BECK index

Scandinavia 1400-1517

by Sanderson Beck

Scandinavia’s Kalmar Union 1397-1450
Denmark 1450-1517
Sweden 1450-1517
Norway 1450-1517
Iceland 1400-1517

Scandinavia’s Kalmar Union 1397-1450

Scandinavia 1250-1400

In June 1397 the archbishops of Lund and Uppsala crowned 15-year-old Erik of Pomerania King of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. The written agreement of the Kalmar Union stated that each country was to be governed by its own laws but was to give assistance to the others in case any one of them was attacked. The three countries agreed to be ruled by Erik, and his successors were to be chosen from his direct descendants. If his line died out, the counselors from the three kingdoms were to elect a king acceptable to all. An outlaw banished by one kingdom was banned also from the other two. All previous feuds were to be forgotten. Yet the agreement lacked legality because of Norway’s failure to sign.

Erik’s great aunt Margrete continued to rule the three kingdoms until her death on October 28, 1412. She had most of the forts built during the war taken down. She visited Sweden and appointed many Danes to Swedish and Norwegian fiefs, but she never appointed a Swede or a Norwegian in Denmark. Taxes could not be imposed without a written order from the government. She levied the “stake tax” on each home, the “rump tax” on each head of cattle, and the most criticized “Gotland’s release.” Prussians seized Gotland illegally in 1398, but she bought it back from the Grand-master of the Teutonic Order in 1407. Margrete arranged for Erik to marry Philippa, daughter of England’s Henry IV, on October 26, 1406. Margrete also tried to get South Jutland back from the Holsteins; but her interference was resented, and the Holstein nobles rebelled in 1410. After a year of fighting, an armistice led to an agreement of arbitration shortly before she died. Margrete raised much revenue for herself, but she was generous to religious institutions, donating 26,000 marks in 1411.

A Court of Arbitration opened at Nyborg in 1413 with King Erik as prosecutor, and Chancellor Peder Lodehat for the Court awarded the duchy of Schleswig to Erik. By getting the hof to recall the fiefs of the Holsteiners in 1413 Erik started a long war. He fortified his position, and the war began in 1416. The fighting continued on and off until 1422 when Denmark only held the east coast and Flensborg. Heinrich Rumpold of Silesia ended hostilities in 1423, and on June 28, 1424 Emperor Sigismund decided that Schleswig and Frisia were part of Denmark. Erik had gone to Hungary to see the Emperor; he was happy and from there went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

King Erik brought the Carmelites and Carthusians to Denmark. He gave Danish merchants control over trade, limiting inland Hanseatic business and making peasants bring their goods to the market place. In 1425 he imposed a toll on every ship passing through the Sound; but this could not be enforced until he defeated a Hansa fleet four years later. In 1426 Lübeck and other Hansa cities began blockading Scandinavian ports. This especially affected miners, and they began rebelling in the early 1430s. Despite the Germans executing many of them, piracy continued. After Hanseatic merchants left Bergen in 1426 with all their goods, the Victuals Brothers sacked it two more times in 1428 and 1429. A Norwegian fleet of one hundred ships attacked the seven pirate ships; but the old Norwegian ships were so inferior that they were either sunk or fled. After losing the city of Schleswig, Erik’s powerful navy defeated the Hanseatic League in 1429, and the tolls on ships passing through the Sound were collected.

Queen Philippa had governed well as regent during Erik’s travels abroad, and she was a good influence on him. After she died in 1430, he reclaimed more lands from aristocrats as “reductions.” Swedes got tired of supporting his wars and resented the King’s cruel administrator Jens Erikson. Erik refused to bring him to justice, but the Swedish Council dismissed him. When Flensborg was lost in 1432, Erik began peace negotiations that were concluded at Vordingborg in 1435. After years of trying to keep England from trading with Norway’s colonies, he made a peace treaty with Henry VI in 1432.

News of a worse administrator coming provoked Engelbrekt Engelbrektson. He was from the mining region and appealed directly before King Erik in Denmark. The King gave him a letter to the Swedish Council so that they could investigate. When Engelbrekt came back with the results, Erik sent him away. So Engelbrekt led the angry Swedes. The noble Erik Puke supported the revolt and destroyed forts in Norrland. Soedermanland rose up on their own and destroyed Gripsholm. People in Vermland and Dal also rebelled. Jens Erikson was found hiding in the Cloister of Vadstena and was executed. There Engelbrekt accompanied by a thousand soldiers met with the Swedish Council, and on August 16, 1434 they renounced their allegiance to King Erik. Engelbrekt’s army grew to fifty thousand men as it marched, and by September three rebel armies were being led by Engelbrekt, Bo Stensson Natt och Dag, and Karl Knutsson Bonde. King Erik’s fleet attacked Stockholm in October and quartered royal troops in the castle. Erik and Engelbrekt met in November and agreed on an arbitration court, but military action continued.

