Oh, what days! - or - A surviving House of Estridsen

Chapter 4: Return of the King and war in Schleswig
Chapter 4: Return of the King and war in Schleswig

On a cold and rainy October evening, in a small chamber of Akershus castle, softly illuminated by candlelight and the ember of a fireplace sits a young woman by a desk, carefully scribbling on a piece of paper. She is dark of hair, fair of skin and her limbs are slender, worryingly so for a woman so far ahead in her pregnancy. Though scarcity of food is no uncommon hardship for the people of Norway in these times, it is one rarely felt at the very top of society, and one cannot get higher than this woman, for she is no other than Margaret Valdemarsdatter, Queen of Norway. Wed at ten, she has now at the age of seventeen begun living as a married woman with her husband Haakon Magnusson, but it is hardly a happy marriage. Margaret was never a bride of Haakon’s choosing, as little as he was a husband of her choice, and the King has neglected her and her court in most things. That is why Margaret now, pushed to the limit, writes to her husband. She is not requesting jewelry or silk, but provisions for such necessities as food, drink, and clothing to last her and her servants the winter.

Haakon’s neglect stems not from hatred of his wife, and he is hardly living a royally lavish lifestyle himself. Rather, he is putting every moment of time and each penny he can get his hands on to use for a single goal; his year-long struggle with Albert of Mecklenburg, who not only holds Haakon’s father Magnus as a prisoner in Stockholm, but also occupies a throne that Haakon believes rightfully his. In these struggles, Margaret supports her husband in every way she can. Already skilled in the art of negotiations, she toured Norway this summer, propagating Haakon’s cause and collecting what funds she could for it, until her condition forced her into a few months of sedentary life. Early December came her time, and Margaret gave birth to a healthy boy, an heir to the hereditary Kingdom of Norway. The King wished to name the boy after himself, but even in the small things like these, Margaret had her goals set on the larger picture. Surely, once her husband was successful in his struggle, this child would be set to inherit Sweden too. Should he not be given a name to make the Swedes love him then? So it was that the boy was christened as Eric on Christmas day, after the patron saint of Sweden.

As if empowered by the birth of an heir, Haakon saw newfound success in the spring of 1371. Throughout the summer she pushed through the Mälar valley, until in early August, Stockholm could be seen in the distance. But even as the King could watch his promised land, he knew that he too would never enter it. His army was pushed to the limit and Stockholm was much too strong a fortress for him to conquer, especially without ships in the water. Most damning of all was that both the Swedish nobility supporting Haakon and those supporting Albert had reached an agreement of their own, now it was only a matter of making their lieges accept it. The peace outside Stockholm ended seven years of war but left neither Kings truly satisfied. Haakon’s father Magnus was released from captivity and would receive the western Swedish provinces of Dal, Värmland and northern Västergötland to support himself. These were currently under Norwegian control and would in practice remain so. In return for this, Haakon however had to swear off the crown of Sweden on both his and Magnus’ behalf. With few better options for now, Haakon accepted and returned to Norway alongside his father, technically victorious, though certainly not feeling that way.


The rough situation in western Sweden following the Peace of Stockholm in 1371, the red border shows the Danish zone of control and the blue the Norwegian zone.

As Haakon returned to Norway, another King was returning to his own realm further south. Having been on a nearly four year long diplomatic journey, Valdemar was surely proud of his son after seeing how well he had kept the Kingdom together, even when faced by the mighty coalition from Cologne. Proud, yes, but perhaps also a bit worried. The sons of Kings are often impatient when it comes to waiting for their crowns and Junker Christopher had ruled as de-facto King of Denmark in his father’s absence. Would he simply accept stepping down from this authority once his father returned? True, there was a great deal of trust and respect between father and son, and had been for over a decade, but the prospect of power tends to put even the strongest of friendships to the test. Valdemar was usually not a man who enjoyed sharing power, later sources would describe him as a proto-machiavellianist ruler. Thus, it was a surprise to many that as the King returned to Denmark, he started asking for approval from several Bishops to have Junker Christopher crowned as junior King.

The concept of junior Kings was an old one in Denmark, though not a very formalized one, in fact the latest one had been Valdemar’s older brother Eric. Sometimes they were an expression of royal power, as having your heir crowned in your own lifetime was a significant demonstration of authority in an elective monarchy like Denmark. Other times, they were an expression of weakness, as ambitious sons seized power, often with the support of disgruntled nobility. In the case of Christopher, it was perhaps a bit of both. Valdemar was aging, and though he did not see his death as nearing by any means, he did know that he wished his son to succeed him, and electing Christopher in his own lifetime would hopefully guarantee this. In addition to this, Christopher had during his de-facto regency ruled with the close help of an advisory council, and there was the possibility that they would feel like they lost influence with the return of King Valdemar. In short, Christopher needed a certain level of authority to ease the process of Valdemar’s return. Finally, it’s possible that Valdemar simply felt that his son had once and for all proved himself worthy, and as such was deserved of sharing the crown with him. With his near complete grip over his Kingdom, Valdemar pushed through his will, and Christopher was hailed as junior King at the landsting of Viborg and subsequently crowned in the cathedral of Ribe. It was no coincidence that a church in Sønderjylland had been chosen for the coronation, indeed Ribe was Valdemar’s most secure holding in that province. It sent a strong signal that father and son were united in their goal of reclaiming the rest of the province for their shared Kingdom.


Junior Kings who never got to rule alone occupy a limbo-like position in the Danish royal line and are generally not numbered.

In Ribe, Valdemar could look out over the western sea. There, far beyond the horizon, he knew England lay. It was for the King a land of dreams, though one he had never visited. As a young King, as active and ambitious as he remained after 30 years on the throne, Valdemar had dreamed of reliving the feats of his ancestors. There was no King that Valdemar admired as much as Canute the Great, who three hundred years earlier had set sail to the west and taken the English throne for himself. Perhaps his story reminded Valdemar of his own life, none of them had started with much, he with a small piece of Jutland, Canute with some ships gifted to him by his brother. Both had come farther than anyone could’ve ever expected. Valdemar wished to be like Canute, great, but more than that he directly tried to impersonate the old King. Though the old skaldic art was all but lost, Valdemar had sent ships as far as Iceland with the hope of finding someone who could sing the same songs as Canute had heard in his own court. More than anything though, Valdemar also wished to sail west, and to one day sit on the throne of England himself. Occasionally he had been in contact with the archenemy of England, the King of France, about forming an alliance. For no reason but personal desire he had wished to cast his Kingdom into the already decades-long conflict between France and England, but reality always got in the way. There was always a rebellion to put down, a Duke to talk to, a Bishop to bribe. It left little room for great adventures of plunder and conquest like in the olden days. As Valdemar saw the crown being placed on his son’s head he wondered if there would ever be an opportunity, in his lifetime or his descendants. Certainly, that time was not now.


