Christoffer von Gabel

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Christoffer von Gabel, portrait of Karel van Mander III from Frederiksborg Castle

Christoffer von Gabel (born January 6, 1617 in Glückstadt ; † October 13, 1673 ) was a Holstein merchant ( merchant ), close confidante of King Frederik III. of Denmark and its governor and diplomat in various fields and one of the most powerful men in Denmark until his fall in 1670.

In the history of the Faroe Islands , he and his son Frederik von Gabel represented the so-called Fork Age (1655–1709) during the monopoly trade over the Faroe Islands (1529–1856) - without ever having set foot on the islands. There he is called Kristoffur Gabel .


Christoffer was born in Glückstadt in 1617, the year this Danish fortress was founded. Not much is known about the origins of his family. So you don't know whether she is of German origin (as the name suggests) or whether it is an old Danish family from northern Schleswig .

His father's name was Wulbern or Waldemar Gabel , but spelled himself Gabell or Gablen (like his son later). W. Gabel was town clerk in the new Glückstadt Fortress from 1620 and royal steward there from 1626 until he was killed in 1628 during the siege of the town in the Thirty Years' War .

His mother's name might be Anna von Horn . Other sources mention her first name Margarethe . Or maybe Waldemar Gabel was married twice.

Early career with Frederik

Nothing is known about Christoffer Gabel's youth. He did not appear in history until 1639, when he became chamber clerk in the Archbishopric of Bremen with the then archbishop, Duke Friedrich of Denmark (later King Frederik III). As such, he was in control of the Duke's income and expenses. From 1642 at the latest, Christoffer Gabel took care of Frederik's business on the Kiel envelope . In 1646 he was sent to Copenhagen to get money from King Christian IV for his son, his duke.

When Frederik ascended to the Danish throne in 1648 , Christoffer Gabel followed him to Copenhagen, where he became royal chamber clerk and envelope administrator. Large amounts of money ran through his hands in both offices, and he was considered a financial juggler, or at least a capable businessman. This gave Gabel a not inconsiderable influence in the state.

Christoffer Gabel was already financially independent at this point. Although his salary with the king was not said to have been particularly high, he owned real estate in Copenhagen and the Duchy of Holstein , was a partner in the African Company and has been helping his king with advances since he took office. Frederik was not only dependent on him financially, but Gabel was also considered a quick-witted man who could make quick decisions - in contrast to the king, who is described as hesitant, doubtful and thoughtful. For example, Gabel was a close advisor to Frederik, and both of them are said to have had one characteristic in common: secrecy and secrecy.

It shouldn't be long before Christoffer Gabel was adequately rewarded for his services. In 1654 he received the lease letter for the Faroe Islands for an annual lump sum of 1,000 Reichstalers, regardless of what he might actually earn there. Christoffer Gabel never visited the Faroe Islands, let alone lived there. For the people there, the fork period (1655–1709) approached, which continues to have an impact today as a national trauma.

Role in the Karl Gustav War

In the short peace phase after the Peace of Roskilde in 1658, Christoffer Gabel was commissioned by Frederik III. three times on a secret mission to the Swedish King Karl X. Gustav on the way: first in February, then in June to Gothenburg , where he negotiated the assignment of territory, and finally in late summer to Kiel . The last meeting with Karl Gustav took place immediately before his embarkation for the attack on Korsør , about which Gabel had no idea.

When he learned of the breach of the peace shortly afterwards in Hamburg , he traveled on to Holland and met the Danish ambassadors Rosenvinge and Charisius, who were then able to convince the States General to help Denmark against Sweden. Gabel returned to besieged Copenhagen on October 29th with Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam's fleet . He personally brought the message of the Dutch aid to the king, who himself actively participated in the defense of the city, which contributed to Gabel's "splendor" at that time.

During the year and a half under siege of Copenhagen, Christoffer Gabel experienced an immense increase in power. He was one of the royal commissioners who made sure to collect money from the population to fund the troops. His influence grew to such an extent that in 1660 he took part directly in the negotiations for the Peace of Copenhagen (June 5). The Trøndelag ( Trondheim ) and Bornholm fell back to Denmark.

Role in the introduction of the Royal Law

Its full weight was shown shortly afterwards with the introduction of the royal law, the "contractual coup" from October 14, 1660. According to the report of his son Frederik von Gabel he had:

  1. the idea of ​​introducing absolutism ;
  2. Frederik convinced to convene the meeting of the estates;
  3. Hannibal Sehested , Bishop Svane and Hans Nansen won for the hereditary kingship ;
  4. together with Queen Sophie Amalie put an end to the King's wavering opinion;
  5. ensured that the word "absolute government" appears in the resolution of the estates on inheritance government.

