Saturday, May 8, 2010

Valdemar I the Great, 1131-82, ~ Sophie of Russia, ab. 1140-98.

Dansk Biografisk Lexicon
Carl Fr. Bricka
Project Runeberg

Valdemar I, 1131-82, Danish king,a son of Knud
Lavard and Ingeborg, was born eight days after
his father's murder 14. January 1131; he was
named after his mother's paternal grandfather
Grandprince Vladimir. V. was brought up by Asser
Rig in Fjenneslevlille and was from his childhood
united in a faithful friendship to Asser's sons,
the older Absalon and his brother Esbern (Snare);
devoutness and patriotism was the guiding
principle in this home.

It is characteristic of V.'s fiery temper that
he and his cousin Svend Eriksen (Grathe), both
still only boys, decided to move Knud Lavard's
mortal remains from the grave into a reliquary,
since the holyness of Knud often showed itself
in miracles, and the boys carried out their
purpose in spite of archbishop Eskil's protests.
When the kingdom was divided between Svend and
Knud, V. took service by Svend and was appointed
Jarl in Schleswig; in the fights against Knud
V. took part with great courage. But Svend's
unreliability and no ability in ruling became
gradually obvious to V. Knud's friends arranged
a betrothal between V. and Knud's halfsister
Sophie, and when Svend ambushed V.,he joined
Knud completely and became his co-regent.
After an agreement via V.'s mediation had
been arranged about a tripartition of the
kingdom, Svend attacked treasonably his
co-kings during a gathering at Knud in Roskilde;
Knud was killed , V. was wounded, but got away
and escaped in the dark. (9. Aug. 1157). He
kept hiding in the forests for some time,
until he succeeded with Esbern's help to get
to Jutland in a great storm. In the battle
at Grathe Hede 23. Oct. 1157 Svend suffered a
decisive defeat and was killed under his flight.
V. showed a great mildness to his opponents,
just two of Svend's men were executed because
Knud's warriors demanded it.

The first big task for V. was to free Denmark
from the Wendic attacks and cleanse the Danish
waters from these pirates. During the throne-
feud and all the inner unrest in the previous
generation the Wendic robbers had free rein,
but many parts of the country were completely
desolate, and all citizens were frightened
and could not do their business. Absalon,
who had been elected bishop in Roskilde in
1158, realized acutely the importance of the
task,and also how to carry it through, and he
was not only V.'s persevering helper, but a
pioneer in this warfare. However, the task
seemed so large that they thought it necessary
to make an alliance with hertug Henrik Løve in
the fight against the Wends, but the advantages
in such an alliance were few, and soon V. and
Absalon had frightened the Wends off from the
Danish waters.

The center of the Wendic heathendom and piracy
was still Rygen/Rügen, and the goal was to
conquer this island and destroy its famous shrine
Arkona. Together with the Pommeranian V. made
an expedition there and captured Arkona; St. Viti
Day, 15 June 1169, he made his entry into the
castle.Pope Alexander III placed the island under
Roskilde Bishopric by a papal bull. In several
later expeditions, especially to the countries
at the mouth of Oder, V. succeeded in restraining
both the Wends and the Pommeranians. By
organizing the war system and by building
fortifications he also took care of the defence
of the country; he let build a very thick tile-
wall in front of Danevirke, a half mile long
(Danish mile = ab. 7,5 km)- and at the island
of Sprogø he raised a strong tower, surrounded
by a fortification wall.

When V. ascended the throne, the conditions
of the kingdom were outwards so insecure that
the king thought it necessary - on emperor
Frederik's request -to promise to pay tribute
to him. When the emperor returned from Italy,
he had summoned a Rigsdag and a church-meeting
at Dole in France Comté.(1162).Here had to be
a judgement in the large church-feud between
the two popes Victor IV and Alexander III, who
both claimed that they were rightfully elected
and both had large parties in the various
countries. The emperor asked V. to be present,
and although Absalon and Esbern advised him
firmly not to, he went down there. In a church-
view the meeting was without importance, since
Alexander's supporters were not present, but V.
- who until now had supported pope Victor -
although archbishop Eskil had taken Alexander's
side, suddenly discovered the danger in such
a support to the emperor. The tribute he had
to pay emperor Frederik I, was of lesser
importance, since it did not order him vasalry.
Not long after his homecoming V. changed his
church-view, and Eskil, who caused by his
hot-tempered attitude to the king in the
church-feud had to leave the country, could
come back again.