In January 1435 the Arboga parliament proclaimed Engelbrekt the commander in Sweden. However, in October the Swedish Council affirmed their loyalty at Halsted if Erik would respect Swedish rights and privileges. Krister Nilsson Vasa of Viborg was appointed Viceroy (Drots), and Karl Knutsson became Marshal. Erik then made peace with the Hanseatic League and Holstein. Karl Knutsson led the Swedish nobles against Engelbrekt, who was murdered by Magnus Bengtsson on May 4, 1436. The peasants had lost, and the parliaments stopped meeting. A Norwegian revolt against the King began in 1436 and was led by Amund Sigurdsson Bolt and five other noblemen. They attacked Oslo but then withdrew. An armistice was made on June 23, and the Council met at Tunsberg to negotiate with the rebel leaders. They agreed to expel all foreign lords by July 29.

A conference was held at Kalmar in the summer of 1436, and Erik promised to recognize the rights of every state. He went to Gotland and then to Prussia to raise troops to support his choice of Duke Bogislaus of Pomerania as his heir. He returned to Denmark in the fall of 1437 and acted arbitrarily, giving fiefs to his Pomeranian relatives. The Danish Council refused to accept the nomination of his cousin Bogislav as his successor because it violated the Kalmar agreement. Erik sailed back to his castle in Gotland, and in October 1438 Karl Knutsson was appointed regent in Sweden. Norwegians led by Halvard Graatop marched on Oslo, but they were defeated by the royal forces commanded by Svarte-Jons of Akershus castle.

In Denmark peasants rebelled against the nobility and the clergy. The Council invited Erik’s nephew, Duke Kristofer of Bavaria, and promised him the crowns of the three kingdoms. In March 1439 Erik appointed Nils Stensson Marshal and Commander of the Danish troops in Sweden, and they accused Karl Knutsson of treason. In 1438-39 mutinies had broken out in Satakunta, Tavastia, and Karelia in western Finland, where most of the taxes were collected. In 1440 Karl escaped to Finland, and he urged withdrawal from the Union. Bishop Thomas of Strangnas in response wrote a poem that described Erik’s tyranny and the quest for liberty led by Engelbrekt and Karl. In July the Danes deposed Erik and elected his nephew Kristofer king of Denmark. Erik left Denmark to live in Gotland. For the next ten years he was at Visburg castle organizing raids against the Swedes. When the Swedes besieged him in 1449, he surrendered the castle to a Danish fleet commanded by Olaf Akselsen Thott and retired to his Rügenwald castle in Pomerania.

Kristofer III was crowned King of Sweden on September 14, 1441 and King of Norway and Denmark in the two succeeding years. Karl Knutsson renounced his claims and was given important fiefs that included Finland. Kristofer’s land law in 1442 allowed Finland’s two provinces to send representatives to the assembly electing the monarch. That year Krister Nilsson Vase died, and Karl took over the other half of Finland. He made Viborg (Viipuri) his stronghold. Peasants in North Jutland led by the nobleman Henry Tageson were in rebellion against the Council, but they were defeated by Kristofer’s large army at St. Jorgensbjerg. Thousands of peasants were killed, and Tageson and other leaders were executed. In Sweden and Denmark the noblemen compelled Kristofer to accept a charter that reduced his power and strengthened the Council, and Sweden gained complete autonomy.

Norway made no such agreement; but King Kristofer never came back there after he was crowned. People complained that taxes were so unjust that grain fed the King’s horses while they had to make bread from bark; so they called him Kristofer Bark-king. The Hanseatic League signed a ten-year commercial agreement. When Hanseatic merchants entered the Bergen city council with swords, the Norwegian Council at Bergen met in 1444 and decided to scale back German privileges to what they had been in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. However, in 1447 the King gave Rostock merchants unrestricted privileges in Oslo and Tunsberg. King Kristofer died on January 6, 1448 at Helsingborg at the age of 33.

Karl Knutsson went to Stockholm on May 23, 1448 with eight hundred men and was elected king of Sweden in June despite the opposition of the clergy and Oxenstiernas. Karl VIII began his reign by taking Gotland from Erik. Duke Adolph VIII of Holstein declined the throne of Denmark and proposed his 22-year-old nephew Kristian (Christian) of Oldenburg, who promised to respect the rights of the Council. He was elected king of Denmark on September 1, 1448, and at Copenhagen on October 28, 1449 Kristian was crowned king of Denmark and married the widowed Queen Dorothea.

In Norway the richest noble, Sigurd Jonsson, had been chosen regent; but he declined the throne even though he was descended from Haakon V. Archbishop Aslak Bolt favored union with Sweden, but Bishop Jens of Oslo and Baron Hartvig Krummedike were Danes and led the Denmark faction that wanted Kristian of Oldenburg to be king of Norway. The Swedish party met at Baahus in February 1449 and chose Karl Knutsson. The Danish party met at Oslo, and on June 3 they elected Kristian. He granted Norway a charter in July, promising that they could keep their laws, liberties and privileges, that no foreigners could receive fiefs nor be members of the Council, and that no important matter could be decided without the advice of the Council. Karl was crowned king of Norway at Trondheim on November 20, 1449. He returned to Sweden, but in early 1450 he tried to seize Oslo which was held by Hartvig Krummedike. That failed, and they agreed on an armistice.

