Norway History – Dissolution of Feudalism (1319 – 1536) Part II

By | December 17, 2021

In his “Danish capitulation” Christian III had to promise that from that moment Norway would cease to be called an independent kingdom and would become an integral part of the kingdom of Denmark as a Danish region. But he could not and did not want to keep this commitment, and the denomination of the kingdom of Norway never disappeared in official documents and in the spoken language. In reality, however, the two kingdoms were governed as a single state with the same state institutions, the same high officials and the same political system. The two countries had a common foreign policy, but with the consequence that, being Denmark the stronger of the two kingdoms, its interests prevailed. Even in domestic politics, despite the commitments of the capitulations,

The Danes also had bishop seats, and consequently sat on the council of the kingdom. The revenues of the Norwegian state, very small after all, went to Denmark where the king generally resided and, without the help of the council of the kingdom, governed the country. For Norway 2011, please check

The capital problem of Norwegian and Danish foreign policy was the struggles with Sweden. The first great war against Sweden (the Seven Years’ War, 1563-70) was aimed at the possession of Norway which the Swedes claimed to conquer, and the lordship of the Baltic Sea, where the Swedes contested the primacy of Denmark. At peace neither party had territorial advantages. The following war with Sweden (Kalmar War, 1611-13) had as its purpose, in a certain way, the lordship of Finnmarken. The two wars were fought mainly with mercenary troops, which however demonstrated the need for a new defense organization and led to the establishment of a Norwegian national army, in 1641, after an unfortunate attempt in 1620. The new army was baptized by fire in the war against the new great Swedish power (1641-43), known under the war name of Hannibal. Despite the Norwegian victories, King Christian IV was forced at the time of peace to cede the Norwegian provinces of Jemtland and Herjedalen; and the Swedes continued their progress even in a new war (1657-60) which ended with the peace of Copenhagen, in which the king had to cede another territory of southern Norway, Bohuslän. And since the neighboring Danish territories were also ceded to Sweden, the twin kingdoms became geographically distant from each other, which over time had political consequences. Cristiano V tried with a new war to regain the lost territories (1675-79), and Norwegian army recaptured almost the entire Bohuslän region, but, at the time of peace, no change took place. During the Great Nordic War (v.Nordic, war) the Swedes under Charles XII tried to conquer Norway: in 1716 the capital Christiania was occupied for a few months by Swedish troops; but a new Swedish invasion in 1718 ended with the death of Charles XII. Not even this war brought about a change of borders.

During the whole century. XVIII the Danish-Norwegian foreign policy was oriented towards Russia, both because of the enemy common, Sweden, and because of the question of the Duchy of Holstein, a question to which Norway was extraneous.

During the great European wars from the middle of the century. XVIII onwards, the Nordic countries repeatedly concluded alliance of armed neutrality to defend their trade and their fleet. Denmark and Norway also concluded treaties with the Barbary states of the Mediterranean, from which they achieved greater safety for their navigation in that sea. During the wars of the French revolution and the Napoleonic ones, the Danish statesmen managed to conduct a successful policy of neutrality until 1807. In 1807 the political situation became such that the Danish-Norwegian government was forced to choose between an English alliance and a French alliance. Norway’s interests were absolutely geared towards Great Britain, and when the choice became necessary, the government was prepared to follow that path, even if it wanted to delay as long as possible. Meanwhile the English government thought it knew that Napoleon was conceiving plans for the occupation of Denmark to secure the Norwegian-Danish fleet and the lordship of the Baltic Sea; and so she demanded that the Norwegian-Danish fleet be handed over to her as a pledge of fidelity. The claim being rejected, the British fleet besieged and bombed Copenhagen (September 1807): as a result, the Norwegians and Danes entered the war alongside France, which was in keeping with the interests of Denmark, but ruinous for Norwegian trade.

An attempt to remake a new Nordic union in the following years failed, and when the Marshal of France J.-B.-J. Bernadotte, elected successor to the Swedish throne (with the name of Charles John) renounced Finland and entered the war on the Russian-British side against Napoleon to have Norway, the war ended with the Peace of Kiel (January 14, 1814), with which Norway it was ceded to Sweden, while Denmark continued to hold the former Norwegian possessions: Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

Norway History - Dissolution of Feudalism (1319 - 1536) Part II