Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Abel, 1219-1252, ~ Mechtild of Holstein --1288.

Abel, 1219-52, King, a son of king Valdemar
Sejr and his second wife Berengaria. At his
older brother Erik's election to king he
became in 1232 his successor as hertug of
Sønderjylland, which vasalry he took over
in 1237. At the same time he married, according
to an earlier agreement a daughter of grev Adolf
of Holstein, Mechtild. When grev Adolf shortly
after joined a kloster, he was for some years
a guardian for his underage brothers-in-law.
At his father's death in 1241 he became the
owner of a large part of the royal family's
inheritance, among this everything in the duchy,
and the cities Svendborg, Fåborg, Skelskør and
Rudkøbing. The mixed ownerships caused a
feud between him and the king; but it was not
an open fight, until Erik in 1246 had a break
with the mighty Hvide-family and shortly
after withdrew Svendborg to the royal estate.
In the years 1247-48 there were battles with
varying luck in Nørrejylland, at Funen and
Sønderjylland, until the sister Sophie of
Brandenburg succeeded in mediating peace
between the brothers. When the king's man
Henrik Æmeltorp in Rensborg was attacked by
the Holstein grafs, king Erik visited on his
way to his rescue his brother in Schleswig,
but was treacherously taken prisoner; A.'s men
Tyge Bost and Lage Gudmundsen let him kill and
lowered his body into the Slien (10 August).
After A. had disclaimed the responsibility
for E.'s murder, he was elected king and was
crowned in Roskilde (1 Nov. 1250). King
A. showed he was clever and moderate, and it
seems he was the most intelligent among king
Valdemar's left sons. He tried to help the
cities and promoted the relations abroad,
and by wise concessions he brought down the
unrest.But before the new conditions were
able to consolidate, he died, 33 years old,
a violent death in the fight against the
rebellious Frisians, 29 June 1252. His death
and his successor's interest in weakening the
sons' demand for the throne branded him as
a fratricide.
- His wife Mechtild survived him for many years;
she joined a kloster, but left it again and
married the Swedish jarl Birger, who died shortly
after. She died in 1288.

A. D. Jørgensen.

Mechtilde (Mathilde), Dronning, --1288, was a
daughter of Grev Adolf IV of Holstein; she was
probably named after her paternal grandmother.
In 1237 she married Hertug Abel of Jutland,
according to an earlier agreement between Valdemar
Sejr and grev Adolf, and she gave birth to several
sons.This marriage became fatal for Denmark by
drawing Abel towards Holstein; after his father-in-law
had joined a kloster, he was for a period guardian
for his young sons and defended later these
against his brother Erik Plovpenning. After Erik's
death M. was crowned  together with Abel in
Roskilde (1. Nov. 1250); but two years later she
had to leave the kingdom, and only with difficulties
she managed to have her firstborn son, Valdemar,
released from prison at the archbishop of Cologne,
but after he had got his paternal duchy transferred
he died in 1257. M. had to fight for her children's
right of inheritance again, she joined archbishop Jacob
Erlandsen ; and she broke the ww pf chastity she had
given after Abels death, and she married in 1261
Birger Jarl in sweden in order to find some
support there too. He died already in
1266, and M.resided since that in Kiel. She
made the base of the Holstein influence in Sønderjylland;
in 1260 she pawned to her brothers the land between
the Eider and Slien, and just before her death (1288) ,
she actually gave away this land, which she claimed to have
inherited from her eldest son. She was therefore very
hated in Denmark, and the Danes claimed that this
"German woman, a daughter of the Devil" had destroyed
the valuable adkomstbreve ( documents of title), which
Valdemar Sejr had got from emperor and pope on the
land north of the Elb.

Kr. Erslev. 

