James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) online

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distinct class. They received special privi-
leges, and later, in addition, their own
officials, from the king, whose protection
they often sought. The burghers formed
guilds or clubs, the members of which
pledged themselves to mutual help, and
in this way they increased in
union, strength, and import-
ance. The most influential
towns were Schleswig and
Ripen. Copenhagen owes its importance
as a town to Absalom, who erected a castle
near the old harbour " Hafn."

After the death of Waldemar II. (Seir)
a time of misfortune began for Denmark ;
the kingdom quickly sank from its height
of prosperity. Waldemar's successors
were not equal to him in ability and
might. The friendly relations between the
king and the nobles ceased, the magnates
temporal and spiritual rose against the
king. At the imperial assembly (Danehof),
which had then the greatest legislative
and judicial power, the nobles constantly
endeavoured to increase their power by
means of laws which they extorted from
the crown. Unfortunately for the em-
pire, Waldemar had given large appanages
to his younger sons. They and their
descendants now wished to be independent,
and were the cause of much trouble to
the kings ; especially dangerous were the
dukes of South Jutland, because they
were protected by the Count of Holstein.
The whole land was torn with strife.

The kings, who were often in need of
money, finally took refuge in the per-
nicious expedient of mortgaging parts of
their dominions, and as they were not able
to redeem them, they were lost to- the
kingdom. Disorganisation and confusion
steadily spread and ruin threatened.
During this time of turmoil and war the
peasants were compelled to bear the
charges of the general misrule ; their
How only way of protection was to

Liblrty WM place themselves under a lord
Lost k and become his "Vornede"
(villeins). In this way the
peasants gradually lost their freedom.-
The condition of the burghers was not
much better. The members of the Hanse-
atic League made their way into the
towns, received various rights, and wrested
the traffic with the continent from the
burghers. The vigorous shipping industry,
which the Danes and Norwegians had

carried on from the earliest times on the
North Sea and the Baltic, now ceased.

The situation was worst during the
reign of Christopher II. (1319-1332).
In order to become king he had to grant
an " election charter," which deprived him
of almost all his power. The most im-
portant portions of the country were
mortgaged, and his rule was limited to a
few boroughs. The greatest mortgagee was
Gerhard (III.) the Great, Count of Holstein,
who possessed the whole of North Jutland.
After Christopher's death, in 1332, Gerhard
was the real ruler of the country.
Christopher's son, Waldemar, remained
in Germany. But Gerhard's arrogant
behaviour drove the Jutes to take up
arms against him. He was killed on
April ist, 1340, and Waldemar, who now
returned to Denmark, was elected king.

Waldemar IV., surnamed Atterdag
(1340-1375), was prudent, capable, and
not over-scrupulous in his choice of the
means to be employed in consolidating
the kingdom and re-establishing the royal
power. The distant Esthonia he sold in
1346 to the Teutonic Knights, to obtain
, funds for the redemption of

Waldemar s TT

c more important provinces. He

Success j j i /-

. _, ., succeeded also, m 1301, in con-

and Failure . , % ~ ' , ,

quenng the island ot Gothland,

together with the city of Wisby, but this
brought him into conflict with the Han-
seatic League. For a time victory favoured
the Danish arms ; but when the League,
Mecklenburg and Sweden allied them-
selves against him, Waldemar's position
became desperate. In spite of these odds,
however, he was in the end able to con-
clude peace without ceding any of his
territory. At home Waldemar's efforts
were directed to the maintenance of the
royal prestige. He won over the nobility
by the charter of Kallundborg in 1360,
and contrived both to add to the crown
lands, thus increasing his own revenues,
and to extend the judicial power of the
throne. In suppressing lawlessness and
restoring order, he acted with firmness
and energy, but at the same time with
such merciless severity that he enjoyed
but little popularity among either the high
or the low.

With Waldemar's death, in 1375, the
Estridian line was extinguished, but he
left a daughter, Margaret, whose son,
Olaf, was elected king in 1376. He was,
however, still a child, and his mother,
the wife of Haakon VI. (Magnusson) of


Norway, acted as regent. Four years
later Olaf succeeded to the Norwegian
throne, with the result that Denmark
and Norway were united in 1380, a
union which continued almost without
interruption to 1814.