In Dansk biografisk leksikon (1887–1905) these legends are put into perspective. According to this, the fork should at least:

  1. together with the queen were the king's closest confidante;
  2. probably not the originator, but the main mediator in the conspiracy;
  3. On the afternoon of September 26th, Bishop Schwane and Hans Nansen presented the King's message, in which they could choose with whom to conspire, but could not hesitate any longer;
  4. in the days that followed he was constantly messenger between the king, bishop and mayor;
  5. on 4th / 5th October, when the breakthrough of the hereditary monarchy appeared, stood by the king's side with all his secret knowledge and promised his negotiating partners the king's eternal mercy .

According to the biographer, this is supported by the fact that Frederik publicly thanked him a few years later for his services "especially when we reached the Hereditary Kingdom in Our Kingdoms and Countries".

In November 1660 Christoffer Gabel became pension master and member of the state college and soon afterwards assessor of the highest court. At the same time he was able to get rid of his domestic political opponent Jakob de Petersen , who fled the country.

On January 1st, 1661 he got the Faroe Islands as a fiefdom for life. From now on he no longer had to pay an annual fee, and the fief could be bequeathed to his eldest son Frederik. In 1662 he sold the Faroe Islands to the Copenhagen merchant Jonas Trellund , but not the Faroe Islands or his own monopoly itself.

Rise to the nobility

In 1664 Christoffer von Gabel succeeded in getting an application to the State Chamber, where he was rewarded for his monetary claims on the crown with the Rantzausholm manor on Fyn, including the transfer of the patronage and jurisdiction there. The king granted him the same privileges as a nobleman. In the same year he was appointed secret, state and chamber councilor and governor of Copenhagen.

The man in the background became an official dignitary - Christoffer von Gabel. The former secret diplomat has now been officially sent on missions to Gottorp and Brandenburg . He was also often used for financial matters of the crown, although he resigned as pension master at the end of 1664.

In 1665 he was sent to Holstein to investigate the situation in the Segeberg office together with Hans Schack and Johan Christoffer Kørbitz . As a result, von Gabel exchanged his (now expanded) Rantzausholm estate for the Segeberg lime works in 1667 , which obviously wasn't a bad deal for him. He made up for the loss of Rantzausholm with other goods in Denmark.

Sudden fall

The Dansk Biografisk Leksikon further states:

“When King Frederik III. died in February 1670, it quickly became apparent how much von Gabel's power rested solely on the person of the king. His influence was blown away, although Frederik III. recommended him to his son as a favor. Christian V couldn't stand him as Crown Prince [...] Accusations poured in on him from all sides [...] He said goodbye on April 18, 1670 without sympathy from anyone. "

He died in 1673 without any connection to the court.


Shortly before 1642, Gabel married Armengard (Ermegaard) Badenhop (* Wölpe around 1619 † end of 1699), a daughter of Dr. Johann Badenhop (* Verden around 1575 † ibid. 1659) archiepiscopal Bremen rentmaster, Drost and lieutenant colonel ud Anna v. Lovely.

The following children of Christoffer von Gabel and Armengard, geb. Badenhop, are known:

1. Frederik von Gabel , *? Bremen around 1643 † Copenhagen June 21st, 1708, Herr auf Brantewitz, Barelsee etc., Vice-Governor of the Danish Crown in Norway, mayor in Aggerhuus and Governor in Ferwa; this family flourished until the 19th century.

2. Anna-Louise von Gabel (1647–1659)

3. Johann Pieter von Gabel (1649–1687)

4. Anna Margrethe von Gabel, * July 6th, 1651, † August 26th, 1678, married since 1667 to Conrad Graf v. Reventlow (1644-1708).

5. Valdemar Christoffer von Gabel (1653–1725), unmarried, court squire, chamberlain and privy councilor in Copenhagen.

In addition, Gabel had at least two illegitimate children with Christina von Büchloew:

1. Hans Ditlev von Gabel-Büchloew (1671–1734)

2. Christian von Büchloew (1673–1721)

The later Løgmaður of the Faroe Islands and then the largest Faroese landowner Jóhan Hendrik Weyhe was the son of Christoffer von Gabel's sister.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Wedding poem by Johann Rist, later brother-in-law v. Gabels, in his book "Poetischer Schauplatz", 1646, pp. 164–68, but without the year. In 1642 the "wife of the chamber clerk Gabel" bought a church chair "auff dem Cohr" in the church of Bremervörde.
  2. ^ Son of the rent master Johann Badenhop ud Elisabeth v. Ahlden, Td Dietrich v. Ahlden, Cathedral Vicar of Verden († 1589) ud Mette v. Wienbergen (* Bremen).