Dansk Biografisk Lexicon
Project Runeberg

translation grethe bachmann  ©copyright

Monday, November 22, 2010

Erik IV Plovpenning, 1216-1250, ~ Jutta of Saxony, --1250--

Erik Plovpenning, 1216-50, king
was Valdemar Sejrs and Berengarias firstborn son,
who soon after his birth in 1216 was appointed
hertug (duke) i Jylland. He replaced in 1226
his halfbrother Valdemar as a prisoner in
Schwerin and was released 1230. After his brother's
death he was crowned king in Lund by archbishop
Uffe on Whit Sunday (30. May) 1232. E. was said
to have studied in Paris and he was here aquainted
with the later pope Innocents IV. When pope Gregor
IX started a parti in Germany against emperor
Frederik II and tried ti have him ousted, E. was
offered the throne (1239) but he refused. it seems
was active by his father's side in the government
of the country. He married 9. October 1239 Judith
or Jutta, a daughter of hertug Albrect I af Saxony.
While E. was said in his younger years to be very
fond of the joys of life, he was later serious and
pious. One of the first letters, he issued after
his accession to the throne - at his father's death
28. March 1241 --, holds a declaration that he
want to die dressed in the dress of the Fransiscans
and to be buried in their Kloster in Roskilde.
Besides his winning attitude and his energy he
was also very belligerent and during his government
Denmark was in an eternal state of unrest.

His brother Abel was hertug in Sønderjylland, but
he considered this land more like inheritance than a
royal vasalry; in his marriage to the Holstein
princess Mechtild, and in the guardianship of his
underage brothers-in-law, which he took, his
position became dangerous, and E., who hoped to
regain his father's power over Holstein, was ready to
fight. When the war broke out 1242, lasting for 2 years,
a ceasefire happened, but 1246 the fight was renewed,
and Abel, who had attracted his brother Christoffer
to join his party, and who was assisted by Germany,
harrassed in Jutland and at Funen, burnt down 
Odense and conquered Ribe. E. reconquered this
town and his German allies fell into Holstein and
conquered Oldeslo. E. occupied now all his brothers'
castles and estates and took Christoffer and his
halfbrother hertug Knud prisoner. Moved by this sad
feud E.s sister, margrafin Sophie of Brandenburg had
already in autumn 1247 went up to mediate between
the brothers; she died on her travel in childbirth
without seeing any peaceful solutions.

E.s  was during these years also threatened,
because he had a feud with bishop
Niels Stigsen of Roskilde, i.e. about the ownership of
Copenhagen, which brought the bishop to leave the
country 1245. E.s relation to the clergy, which made
complaints about injustice of the Crown, was very
tense, and the feud with the bishop also showed a
beginning break with the mighty Hvide-family,
which he was a member of. Finally the king had to
see the Lübecks join his enemies and plunder the
Danish coasts; they captured and burnt Copenhagen.
In the year 1249 there was a pause of the war, and
the king tried to organize the Estland-expedition, he
had been preparing for long. Already in the re-start
of the bishopric in Reval in king Valdemar's last
years had E. been active, and a fight against the
heathens inside this country and at the borders
were always on his mind. On this occassion E. let
impose a tax of every plough, which caused a
rebellion from the peasants in Skåne. E. was
driven out of Lund and Helsingborg and had to
go to Sjælland, but returned a few days later, and
a peace and agreement were achieved (1249).
This tax caused that the king got the byname
Plovpenning. The expediton was carried out,
but the historian Arild Huitfeldt says that a battle was
never fought with the heathens.

In 1250 E suddenly attacked Sønderjylland and
conquered Schleswig; he was not lucky in a fight
against the Frisians, but Abel had to
surrender. 20 noblemen swor the agreed peace
on behalf of the duke and promised to leave him, if
he was not true to the king. In a dispute with E.
Abel showed that his grudge was stronger than ever,
and that he remembered how his daughter, caused by
E.'s attack "had barefooted to seek shelter
among poor women". He let E. take prisoner
by his kammermester Tyge Bost; maybe Abel did
not order to kill his brother, but his men knew
how to obey his wishes. E. was brought with shackles
on hand and foot down to a boat on the Slien, another
boat came near, where the king's worst enemy Lage
Gudmundsen was. E. saw that death was near, and
asked to be allowed to confess to a priest.They allowed
this and fetched a priest, to whom the king confessed
humbly, then they decapitated him with a sword.
It happened in the night of the10th August 1250. The
body was lowered into the fjord, but some fishermen found
it the next day and brought it to Schleswig, where the
Black Friars buried it in their church; later the body was
moved to St. Hans Nunnery in Schleswig and found at
last its place in Ringsted Kirke. E.s murderers were
soon after killed in various pitiful ways, and when rumours
were spread about miracles by the grave, people began
regarding the murdered king as a saint. E. was never
adopted among the saints of the church, but he was
honoured as a saint by the people, and various Gilder
(Unions) chose him as a patron.