Olaf died in 1387, when Margaret
became queen-regent of both kingdoms, to
which she before long succeeded in adding
Sweden also ; for the Swedish lords,
dissatisfied with the rule of their king,
Albert, invited her intervention, the
result being that Albert was defeated

with the conditions proposed. For while
the terms of the act recognised the perfect
equality of the three states, Margaret,
following her father's policy, wished to
establish the supremacy of Denmark.
In addition to this, she was dissatisfied
with the limitations to be imposed on the
royal power, while at the same time the
Norwegians were opposed to some of the
conditions laid down. Thus it came about
that no real union was concluded at
Kalmar ; but for a while the three king-
doms remained united in fact, and this


Burne-Jones has, in the above decorative painting's, given striking' conceptions of three of the deities of Norse
The first is Odin, the supreme god, the bestpwer_pf wisdom and valour; the second, Freyja, goddess

er "Mjolnir."

__ iupre .

the spring and fertility ; and the third is the son of Odin, Thor the Thunderer, wielding his hammer

and taken prisoner in 1389. In the same
year, and again in 1396, Margaret secured
the election of her great-nephew, Eric
of Pomerania, to the thrones of all
three kingdoms, and in 1397 she
summoned representatives of the nobility
of the three countries to a meeting
at Kalmar for the purpose of defining
the character of the union.

Eric was duly crowned, and the text
of an Act of Union was drawn up ;
but -the act never became law, owing,
presumably, to Margaret's disagreement

actual union is known as the Union of
Kalmar (1397-1523).

If the union-kings had been wise and
capable, these three nations, with their
common interests and characteristics,
might have coalesced and been welded
into a powerful Scandinavian state ;
but for the most part these kings looked
upon themselves as Danish kings, for
Denmark was the predominant partner,
and the royal residence was fixed in Den-
mark. They showed little concern for the
welfare of the other two kingdoms, visiting


them but rarely, and seeking only to
exploit them for their own purposes.
Under such treatment these states felt, and
rightly felt, themselves to be neglected;
they became dissatisfied, and this dis-
satisfaction led to continual
revolts. Thus the period of
the union became a time of
discord and strife ; instead
of creating a strong and
united Scandinavia, the
union produced enmity
and hatred between the
northern peoples.

With her prudence and
energy, Margaret, who kept
the reins of government in
her own hands until her
death, had been able to
maintain peace at home, but
after her death, in 1412.
discord broke loose. Eric of
Pomerania aimed at


was rife. At last he was deposed in 1439,

and his nephew, Christopher cf Bavaria

Christopher III. made king.

On the death of Christopher III., in

1448, the union was actually dissolved;
for the Swedes raised their
former viceroy, Karl Knuts-
son, to their throne, while
the Danes chose Count
Christian of Oldenburg, who
two years later became king
of Norway also. Christian
I., it is true, as well as his
son John (1481-1513) and
his grandson Christian II.,
strove to renew the union
with Sweden, where there
existed a Danish party. The
two former, indeed, suc-
ceeded, in 1457 and 1497,
in making themselves kings
of Sweden, but not for long.
Christian II., therefore,

tinuine his foster-mother's On the death of oiaf, in iss?, Margaret attempted to crush the

became queen-regent of both Denmark c _.:_:.*. f r p-unlt in Swpflpn

policy, and endeavoured to an d Norway, to which kingdoms before spirit 01

Henrive the counts of long she added Sweden. She held the by the execution of a num-

1 reins of government till her death in 1412. , J ^Kii;t,7 ^lat-rrir

Holstein of the dukedom ber of the nobility, clergy,

of Sonderjylland, or Schleswig, which and townsfolk in what is known as the

Stockholm Blood-bath, November 8th,
1520 ; but the only result was a fresh re-
bellion, which ended in the final separation

of Sweden
from Den-
mark in 1523.

they had acquired on the extinction
of the ducal line in 1375 ; but after a
struggle of twenty years' duration he was
obliged t o
give up the
attempt. At
the same

time he was
waging an
war with the
Hanseat ic
League. This
was embit-
tered by the
manner i n
which he
favoured the
Dutch, and
by his levy-
ing of tolls on
vessels pas-
sing through
the Sound.
The taxes
which he

