Valdemar Atterdag, ca. 1321-1375

Artikler

King of Denmark from 1340 to 1375. Especially known for having re-established the royal power in Denmark after its total collapse in the beginning of the 1300s. His nickname – Atterdag – is, to our knowledge, contemporary, but its meaning is uncertain. Perhaps it refers to a phrase meaning something like ‘what times!’ Valdemar IV is buried in Sorø Abbey Church.

 

Valdemar Atterdags sarkofag
The Sarcophage of Valdemar IV. From Danmarks
Riges Historie (1896-1907).

 

 

The Road to Power

Valdemar was the third and youngest son of Christoffer II and Queen Eufemia of Pomerania, and was born around 1321. His oldest brother Erik, who had been chosen to rule along with his father and succeed him in 1322, died after being wounded in a battle against Count Gert of Holstein at the end of 1331. The second oldest brother, Otto, unsuccessfully attempted to drive the Holstein pledgees out of Denmark by force in 1334 and was imprisoned by Count Gert until 1341. After the capture of Otto, exiled Danish resisters, along with Northern German powers who had an interest in restoring the Danish kingdom, turned their gaze towards Valdemar.

Redemption of the Danish pledges, 1340-1365

By now, it was clear to the Holstein counts that all that mattered was escaping the always-rebellious Denmark with the large sums intact they had lent to earlier Danish kings while receiving large parts of the kingdom as security. The result of intensive negotiations and the intervening murder of Count Gert was a highly complicated agreement, according to which Valdemar would marry the sister of Duke Valdemar of Schleswig, Helvig, and receive Vendsyssel and Thy, as well as the area around Aalborg, as a dowry. He would then in time redeem the rest of his pawned kingdom, with the help of additional taxes from the Danish population.

This process went relatively smoothly in Jutland. On the other hand, Valdemar spent several years fighting persistent German lords and other pledgees on Zealand, Lolland and Falster.

In 1346, Valdemar sold Estonia to the Teutonic Order, which by then already occupied the Estonian castles. This freed up additional funds that he could use for reclaiming the Danish lands. He gained control of Funen through regular war with the Holstein counts; the western part of Funen was not reclaimed until around 1365, however.

Consolidating the power

It was a foregone conclusion that Denmark would be ruled from castles, and as Valdemar expanded his territories, he constructed new royal castles and reinforced the existing ones.

Early on, Valdemar was given strong support by the Church, which had had a particularly bad experience with the unstable conditions under the Holstein pledgees. He also gradually reached an understanding with the Pope, which meant that the king would nominate the bishops and other higher clergymen to be appointed in Denmark. Because of this, Valdemar eventually gained complete control of the Church. In return, the Holy See was allowed to tax the Danish church. During a visit to the Pope in Avignon, the Golden Rose – a papal token of reverence – was bestowed upon Valdemar.

Valdemar also made a point of preventing freeholders from giving up their farms to landowners, thereby becoming tax-free and depriving the Crown of income. He also appears to have reformed the tax system for freeholders and cities, which in turn increased the Crown’s income. Furthermore, he developed the royal court of justice into an effective instrument of power.

Three times, Valdemar IV’s strict reign resulted in the Jutlandic magnates rebelling, with support from the Holstein counts. At least the final two rebellions were mainly caused by Valdemar’s attempts to confiscate parts of the nobility’s lands, in order to stretch their economy thin while strengthening that of the Crown. However, Valdemar managed to suppress the rebellious magnates, after which they were forced to hand over further lands as punishment. Political murder was another tool employed by Valdemar in his fight against the rebels.

Foreign policy after 1360

After consolidating his power, Valdemar took advantage of a favourable opportunity in 1360 to wrest control of Scania, Halland and Blekinge away from the Swedish king, Magnus IV – despite the fact that Valdemar had made a solemn promise in 1343 that Scania et al would forever belong to the Swedish crown. The conquest marked Valdemar’s transition to a more offensive and expansive foreign policy. The following year he conquered the Swedish islands of Oland and Gotland in the Baltic, although he would lose control of them a year later.

The Hanseatic towns were growing increasingly displeased with Valdemar’s treatment of them, particularly at the Scania Market. This eventually led to a Hanseatic fleet mounting a large-scale attack on the area around the Sound; however, it was defeated by Valdemar. After Albrecht of Mecklenburg was proclaimed king of Sweden in 1363-64, Valdemar apparently decided to support his Norwegian son-in-law, Haakon VI, against the Mecklenburgians, which led to Valdemar receiving large areas of Southern Sweden, as well as regaining Gotland.

At the end of the 1360s, however, Valdemar faced a coalition of Mecklenburg, Sweden, the Hanseatic towns, Holstein, the Duchy of Schleswig, and rebellious Jutlandic magnates, who attacked Denmark in 1368. Earlier, Valdemar had gone to Northern Germany to persuade enemies of Mecklenburg to ‘stab them in the back’. However, the Mecklenburgians defeated their Northern German attackers, and the coalition conquered a number of Danish castles along the Sound coast.

In 1370, however, success was made at negotiating a separate peace with the Hanseatic towns. This peace treaty – known as the Treaty of Stralsund – meant that the Hanseatic towns would control the Scanian coastal castles, and with them the Scania Market, until 1385. This also enabled Valdemar to make peace with the Mecklenburgians and Sweden, which meant that the Mecklenburgians assumed control over Lolland as security for a large sum of money. Following this, Valdemar was able to coerce the rest of his enemies into making peace.

The final years of Valdemar’s reign up until his death October 24th 1375 were focused on securing the inheritance of the Schleswig line of dukes, which was dying out.  Because of the turbulent period after Valdemar’s death, however, these positions were lost to his successors, as the Holstein counts used the opportunity to take over the Duchy of Schleswig.

 

Valdemar Atterdags sarkofag
The Signet of Valdemar IV. From Danmarks Riges
Historie (1896-1907).

Valdemar’s descendants

Valdemar had several children through his marriage to Helvig, of which one son and two daughters would survive until adulthood. His son, Christoffer, however, died an early death in 1363. The daughters Ingeborg (1347 – ca. 1368) and Margrethe (1353 – 1412) were married to Duke Henrik of Mecklenburg and King Haakon VI of Norway and Sweden, respectively. They both gave birth to a single son, and it seemed apparent that one of these would be chosen to succeed Valdemar. After a lot of trouble, Margaret and her son Oluf would seize the power in Denmark.

Om artiklen

Forfatter(e)
Anders Bøgh
Tidsafgrænsning
1321 - 1375
Medietype
Tekst
Sidst redigeret
20. juni 2011
Sprog
Dansk
Litteratur

Bøgh, Anders: Sejren i kvindens hånd. Kampen om magten i Norden ca. 1365-1389 (2003).

Reinhardt, C.E.F.: Valdemar Atterdag og hans Kongegjerning (1880).

Tägil, S.: Valdemar Atterdag och Europa (1962).

Udgiver
danmarkshistorien.dk

Relateret indhold

Om artiklen

Forfatter(e)
Anders Bøgh
Tidsafgrænsning
1321 - 1375
Medietype
Tekst
Sidst redigeret
20. juni 2011
Sprog
Dansk
Litteratur

Bøgh, Anders: Sejren i kvindens hånd. Kampen om magten i Norden ca. 1365-1389 (2003).

Reinhardt, C.E.F.: Valdemar Atterdag og hans Kongegjerning (1880).

Tägil, S.: Valdemar Atterdag och Europa (1962).

Udgiver
danmarkshistorien.dk