Queen Jutta gave birth to 2 sons, who died young, and
4 daughters: Sophie, married to king Valdemar of Sweden,
Ingeborg, married to king Magnus Lagabøter of Norway,
Jutta and Agnes, who joined a nummery, but later left it.
The queen later married Burchard VIII, Borggreve of
Rosenburg by Harzen.

Suhm, Hist. af Danmark X.
Hist Tidsskr. 6. R. II, 359 ff.

Johannes C. H. R. Steenstrup.
Jutta, --1250--, queen, 
was a daughter of the Saxon hertug Albrecht(+1260)
of the Askanian House in his 1. marriage to a 
daughter of an Austrian duke, Agnes, and she 
married in 1239 the Danish king Erik Plovpenning.
She is mentioned as a witness in a letter where 
her husband a few months after his father king  
Valdemar's death told his wish about being buried in
the dress of the Fransiscans and to be buried in their 
church in Roskilde. Or else there is only an information 
about Jutta, while she lived at Skanderborg, that 
she was harrassing the monks at Øm kloster, she took  
their harvested corn and brought it on boats to 
her castle. J. had several children with Erik. It is 
uncertain if there were sons, if so they must have 
died before their father; four daughters are known, 
two became queen: Sophie in Sweden and Ingeborg  
in Norway, while Jutta and Agnes went to a 
nunnery for a period. After Erik's murder in 1250 she 
probably went soon to her home in Germany.She married
later Burchard of Rosenburg who was borggreve
in Magdeburg. A daughter of this marriage was 
Sophie who was married to Erik of Langeland. 
Kr. Erslev
Dansk Biografisk Lexicon
Project Runeberg
translation grethe bachmann  ©copyright 

Valdemar (III) the Young, 1209-31, ~ Eleonore of Portugal, --1231


Valdemar (III), 1209-31, King, son of Valdemar
II og Dagmar , was born 1209. At a meeting of
the Danish magnates, which king Valdemar
arranged at Samsø in 1215, everyone agreed to
swear an oath to V., and shortly after he was
elected king (co-king) at Viborg landsting.
During a great feast in Schleswig on
Midsummer's day in 1218, with 15 bishops and
3 dukes present,V. was anointed and crowned.
He took part with his father in the unlucky
hunt at the island Lyø in the month of May
in 1223, where both kings were taken prisoner
by grev Henrik; and he was imprisoned until
Easter 1226, when he was released on the
condition that his brother Erik went to prison
instead. V., who was in the government together
with his father, was on Midsummer's day 1229
married in Ribe  with princess Eleonore of
Portugal; bishop Gunner in Viborg, had fetched
the princess to Denmark, and in his "Levned"
(biography)is told, how the young queen and V.
loved Gunner as if he had been their father.
V. was praised for his mildness and kindness
towards everyone and was very popular; the Latin
elegi, which a cleric authored, when the kings
were captured,mentions him in the best words of
praise. It was a tremendous grief to the country,
when V. was killed during a hunt at Refsnæs 28.
November 1231. He was buried in Ringsted kirke
besides Eleonore, who had died three months
before in childbirth; their only child died
only six months old.  
Johannes C. H. R. Steenstrup.
Eleonore (Alienor), –1231, queen, was a
daughter of Alphons II of Portugal and Urraca
of Castile. King Valdemar II Sejr, who had
been married to Alphon's sister Berengaria
(+1221), let by his delegate bishop Gunner
fetch her 18year old brother's daughter to
Denmark as a bride for his and Dagmar's son
Valdemar , who had been crowned king already
in 1218. The wedding took place in Ribe on
Midsummer's day 1229, and the next day E. got
as her morning gift the southern half of the
island Funen.  Only 2 years later E. died in
childbirth, 28 August 1231, and three months
later her husband was killed by an accidental
shot. When examining E.'s grave in Ringsted
kirke, it was found that her skeleton showed
traces of a very endemic benedder (cancer of
the bones),which probably was contributory to
her death. At the foot piece of E.'s grave was
a leaden coffin, which contained the bones of a
child about 6 months old, already sickly and
scrofulous from birth. So E. gave probably birth
to a child, who survived her for only 6 months.