Denmark 1450-1517

On May 1, 1450 the Swedish Council decided that Karl Knutsson should surrender Norway to King Kristian (Christian) I of Denmark (r. 1448-81), and they made him cede his claim. After Norway’s Council nullified the crowning of Karl, Kristian went to Trondheim and was crowned King of Norway on August 2. Later that month representatives from the Councils of Denmark and Norway met at Bergen and agreed that both kingdoms should obey the same king and that a common election should be held by the two Councils after the death of a king. When Sweden did not provide Dorothea’s “morning gift” promised to Kristofer in properties or 15,000 guilders, old grievances led to a war between Denmark and Sweden that lasted several years. In 1451 Kristian came into conflict with Sweden over who owned Gotland, and in 1452 Karl Knutsson with a large army invaded Skane. Archbishop Jöns Bengtsson Oxenstierna of Uppsala was secretly supporting Kristian, and he laid down his cross in his cathedral and picked up a sword, which he said he would not sheath until the tyrant was expelled from the country. After the two-year armistice 1453-55 Karl was driven out of Sweden. In 1456 Kristian signed a treaty with France. At Uppsala on July 3, 1457 he was crowned king of Sweden, and his promises to the nobles persuaded them to elected his three-year-old son Hans his successor. Kristian tortured men suspected of corresponding with the exiled Karl, and he became unpopular for imposing taxes without the consent of the Council.

Adolf von Schauenberg had been Duke of Schleswig and Count of Holstein since 1427, and he died on December 4, 1459 without a brother or son to succeed him. In Schleswig the Holsteiners held the castles and large estates while German nobles were in the high ecclesiastical offices. Otto of Schauenberg had a right to inherit Holstein but had no claim to Schleswig. However, the nobles wanted to unite Holstein and Schleswig, which was expected to revert to the Danish crown. So to avoid a fight in March 1460 by the treaty of Ribe the nobles elected Kristian duke of Schleswig and Count of Holstein, and he promised never to separate them. Kristian had gained Gotland from Erik of Pomerania. He owed 103,000 gulden to the former princes of Schleswig-Holstein, and he levied heavy taxes and borrowed money secured by mortgages of castles and crown lands. During his absence he let the Grand Bailiff of Schleswig and the Marshal of Holstein act with the approval of the senate of each province. He persuaded Otto to renounce his claims for money and three bailiwicks in Holstein. Kristian’s brothers Gerhard and Maurice gave up their claims for 40,000 florins. After Maurice died, Gerhard demanded the unpaid money, and when not paid he seized castles in Holstein. In 1467 Kristian ceded to Gerhard the revenues of Schleswig and Holstein for four years and let him govern both provinces. However, he was so tyrannical that Kristian had him arrested. Gerhard promised to be good; but in 1473 he invaded Schleswig with troops, and the King forced him to flee.

Archbishop Bengtsson had supported Kristian in Sweden; but while he was in Finland, he relieved people of their most burdensome taxes. When Kristian summoned him to his castle, the Archbishop began a revolt in 1464. Kristian came to Stockholm in April with a large army, but they were defeated by peasants at Haraker in Westmanland. Karl Knutsson came back as King of Sweden, but the nobles helped Kristian force him back to Finland in January 1465. However, the Swedes did not invite Kristian to rule them again.

In Denmark King Kristian included five burgesses from each town as well as two peasants from every district in the first meeting of the Estates in 1468. He approved renewing the ban on German internal trade. In 1469 Kristian’s daughter Margarete married King James III of Scotland, and Kristian mortgaged the Orkneys and Shetland Islands to cover her dowry of 60,000 guilders. After Karl died in 1470, Kristian tried to regain the throne in Sweden. He got money from Holstein and with seventy ships and an army invaded Sweden, arriving at Stockholm in July 1471. Sten Sture led the Swedish army of 10,000 men that in October attacked Kristian’s army three times. On the third assault Kristian was wounded by an arrow, and his army fled. Swedes cut the bridge to the ships, and many Danes drowned. Kristian did not try to regain the Swedish throne again.

In 1473 the German Emperor Friedrich III turned to Kristian for help and granted him the fief of Ditmarschen, which had not yet been subjugated by Holstein. The next year Kristian took a large retinue on a pilgrimage to Rome. At Rotenberg the Emperor invested him with Ditmarschen, Holstein, and Stormarn, and Holstein became a duchy. Kristian visited Pope Sixtus IV and returned to Denmark after seven months. Two months later he tried to mediate between Duke Charles of Burgundy and Emperor Friedrich without success. He had to borrow money from the towns, and many Dutch towns stopped paying the Sound dues. Kristian tried to improve Danish trade by not allowing foreign merchants in Denmark during the winter and by dissolving all German companies. To counter the Hanseatic League he made treaties with France, England, Scotland, Burgundy, and the Netherlands. In 1478 his son Hans married Kristina, daughter of Duke Ernest of Savoy. Kristian became ill and died on May 21, 1481. He was known for his financial problems and for his failed attempt to regain the throne of Sweden by force of arms. Denmark was monarchical because the Council was not elected but was chosen by the King.

