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The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries are above all the period of feudalism in the Scandinavian countries. At the beginning of this period, the feudal nobility had fixed itself firmly in the saddle, and it overrode proudly all other powers. In particular the Danish nobility shewed, during this period, a robust and high-handed vigour that easily made it the master and arbiter of the country and even of the lands beyond. There appeared, however, very little of a national spirit in the ranks of the nobles; they simply looked on themselves as nobles, as the naturally privileged class of society, and, inspired by this feeling, in the struggle for their privileges, they combined with their fellows beyond the national frontiers as well as inside them. Herein is to be found the chief factor which caused these centuries to be also a period of Scandinavian union. But a political union of formerly independent kingdoms was not possible without the intermediary of the royal power, and although the king, in principle, was at the head of the nobility, he at this very time began the attempt of building up a self-relying power, representing the nation and deriving its strength from non-feudal sources. He too, then, seized upon the idea of uniting the Scandinavian kingdoms under a single sceptre, seeing in this policy a chance of increasing his own power; and so it happened that Scandinavianism in these centuries became an instrument to be employed equally by the rival powers which came to the front at different moments.

It was the natural outcome of social and economic conditions that feudalism and nobility still had the upper hand in all conflicts; Scandinavian society still was so predominantly agricultural, the economic units so small, that the government could only be decentralised and rest upon the landed proprietors, vassals of the Crown. But, outside this feudal society, there was developing a commerce tending to create new economic relations; and here the king could see possibilities of a new financial foundation of his power. As a matter of fact, we find him beginning to utilise the means that thus presented themselves, striving to acquire revenue which would be at his free disposal. The assistance of the commercial capitalist appeared, however, a two-edged weapon; giving his money as a loan to the king, he really made the king his servant, indebted and pledged to him for life, and this was the more dangerous to the Scandinavian king because the merchant from whom he had to borrow was a foreigner. Indeed, the commerce of the Scandinavian countries during these centuries was wholly in the hands of the cities of northern Germany, of the rich and powerful Hansa; and, when the king tried to consolidate a national royal power, he was faced by the alternative danger, the loss of national independence.

So, in all directions, we meet conflicting tendencies of development. The three great powers of Scandinavian history in this period were the Nobility, the King, and the Hansa. The fourth leading element in society, the Church, had consolidated itself but was no longer an aggressive force; essentially, however, it ranged itself on the side of feudalism. The three other powers were still struggling for expansion, and the possibilities of conflict were widely varied. The history of the conflicts is abundant in dramatic events, and some imposing personalities emerge from the whirlpool. It is a pity that no contemporary historian has pictured to us the men and their doings. The days of the sagas and other historical writings were at an end; all national literature faded away and vanished. Only Sweden, previously without any literature at all, produced some works of religious, political, and even historical content, some rhymed chronicles which provide some glimpses of the personalities in action. Isolated events that were fitted to impress themselves upon the mind of the people were celebrated in popular ballads which were preserved by oral tradition, mainly in Denmark, and which enable us to catch at least the moral effect of certain acts upon general opinion. But mostly we are compelled to study these centuries from dry annals and documents, too often disconnected and full of gaps, where we have to guess at motives and characters.

The murder of the Danish king, Eric Clipping, in the year 1286, led up to a crisis in the history of all Scandinavia. His widow, as guardian of the new infant king, Eric VI Menved, succeeded in bringing home to the leaders of the nobility the responsibility for the murder and effected their exile. But they immediately found support in Norway, where, at that moment, with a barely adult king, the nobility was in power, and where, besides, the queen mother, a Danish princess, had a common interest with the exiles, who from their own feudal interests had sustained against their own king her claims on Danish territory. The war that resulted from these claims now turned into a struggle between feudalism and royal power. The coalition of nobles of the two kingdoms proved successful, and by the truce of 1295 the Norwegian princes as well as the Danish exiles obtained acknowledgment of their territorial claims in Denmark, while—a provision still more characteristic of the progress of feudalism—two Danish castles, erected by the exiles during the war, were to be kept under the suzerainty of the King of Norway. King Eric of Denmark by no means intended to accept this truce as a final settlement of the questions involved, and he immediately sought an alliance with the young King of Sweden, who just at this date became free from the guardianship of his council of vassals. The following decades witnessed a series of changing alliances, in which the Kings of Norway and Sweden supplied a continually unstable element, sometimes dominated by the influences of the nobility, sometimes trying to make themselves independent, throwing themselves on the one or the other side in the incessantly renewed inter-Scandinavian wars.