There were troublous times in Norway and Sweden, and even in Denmark, when
Christopher III. mounted the throne in 1439, and when he died, in 1448, the Swedes
receded from the union. Christian II., king of Denmark and Norway, attempted
to crush the spirit of revolt in Sweden, but the only result was a fresh rebellion.

was compelled to impose for carrying on
the war aroused much dissatisfaction, and
complaints of bad government were made.
Rebellions broke out in Norway and
Sweden, while even in Denmark discontent


they lost
Sweden in
the manner
above de-
scribed, the
their power
in another
On the ex-
tinction o f
the Schauen-
burg line,
Christian I.
had been
elected duke

and count of
Holstein on March 2nd, 1460, on condition
that these states should remain for ever
undivided. The attempt, however, to
subjugate the independent people of Dith-
rharsh ended disastrously at Hemmingstedt


on February I7th, 1500. During this
period the royal power, which had been
consolidated by Waldemar IV. and Mar-
garet, grew weaker. The Danehof ceased
to exist, and its place was taken by the
Rigsraad, or council of state, an inde-
pendent body whose consent the king was
forced to obtain in important matters.
Through the medium of the Rigsraad,
which had developed out of the royal
council, and whose most important mem-
bers were the Drost later Lord High
Steward the Marsk, the Chancellor, and
the Bishops, the nobles increased their
power by making .
use of the con-
ditions imposed
on the kings at
each election to
increase their
privileges. None
but nobles were
allowed to ad-
minister the fiefs
(the administra-
tive districts), the
revenues from
which most of
them enjoyed in
return for mili-
tary service and
money payments
to the crown.
They were exem pt
from taxation and
had considerable
power over the
peasantry, while
their only duty
was the defence
of the country.
At the same time
the position of the
peasantry deteri-
orated, and the
number of peasant owners of " odal "
(allodial) land steadily decreased. The
majority of the peasantry were tenants
who were in some districts Zealand, Lol-
land, and Falster tied to the soil ; they
were bound to pay to their overlords
various dues, such as fines on succession
and land tax, and in addition to render
labour service. The towns fared better,
for the kings recognised that the privi-
leges enjoyed by the Hanseatic League
were injurious to the Danish merchants,
and therefore, without exception, did all
in their power to put an end to the supre-


macy of the League; they curtailed its
privileges, concluded commercial alliances
with the Netherlands, England, Scotland
and France, and created a navy with
which they hoped to secure the mastery
of the North Sea and the Baltic.

The last union king, Christian II., was
especially solicitous for the welfare of the
townsfolk and the peasantry. He was a
gifted, enlightened, and energetic ruler,
but at the same time passionate, incon-
siderate, and suspicious, and frequently
revengeful and cruel. From his youth
onwards he hated the nobility and ^the
higher clergy,
whose power he
constantly en-
deavoured to
diminish. To the
conditions on
which he was
elected king he
paid no heed, for
he aimed, like the
other European
sovereigns of his
time, at making
his own power
absolute. In his
struggle with the
ruling classes he
relied on the
support of the
commonalty, for
whom he always
entertained a
special prefer-
ence, and whose
position he im-
proved by numer-
ous laws. In
consequence h e
was loved by
them, while the
nobles, on the
contrary, feared and hated him to such
an extent that they at last renounced
their allegiance and offered the crown
to his uncle, Frederic of Holstein-

Losing heart, Christian took ship for
the Netherlands in April, 1523, to
claim the assistance of his brother-in-law,
the Emperor Charles V. Eight years
later, towards the end of 1531, he made
an attempt, with Norway as his base,
to recover his throne, but without
success, and died a prisoner in the castle
of Kollundborg on January 25th, 1559.


Woman ot Aalesund,

Norway /

Peasant women of Thelemark

A peasant man of Thelemark











IN Norway, or Norge originally Nord-
^ vegr, that is, the Northern Way the
primitive political conditions persisted
longer than in Denmark and Sweden.
Even as late as the ninth century the
land was divided into many petty states.
The kings of these districts had but
little power. In the herad, or sub-district,
and district assemblies (ting) the yeomen
exercised their legislative and judicial
power ; in the latter it was the chief-
tains, in the former the heads of the
temples, who had the greatest influence.
The peasantry were partly allodial,
partly tenant . farmers, and dwelt on
scattered farms ; no towns existed, but
there were market centres, which were
frequently visited by foreign merchants.