Johannes C. H. R. Steenstrup.
Dansk Biografisk Lexicon
Project Runeberg
translation grethe bachmann  ©copyright 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Valdemar II Sejr, 1170 -1241, ~ 1) Dagmar of Bohemia, +1212; ~ 2 ) Berengaria of Portugal, +1221; and relation to Helena Guttormsdatter

Valdemar II Sejr, 1170-1241, king, son of  Valdemar I
the Great and queen Sophie, was born around Midsummer's
day 1170. Already when young his bold and lively personality
awoke great expectations, and he was an obvious choice as
hertug (duke) in Sønderjylland, which his father and
grandfather had been.This position was however entrusted
to his cousin bishop Valdemar Knudsen, but when V. became
18 years of age, the position was given to him. The
relationship between the two cousins soon became tense,
and V. took several castles and estates from the bishop,
probably with good reason, since he discovered that his
cousin joined the enemies of the country; and the bishop
was not backed up by the papal delegate who arrived to
examine his complaints.The bishop fled to Sweden shortly
after, and when he later recklessly attacked Denmark, V.
took him prisoner.

Grev (count/graf) Adolf III af Holstein was a very restless
neighbour and showed both on this occasion and later on an
obvious enmity towards Denmark;  but he also caused
aversion in his own country, and several members of the
displeased groups went to see V. in Schleswig. In order to
discipline him V. fell in 1201 into Holstein and conquered the
open land and Hamburg and Lübeck, but he was not able to
win Lauenborg. In a bold attack Adolf took back Hamburg,
but V. stood unexpectedly  outside the banks on Christmas
Eve, and Adolf had to redeem himself by giving Lauenborg
to V. The citizens of Lauenborg would not agree to this,
and Adolf had to go to prison, which raised a tremendous
hilarity in Denmark.When king Knud died without sons 12.
Nov. 1202, V. was unanimously elected king; archbishop
Anders Sunesen crowned him on Christmas Day in Lund's
cathedral. The next summer V. went with a large army to
the Elb; he was greeted as the lord of Nordalbingien in
Lübeck,  and Lauenborg surrendered soon after, when
grev Adolf was released. V. installed his sister's son, the
young grev Albert of Orlamünde as lord of Nordalbingien,
and he governed the land with just and skill.

V. made an expedition to Norway in June 1204 to support
the throne pretender of the Baglers, Erling (Stenvæg); the
swords were not drawn however, and the expedition was
of no importance. Although Erling greeted V. as overlord,
V. did not mingle in Norwegian affairs later on either. But
there was still unrest at the southern border of the kingdom,
not least caused by that V. on intercessions had released
bishop Valdemar from prison, and that the bishop in spite
of his oath let himself  be elected archbishop of Bremen.
The two brothers grev Gunzelin and Henrik of Schwerin
showed furthermore a hostile attitude, why V. let the
grevskab (county) occupy and forced them to greet him as
their feudal overlord. During the feud between Germany's
two rulers, Otto IV and Philip, V. took sides with Otto
and  supported him with money and auxiliaries, but after
Philip was murdered (1208), Otto felt safe and was ready to
turn his weapons against Denmark. Otto soon had a rival,
Frederik II, and since he still gained more power in
Germany, V. joined him. Frederik II was not interested
in the northern parts of Germany, and he gave all lands north
of the Elb and its tributary Elde (Dec. 1214) to V. This cession
was soon confirmed by the popes Innocents and Honorius.

