Denmark in the 17th Century

By | December 18, 2021

The continuous wars, combined with the general collapse of prices, disastrous for agriculture, which occurred in the first half of the century. XVII, greatly impoverished Denmark. Nor did the situation change with the death of Christian IV and the advent to the throne of his son, Ederic.III (1648-70). Although the king had to enter into a compromise with the nobility, even though the royal power was weakened, Frederick III, in 1657, taking advantage of the fact that the king of Sweden, Charles X Gustav, was at war with Poland, declared war to Sweden. But Carlo Gustavo got the better of it and in the peace concluded at Roskilde (February 1658) he forced Frederick III to sell Scania, Halland, Blekinge and Bornholm, with the provinces of Trondhjem and Bohus in Norway. In August 1658, Carlo Gustavo reopened hostilities. But Copenhagen repulsed the onslaught of the Swedes on the night of 11 February 1659; and, thanks to the aid of Germany and the Netherlands, the Danes emerged victorious. The 1660 Peace of Copenhagen gave back Bornholm and Trondhjem to Denmark. For Denmark history, please check

This war had important consequences for the internal life of the country. The king’s desire to nullify the prerogatives granted to the nobles was in accordance with the desire of the bourgeois to escape the grave yoke exercised by the nobility. To this was added that the power of the nobles did not have a very secure basis: their economic conditions were in fact not good and their number was greatly reduced. Finally, they had against the public opinion which made them responsible for all the misfortunes that befell the country. To proceed with an internal reconstruction, the meeting of the States was called for September 1660. About 100 nobles and as many representatives of the bourgeoisie and the clergy participated. Despite the opposition of the nobles, on 13 October the united states and the Rigsraad granted the king the inheritance of the throne for his descendants, male or female: a concession that was signed the following year by the nobles, the clergy and the bourgeoisie. On November 14, 1665, the so-called “royal law” (Kongelov), the Danish constitution, which lasted for two centuries, and which in its essence was the work of Peter Schumacher, better known as Griffenfeldt: with it, the king of Denmark was granted the largest absolute power that ever existed.

The administration of the state was reorganized, according to the Swedish example, on the basis of five councils (collegium), the number of which increased later: the chancellery, the chamber of finance, the admiralty, the council of war and the supreme court. The presidents of the councils, together with Hans Nansen and Hans Svane, formed the Statskollegium, corresponding to the ancient Rigsraad except that its functions were only those of an advisory body. The local administration was also reorganized so that the fiefs were redeemed by special administrative sections, headed by a civil official. With such a strongly centralized government, the reconstitution of the country began very vigorously. The finances were rearranged as much as possible. For the time being, however, trade and industry were in decline and the peasants much tax-burdened.

The real master of the country was, until 1676, Peter Schumacher, who continued the reorganization already begun of the administration and also acted in favor of the ancient Danish nobility, creating a court nobility, formed by counts and barons. Cristiano IV, always fixed in the idea of ​​reconquering the lost provinces of Scania, started the war against the Swedes, known as Scania (1675-79). The Danish hero in the sea, Niels Juel, defeated the Swedish fleet several times and the Danes were able to set foot in Scania for a time; but then they had to abandon it again, and in the peace of Lund and Fontainebleau of 1679 they only obtained that the Swedes give up helping the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp. In fact, the king’s aspirations turned towards Schleswig: but even here, if at first it was possible to expel Duke Cristiano Alberto, the final result was negative. And just the hope of winning the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp dragged Denmark, reigning FHederic IV (1699-1730), in the Great Nordic War, in 1700. Charles XII, brother-in-law of the duke, forced Denmark to make certain concessions in the Peace of Travendal (1700); but when, in 1709, fortune seemed to favor the enemies of Sweden, among whom in the front line was Peter the Great of Russia, Denmark re-entered the contest. In the war, fought from 1709 to 1720, it managed to occupy the ducal part of Schleswig, which was finally recognized in the peace of Frederiksborg, in 1720.

Denmark in the 17th Century