The Norwegians themselves also visited

foreign countries to barter their wares. In

addition to agriculture, stock-raising,

hunting, and fishing, commerce was an

, important means of liveli-

orway s j^^ an( j ^g Norwegians
Great , ,,

. . enjoyed the reputation of
Warriors , J , , ,

being capable merchants.

About the middle of the ninth century
there lived in the district round the fiord
of Christiania a royal race descended,
according to tradition, from the Yngling
kings of Upsala. To this race belonged
Halfdan the Black, a great warrior who,
at his death, was master of South-eastern
Norway. His son Harald (about 860-930)
conceived the idea of subjugating the
whole country, and vowed never to cut
his hair or beard until he had achieved his
object. The petty kings who did not fall
in battle were forced to flee, and after his
victory in the Hafrsfjord, near Stavanger,
in 872, he became the sole ruler, whereupon
he had his hair and beard trimmed, and
received the surname Haarfager (Fairhair).
Harald declared himself owner of the
soil, and the peasantry, who had until then
been free from taxation, were compelled
to pay him taxes. The kinsmen of the
old chieftains he attempted to propitiate


by choosing from among them his higher
officials, or J arls. But as their rank usually
descended by inheritance to their sons,
a nobility grew up which soon formed a
party of opposition to the ambitions of the
crown. Many of the old chiefs, however,
were unable to accommodate

' themselves to the new order
Chiefs Settle , ,, , , ,, , , -

c .of things, and left their native

in Scotland ,, , , . , , , ,

soil, betaking themselves to the

Scottish islands and avenging themselves
on Harald by their raids on Norway. He
therefore led an expedition against the
islands, subjugated them, and compelled
all who would not brook his sway to seek
refuge still further away. Many of them
migrated to the Faroe Islands and to Ice-
land, which had been discovered in 867,
and now received its first population.

As Harald had conferred kings' titles
on all his sons, the unity of the kingdom
was endangered when he died, and the
Danish kings interfered in the hope of
gaining the overlordship for themselves.
Of Harald's sons, the youngest, Haakon
the Good (935-961), deserves special credit
for his legislation and organisation of the
military forces. He had been educated
and baptised in England, and on his
accession made the first attempt to con-
vert his people to Christianity. But the
peasantry would have none of the new
doctrine, and he was himself obliged to
take part in their pagan sacrifices. His
work was continued by Olaf I. Tryggvesson
(995-1000), and completed by Olaf II.
Haraldsson (1016-1030). Both in their
youth had visited foreign lands as Vikings
and accepted baptism. After

me Y their return and accession to
. the throne they worked
Christianised . . .

zealously to convert their

subjects, and dealt severely with all who
were recalcitrant. The temples were
destroyed and churches were built, while
clergy were brought over from England,
with the consequence that the Anglo-Saxon
Church influenced the Norwegian in several



respects. Thus the country was indeed
Christianised ; but it was long before the
last remnants of paganism disappeared.
The organisation of the Church was also
Olaf Haraldsson's work, and he promul-
gated the first ecclesiastical law. By
exterminating the petty kings of Harald
Fairhair's race
he became the
second unifier of
the kingdom.
But his strict rule
and his attempts
to increase the
royal power at
the expense of
the self-willed
nobility caused
the latter to
appeal to Canute
the Great of
Denmark and
England, who
readily followed
their summons
and was made
king of Norway.
Olaf was forced
to flee the
country in 1028,
and betook him-
self to Gardarike,
in Russia. After
remaining there
for two years he
made an attempt
to recover his
kingdom, and
invaded the
northern portion
of Norway with
an army raised
in Sweden ; but
he fell in the
battle of Stikle-


i Born about 8f>0, Haraid Haarfager was the son of Halfdan the Black,

nowever. ki ag O f Upland,

With the reign of Magnus the Good
(1035-1047), who, on the extinction of
the Danish royal house, became king of
Denmark also, there began for Norway a
century of prosperity. A succession of
kings who were skilled warriors as well as
able rulers raised Norway in the estima-
tion of other
nations and in-
creased the wel-
fare of the people
themselves. A
more vigorous
international in-
tercourse of a
friendly nature
was established.
The towns which
had been founded
by the kings, the
most important
of which were
Nidaros now
Drontheim -
Oslo, and Ber-
gen, increased
in number and
great ness;
churches and
monasteries were
built, and the
dioceses of the
bishops regulated .
Foreign customs
and habits were
introduced, and
in addition
the European
system of educa-

