
resorted to schemes; without participating in the
conspiracy against Knud, he promoted the schemes and
wheedled out Knud's ring, because it according to his
belief contained a talisman which made its owner

After Magnus had murdered Knud, Niels felt threatened by
the crews at the Thing of Sjælland and had to send his
own son in exile. (1131) But soon after he called him
back, and now Erik Emune raised a rebellion. During the
civil war, where Niels especially had support from Jutland
he won the better of it and he had Erik Emune driven out,
but had to on the other side recognize the German king
Lothars supremacy. Erik however had now the power in Skåne,
and Niels and Magnus, who was now his father's co-king,
gathered a large army in order to win a crucial victory
over Erik, but the battle at Fodevig (4. June 1134)was
a terribly defeat for them, Magnus was killed, and the old
king escaped and took flight through the country in order
to come to king Lothar; he came to Schleswig.

He was afraid of going into Knud Lavard's city and his men
warned him against the "Edslaget", the guild, where Knud
had been Master of the Guild, but since he had taken in
some hostages, his weak nature changed from fear into
arrogance. "Should we be afraid of tailors and shoemakers?"
he supposedly said, and he rode into the city. The citizens
really wanted to revenge Knud Lavard, they locked the city
gates, rang the guild-bell and gathered together. Niels
wanted to flee to the king's castle, but was killed with
his entourage (25 June 1134). His lack of character caused
his downfall.

Contrary to the other sons of Svend Estridsen Niels grew
old and was therefore named "den Gamle" (the Old).He had
two sons with Margrethe: Inge who as child was kicked to
death by a horse and Magnus. Besides he had a daughter by
a mistress, Ingerid, who married Jarlen(the earl) Ubbe.

Ræder, Danmark und. Svend Estridsen og hans Sønner.
A. D. Jørgensen, Den nord. Kirkes Grundlæggelse.
H. Olrik, Knud Lavard.
Samme, Konge og Præstestand I.                                           

translated from Hans Olrik's Danish text: grethe bachmann.

Dansk Biografisk Lexicon
Carl Fr. Bricka
Project Runeberg

Margrethe Fredkulla, --1117(?), Queen, was a daughter
of the Swedish king Inge Stenkilsen and was very young
married to the Norwegian king Magnus Barfod, and a
Danish peace agreement was thereby confirmed (1101).
Therefore Margrethe got her byname Fredkulla. She
brought as a dowry to Magnus the landscapes west of
Gøtaelven (river in Sweden) - the feud between the
two kings had been about this land. Her  first
marriage was short. During a poaching at the coast of
Ireland Magnus was killed (1102.

Margrethe was not fond of her new living place,and
her marriage was childless, which meant that Norway
missed the countries which were her dowry.The
Norwegians mistrusted her, it was even said, that
she by her leave from Norway had stolen Holy Olaf's
reliquaries. Shortly after Niels ascended the
Danish throne (1104) she became his queen, they had
the sons Magnus and Inge , the last mentioned died
when he was a child, kicked to death by a horse.

Margrethe asserted herself in Denmark as a strong
personality. She had once been a pawn of peace, and
she tried to keep peace in the Danish royal house,
especially by making marriage connections between her
relatives and the Danish royal descendants. Most of
all she let Knud Lavard marry her sister's daughter
Ingeborg, and Henrik Skadelaar marry her brother's
daughter Ingerid, and each of those two brides she
gave a fourth of her Swedish estates as a dowry.

Margrethe Fredkulla's politics did not secure peace,
but it was said that there could be no fight as long
as she lived. Outwardly she also seems to have
contributed to protect Denmark, the tradition assigns
the eastern part of Danevirke to a queen M.,and it
could hardly be anyone else but her. She was very
generous to the church, she embroidered chasubles and
altar cloths and she gave Lund's cathedral a very
valuable gold chalice. Margrethe Fredkulla left
herself a fine reputation. She died on 4.November
from dropsy. The year of death is in a yearbook
written as 1117 - but according to the connection of
events it should be later.

H. Olrik, Knud Lavard.
A. D. Jørgensen, Bidrag til Nordens Hist. i Middelald. S. 7 ff.
(Norsk) Hist. Tidsskr. 3. R. I, 272 f.
H. Olrik, Konge og Præstestand I.

Dansk Biografisk Lexicon
Carl Fr. Bricka
Project Runeberg
translation grethe bachmann  ©copyright 

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