The Estridsens are descendants of Canute the Great’s sister, and while some tried to claim the throne of England once held by him, none came close to succeeding.

With Christopher officially sharing the crown with his father, the royal duo concentrated their efforts to the southernmost part of Denmark, that so long had been dominated by Holsatians. As always both sides fought with steel, words, gold, and crosses. Knights and lords switched allegiance after being convinced by either side, whether that be through force of arms, silvered tongues, or the clinking of coin. Churchmen propagated the cause of whomever they supported and excommunicated those who dared to oppose them. It was all out war, on battlefields and in the courts, in the churches and the marketplaces. Valdemar’s German allies quickly found other matters that needed tending when they couldn’t enrich themselves by plundering Hanseatic merchants, Magnus of Brunswick got into a dispute with the Duke of Saxony and Eric of Saxe-Lauenburg got entangled with the Bishop of Bremen. As the Hansa had ceased hostilities with Denmark following the peace of Stralsund, the conflict between the Schauenburgers of Holstein and the Estridsens of Denmark was for once relatively free of foreign interference. Little by little, the tide turned to favor the Kings of Denmark.

The opposition to Valdemar and Christopher had never been tightly knit, rather it was a loose coalition of various noblemen who generally relied on the Counts of Holstein-Rendsburg for leadership. This is fully natural, what they opposed was after all royal authority, and it was in this matter that they could find unity, but the premise of it was never very stable. As Nicholas was pushed out of more and more holdings in Schleswig, some key players defected to the Danish side. Theoretically, the Duchy of Schleswig was the domain of Duke Henry Valdemarsøn, brother-in-law of King Valdemar and belonging to the Abel branch of the Estridsen dynasty. Henry’s ancestors had been the ones to first try to separate the Duchy from the rest of Denmark after failing to gain the throne, and for this they relied on Holsatian support from the very beginning. It wasn’t long though before the Dukes were superseded in power by their supporters, and soon they were little more than figure pieces for the Holsatian agenda, holding less than one fourth of the Duchy for themselves.

Henry was not an incompetent ruler, and he did try to assert himself against both Denmark and Holstein when he had the chance, but those moments were rare and for the most part he was merely a piece in either’s game. Instead, it was Henry’s mother, Rixa of Schwerin, who took the first decisive action without consulting her son. In 1373 she asked for her, and the fiefs she’d been given on her husband’s death, to be placed under the protection of Valdemar and Christopher. These included the island of Als, with the strategically important castle of Sønderborg. The Kings of Denmark graciously accepted, strengthening their position further in the southern Duchy. Later the same year, Duke Henry signed a peace with Denmark and the year after he too handed over his fiefs to the Kings, placing himself under their protection. By this point the 32-year-old childless Duke’s health was already beginning to fail, and he would pass from this world the next year, ending the Abel line with him. Duke Henry did not only hand over his fiefs to King Valdemar, with it he also gave him the right to redeem land he had pledged to the Counts of Holstein. Most important of these were the castle of Gottorp – the “lock and lever of Denmark” which for over a century had served as the main point of strength for the Holsatian counts in Schleswig. As more and more of the Duchy came under Danish control, Count Nicholas had in fact been pushed all the way back to Gottorp, from which he could only exert control over the southernmost part of the Duchy. When offered the money to redeem the castle, the Count flatly refused. If the Danes wanted Gottorp, the last piece needed to take control over Schleswig, they would have to fight for it.


From its strategic location in the fjord of Slien, Gottorp castle is a prime obstacle for any force entering or leaving Schleswig.
Nice to see this continue! I can't wait to see the father and son duo conquer Gottorp and yeet the Holsatian counts out of Denmark permanently
Chapter 5: Another day
Chapter 5: Another day

Church bells rang, people cheered in the streets and toasted in feast halls and taverns. From Lübeck to Danzig, from Bremen to Cologne there was an uncontrollable joy as word spread. It was not word of something that usually warranted celebration, there had neither been an important marriage, the birth of some royal prince or the beatification of a new saint. No, what brought forth all this exaltation was something that usually produced sadness and mourning. What was celebrated was not life, but death. In the late fall of 1375 word quickly spread across northern Europe: Valdemar IV of Denmark, the evil King who had terrorized much of northern Germany for three decades, had finally been taken from this world and, hopefully, straight into the maw of Lucifer. It is a testament to the King’s success in his struggles against the Hansa and his many other enemies that his end resulted in such unregulated celebration, totally ignoring how it may offend the King’s son who now stood to ascend as sole ruler of Denmark, the Kingdom which had been reborn during Valdemar’s reign. Emperor Charles IV had at least kinder words for the departed, proclaiming in a letter sent shortly after the news reached him that: “We, the Emperor, and he, the King of Denmark, were through long times closely connected to each other by brotherly feelings.”


In Denmark, the cognomen ‘Atterdag’ is usually interpreted as ‘day again’, referring to the King bringing Denmark out of the ‘night’ of the Kingless time. In German the nickname can however be understood as referring to the biblical Judgement Day, painting the King as an apocalyptic figure.

The King had been active and healthy until shortly before his death. In October of 1375, he travelled to Gurre castle in northern Zealand, perhaps to spend some time with his supposed mistress ‘Tovelille’. While staying in his favorite holding, the King suddenly came down with an unknown illness, rendering him weak of body but in no dulling way his mind. There was time enough for both the King’s closest councilors and the Junior King to be summoned. Christopher would be Valdemar’s only family member present when he died, Queen Helvig had passed the year prior, his eldest daughter Ingeborg already in 1370, while Margaret was in Norway. His seven grandchildren were in Lolland, Mecklenburg, and Norway respectively. Valdemar spent his last days reiterating that his men should serve Christopher as loyally and dutifully as they had him. He reminded them that Christopher was already crowned King, and offered some final advice to his son himself. Then finally on the 28th, the King drew his final breath, and with-it Christopher became sole King of Denmark, as Christopher III.

Unlike his father, who had come into royal dignity from previously having had little but his name, Christopher ascended from a position of strength. He was now 34 years old, and had nearly 20 years of diplomatic, military, and governing experience, having taken part in his father’s Kingdom-building project from his teen years onwards. Ingeborg of Mecklenburg, now sole Queen of Denmark, had already provided him and the realm with potential heirs, in the form of the sons Valdemar, Erik and Magnus – the last one named after the Queen’s uncle. Earlier the same year as Christopher became King, the Queen had also given birth to a daughter who was given the name Euphemia after Ingeborg’s mother and her husband’s grandmother. Christopher had served as de-facto regent during his father’s absence during the second Hansa war, and as official co-ruler for the last four years, there could be little dispute over Valdemar’s succession. Thus, even though many of the Kingdom’s enemies cheered and breathed sighs of relief, with their next breaths they prepared themselves for the continued onslaught of the new sole King.