The Council of Denmark delayed in electing Hans in order to get the approval of Sweden, Norway, and the duchies. Hans promised not to add new taxes without the approval of the Council, which was also made the highest tribunal in Denmark. Hans became king of Denmark and Norway by 1483, but Sweden remained independent for many years. Queen Dorothea claimed two provinces for her younger son Friedrich, and he was allowed to choose Gottorp, but the parliament at Kalundborg in 1494 proclaimed the unity of Denmark. Dorothea was an influence for maintaining peace, but she died in 1495. After the Swedish Council deposed Sten Sture, he raised an army. Moscow helped the Danes by invading Swedish Finland. Then a Danish army from Saxony invaded the province of Bleking, and they routed Sten’s army at Rotebro on September 28, 1497. Hans went to Stockholm, and on November 26 he was crowned King of Sweden. Because of spreading venereal disease, in 1496 Danish prostitutes were required to wear red-and-black hoods and to live in special districts.

In February 1500 Kristian and his brother Friedrich invaded Dithmarschen in Holstein, a peasant republic that had become independent in the 1227 Battle of Bornhoved. The Frisians routed their army of 14,000 in the marshes, and 4,000 men were killed or drowned. This disaster stimulated the Swedes to revolt, led by Sten Sture. King Hans went back to Denmark to gather forces while his Queen Kristina held out in Stockholm. The garrison of one thousand was reduced by scurvy to seventy. After eight months she surrendered on May 6, 1502 and was imprisoned for six months. King Hans arrived three days after the surrender but returned to Denmark with their first ships that had been especially built for war.

In 1502 King Hans sent his 21-year-old son Kristian to command their army in Norway against an insurrection led by Knut Alfson and Swedes. Kristian’s army drove away the forces besieging Akershus in southern Norway, and then the Danes captured the Swedish fort of Elfsborg. Hans set up a tribunal at Kalmar with Danish and Swedish councilors who convicted all the disloyal Swedish nobles of treason. He even managed to get Emperor Maximilian to confirm the convictions. Kristian returned to Norway as Viceroy in 1506 and helped suppress a religious revolt in 1508. While living in Norway, Kristian took the Dutch Dyveke as a mistress, and her mother Sigbrit Willums became a close advisor, especially after Dyveke died of poison in 1517.

King Hans made a treaty with England’s Henry VII that lasted seven years and gave the English trading and fishing rights in Scania and Zeeland. Hans supported the towns against the German traders even though it caused a three-year war against Lübeck which the Danish fleet helped end in 1512. Hans fell from his horse and died on February 20, 1513. He had urged his son to consult wise men, forswear violence, employ natives rather than foreigners, and win the people’s love by governing moderately. Kristian II immediately claimed the thrones of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, and he secured the first two by the end of the year; but the Swedes were in rebellion against him until 1521. King Kristian formed alliances with France, Scotland, Poland, Prussian and Livonian Orders, Riga, and Danzig. He married Elizabeth of Austria on July 12, 1515, and her brother would become Emperor Carlos (Charles) V in 1519. Kristian II would continue his violent ways and would be called “the Tyrant.”

Denmark 1517-33

Sweden 1450-1517

During the war between the rival kings Kristian and Karl Knutsson, Olaf Nilsson captured Fort Elfsborg in Sweden and offered it to King Kristian (Christian) who reinstated him as commander at Bergen. The Germans gathered a force of 2,000 men and attacked the cloister of Munkeliv where Olaf had taken refuge. Bishop Thorleif tried to appease the Germans, but they killed him, three priests, Olaf, and a total of sixty people and burned the cloister on September 1, 1455. In 1457 the lords under Archbishop Jons Bengtsson Oxenstierna and the peasants revolted against Karl Knutsson, who fled to Stockholm and then escaped to Danzig. The Archbishop and Erik Axelsson Tott became regents, and Kristian was crowned king of Sweden at Uppsala on July 3, 1457, affirming the Kalmar Union. He inherited Schleswig-Holstein in 1459 and imposed special taxes so that he could pay off his brothers. His Swedish supporters complained, and they took over several castles.

In 1463 peasants in Upland refused to pay increased taxes and were backed by Archbishop Jons Bengtsson Oxenstierna. In January 1464 Bishop Kettil Karlsson Vasa of Linkoping led the effort to free the Archbishop. The common people of Dalarna joined the rebellion, and in April an army led by Nils Bosson Sture and Sten Sture defeated the royal troops at Haraker’s church in Westmanland. They marched to Stockholm, and Karl Knutsson was welcomed back from Danzig by those who had banished him. However, he came into conflict with Oxenstierna and Vasa, and on January 30, 1465 Karl abdicated his throne and retired at Raseborg in Finland, though he retained the title of king and his estates from his first reign. Sweden was administered by Archbishop Bengtsson and Bishop Kettil Karlsson.

