Margarethe I.

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Image on Margaret's coffin (1423)

Margarethe I ( Danish Margrete I ; * 1353 on Søborg Slot , today Gribskov Municipality ; †  October 28, 1412 in Flensburg ) was ruler of Denmark , Norway and Sweden and founder of the Scandinavian empire of the Kalmar Union (1397–1523 ).

Margarethe, who was never crowned but called herself Queen of Sweden from 1375, plays a central role in the history of all Scandinavian nations. She is one of the most important holders of political power in the Middle Ages and one of the great women in world history .

Her goal in life was the unification of all northern European states in the hands of their families and their rule. It is true that the crowned kings in Scandinavia were first their underage son Olav (1370-1387) and, after his early death, their also underage great-nephew Erich von Pomerania (1382-1459), who inherited a huge empire after their death. But she was since the death of her father Waldemar (1320-1375) the true ruler of Denmark, after the death of her husband Håkon († 1380) that of Norway (with his possessions Greenland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Shetland Islands and Orkney Islands in the North Atlantic) and after a successful campaign also the ruler of Sweden .

Live and act

Margarethe was the youngest daughter of the Danish King Waldemar IV. Atterdag and his wife Helvig , the daughter of Duke Erich II of Schleswig . On April 9, 1363 she was ten years old with the Norwegian King Håkon VI. Magnusson , a son of the Swedish King Magnus II. Eriksson (1316-1374), married. So this was king of Norway and Sweden. Her tutor was Merete Ulvsdatter, the daughter of St. Birgitta of Sweden . She had her first and only child in 1370 at the age of 17 in the middle of a plague epidemic that struck Oslo and the surrounding area where she was staying.

In 1375 her father Waldemar died unexpectedly at the age of 55. She was 22 years old at the time. With the help of his loyal Drosten Henning Podebusk, Waldemar had brought the position of the Danish royal family far forward during his reign. However, since the death of her brother Christoffer in 1363, there has been no direct male heir to the Danish throne. Margarethe continued her father's government program and also adopted his method of filling all key positions with loyal followers, whereby she benefited from the fact that her father had already filled all key positions in the church with followers and partisans and had developed a good relationship with the church.

With the support of Henning Podebusk, Margarethe was able to get her son, Olav Håkonson , who was only five years old, to become King of Denmark. Together with the Danish Imperial Council , she exercised the reign for him from 1375-1385. However, she did not receive the title of Danish queen, as this was reserved for the wife of a king or an elected and crowned person. She herself was never crowned either. Therefore, she was only Queen of Norway and Titular Queen of Sweden in her time, to which her husband Håkon VI. Inheritance claim raised, called.

Personal union Denmark-Norway

Seal of Margaret I, 1381 and 1403

After the death of her husband Håkon in 1380, Margarethe also took over the Norwegian reign for their son Olav until 1385. The year 1380 thus marks the beginning of the Danish-Norwegian personal union , which ended after the Peace of Kiel on January 14, 1814. The well-known Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen , looking back with bitterness, described this time as the “400 Years Night” for his people. Similar assessments can be found in the national historiography of Greenland , Iceland and the Faroe Islands , for which 1380 is also a key date in its own history. Because these overseas holdings of Norway now fell under the direct rule of the Danish crown and should remain so for a long time - with effects to this day.

Seal of Margaret I, 1390

Olav died in 1387 at the age of 17. One week after the death of her son, Margarethe was recognized by the Danish Imperial Council as the Danish ruler in the Lund Cathedral . In Denmark at that time the electoral kingship was in effect . So it was agreed on Margarethe as interim ruler (as Frue og Husbonde og hele rigets Formynder ) until an agreement on the (male) successor was to be reached. The Norwegian Imperial Council followed in February 1388 and elected her  to Norges mæktige Frue og rette Husbond - despite the hereditary kingship in Norway .