The year before Valdemar Atterdag’s death, there had been another royal casualty; the former King Magnus of Sweden presumably drowned as his ship sank in Bømlafjorden outside the western coast of Norway. Magnus’ death caused the conflict between Haakon of Norway and Albert of Sweden to again blossom up. The later demanded that the provinces ceded to Magnus after the peace of Stockholm be returned, while Haakon refused to give them up. The two Kings bickered, but the nobility of Sweden still preferred the current status quo, and without their support the conflict became little more than a series of minor border skirmishes and raids. There was some spillover in the Danish-controlled provinces of Finnveden and southern Västergötland, those that had come under Danish control through the still unratified Aalholm tractate, especially once King Valdemar died and Albert likewise demanded that these lands be returned. Again, this conflict became little more than a border skirmish, and the Danish position was never truly threatened by what little forces Albert could muster. In fact, the reignition of the conflict suited Christopher fine. With a potential enemy to the north distracted by a low-intensity conflict, he could keep his attention on the south. King Valdemar had not lived to see the reunification of Sønderjylland with the rest of the Danish Kingdom, but Christopher pledged on his deathbed to carry on his endeavors. Firstly though, there were some internal matters that needed tending to.


A few decades after Magnus’ death, a Russian manuscript would invent the myth that the King had survived his shipwreck and gone into exile as an orthodox monk. There is little veracity to this legend, and it was most likely invented to mock the King who’d launched crusades against the Orthodox Russians in his early reign.

Since 1282 Danish Kings had been expected to sign a ‘håndfæstning’ upon their ascension, a document that usually limited their powers over the nobility and guaranteed that their privileges were not overstepped. Now that Christopher was to rule alone, most of the Danish magnates believed it proper that he sign one such document himself, but the King believed that there was no need for this. Valdemar’s håndfæstning had been atypical, it was signed as late as 20 years into his rule, in 1360. It was known as the ‘Decree of the King’s peace’ and was a mixed document in terms of whom it favored. In some regard it limited the King and his officials’ powers over his noble subjects. It stipulated that the King was to call a ‘Danehof’ – a sort of parliament, each midsummer and protected people who took legal action against the King from illegal retribution. In other regards though, it increased royal power greatly. Notably, it explicitly forbade rebellion against the King and stipulated that loss of life and land was the punishment such crimes. In a sense, this made all the regulations on the King’s powers meaningless, for even if the King was believed to be unjust, it was now illegal to rebel against him. The decree had been signed both in the name of King Valdemar, and the at that time 19-year-old Duke of Lolland, now King, Christopher. As such the King felt that the issue of his håndfæstning had already been resolved, and he was not interested in signing a new one that risked re-legalizing rebellions against the King. For the nobility however, getting rid of that article was key, especially since King Valdemar had violated just about every other paragraph of the håndfæstning with impunity, setting a precedent no nobleman wanted to see normalized.

For all their issues with the King’s degree of authority, the current opposition in Denmark had very little solid ground to stand on. Christopher had already been crowned, so refusing to hail him as King was not an option. More importantly perhaps, even when he was merely Junker, Christopher had enforced the right so seize lands of rebellious nobility, particularly doing so in Jutland following the peace of Stralsund. There were still noblemen in active rebellion on the peninsula, but they were cut off from their traditional ally, the Counts of Holstein, who had been forced back to a defensive position in Gottorp. Right before the King’s death, the rebels’ position had suffered another hard blow, as the King managed to convince Pope Gregory XI to excommunicate all the nobles who still were in rebellion against him. As such Christopher’s first action would be to carry out his father’s final and now church-approved vengeance against the Jutish nobility, before turning his attention to Gottorp. With the excommunication in place, Christopher’s methods became increasingly brutal. Many Jutish rebels were executed, but those who surrendered quickly he spared, for the did not wish to start his sole reign with a bloodbath. In fact, the new King even rewarded the nobles who remained loyal to him, returning some of the seized estates – though not nearly as much as most would’ve wanted. Christopher also gave grants to the church for them to hold masses for the departed Valdemar. The celebrations on the continent had not only been insulting to Christopher, they’d also been embarrassing, to think that his father had been so hated that men were openly cheering his death. Tending to his father’s memory and trying to posthumously improve his reputation would be a key secondary objective for Christopher’s reign.


The decree of the King’s peace from 1360.

Christopher spent most of 1376 finally pacifying the last parts of Jutland with a mixture of brutality and mercy, eventually the entire northern part of the peninsula was pacified. It had come at a cost though, while Count Nicholas hadn’t been able to launch any serious counterattack, he had been given precious time to prepare himself for the King’s own advance. Nicholas wasn’t as experienced nor as skilled a commander as his older brother Henry had been, but he was still determined to defend the lands he claimed as his own. His plan was to hold out in Gottorp until some foreign power would intervene on his side, hopefully the Hansa, or until another rebellion could arise in Denmark. Danish forces soon moved down south and occupied the town of Schleswig, from it’s walls the castle of Gottorp was clearly visible, standing on a small island in the middle of the Slien fjord. The besiegers could easily cut off the castle’s northern side, but to cut it off from the south would require a fully-fledged invasion of the Holsatian heartlands, something Christopher was wary to attempt. Additionally, because it was surrounded by water, the castle had ample opportunity to be supplied from the sea. The stymied attackers could only watch from their base in Schleswig as friendly ships unopposed sailed past them to deliver supplies to the defenders.

It was thus clear that Christopher’s forces weren’t going to take Gottorp by simply blocking off the north, and if they retreated the door was open for more Holsatian incursions. Invading Holstein to cut the castle out from the south was likely impossible without major support from some German ally, but in the current situation it was unclear who this would be. Christopher made sure to keep on good footing with the Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg. But convincing him of raising arms against his empowered vassals was hardly realistic. The sea then appeared as the most viable option for the Danes, though it came with its own sets of limitations. Getting ships into Slien would be a risky operation, it came with every opportunity for ambushes from the many hiding-places of the fjord. In addition, the ships which the Danes disposed over were mainly troop carriers, which in battle served mainly as a mode of transportation for soldiers to enter the enemy’s own ships. That would do little good against a castle like Gottorp. Ideally, the Danes would use newer ships, laden with siege weapons like early cannons, but getting those ships would be tricky. The best harbors in the Baltic were controlled by the Hansa and though peace currently reigned between the league and Denmark, that didn’t equate a willingness to provide their former enemy with weapons.


A medieval siege more often considered of long periods of waiting, rather than large-scale assaults.