Ake Axelsson commanded Varberg castle and most of Halland, and in 1466 his brother Ivar with property in Skane and Blekinge married a daughter of Karl Knutsson. Some Council magnates replaced regent Jons Bengtsson Oxenstierna with Erik Axelsson Tott, who had married Karl’s sister. Erik erected Olof’s castle in northern Finland in territory claimed by Russians. Nils Shure led Swedish nationalists who fought the Oxenstiernas. King Kristian had taken the Danish fiefs away from the Axelssons who joined the nationalist movement. They invited Karl Knutsson to return and hailed him as king in 1467, the year Bengtsson died. Nils Bosson Sture, who refused to be regent, and Sten Sture, who married Ingeborg Tott that year, helped install Karl for the third time as King of Sweden. However, Ivar Axelsson Tott, whose fief was the island of Gotland, governed for his father-in-law, a shadow-king. When Karl died in 1470, Sten Sture inherited Karl’s land in Finland and was his executor and guardian of his son; he also inherited estates in the south central provinces of Sweden. Sten had married Ake Axelsson’s daughter, and he became the leader of the Swedish national movement.

King Kristian tried to revive his authority in Sweden by re-establishing the Union. He formed an alliance with the Hanseatic League which blockaded Sweden. On May 18, 1470 Sten Sture announced at Saint Erik’s fair that he had taken over the government of Sweden. Kristian came to Stockholm in September 1471. The Oxenstierna faction supported the gentry and farmers in Upland as well as the Union, and they negotiated with Kristian. Sten Sture refused and led the Axelsson aristocrats, mining men of Dalarna, farmers in central Sweden, and the merchants of Stockholm. The two armies clashed at Brunkeberg on October 10, and after a difficult battle the Sture forces were victorious. Before this, town laws stipulated that half of each town council had to be Germans. Burghers of Stockholm distributed a petition, and the Council of Sweden abolished those laws.

The University of Uppsala was founded in June 1477. Pope Sixtus IV sanctioned the university, enabling them to teach theology. Many Swedes went to universities in Cologne, Prague, Leipzig, Bologna, and especially Paris, where they had three colleges, and three Swedes held the top administrative position of rector. Sten Sture’s wife Ingeborg Tott paid to have books printed, and she collected a large library at the Mariefred convent.

Sten Sture also opposed Kristian’s son Hans who became king of the Kalmar Union in 1481. Negotiations resulted in the Kalmar Recess of 1483 that guaranteed the privileges of the clergy and nobles but delayed the election. The Axelssons were losing influence, and in 1483 Ivar Axelsson tried to replace Sten with Arvid Trolle; but a majority of the Council stayed with Sten. That year Sten began his hegemony in Finland, but he did not take over the stronghold at Raseborg until 1487. Ivar went back to Gotland and turned over the island to the King of Denmark. The Song of Gotland describes how King Kristian won Gotland from demonized Swedes. Hans ceded the isle of Oland to Sweden, but they still would not accept him. German printers came to Stockholm in the 1480s, and presses were operating in Vadstena and other places in the 1490s.

In 1493 Denmark formed an alliance with Russia. In this crisis the council of Sweden made Sten Sture accept Hans as king of Sweden. Sten met with popular representatives at Linkoping to preserve his independence. In 1494 Nils Sture died, and Sten took control of his fiefs, disappointing his son Svante Sture. On November 30, 1495 the Swedes and Finns under Commandant Knut Posse turned back the Russians from the siege of Viborg (Viipuri). The next year the Russians ravaged eastern Finland while Svante Sture sacked Ivangorod. In March 1497 they made a six-year truce with Ivan III. That month the Council dismissed Sten and confiscated his fiefs. While he was appealing to the people, the Danes invaded from the south and west, defeating Sten’s Dalsmen at Rotebro near Stockholm. Sten accepted Hans and was given Finland and fiefs in Sweden. Hans was crowned on November 26, reviving the Union; but he was not in Sweden where the Council ruled. Archbishop Jacob Ulfsson (1469-1514), Bishop Henrik of Linkoping, Svante Nilsson, and Sten Sture were on the executive committee, the latter two having been bitter rivals. The Swedish Council agreed that Kristian, the son of King Hans, would be proclaimed heir to the throne of Sweden at Stockholm in 1499.

By 1500 Sweden had about 750,000 people. That year King Hans suffered a defeat against Dithmarschen on the southern border of Denmark, and in 1501 Sten Sture led a revolt in central Sweden. Hans convened an estates assembly and accused Sten of treason. Prince Kristian attacked the east coast, and angry Swedish lords renounced the King and made Sten national administrator. He traveled much in Sweden, and plundering Church property caused him to be excommunicated twice. Yet he built churches and donated to cloisters. Queen Kristina stayed in Stockholm castle with a thousand soldiers while Hans went to Denmark to get an army and the fleet. After eight months all but seventy of the garrison had been wiped out, mostly by scurvy. She surrendered on May 6, 1502 and was kept as a prisoner in the convent of Vadstena until October. Later that year Abo and Viborg in Finland were captured. Svante Nilsson invaded Norway.

Sten Sture died on December 14, 1503, but his death was kept secret until Svante Nilsson was elected in early 1504. He began by besieging Kalmar and Borkholm, the only forts remaining loyal to the King. He had trouble with the Council and fought occasional wars against King Hans. Silver was discovered at Sala. In 1505 Danish and Norwegian councilors meeting in Kalmar condemned the Swedish uprising of 1501, and the German empire ordered the Hanseatic League to embargo Sweden. In 1509 the Danes raided Turku in Finland. That year Sweden agreed to pay King Hans an annual tribute of 12,000 marks; but Sweden did not pay because in 1510 a conflict between Denmark and Lübeck enabled the Swedes to capture Kalmar and Borgholm. Bishop Hemming Gadh negotiated an alliance with Lübeck; but he was never recognized by the Pope and lost his bishopric in 1512.