But V. wanted to expand his power to more distant places,
he wanted to free the Baltic Sea of pirates and spread
Christianity to the heathen people along its coasts. After
an expedition to Øsel, which he conquered, but which he did
not keep occupied (1206), he went on a crusade to Preussia
and Samland, and the duke of Pommerellen had to pay
tribute to him (1210). The most important event was the
large expedition to Estonia in 1219. With a fleet of 1500 ships
he landed at Lyndanise. The Estonian chiefs seemed willing
to surrender and to be baptized, but one evening they
treacherously attacked the Christian army, who had to fight
a very tough fight with the Estonians, but who also defeated
them completely. The tradition has to this battle connected
the tale about the cross banner (Dannebrog), which fell from
the sky, while a voice was heard, that promised a victory
to the Danes under this sign - so the Danes attacked again
and  won. With a strongpoint of the built castle Reval the
Danish power spread across the country; V. lead two
expeditions there (1220, 1222), but the possession was still
not secure, and he lost it when the bad years arrived.

Before the story about these is told, it has to be told about
V.'s personal relations. He got married late. Before that he
had a relationship to Helena, the daughter of the Swedish
jarl Guttorm; she was a widow after Esbern Snare. She had
the son Knud with V. With an unknown woman V. had a
son Niels, who was married to Oda, a daughter of grev
Gunzelin of Schwerin, she died early and left a son, Niels.
Finally V. married in 1205 the Bohemian princess Dragomir
(Dagmar), whose beauty and goodness won her all hearts;
she gave in 1209 birth to the son Valdemar, but died already
24. May 1212. Two years later V. married the beautiful
princess Berengaria of Portugal; she gave birth to the sons
Erik, Abel and Christoffer and a daughter Sophie. The next
birth cost her life 27. March 1221.

In the night of 6.-7. May 1223 a drastic change happened in
V.s and his country's history. The king was together with his son
Valdemar on a hunt at the island Lyø, when grev Henrik of
Schwerin broke into the tents and after a short fight brought
the kings as prisoners down to his ships. Grev Henrik wanted
to revenge that V., probably wrongfully, on behalf of his
son's son and under the absence of grev Henrik, who was in
the Holy Land, had captured the half ot the castle Schwerin,
since it was a pawn for the dowry of Henriks brother's
daughter Oda. Henrik brought the prisoners to his castle
Lenzen, and then to a castle Dannenberg upon the left bank
of river Elb. This deed awoke dismay and instantaneous
irresolution in Denmark. Grev Albert took over the job as
rigshøvedsmand  (vice regent), and the Danes addressed
first of all the pope for assistance. After emperor Frederik
in vain had made efforts to have the king handed over,
various attempts were made in order to achieve an
agreement with grev Henrik; the conditions were very hard,
and it was said that the Danes interrupted the negotiations
themselves. The allied German princes, who had freed
themselves of obedience to V., attacked Holstein;  Albert
lost a battle at Mølln (Jan. 1225), he was taken prisoner and
put in jail in Schwerin, to where the kings now had been
brought. Denmark lost Lübeck, and Hamburg surrendered to
grev Adolf. There was now no other way out than closing an
agreement on the toughest conditions. The king had to pay
45.000 Mark silver and much more, he had to give up all
countries south of the Eider and the countries in the Wend,
except Rügen and what belonged to this island. V. and the
other prisoners had to be released gradually, dependent on
the payment of the ransom.