The problem was that it served Hanseatic interest that Gottorp remain in Schauenburger hands, not only did the Counts serve as a useful counterbalance to Danish power, total control over the Duchy would also empower the Danish presence in the Baltic Sea – possibly letting them threaten Lübeck itself in the worst case. Under the reign of King Valdemar, the mere suggestion of providing warships for the Danes would probably have been met with an uproar from the citizens of Lübeck, but the new King didn’t quite have his father’s fierce reputation. After all, it was Christopher who had given Henning Podebusk free hands to work out the, ostensibly, favorable peace of Stralsund with the Hansa, perhaps he was a man they could work with. Indeed, it was none other than Podebusk whom King Christopher dispatched to lead a new diplomatic delegation to Lübeck, hoping to work out a deal to get him the weapons needed to crack this final nut.

Glambæk was a heavily fortified castle on a minor isthmus on the southern shore of Fehmarn. It was also a strongpoint that was heavily contested during the reign of Valdemar Atterdag. At first held by the Counts of Holstein, King Valdemar besieged and seized the castle in 1358, but merely the year after, Count John of Holstein-Kiel took it back for himself, only to die the year after and again having the castle fall under Danish rule. The island of Fehmarn itself was traditionally considered part of the Duchy of Schleswig, although it was certainly it’s most periphery constituency, located much further to the east in the Baltic Sea than the Duchy’s mainland, closer to Holstein and the Danish Island of Lolland. The castle looms over the Bay of Lübeck, and many ships sailing to or from the city will likely come close to Glambæk’s walls. In short, Danish control over the island was a constant worry for the council of Lübeck, and as such for the Hanseatic League in its entirety. When the prospect of a complete Danish reconquest of Schleswig became reality, these worries doubled. It wasn’t long before Podebusk realized that value of Glambæk as a bargaining chip. With the same boldness he had used in the negotiations at Stralsund, Podebusk offered pawning the Island, including Glambæk itself, to the city of Lübeck in return for the ships and weapons needed to win the siege of Gottorp.

The reaction was strong both in Lübeck and Denmark upon this suggestion. In Lübeck the pros and cons were weighed against each other, like silver coins on the scales during a precious bargain. In Denmark, many considered the suggestion preposterous and believed Podebusk to far be overstepping the authority of his office to even suggest pawning off a piece of the realm. Christopher was however not as negatively set to the idea. Letting go of an island his father had fought for didn’t appeal to him, especially since it’d mean that all Sønderjylland still wouldn’t be under the crown, but Gottorp was by any measure a more important target than Glambæk. With Gottorp under his control the Kingdom’s southern border could finally be secured, Holsatian influence and ability to support Jutish rebels could be ended. And of course, just because a province is pawned doesn’t mean it is gone forever, if his father’s reign had proven anything, it could always be retaken – by force, if necessary, when the time came.


Later reconstruction of how Glambæk may have looked in it’s medieval form.

It's likely that Podebusk also brought up the implication of force during his negotiations, after all the Hansa would like to keep their pawned Scanian towns, wouldn’t they? It would be a shame if the King, with his hopes of seizing Gottorp dashed, decided to turn his forces somewhere else. Naturally Podebusk wasn’t this blunt in his choice of words, but the power balance between the Hansa and Denmark was far from one-sided, and thus could add weight in negotiations when necessary. And so, after many negotiations, the terms were finally laid out. The city of Lübeck would have Fehmarn pawned to it for 40 years, after which the King of Denmark reserved the right to redeem it for a large sum of money. In return, Lübeck would outfit twelve warships with weapons, supplies and crew and put these under Danish command. The negotiations finished in 1378, with the transfer to take place the next year. The Lübeckers believed that they had made the right choice, with Fehmarn as a forward base, they could finally feel safe from any potential Danish seaborne attack, and the island would serve as another base to dominate the Baltic from. Additionally, many felt that the negotiations with Christopher had been far more pleasant than those with Valdemar, perhaps this was the beginning of a fruitful relationship with Denmark, that was certainly good news for the hold on the Scanian coast. As for the Danes, there were mixed reactions. Many felt insulted that the King didn’t trust his own men able to seize Gottorp for himself and disparaged at him pawning of pieces of the Kingdom – it reminded them all too much of his disastrous grandfather and namesake. When the King heard protests from his own men, he supposedly responded that his father had pawned Estonia for the sake of winning Denmark, so why shouldn’t he pawn Fehmarn for the sake of winning Sønderjylland?

Most of the complaints however fell silent when the fleet arrived. It was made up of large, heavy cogs, upon which both traditional siege weaponry and modern black-powder weapons were mounted. Hanseatic warships had often been a frightening sight for the Danes, but these ones had the colors of Denmark fluttering from their masts. Now it was Denmark’s foes who would tremble in fear, and tremble they would. In the summer of 1379, the new Danish warships carefully sailed into the narrow fjord of Slien, almost to big to be able to maneuver properly, the slowly snaked their way through the twists and turns of the waters. Eventually, they reached their target at the end of the fjord. The Danish forces occupying Schleswig town met their water-bound allies with cheers, while the defenders of Gottorp despaired at the sight of the new weapons turned at them. The siege continued for a short period, but Holsatian morale dropped to a new low. Not only were they facing a much-reinforced enemy, the new Danish naval supremacy meant that supplying the castle was all but impossible. Soon the defending commander offered to surrender with honor, and he and his men were allowed to leave unmolested with weapons and colors, though utterly defeated in spirit. It is said that many of the men cried as they passed south in Holstein, abandoning the last part of the Duchy they had fought over for half a century. With the news of victory, any doubt that had previously existed about the King’s judgement evaporated. Church bells were ordered to be rung, as news spread of the final defeat of the German invaders. Christopher was hailed as a great restorer, as people forgot about the pawning of Fehmarn, but the island would remain a personal blemish for the King for as long as he lived. Nevertheless, mainland Schleswig was again fully under Danish control, now remained only to be seen if they could hold it. Christopher made sure that funds were diverted to keep a permanent garrison in the castle, as peace finally seemed to return to the Danish Kingdom. Time would tell how long it was to last.