After the death of Svante Nilsson on January 2, 1512 his 20-year-old son, who was called Sten Sture the Younger, managed to cancel the election of Erik Trolle as administrator while they negotiated with Denmark. In the summer Sweden agreed to pay the annual 12,000 marks to King Hans or to his heir Kristian. Sten then forced the Council to elect him administrator, and he promised to rule according to their will.

After the death of Hans in 1513 the Younger Sten delayed the acceptance of Kristian II even though the Council wanted to submit. Sten roused the people to protest. Swedish representatives negotiated with Kristian at Copenhagen in 1515 and demanded that Sweden be a free realm governed by consent of the common people. Eighty-year-old Archbishop Jacob Ulfsson retired so that Erik Trolle’s son Gustav could replace him and oppose Sten, who accused him of conspiracy to recognize King Kristian II. The regent Gustav set up a court at Staeket in Upland and received subsidies from Denmark. In 1516 Sten besieged the castle north of Stockholm, and the next year Kristian invaded Sweden with support from Russia. Sten called a general meeting at Arboga in November 1517, and they agreed never to recognize Trolle as the Archbishop nor Kristian as king.

Sweden and Gustav Vasa 1517-60

Norway 1450-1517

Kristian (Christian) was elected king of Denmark on September 1, 1448 and king of Norway on May 13, 1450. He was escorted to Trondheim by five Hanseatic ships, and on July 29 he was crowned by a German bishop. From there he went to Bergen, and on August 29 Norway and Denmark agreed on a closer union. The Swedes made Karl Knutsson cede his claim in Norway to Kristian, who immediately became occupied fighting Karl in Sweden. In 1452 Karl and his army invaded Norway and occupied Trondheim; but they were driven back across the border by Bergen’s commander Olaf Nilsson who made the Germans pay heavy taxes. They appealed to King Kristian, who removed Olaf lest he help Karl. Olaf led raids on Hanseatic towns and captured several of their ships at sea. An armistice began in May 1453.

Kristian had married Dorothea of Brandenburg on October 26, 1450, and he came to Bergen in 1453 with his queen. The 1453 armistice in Sweden lasted only two years, and then the war continued. Kristian summoned Olav Nilsson, who had been charged by merchants, but he fled. Kristian confiscated his fiefs and appointed the Swede Magnus Gren to command at Bergen. The Hanseatic merchants devastated Bergen. Nilsson took over the castle of Elfsborg and threatened to give it to Sweden. The King yielded, and Nilsson came back to Bergen. Olav sent out privateers against the Hanseatic ships, and those merchants planned to kill him and did so at the Munkeliv convent, killing also Bishop Thorleiv, several priests, and sixty people in all on September 1, 1455. That year a royal decree promised that officials were not allowed to oppress the people, impose unlawful taxes, or arrest anyone without due process of law. Kristian called himself King of Denmark-Norway, and he often decided Norwegian issues by only consulting the Danish Council.

In 1457 Sweden submitted, and Kristian became their king too on June 29. When King Kristian imposed another tax in 1463 for a campaign against Russia, Archbishop Jons Bengtsson Oxenstierna of Uppsala led a revolt. In the winter of 1464 Kristian took his army to Sweden and crushed the peasants led by Sten Sture. When German residents in Bergen murdered the King’s castellan, they only had to pay a fine of 700 marks, which was less than a tenth of what the Church demanded for the murder of the bishop in the same riot.

In 1469 Kristian’s daughter Margarete married King James III of Scotland, but he could not pay her dowry of 60,000 guilders. Without consulting the Norwegian Council he mortgaged the Orkneys to Scotland for 50,000 and the Shetland Islands for 8,000. He also gave up the payments for the Hebrides and Isle of Man, and they were all eventually annexed by Scotland. He needed financial help from the Hanseatic cities for his war in Sweden and so stopped opposing the Hansa domination of Norway. In 1471 King Kristian led seventy ships to Kalmar and Stockholm; but his army was defeated at Brunkeberg on October 10, and Kristian was seriously wounded. He went on a journey to Rome in 1474 with a large retinue, and he had to borrow from Hanseatic merchants in Italy. Kristian spent little time in Norway and was resented for appointing many Danes. He died on May 22, 1481.

Kristian’s son Hans had been elected King of Sweden and Norway in 1458, but in 1481 only his throne in Denmark was secure. Like his father, Hans had spent time in Norway as crown prince; but Norwegians wanted redress of the wrongs they had suffered under Kristian. On February 1, 1482 at Oslo the Norwegian Council and deputies from Sweden agreed that they would defend their rights and liberties, and neither would elect a king not sanctioned by the other. Norwegians complained that foreigners were not brought to justice, but their own citizens were severely punished for any violation. They wanted redress of grievances before they would accept Hans as their king. In the interim the Norwegian-born Archbishop Gaute Ivarsson was in charge of the government. The Danish noble Jorgen Larensson had been made commandant of Behus castle without approval of the Norwegian Council, and so they besieged the castle. After the Danes removed the commandant, the Norwegians agreed to attend a conference at Halmstead on January 13, 1483. Sixteen Danes and nine Norwegians chose Hans as their king, but the four Swedes who arrived late had no power to decide.