Kalmar Union

One month later, in March 1388, the Swedish Imperial Council elected her to the Fullmäktiga Fru och Husbonde . The Swedish king at that time was Albrecht von Mecklenburg , with whom the Swedish Imperial Council had major problems. With the backing of influential Swedish circles, Margarethe began a war against him, from which she emerged victorious in February 1389 in the battle of Åsle near Falköping in West Götaland .

Equipped with this abundance of power, Margarethe could decide for herself who should be the future king. She decided on her great-nephew Erich von Pommern (also Erik, actually Bogislaw Wratislawsson; around 1382-1459), the son of her niece Maria, who was her recognized heir under Danish law . He was recognized as Hereditary King by the Norwegian Imperial Council as early as 1388 when he was still a minor. In Denmark and Sweden, Margarethe was not able to establish Erich as her preferred candidate until 1396.

A symbolic act of great historical importance was to follow: On June 17, 1397, Erich was crowned King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden in Kalmar at the same time - the founding of the Kalmar Union . Margaret's plan to unite the three Scandinavian states into one great empire thus worked. She received the general power of attorney for the imperial administration . The respective imperial councils and different legal norms of the three states should remain in place.

Death in Flensburg

In October 1412 Margarethe and Erich drove to Flensburg in order to secure the following of the Flensburg merchants there. The aim of this trip was to tie the Duchy of Schleswig firmly to the empire. There Margarethe suddenly fell ill with a plague (= red dysentery ) and died on October 28 on a ship in the Flensburg harbor (see also the legend of the death of Queen Margarethe in the Flensburg harbor ).

The now thirty-year-old Erich was now the sole ruler of the northern empire, which also included Schleswig, Holstein and the Norwegian neighboring countries of Greenland , Iceland , the Faroe Islands and the Shetland Islands and Orkney Islands . He continued his great-aunt's policy, but was deposed in Denmark in 1439 and in Sweden and Norway in the years thereafter.

Today's traces of Margaret

Margaret's sarcophagus can be viewed in Roskilde Cathedral . In contrast to the other 37 kings who were buried here and who rest in side rooms, it is located in the middle of the altar, at the most prominent place in the world cultural heritage . The lid of the sarcophagus is adorned with a life-size figure of the great ruler made of alabaster . The original tomb was completed in 1423 by the Lübeck sculptor Johannes Junge (a discarded fragment is in the Lübeck St. Annen Museum ); However, since the smaller decorations were damaged, removed in the late 18th century and only replaced between 1862 and 1912, the statue is probably the only original part that has survived.

In the history of the city of Flensburg , Margarethe I appears not only as the most prominent victim of the plague of 1412, but also as the builder of the historic Marienburg, the later Duvenburg or Duburg . This castle should help to perpetuate the Danish rule over the Duchy of Schleswig . The Duburg no longer exists. Today the German-speaking Schloss-Duburg-Schule stands on the former grounds of the castle - municipal trade schools and a group of rental houses. Next to it, where the gatehouse, a building for the horses and grooms, once stood, and through which one could get to the forecourt, the Duborg-Skolen , the older of the two Danish grammar schools outside the Danish kingdom , is now on a section of the building in question . A new extension to the school is located roughly where there was at times a palace garden. The adjacent street is now called Margarethenstraße.

It is no coincidence that the Danish Queen Margrethe II, who has reigned since 1972 , is called that way: Margrethe II has been the first regent to the Danish throne (whose headquarters were moved from Roskilde to Copenhagen soon after the death of Margaret I ) since 1412.

See also


  1. Lars O. Lagerqvist: Sverige och dess regenter under 1000 år . Norrtälje 1976, ISBN 91-0-041538-3 , pp. 53, 103.
  2. Haug, p. 41.


Web links

Commons : Margaret I of Denmark  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
predecessor government office successor
Olav II./IV. Queen of Denmark
Olav II./IV. Queen of Norway
Albrecht of Mecklenburg Queen of Sweden