Hanseatic cogs were mainly cargo ships but could be put to great military use with the right equipment and crew.
Intermediate: Family tree
Intermediate: Family tree

Here's a brief overlook of the current Estridsen family tree:

Valdemar IV 'Atterdag' (1320-1375) m. 1340, Helvig of Schleswig (1321-1374)
  1. Christopher III of Denmark (1341-) m. 1366, Ingeborg of Mecklenburg (1344-)
    1. Valdemar (1367-)
    2. Erik (1369-)
    3. Magnus (1372-)
    4. Euphemia (1375-)
  2. Margaret (1345-1350)
  3. Ingeborg (1347-1370) m. 1362, Henry III 'the Hangman' of Mecklenburg (1337-)
    1. Albert IV of Mecklenburg (1363-)
    2. Maria (1365-)
  4. Catherine (1349)
  5. Valdemar (1350-1362)
  6. Margaret of Denmark (1353-) m. 1363, Haakon VI Magnusson of Norway (1340-)
    1. Erik Haakonsson (1370-)
Rest in peace, Valdemar, you did well. And it seems that Christopher is starting his reign off well! Sønderjylland is finally back in Danish hands!
Could this early use of naval force inspire Christopher III to establish a earlier Danish fleet? It would be important part of establish the Sound Dues and potential regaining Estonia.
Rest in peace, Valdemar, you did well. And it seems that Christopher is starting his reign off well! Sønderjylland is finally back in Danish hands!
Yeah, this is the real beginning of the TL, up until now it’s mainly been the same as Valdemar’s otl reign - with some key differences, but things are going to really diverge now that the otl succession crisis has been butterflied.

Could this early use of naval force inspire Christopher III to establish a earlier Danish fleet? It would be important part of establish the Sound Dues and potential regaining Estonia.
Maybe, he’s certainly been something of a naval man so far. There might be the roots of it, but I don’t the infrastructure for a professional navy is really possible in the late 1300’s. The English were establishing their early admiralties around this time, so the beginnings of a more organized navy isn’t off the table.
.Maybe, he’s certainly been something of a naval man so far. There might be the roots of it, but I don’t the infrastructure for a professional navy is really possible in the late 1300’s. The English were establishing their early admiralties around this time, so the beginnings of a more organized navy isn’t off the table.

Maybe he could start with something similar to the later Tøjhus, a place to stack cannons and other naval weapons, while demanding that Copenhagen and other major port should have a few cogs, which in case of war could armed with cannons (and can be used as trading vessel in peacetime) and that the burghers of these towns should have trained crew to use in case of war. It’s not perfect, but it would demand relative little infrastructure and wouldn’t cost the nobility anything or be seen as a threat by them. Over time this could develop into a permanent fleet. A Tøjhus would have the added benefit, that it can be used to built up a stock of weapons and armory in peacetime, thereby creating specialized weapon manufacturing.
Maybe he could start with something similar to the later Tøjhus, a place to stack cannons and other naval weapons, while demanding that Copenhagen and other major port should have a few cogs, which in case of war could armed with cannons (and can be used as trading vessel in peacetime) and that the burghers of these towns should have trained crew to use in case of war. It’s not perfect, but it would demand relative little infrastructure and wouldn’t cost the nobility anything or be seen as a threat by them. Over time this could develop into a permanent fleet. A Tøjhus would have the added benefit, that it can be used to built up a stock of weapons and armory in peacetime, thereby creating specialized weapon manufacturing.
Copenhagen is growing faster here than otl, having not been sacked, so that could be a possibility.
Copenhagen is growing faster here than otl, having not been sacked, so that could be a possibility.

A way to fuel the growth of Copenhagen would be to have Copenhagen University founded earlier (Erik of Pomerania got permission from the Pope to found it already in 1419, but thanks to the political chaos it ended up only founded in 1475). While the faculty and students will likely make up less than 100 people, the relative rich students and faculty will result in a influx of capital into the town’s economy and create some more specialized businesses).
A way to fuel the growth of Copenhagen would be to have Copenhagen University founded earlier (Erik of Pomerania got permission from the Pope to found it already in 1419, but thanks to the political chaos it ended up only founded in 1475).
I think a Scandinavian university is a bit off still, Erik only wanted to found one because there was one founded in Rostock and he desired to be a modern European prince. Unless a source of inspiration can come from somewhere else, England perhaps.

As a side note, Erik actually did start the process of founding a university - the Studium Generale in Lund, but it never grew into a full university due to the aformented chaos.
I think a Scandinavian university is a bit off still, Erik only wanted to found one because there was one founded in Rostock and he desired to be a modern European prince. Unless a source of inspiration can come from somewhere else, England perhaps.

As a side note, Erik actually did start the process of founding a university - the Studium Generale in Lund, but it never grew into a full university due to the aformented chaos.

Scotland founded its first university in 1413, this could serve as inspiration.
Chapter 6: The Young King of Norway
Chapter 6: The Young King of Norway

A lifetime of war does not a body good. Whether victorious or defeated, the stress of battle drains the life and youth of those who partake in it frequently. When Haakon VI died in 1380, those who looked at his lifeless body wouldn’t have guessed that it was a man of only 40 laying before them, had they not known. King of Norway since the age of 15, Haakon’s reign had been marked by defiant resistance against enemies all around, in periods against foreign enemies, in periods against internal rebellion, in other still against his own closest family. Now he’d rest, Haakon’s legacy being the retention of Norway and the westernmost part of Sweden for his family. The succession was clear, as Haakon had left a trueborn son by Queen Margaret, and it wasn’t long after his father’s death that Eric Haakonson was crowned Eric III of Norway. Margaret saw that ‘true heir to Sweden’ was added to Eric’s royal title, after all he had never renounced his claim to the Swedish throne, only his father had. There was of course the issue of the King’s age, he was but a boy of nine years upon his coronation in Nidaros, and Queen Margaret quickly took it upon herself to act as regent until the boy came of age. Few opposed this. With her husband spending almost all his time fighting King Albert in western Sweden, Margaret had already acted as de-facto regent of Norway for years now and done so quite capably. She was simultaneously a careful diplomat and a fierce negotiator, always finding a way to gain more than she gave up in a deal.


Though Haakon had renounced his claim to Sweden in 1371, he continued to use both Norway and Sweden’s arms until his death, his son Eric would do likewise.

But diplomacy is a two-way street, and the soundest of words are wasted on ears that will not listen. King Haakon’s death again rejuvenated the seemingly endless conflict with King Albert, who again marshaled what forces he could and marched west to reclaim the ceded western provinces. Albert was becoming increasingly desperate for new lands, the Swedes had elected him as a figurehead, an institution that should protect noble interest, not seek to overrule it. Once elected, Albert had done what he could to subvert these intentions, but so far seen little success. Though king, his influence stretched scarcely further than Stockholm, Kalmar, and a few scattered royal estates throughout the country. In fact, it was powerful noblemen like Bo Jonsson Grip who held true power in Sweden, having come into possession of large swathes of land that the crown had been forced to pawn off. Thus, money was a constant issue for Albert. If the King was to regain some authority over his subjects, he needed the funds to do so. That is why he so desired new conquests, new sources of income for the crown. The year before Haakon’s passing, Albert’s father, Duke Albert the Fox of Mecklenburg, had also passed. Though not quite as full of vitality as he had been in his youth, the Duke had been the most important source of advice and support, both monetary and military, for the King. With him gone, Albert’s position became ever weaker, and his behavior more careless.