King Hans promised that he would maintain the rights and privileges of the clergy, that no foreigners should be members of the Council, that foreign merchants would not have privileges without permission of the Council, and that each kingdom would have its own archives, treasury and coins. He also promised to return lands and revenues taken from Norway during his father’s reign. King Hans was then crowned at Copenhagen on May 18 and at Trondheim on July 20, 1483. During his reign Danish nobles were appointed at Akershus, Bohus, and Bergen. The Dane Anders Muus was made bishop of Oslo. Fighting occurred over these castles.

In 1502 the half-Swedish, half-Norwegian Knut Avsson, the commandant of Akershus, quarreled with the Bahus commander Henrik Krummedike and the King, who suspected him of favoring the Swedes and removed him. He was replaced by a Danish castellan who lured him out of the castle. Avsson led an uprising of the Swedes against the King’s party in Stockholm and defeated the Danes. Then he invaded Norway and captured the forts at Akershus and Tunsberghus. Krummedike led a large army to Oslo to besiege Akershus, and negotiations began. Krummedike offered Avsson safe conduct on his ship but then murdered him. King Hans sent an army commanded by his 21-year-old son Kristian to the region where the three kingdoms meet near modern Gothenburg to quell the revolt. After torturing some Norwegians he invaded Sweden and besieged two forts.

In 1506 Prince Kristian returned to rule Norway as Viceroy and heir to the kingdom. At Bergen he fell in love with the Dutch girl Dyveke, and in 1511 he brought her back to Copenhagen as his mistress. Her shopkeeper mother, Sigbrit Willums, became one of his main advisors. Kristian gave permission for merchants from Amsterdam to trade anywhere in Norway. In 1508 he cancelled the privileges of Rostock merchants in Oslo and Tunsberg so that they had the same rights as native citizens after they permanently settled in the city. That year Herlog Hofudfat of Hedemarken led a revolt against Danish nobles and killed one of them. Kristian had the leaders captured, tortured, and executed as traitors. On slight evidence Bishop Karl of Hamar was put in prison without a trial and remained their until his death four years later. The Council was often disregarded, and Norwegian nobles lost their fiefs to Danes in violation of the charters. When Archbishop Gaute of Nidaros (Trondheim) died in 1510, Kristian forced the canons to elect the Dane Erik Walkendorf.

King Hans died in 1513 and was succeeded by his son Kristian (Christian) II. He had been tutored by the humanist Konrad of Brandenburg and became a man of the Renaissance. In 1513 the councils of the three kingdoms met at Copenhagen. The Norwegian councilors complained that Kristian had already called himself the rightful heir of what they believed had become an elective monarchy. Also King Hans had not retained the Orkney and Shetland Islands nor the annuities owed for the Hebrides and Isle of Man according to the 1266 Treaty of Perth. The Norwegians demanded equality with Denmark in the Union, but the Danish Council of 29 members voted with only seven or eight Norwegian representatives (four of whom were Danes) to elect Kristian king of Norway.

King Kristian II (r. 1513-23) cooperated with the Danish Council but treated the Norwegians with disdain. He argued that the nobility in Norway was nearly extinct, and so he granted their offices and castles to native-born Danes and Norwegians. Church positions and councilors would also be filled by native-born Danes as well as Norwegians. He was crowned King Kristian II at Copenhagen on June 11, 1514 and king of Norway at Oslo a short time later. He married 13-year-old Isabella (Elizabeth) of Spain on the same day he was crowned at Copenhagen, and she brought him a dowry of 250,000 gulden. His mistress Dyveke died suddenly in June 1517. Poisoned cherries were suspected, and the chief steward Torben Oxe was convicted by twelve peasants and beheaded. Dyveke’s mother Sigbrit Villums became an even more important advisor and befriended the young Queen Elizabeth. Sigbrit hated the nobles and persuaded Kristian to curb their power and help the peasants. Kristian appointed her the administrator of the Sound dues and all the tolls in Norway and Denmark.

Norway 1517-1600

Iceland 1400-1517

The Black Death came to Iceland in 1402, and in two years nearly two-thirds of the population was wiped out. In 1413 Arni Olafsson, the new bishop of Skalholt, was appointed hirostjori, putting him over all of Iceland, combining the secular and religious authorities. He collected property from all around but was considered generous for giving some of it away. In 1419 they pledged their allegiance to King Erik of Pomerania, but they added the demand that the promise of at least six ships per year must be fulfilled. Arni was succeeded by Jon Gerecksson, who had been bishop of Uppsala but was so vicious that he had been forced to resign. He arrived in 1425 with a band of adventurers who ravaged the country; he was eventually killed.

