Denmark in the 15th Century

By | December 18, 2021

The work of Queen Margherita, who died in 1412, was compromised under her successors. The first, Erik of Pomerania (1412-39), faced a revolt by the Swedes, and was deposed in 1439. During the reign of his successor, C ristosoro di Baviera (1439-48), who was subsequently elected in all three kingdoms, there was the progressive and continuous strengthening of the nobility, which managed to obtain a direct interference in the administration of the state, by means of the Rigsraad, an assembly of nobles and high prelates, who inherited the functions of the Danehof and the ancient king’s council. Instead, the condition of the peasants worsened, subjected to serfdom on the islands. With the death of Christopher without heirs, the throne passed to the house of Oldenburg, in the person of Count C ristianoI (1448-81). At the same time, however, Charles Knutsson, called Charles VIII, was elected king of Sweden: and only in 1450 the assembly of Halmstad decided that Christian I should be king of Norway, and that the one of the two kings who survived the other, should finally reign over all over the North. In the same year Norway joined Denmark with a special agreement. In 1454, after a revolt broke out in Sweden, Cristiano also became king of Sweden; but in 1471, defeated near Brunkebjerg, he had to renounce that kingdom. In 1460 he was also elected king by the nobility of Schleswig and Holstein; but he had to force himself to keep these two countries “undivided forever”. H ans, son of Cristiano (1481-1513), having failed to negotiate to peacefully get back the crown of Sweden, he had to buy it with arms; but the Swedes soon rose up, driving the Danes out of their country. C restII, son of Hans (1513-23), reconquered the country in 1520 and obtained the appointment as hereditary king of Sweden, but the famous bloodbath of Stockholm (8 November 1520), which he carried out against his adversaries, unleashed against the Swedes; and the unity between the two countries was definitively broken. In Denmark, the efforts of Christian II to improve the trade of Denmark, to the detriment of the trade of the Hanseatic cities, provoked disagreements with Lübeck (1522); his attempts to limit the power of the nobility, relying on the bourgeois and peasants, provoked a revolt in 1523 led by the nobles of Jütland belonging to the Rigsraad. Christian II fled to the Netherlands and his uncle F ederic was elected kingI (1523-33), during the reign of which the nobility increased its influence through the increased powers of Rigsraad and through the new rule that only the nobles could obtain fiefs. For Denmark history, please check

But the Reformation was already taking hold. The propaganda was undertaken by Hans Tausen, who had his Confessio Havnica accepted (1527): in 1525-30 the cities of Viborg, Malmö, Copenhagen and a large part of the bourgeoisie throughout the rest of the country passed to the Lutheran church. The new doctrine found many followers among the nobles, who viewed among other things the landed property of the clergy, about a third of the whole country, with the evil eye. Thus, in the meetings held by the Rigsraad in Odense (1527) and Copenhagen (1530), some first concessions were made to the evangelical religion. But when King Frederick I died (1533), having not yet elected his successor, Catholic tendencies prevailed in Rigsraad. The opposition, formed by the Lutheran bourgeois, made an alliance with Lübeck and tried to come to the aid of the old deposed king Christian II, and to give him back the royal crown, with the so-called “war of the count”). Faced with this, the Rigsraad appointed Duke Christian (C ristiano III, 1539-1559) king, who commissioned Johan Rantzau, commander of the army, to subdue the bourgeois and peasant rebels, partisans of Christian II. The battle at Øxnebjerg (1535) and the surrender of Copenhagen subjected the whole country to the king. The following year it was decided to pass the country to the Reformed Church, which was organized in Denmark according to the provisions of the ecclesiastical ordinance of 1537, under the direction of Bugenhagen, a disciple of Luther. The ecclesiastical assets were forfeited; Catholics lost all political rights; the priests, under penalty of death, were barred from entering the country.

At the same time, it was decided that Norway should no longer form a kingdom on its own, but simply constitute a part of Denmark, like Seeland and Scania: although in reality Norway retained a part of its independence, continuing to have its chancellor, its Herredage and one of his lieutenants. There was also a strong increase in royal power at the expense of the nobility. The king distributed the fiefdoms as he pleased and not exclusively to the nobles; he greatly limited the influence of Rigsraad and strongly centralized the administration, placing the officials under severe control. The dominion of the nobles over the peasants remained intact; and since from the middle of the century the sharp rise in the prices of agricultural products began, even in Denmark, the noble owners were able to strengthen their economic situation.

Christian III was succeeded by his son Federic II (1559-88), who immediately after taking the throne conquered Dithmarschen. But his attempts to conquer the Baltic countries put him in collision with the Swedes: thus originated the Nordic Seven Years War (1563-70), at the end of which things remained the status quo, except that the Danish finances went out. shattered. It was Peter Oxe’s credit for rearranging them, so that Frederick II’s successor, C restianIV (1588-1648), found the town in prosperous conditions when he came to the throne. Also active in the works of peace, Christian IV characterized his reign above all for foreign policy, which led Denmark to the great conflicts of central Europe. Commercial disputes and border conflicts in Lapland first led to the Kalmar War (1611-1613) against Sweden. Denmark emerged victorious, but without lasting gains. Then, in 1625-29, there was the Danish intervention in the Thirty Years War. The peace of Lübeck of 1629 recognized the former territories to Denmark; but at the same time the king antagonized the Netherlands, irritated by the high cost of the Sund tax, and Sweden (see Christian iv). The epilogue of the conflict was the invasion of the Swedish general Torstenson in Jütland (1643). The Danes achieved a great naval victory at Kolbergerheide (1644). But the war ended with the defeat of Denmark, which in the peace of Brömsebro (1645) had to surrender the provinces of Härjedalen and Jämteland, the islands of Gotland and Ösel and, for 30 years, also the province of Halland.

Denmark in the 15th Century