Yet, for a few precious months, Albert did see success in his western ambitions. The King’s forces managed to push not only into western Sweden, but also into Danish holdings, even reaching the Danish heartlands of Halland and Scania. This, however, was a bridge to far for Albert. Margaret had already called upon her brother for support and when Christopher’s own lands came under threat, there was no question that the Mecklenburger King needed to be shown his place. Moving his forces from Sønderjylland to across the Øresund, King Christopher led a campaign of punishment – aided by Norwegian forces. Not only did they throw out King Albert’s armies out of Denmark and western Sweden, but they also proceeded to forage and plunder as far north and east as Jönköping, Örebro and Västerås. It is said that the men filled their cups with water from lake Mälaren and boastingly asked if they should carry on all the way to Stockholm. They would not, however, Christopher knew that Albert still had the ostensible support of the Hansa, and if it started to look like he was going to depose the Mecklenburger outright, the conflict would surely escalate further. Thus, after Albert’s dreams of a western reconquest again had been dimmed and punished, the Danes and Norwegians returned home with wagons laden with plunder.


The biblical ‘murder of the innocents’ was a fairly common motif in medieval Swedish church paintings, perhaps unsurprising considering the violent times it were.

Christopher had enough matters to deal with at home. Sønderjylland had been reconquered, but internal conditions were still being brought into order. It was very important for King Christopher that Holsatian influence not be allowed to return to the province. Men who still held lands on both sides of the border were put under intense pressure to abandon one or the other, and people without former connections to either side were brought in to fill the gaps created by this policy. Sønderjylland quickly gained a reputation as a ‘land of opportunity’, a rich province where loyalty to the King was rewarded regardless of ancestry. While these methods certainly strengthened Denmark’s internal grip on the southern province, it did create grievances both with the men who stayed and those forced out, many who now returned to fully live in Holstein. Count Nicholas still lived and licked his wounds, waiting for the right moment to retake what was once lost. But that opportunity would be hard found. Gottorp was as formidable as fortress in the hands of the Danes as it had been in the hands of the Holsatians, in addition, the ships that Christopher had requisitioned to conquer it could just as easily be used in its defense. Lastly, northern Jutland had been largely pacified in the late 1370’s and it would take some time before a new revolt could spring up there to support a potential assault on Schleswig.

The relative calm allowed questions of a more purely political matter to be asked regarding the province. Duke Henry of Schleswig had died without an heir in 1375, and with him the official title of “Duke of Schleswig” – or indeed “Duke of Sønderjylland”. Was Sønderjylland still a Duchy then, and if so, who was the Duke? If the King so desired, the claim could certainly be made that the title had passed to him, as his mother Helvig of Schleswig was the aunt of Duke Henry. This made Christopher the late Duke’s closest male relative and, presumably, heir, as the Jutish law which was followed in Sønderjylland allowed for inheritance to be passed by women. Christopher was however weary of adopting the title, using it would infer that the province was a separate unit from Denmark, which would be counteractive to his goal of reunifying it with the Kingdom. But there could also be benefits to using the title. Count Nicholas had briefly called himself ‘Lord of Jutland’ during his early successes in the second Hanseatic war, and though he’d now been kicked out of that part of the country that title still echoed in rebellious-minded ears. If the King would also use the title of Duke it would send a clear signal of who was actual in charge of the province.


The traditional arms of Schleswig, bearing clear resemblance of the arms of Denmark – and indeed the Estridsen family.

There was also a need to strengthen the rest of the country, not only the south. Copenhagen was growing at a faster rate than any Danish time in human memory, being the only viable alternative in the Øresund for merchants who wanted to avoid Hansa-dominated trading hubs. Encouraged by King Christopher, English merchants became an increasingly common sight in the town’s marketplace. The town was not only a booming commercial spot, it was also a point of pride for the King who had personally defended it in 1368, making it one of only two major coastal defenses on Zeeland which had withstood the Hanseatic attack, along with Vordingborg. Exploiting the town’s growth, Christopher began expanding Copenhagen’s harbor facilities, to make space for the maintenance of his new Hanseatic-built ships. The fact that this was done so close to the Scanian coastal towns probably made the merchants in Lübeck sweat a bit, though the King ensured them that he had not forgotten the treaty that bound him – until 1385. In general Copenhagen became a way to counteract Hanseatic influence in Denmark without open hostilities, something the King was very keen to do. There would be even more opportunities to do so shortly.

The Hansa had not only interest in Denmark, but naturally also in Norway, where the traditionally Hanseatic-friendly Folkung Kings had given the league access to essentially do as they pleased, most notably in Bergen – the Kingdom’s largest town. With King Haakon’s death, Norway was however under a Estridsen regency, and Margaret was looking into ways to break the league’s grip on the country. This was no easy task, Norway was not a particularly strong Kingdom, having been ravaged with plague and social upheaval for decades, as well as a near-constant resource-draining conflict to the west. A direct conflict would likely prove disastrous for Norway. Instead, Margaret would employ means of subterfuge. Through secret dealings with her brother, the Skagerrak and North Sea soon saw a greatly increased activity of pirates, who nearly always targeted Hanseatic ships. When asked if the crown had anything to do with this, Queen Margaret denied, while simultaneously hinting that trade in Norway would probably be a lot safer if the crown itself had the influence to oversee it. Finding these pirates proved tricky however, though Hanseatic patrols scurried Norwegian coasts and fjords for them they rarely found any, for though they only sailed in Norwegian waters, it was in Danish coastlands that they found refuge. When the Hansa questioned King Christopher of this, he became indignant and made it clear that it would be a breach of the peace of Stralsund for the Hansa to encroach on Danish coasts outside of Scania. Thus, through this careful tag-teaming, the Hanseatic presence in the north slowly began to suffer. As time passed, the 15-year truce drew ever closer to it’s end though, and with it the promise of continued conflict between the League and it’s rival Scandinavian siblings.


Seal of Margaret Valdemarsdatter as regent of Norway.
Chapter 7: We, the King, and he, the Duke
Chapter 7: We, the King, and he, the Duke

The 1380’s had so far proven to be a relatively peaceful and prosperous time for the Danish Kingdom. With Denmark fully reemerged as a Kingdom, tradesmen and craftsmen felt safe to return to business, while roads and trade routes became safer to travel thanks to the quelling of unruly elements of society. Yes, there were continuous skirmishes on the Kingdom’s eastern borders with Sweden, yes part of the Kingdom was still under Hanseatic occupation and the southern border was still very much in a process of being secured, but things were calm enough for a sense of normalcy to arise. With it came a steady flow of cash to the crown, though the income from the Skanør herring market was sorely missed still. There was still an issue of money. Danish coinage had come to an end in the 1330’s and King Christopher was looking into rejuvenating it. Problem was that with the Hansa still retaining such a powerful position in Danish trade, any large-scale reintroduction of Danish coins would be a painful process. In fact, Christopher like his father before him preferred to get English and Dutch money into Denmark to counteract the Hansa, rather than trying to domestically oppose them. But the lack of a Danish coin was not only an economic matter, but one of prestige. Thus, King Christopher would re-open several Danish mints, including one in Copenhagen, though their purpose was mostly one of personal glory and they would for now contribute little to the Danish economy.