English fishermen and traders began to deal secretly with Icelanders, and they are first mentioned in the annals in 1412. The next year thirty English fishing-smacks came to Iceland. On April 13, 1419 the annals recorded that 25 English ships were wrecked on the coasts during a storm. In 1420 English traders attacked Bessastadir, arrested a royal official, and killed his assistant. Two years later two English captains killed some people at the same place, and in 1423 English buccaneers plundered northern Iceland and even took people into slavery. The next year the pirates John Percy, John Pasdal, and Thomas Dale plundered Bessastadir again and abducted several officials. John Selby led a band that captured Brand Halkdorsson at Fljot in northern Iceland and traded him for a ransom of codfish. In 1431 King Erik asked England to pay an indemnity of £40,000 for their crimes of the last twenty years in Iceland. King Henry VI prohibited trade with Iceland on April 28, 1433, but some illicit trade continued. In 1440 Henry allowed two ships belonging to the Bishop of Skalholt to buy goods in England, but in 1449 Henry negotiated a treaty with King Kristian (Christian) that prohibited English trade with Iceland without his permission for the next two years.

In 1453 King Kristian appointed the chieftain Bjorn Thorleifsson to govern Iceland and resist British trade. In 1456 while on a voyage to Iceland Bjorn and his wife were captured by the British and taken to England. In 1463 Kristian decreed that Icelanders could not trade with any foreign merchants who did not pay the duty levied on Icelandic goods going to Norway; but in 1465 he made a friendship treaty with England’s Edward IV, who agreed to get permission from the King of Norway to trade with Iceland. After a while Bjorn Thorleifsson was allowed to go to Iceland, and he had duties strictly collected; but angry British merchants killed him in 1467. His wife Olof paid a ransom for her son and sent forces to attack the defiant merchants at Rif. They seized three ships and killed many sailors; fifty more were captured and released. In 1468 Olof and her son sailed to Denmark and told King Kristian what happened. He sent Thorleif Arason to govern Iceland, and four English ships were seized in the Sound as compensation. War was declared in 1469, but the English trade continued. They made a peace treaty in 1474.

Bishop Marcellus of Skalholt was German and did not even go to Iceland but used it for income until his death in 1460. His successor Jon Stephansson Krabbe died in 1465, but the next three bishops of Skalholt were native Icelanders—Svein Pétursson 1465-75, Magnus Eyjolfsson 1477-90, and Stephan Jonsson 1491-1518. Jonson was a good administrator and maintained the cathedral school.

Bishop Olaf Rognvaldsson of Holar engaged in several lawsuits to make his adversaries pay fines, and he died in 1495. His successor Gottskalk Nikolasson lived with a concubine, and he was also rapacious to acquire property for himself and his children. He was arrogant and came into conflict with leading men. He ordered the lawman Jon Sigmundsson to come before him at Holar and levied heavy fines when he refused. Jon cleared himself of most of the accusations; but he was banned, and his wife was summoned to Holar. She was forced to confess and pay a fine of 300 hundrad. Bishop Gottskalk summoned Jon again and imposed more fines on him. He appealed to the King and the Archbishop, who sent Jon to Bishop Stephan Jonsson of Skalholt. He upheld Gottskalk’s decree, and Jon agreed to pay 200 hundrad and obey the rules. After Jon was wounded with a knife in Holar, both bishops put him under a ban for refusing to appear again. Jon went to the King who gave him a letter of protection and instructed the Governor of Iceland to make sure he got his estates back. Yet Bishop Gottskalk bribed the Governor and had Jon pushed off a bridge into a river, but Jon was rescued. Chieftains tried to form a confederation to protect themselves from the aggressive bishops, but the people were too much under their influence. Jon Sigmundsson died in poverty in 1520 the same year as Gottskalk Nikolasson died.

In 1481 Kristian’s son Hans became king of Denmark and Norway. He agreed to a convention with the Swedish and Norwegian councils that prohibited Hanseatic merchants from trading with Iceland. On January 20, 1490 King Hans and King Henry VII made a treaty to allow free trade for seven years between Iceland and England and also for Holland and the Hanseatic cities. Englishmen who had established themselves in Iceland were driven away in 1510 or 1511, but they came back in 1512 with enough force to capture one of the royal ships and kill one of the King’s secretaries. King Hans was succeeded by his son Kristian II in 1513, and he complained to Henry VIII. He also issued an ordinance against Hansa trade with Iceland.

Iceland 1517-1600

Copyright © 2009-10 by Sanderson Beck

EUROPE & Humanism 1400-1517 has been published.
For information on ordering click here.

EUROPE & Reform 1517-1588

Milan and Venice 1400-1517
Florence, the Medici and Machiavelli
Rome, Popes, and Naples 1400-1517
Italy and Humanism
Eastern Europe 1400-1517
German Empire 1400-1517
Scandinavia 1400-1517
Castile, Aragon, Granada, and Portugal 1400-1517
France’s Long War 1400-1453
France in the Renaissance 1453-1517
England of Henry IV, V, and VI 1399-1461
England 1461-1517
Scotland and Ireland 1400-1517
Erasmus and Spreading Humanism
Summary and Evaluation Europe 1400-1517

Chronology of Europe 1400-1588
World Chronology

BECK index