V. had shortly after his ascending the throne
promised the Norwegian chief Erling Skakke
his assistance, if his son Magnus, when he
got the throne of Norway, gave Vigen to V.
After Magnus was crowned king (1164), the
promise was not fulfilled , and therefore made
V. two expeditions to Norway(1165, 1168), but
without any large profit. The unrest was
however very awkward for the Norsemen, and
Erling achieved in a visit by Valdemar in
Randers in 1170 a peace, whereafter Vigen
was given to Denmark, on the condition that
Erling got it as a vasalry. V. had the same
year obtained, what he had worked for for a
long time at the Kurien in Rome, that he
wanted his father Knud Lavard admitted among
the saints. At a great party in Ringsted the
papal bulle about this was announced the day
after St. Hansdag 1170 (25 June), and Knud's
bones were put into a magnificent reliquary.
Just after this was V.'s 7 year old son Knud,
who already had been paid tribute to as heir
to the throne 5 years ago, annointed and
crowned by archbishop Eskil.

V. worked during all his rule in a close
connection to the church.The feud he had
with Eskil for a period, was now atoned for,
and when Eskil resigned, he was allowed by
the pope to elect his successor and chose
Absalon. By many privileges and favours
V. supported churches and klosters, he
founded as thanks for his victory over
Svend the richly equipped Vitskøl kloster.
For the sick and worn-out warriors he
established the first Danish Johanitterkloster
in Antvorskov, and he gave great gifts to
Ringsted church and to many other churches
in the country.

Kong V.s rule was only darkened by few
shadows, but there were some. Like the
unwise and unfortunate conspiracies, in
which 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 prison
for life at Søborg. V. almost showed
forbearance in his treatment of these men.
On the other hand V. could be blamed for
being too hard and unforgiving during the
rebellion, which the Skåne-people started
in 1180-81, when they drove away the non-
Skåne-officials and denied to pay bishop-
taxes and other duties. Saxo does not
approve V.'s tough treatment of the rebels,
and Svend Aagesen/Aggesen, who was a friend
of the Skåne-people and wrote reports just
after the rebellion , seems to blame V.
that he was more "cruel to his own" than
was righteous. Svend eagerly praises the
king as a magnificent warrior, very
handsome, sharp-sighted and cleverly
judging, very cultured and right-minded,
and all contemporaries agreed in this
opinion. His nature was happy, like his
open kindness and complete lack of arrogance
won many hearts; his braveness and his
generosity towards his enemies was appreciated
by everyone. But although he was tempered and
resolute, when danger was there and the fight
came close, he could in quiet conditions show
a hesitation in his decisions, which was not
good, a certain shyness in speaking out made
him restrain bursts of anger, which would
have been natural and might have hindered
that a grudge kept staying in his mind, like
it often happened.

Much of, what V. had fought for, became his
son's gain, and "came to him almost without
efforts" says Saxo. And V., who always had
fought against the narrow-mindedness of the
Jutlanders, had to - on his deathbed in
Vordingborg - see the fleet give up an
expedition to the Wends caused by the
sullenness of the Jutland crew. His fever
got worse and he died 12. May 1182.  The
peasants came at once to bear this fine king
on their shoulders to his last resting place;
he had been the liberator and innovator of
the homeland; and here in Ringsted church
his fosterbrother Absalon read, deeply
moved, the soul mass for the king.

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

Johannes C. H. R. Steenstrup.

Sophie, o.1140-98, Queen, was a halfsister of
king Knud (III), Magnus's son, since his
mother Richiza had after the fall of Magnus
married a Russian prince Volodar, whom she
however had left to marry king Sverker of
Sweden. After Valdmar, the son of Knud Lavard,
had turned from the alliance with Svend and
had reconciled with Knud, a marriage between
Valdemar and sophie was arranged; she was only
adolescent, but showed signs of becoming very
beautiful, and since she had no estate in
Denmark, Knud promised to give her 1/8 of his
paternal inheritance as a dowry. S. was
brought to a woman, Bodil, for upbringing,
but after Knud's murder Valdemar married his
bride in Viborg (1157), and after the victory
at Grathe Hede were striken some brakteats
coins)with his and Sophie's picture.
S. bore the sons Knud and Valdemar and the
daughters Sophie, Richiza, Ingeborg and Helene
and two, who became nuns. Svend Aagesen/Aggesen
talks with great admiration about S.'s beauty.
She seems to have been a self-assured, ambitious
After Valdemar's death 12 May 1182 Landgraf
Ludwig of Thüringen - who had repudiated his
wife - proposed to the Danish queen; he was one
of the mightiest princes of Germany, bluff and
violent. King Knud lead his mother, accompanied
by a large entourage to Eider, where Ludwig
received her. But Ludwig quickly changed his mind
and sent the mortified S. back to Denmark; he
went on a crusade and died on his way home (1190).
S. died 5.May 1198 and was buried in Ringsted
church beside king Valdemar.

Johannes C. H. R. Steenstrup.


Dansk Biografisk Lexicon
Carl Fr. Bricka
Project Runeberg


translation grethe bachmann  ©copyright


Domenico Cermanius said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Domenico Cermanius said...

Great, really thanks! This is awesome! :)