The Danish cattle trade grew considerably from the late Middle Ages onwards, and the stabilization of the Danish south certainly helped making the trade route towards continental Europe safer.

Chirstopher’s eldest son Valdemar was soon to come of age, and it was time for him to start partaking in politics, like his father had at that age. The King was grateful that his son’s first assignment wouldn’t be negotiating with rebels like his had been, but he did worry that the boy wouldn’t learn the necessities of rulership like he had been forced. Both the King and various councilmen, like Henning Podebusk, had tried their best to educate the young Valdemar, but they both knew that practical experience was what mattered most in these matters. Thus, Christopher decided that Junker Valdemar was to receive a Duchy of his own. Christopher had been given Lolland and Halland by his father, but neither would be given to his son, instead he intended to invest Junker Valdemar as Duke of Sønderjylland. The conditions of the enfeoffment would be controlled, as the King did not wish to restart the cycle that had torn the Duchy away from the Kingdom last century. At the Danehof of 1383, in the presence of the nobility of the realm, these matters would be sorted out.

The document worked out in the summer of 1383 was carefully formulated to fulfill the political vision of King Christopher. It stated that the Duchy of Sønderjylland was the rightful property of the eldest son and heir of the Danish King and was only ever to be held by him. This formulation fulfilled several purposes. Firstly, it specified that the Duchy was, by nature, connected to the Danish monarchy, without explicitly needing to state whether it was a part of the Danish Kingdom. Secondly, it disarmed legal arguments that could be made based on the Constitutio Valdemariana – a document from 1326 stating that Denmark and Sønderjylland should not be under one and the same Lord. While the document had proven ineffective as a mean of stopping the Duchy from falling into Danish hands by force of arms, it did remain as a potential roadblock in the future. By placing Denmark proper under the King, and Sønderjylland under the King’s eldest son, the constitution was essentially rendered moot. It is possible that Christopher was inspired by titles such as the Prince of Wales, or Dauphin of France and wished to create a title specifically for the heirs of Denmark as well. Lastly the formulation ‘heir to the Danish King’, was pushed through as a subversion of the elective monarchy in Denmark, without being a direct challenge. Denmark was not a hereditary Kingdom, thus there was no heir to the Danish Crown, but the King’s eldest son was still in more general terms his heir. Thus, while the formulation of ‘heir of the Danish King’ does not necessarily mean ‘heir of Denmark’, it certainly implies it. In general, the Nyborgsbrev as it became known, was both a demonstration of Christopher’s authority, and the transformation of Denmark into a late-medieval more organized state.


Whether the Constitutio Valdemariana, sealed by the puppet child-king Valdemar III, ever had been legally binding was a matter of debate, a debate King Christopher desired to put to rest forever.

While royal authority was high in Denmark, the opposite could be said about Sweden. After the failure of 1381’s campaign, what little authority the King retained continued to evaporate. Albert was forced to repeatedly sign so-called “royal guarantees”, comparable to the Danish håndfæstning, in which the King had to promise that he would take almost no action without the royal council agreeing with him. The fact that several of these had to be signed, however, perhaps betray that King Albert wasn’t completely without power. If that had been the case, there had been little need to repeatedly curtail it. For all his limitations in Sweden, the King still had his home base in Mecklenburg, in which he held more personal influence following first his father, and now his elder brother’s death in 1383. Albert was thus the head of the Mecklenburger family, and his younger brother Magnus loyally acted as a de-facto governor of most of the King’s Mecklenburger possessions. Thus, the King though almost rendered powerless in his own Kingdom, could never truly be turned into the complete puppet that the Swedes desired him to be.

As for the Swedish magnates, among them there was one that clearly had ascended higher than any other, Bo Jonsson Grip. Already a prominent landholder during King Magnus’ reign, Bo’s possessions had steadily expanded under King Albert. The pace of which he acquired new land only increased after 1381 and would peak at around one-third of all Sweden, including the entirety of Finland, in his hands. With these holdings of course came political power, and invested as officialis generalis, he now acted with near royal authority himself. Indeed, foreign dignitaries would often not bother seeking out the king for negotiations but go to Bo Jonsson directly. It is perhaps ironic that having made the King promise to never act without the consent of the council, Bo, a member of the council, now acted without the King. Bo was very aware of his power, and must have felt quite untouchable, openly killing another noble with whom he had a quarrel – in a church none the less, and walking away without consequences, in this life that be. For all his power on earth, Bo was also starting to worry about what should happen after his life ended, to his memory, his immortal soul. These worries would have consequences in the future, but for now they remained inside Bo’s head.


Approximation of Bo Jonsson Grip’s possessions and pawned lands, highlighted in yellow.

So it was that in late 1384, King Christopher III sat on what seemed like a very solid position and presumably planned his next move. In preparation to this, the King announced that he would journey south to Italy, and presumably other places, leaving the Kingdom in the hands of Henning Podebusk. But the King never got further than Falster, just south of his old home Duchy. At the Castle of Nykøbing he came down rapidly with an unknown illness, at first it wasn’t believed to be very serious, but it quickly transformed into a high fever. The King managed to express that he wished to be buried in Sorø where his father also lay, and that his eldest son should succeed him, by the next morning Christopher’s life had left his body. In total Christopher III of Denmark ruled for 13 years, four alongside his father and nine as sole King, but he had started affecting the fate of the Kingdom long before he received the crown. His reign saw the rounding up of many projects started by his father, most notably the reconquest of Sønderjylland, and the beginning of many new ones. He had taken well care of the legacy left by Valdemar Atterdag and maintained a high degree of royal authority, it was now up to see if his own legacy would survive this rather sudden break, and how the heirs he left behind would thread through the world built by their forebears.
Damn, Christopher did not last long. Hopefully Valdemar V can continue his father’s and grandfather’s legacy
Well that's (alternate) life. :p Not all kings can rule for decades on end, as for living up to his legacy, well let's just say things will move quickly in the next couple of updates.
Part 8: An election, a deposition and a death
Part 8: An election, a deposition and a death

It did not take long for news of King Christopher’s death to spread, Junker Valdemar – or as his proper title now was, Duke Valdemar VI of Schleswig, received the word as quickly as possible. At that time, the 17-year-old Duke was still in Sønderjylland where he had been installed merely a year prior. Valdemar quickly uprooted himself and began his journey north to be hailed as his father’s successor. Unlike Christopher, Valdemar had not been elected as Junior King in his father’s lifetime and would need to be so in the regular sense. This was however not as big an issue as one may have feared. Valdemar was as the eldest son of the previous King the most obvious candidate and had the support of the men who had been loyal to his father, as well as the dowager Queen Ingeborg. In addition, his younger brothers; Erik and Magnus, were both too young to properly challenge Valdemar’s candidacy. The specifics of Valdemar’s ascension were still up do debate, however. The sections of the Danish magnates who had lost influence during the previous two Kings reigns now saw a chance to regain some of their lost privilege.