At Christmas time 1226 V. returned to Denmark, and he was
still cautious for some months after the release, but then his
vengefullness awoke, and pope Honorius released him from
the oath he had sworn grev Henrik. He attacked Holstein,
but the battle at Bornhøved 22 july 1227 brought him a
decisive defeat; furthermore he lost one eye in the battle.
From now on V.'s politics changed completely. In some
negotiations with grev Henrik's widow he achieved in
Schleswig in 1230 an agreement, where the sum of
the ransom was  considerably reduced, and the young
princes, who had gone to prison instead of their father
and brother, could now return to Denmark. V. entered
into friendly relations with the north German princes;
his son Abel married a daughter of grev Adolf of Holstein,
and his other children were married to princes in Germany.
The costy ransom had brought a strong economic pressure
on Denmark, and in 1230 came other serious troubles,
namely both cattle plague and famine, which killed many
people; the year after lost V. his oldest son, so he had to
undergo some dark hours.  But he became matured by the
disaster and displayed during the last decade of his rule an
important work in the government of the inner circumstances
of the country.

V. was during all his rule a true friend and protector of
the church; the archbishop Anders Sunesen was an
excellent assistent in his crusades; bishop Gunner in Viborg
was a faithfull adviser. By numerous gifts to churches and
klosters or by favours he showed his warm interest for
the ecclesiastical life. Most important of his work was
his close relation to the popes and their always ready
assistance in his enterprises. Innocents III had been his
helper in the feud against bishop Valdemar and the
German princes, Honorius III had been working for his
release from his imprisonment; Gregor IX had in many
ways helped him lighten the econimic burden in his latest
ruling period. All these popes also showed by several
pardons, how highly they appreciated him and his work
for the Danish church. Pope Gregor also helped V.
getting back Estonia. V. had not given up regaining his
supremacy there, the Livonian Brothers of the Sword were
very pressed by the heathen neighbours; and by some
clever negotiations in Rome V. made the pope order the
Livonian Brothers to give back Estonia to Denmark. In an
agreement in Stensby at Vordingborg 1238 the German
Knigh'ts Order - of which the Livonian Brothers of the Sword
were now a part - transferred the landscapes Reval, Harrien
and Wirland to king V.

In all parts of the government was king V.'s influence obvious.
Statistic and economic informations were gathered about
the income of the country, the crown's estate and the royal
ancestral estate, which is seen in "Kong Valdemars Jordebog".
V. issued several statutories, but it was especially his great
credit to let compose "Jyske Lov" with the advise from the best
men of the country; it was issued in Vordingborg in March
1241, and it has had an immense importance for the judicial
life of the Danish people. During the next 100 years is referred
regularly to the system of justice at king V.'s time as the normal
and golden age. The first 20 years of his rule gave him the
byname "Sejr" (Victory), which he was called since the 16th
century, but he was also entitled to be named lovfører (legifer),
which he was called already in the 14th century. The least
accepted from his government was that he gave much land to
his sons (Abel got Sønderjylland, Niels Nørrehalland etc.) or
to relatives. Some transfers were necessary compensations for
the loss from the unlucky years, others were by V. considered
useful for the defense of the country, but the following times
showed the danger by such an outparcelling.

King V. died on Maundy Thursday 28. March 1241 in
Vordingborg and was buried in Ringsted church. - there are
no informations about V.'s looks and almost nothing about
his personal appearance.  But it is sure that he was highly
respected by everyone, nothing is mentioned about any
enemy among Danish men, nothing is heard of if he ever
bore grudge to anyone. There was no rebellion or unrest
during his rule, even in those years where he was imprisoned.
An evidence about his many interests is that several Icelandic
scalds went to see him  and was received with hospitality. Olaf
Hvítaskáld mentions the king's great knowledge, and how he
tried to convert the runic alphabet into Latin letters. Icelandic
sagas call V. the most excellent king in the Nordic countries.
Contemporary sources from Denmark speak of him with
gratitude and admiration, and the tradition never invented an
evil deed ; it has only praised him for being a victor and was
sad for him in his misfortune. When he died - an annual spoke
like this not long time after - "faldt Kronen af de danskes
hoved". (the crown fell from the head of the Danes.)

Johannes C. H. R. Steenstrup.

Dansk Biografisk lexicon
Project Runeberg
Carl Fr. Bricka

translation grethe bachmann  ©copyright