This period of
prosperity ceased
in the twelfth
century, when
Norway was dis-
organised for a
long time by dis-

small district in Norway. He was onlv ten putes Concerning
years of age when he became king. The iilustration shows a Norse the Crown



sorceress consulting her familiar~in the form of a raven, a sacred
regretted What bird among the Northmen, with regard to the career of Haarfager. 1240). it IS true

had been done, Froni lhe drawin e b v Frederick Sandys the crown had

and the nobles found their hopes dis-
appointed. There spread rumours of
miracles worked by the dead body of the
fallen king, and as early as 1031 Olaf was
canonised by the bishop. The nation rose
against Danish rule, and in the year 1035
Olaf's son Magnus, who had been left in
Russia, was proclaimed king of Norway.


the crown
been hereditary in the family of Harald
Fairhair. But every king's son, legitimate
or illegitimate, had a right to it, and many
who were not of royal birth declared that
they were, and to prove the truth of their
assertion underwent the ordeal by fire.
In this period the power of the magnates
increased, 'since the contending kings


were compelled to purchase their help by
compliance ; at this time the clergy also
became more powerful. The Norwegian
Church, which was at first subordinate to
the Archbishop of Bremen, and later, in
1104, to the Archbishop of Lund, but the
real head of which had> been the king,
became independent in 1152. with the
Archbishop of Nidaros as its head.

The archbishop made it his aim to free
the Norwegian Church from the power of
the laity, and to provide for it the same
influence which other European churches
possessed. In 1 161 one of the most power-
ful chiefs, Erling Skakke, had succeeded
in getting his son Magnus elected king,
and wished him to be crowned by the

little success. His followers were few in
number, poor and miserable, and were
nicknamed " Birchshanks," because for
lack of shoes they bound their feet with
birch-bark. They were, however, a brave,
intrepid, and persevering band, who
shrank from neither danger nor toil.
After some years Sverre was victorious
in 1184. By the death of many of the
chiefs belonging to Magnus' party the
power of the magnates had become
weakened ; their posts were given by Sverre
to his " Birchshanks," who had remained
faithful and obedient to him. However,
the struggle began again when Sverre
was about to restrict the power of the
Church. Sverre was excommunicated by


In an attempt to recover his kingdom, Olaf Haraldsson fell in the battle of Stiklestad in 1030. As a Viking in his early
youth, Olaf had visited foreign shores, but he accepted Christianity, and after his accession to the throne of Norway he
laboured zealously to convert his subjects. The nobility rebelled against him, and appealed for assistance to Canute
the Great of Denmark and England, who, readily responding, was made king of Norway. Olaf fled from the country
in 1028, but returning two years later with an army raised in Sweden, met his death in the battle that ensued.

archbishop to compensate for the fact
that he was not of royal descent.
Magnus was crowned, but was com-
pelled to grant important concess : ons to
the Church, the chief of which was that
in future the archbishops and the bishops
should decide which of the king's sons
should rule. This made the archbishop
the virtual head of the kingdom ; Norway
was all but an ecclesiastical fief.

The threatened independence of Norway
was saved by Sverre Sigurdsson, who
opposed Magnus as rival king in 1177.
Sverre had been educated in the Faroe
Islands and was destined to become a
priest ; but when he heard from his mother
that he was the son of a king he crossed
over into Norway. At first he met with

the Pope, and a clerical party, called the
" Baglers " (bagall, that is, crosier), was
formed, against whom he was compelled
to contend till his death. In spite oi
that he had secured the independence ot
the country from the hands of the clergy,
and at the same time strengthened the
power of the king.

After Sverre's death, in 1202, his
grandson, Haakon IV. (1217-1263), put
an- end to domestic strife by abolish-
ing the ordeal by fire, an'd by making
the right of succession more definite.
Under the beneficent rule of Haakon
the country attained to a degree of pros-
perity hitherto unequalled. Peace and
quiet prevailed. Haakon contrived to
keep on friendly relations with the


Church party without detracting from

his own power. He improved the laws,

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 9 of 55)