At first, Valdemar suggested that he could simply renew the guarantee that his father and grandfather had signed, but this was met by opposition by the Danehof. Instead, the magnates asked for the return of seized lands, guarantees against further reductions and perhaps most of all the elimination of the clause forbidding rebellion. With little experience, the young King was both at risk of caving to these demands or push back too aggressively against them, but luckily, he still enjoyed the advice of senior statesmen like the aging Henning Podebusk who understood a thing or two about negotiations. Speaking from experience, Podebusk reminded the King that Valdemar’s namesake grandfather had signed a very restrictive håndfæstning upon his own ascension, mimicking that of Christopher II’s, but managed to decisively subvert it throughout his reign. He advised the Junker to seemingly give in to some of the magnates’ demands, and gradually build towards a grander goal, rather than trying to seize complete power in one fell swoop.

So it was that Valdemar signed a seemingly paradoxical håndfæstning, in which he promised that he would uphold the rights and privileges given by former king – even though these often did contradict each other. The vagueness was intentional, as it meant the document could hold whatever meaning the reader desired it to have. Who held the real power in Denmark would as always be determined by the realities on the ground – as it always really was. Following the signature of the håndfæstning, Valdemar would tour his Kingdom to be hailed as King Valdemar the Fifth in Viborg, Ringsted, Lund and – as the first King since the 12th century, Urnehoved in Sønderjylland. With this maneuver Valdemar took another important step towards cementing Sønderjylland as intrinsically connected to the Danish crown.


The four main tings of the Danish realm, with Urnehoved in Sønderjylland marked in red.

Foreign congratulations on the King’s ascension arrived from Valdemar’s aunt Margaret and his cousin Eric, who was nearing his majority. The King’s Norwegian family hoped that the cooperation of the two Kingdoms would continue and be as fruitful as it had been during his father’s reign. With the spectacle of royal election and coronation had finished, the year 1385 had arrived, and with it the first matter of great importance for the 18-year-old King: the end of the Treaty of Stralsund. If the King had shown moderation towards his subjects, he intended to be decisive against in the foreign matter and demonstrate that Hanseatic influence over Denmark would end with his reign. Valdemar summoned representatives of the League to Vordingborg and informed them that their time in the Scanian cities had passed. They would freely and willingly leave Skanør, Falsterbo, Malmø and Helsingborg or the King would have to remove them himself. Their position in the cities having already been undermined and being offered an easy exit, the Hansa folded and King Valdemar could make a victory tour of the Scanian coast unopposed. This would prove a boost both to the King’s prestige and popularity amongst the realm’s burghers, as well as royal income, because through regaining control over the eastern towns, control over the herring market returned as well.

The newly found royal funds would be put to good use by the young King, who had plans for the southern parts of his realm. The capture of Gottorp had made major incursions into Sønderjylland by the Holsatians difficult, but there were still undefended and unguarded parts of the southern border. This made raids and hold-ups by German robber knights a common occurrence and harmed the otherwise growing trade that was arising in the region. Valdemar V turned to an old third party of the region, the Frisians, for help. Though lacking a feudal nobility to provide heavy cavalry, Frisian peasant militias had themselves often challenged both German and Danish armies through the clever usage of terrain and improvised fortifications. The King would begin to employ Frisians as border patrols, as well as to constructing light fortifications all along the southern border of Sønderjylland. Though small in numbers at first, the formation of these Frisian bands were arguably the first standing military units of the Danish Kingdom employed directly by the King.


A Frisian foot soldier from the 14th century.

While the young King of Denmark was busy solidifying his grip on his own Kingdom, another death would seriously rock the north on the 20th of August 1386. On this day, Bo Jonsson Grip, the most powerful man in Sweden – including King Albert himself, passed away. In his will he left most of his lands not to his own son, but various magnates all over Sweden. This did not please his widow, Greta Dume, who asked for King Albert to act as her guardian and to help her claim her husband’s inheritance for her and her son Knut. Seeing the opportunity to put vast swathes of lost lands back under royal control and perhaps finally challenge the limits put upon him by the nobility, Albert agreed. It was clear that neither side could accept the other one coming into possession of these lands, and that the matter would not be settled peacefully.

Perhaps it was because Bo Jonsson no longer was able to influence to decisions of the Swedish magnates, perhaps it was because of the sheer mass of land at stake, or perhaps King Albert had shown himself unwilling to submit just one to many times. In either case, the Swedish rebels would not be happy with another guarantee from King Albert – no, the time had come to depose him fully. As such, they turned to the son of the King they themselves had helped depose two decades earlier – the young King Eric of Norway. Bygones be bygones, Margaret Valdemarsdatter, still regent for the 15-year-old King, immediately looked for ways to seize this opportunity for her son. She knew however that her own Norwegian forces would not be enough to decisively defeat Albert, her late husband’s life was a test to this fact. With the help of her nephew though, there was a chance, it wasn’t long ago that Danish forces had pushed into the Swedish core territory around the Mälar valley, they could do so again. The question was now only if it would be in King Valdemar’s interest.

Young and ambitious, with a desire to be seen as an equal to his forebear, Valdemar jumped on the opportunity to win some glory on the battlefield – and to secure his eastern border. Recurring low-intensive raids and warfare had characterized the Dano-Swedish borderlands for decades now, but if a friendly ruler was placed on the Swedish throne these could hopefully come to an end. Albert, realizing that he would soon face the full wrath of not only his dismayed subjects, but both of his western neighbours, left Sweden to gather a force of Mecklenburger and German mercenaries in his home duchy. At the same time, a meeting between the Swedish rebels, Margaret, Eric, and Valdemar was planned to be held in the castle of Bohus to concretize their plan. Before this could happen however, another turn of fate would rock the political situation of the north. The teenage King of Norway came down with a rapid sickness while staying in the castle and passed away at the mere age of 16. The war of deposition had all the sudden turned into a succession crisis.


Part of Eric III’s grave*, showing the Coat of Arms of Norway

*Otl’s Olaf II/IV’s grave, which for some reason doesn’t show the Danish Coat of Arms.