One of the most remarkable expressions of the conflicting tendencies of the period was the royal ordinance issued in the year 1308 by King Hakon V of Norway. Apparently this king looked on Philip the Fair of France as the model for his internal policy, and he really succeeded in making the clergy an instrument of royal government. Now, probably alarmed by the crushing defeat of the King of Sweden by the nobles with whom he was allied, King Hakon proclaimed the resumption of all fiefs granted and the abolition of baronial powers, in fact the introduction of absolute monarchy. This sweeping ordinance had no practical results; King Hakon shewed no power of persistence in a policy of such monarchical centralisation.

The only Scandinavian king who steadily kept up the struggle for royal power was King Eric of Denmark; but he spent his forces, economic as well as military, in far-reaching plans for extending his power even over the German duchies of Mecklenburg and Pomerania with the wealthy Wendish towns. In spite of some brilliant moments of victory, he was in the end defeated, and his real power even at home was declining. He was forced to recognise the autonomous position belonging to the Duke of Schleswig and to give away a province at the other end of the kingdom, Northern Halland, as a fief to the King of Norway; in order to pay his debts he had to mortgage the whole island of Funan to the Counts of Holstein and to pledge the incomes of other fiefs and castles. Asa matter of fact, Denmark was rapidly becoming feudalised, and when, in the year 1319, King Eric died leaving no children, his brother Christopher, who himself had been fighting on the side of the nobility against the king, was forced to accept the crown under the conditions presented to him by the nobles. He was the first Danish king who at his election (1320) was obliged to submit to a capitulation, pledging himself to govern the kingdom under the absolute control of the parliament of nobles, and to make no wars and to demand no taxes without their consent. It was the complete victory of the new feudalism.

While King Eric of Denmark was vainly fighting the ascendancy of the nobility within and without his country, feudal tendencies obtained a brilliant champion in Sweden and Norway in the person of a brother of the Swedish king, named Eric, Duke of Sodermanland, supported with never-failing fidelity by his younger brother Duke Waldemar. The two dukes really became the leaders of the nobles of Sweden in their fight for feudal privileges. Eric, the hero of the first Swedish rhymed chronicle, is presented to us as the most charming knight of the age, but in his acts he appears as a type of the most unscrupulous noble imaginable, by every method pushing his personal interests, greedy for power and land, breaking his oaths whenever it suited him, betraying friend and foe alike.

After many vicissitudes, his activities resulted in creating a unique position for him in Scandinavian politics. He married the daughter and only child of King Hakon of Norway, thus winning the prospect of power in that country; he obtained as a fief the south-eastern province of Norway with the new castle of Bohus and also the Danish province of Northern Halland; and having gained as his share of Sweden Western Gothland and other western provinces, he was finally the master of a compact territory, composed of contiguous parts of all the three Scandinavian kingdoms, an omen of the future union of Scandinavia. At the same time he was the representative and ideal of the whole Scandinavian nobility, which was the more strongly bound together in the fight for common interests.

An end was put to the intrigues of Duke Eric by a piece of treachery of the same kind that he was himself wont to use. In the closing days of 1317, he and his brother were captured by the King of Sweden and committed to a prison from which they never emerged; it was rumoured that they were starved to death. But the consequence was a general rebellion of the Swedish nobles; the king could get no effective assistance from his friend the King of Denmark and was forced to flee the country; and in the year 1319 an assembly of the Estates of the realm elected the three-year-old son of Duke Eric, Magnus, to be King of Sweden. By inheritance, owing to the death of King Hakon, Magnus had just before become King of Norway, and so the two kingdoms found themselves united under a common king, the essential fact being that in each country the nobility was in control of the government.

From 1319, feudal principles dominated in all the Scandinavian countries, though they had not developed to the same extent in each of them. In Iceland, a truly feudal system was always out of the question, merely because there was no need of a military organisation. In Norway and Sweden, the holders of fiefs never acquired rights of jurisdiction in their districts. In none of the kingdoms did the fiefs ever become hereditary, except in the Danish duchy of Schleswig, which held a position peculiar to itself. The dominating fact in all the kingdoms was that the nobility had grown up into an organised class that possessed the monopoly of the local government, the leading part in the central government, and the control of the economic resources and the military forces of the nation. In all three countries the Church stood outside the feudal organisation, in the sense that the bishoprics and abbeys never became fiefs of the Crown; but from this very time there was an increasing tendency to give the high offices of the Church to members of noble families, and, since almost all landed property belonged to the Crown, the Church, and the nobles, these latter really had almost exclusive command of territorial wealth. In Norway and Sweden, and in some parts of Denmark, particularly Jutland, there was still in existence a class of yeomen; but feudal influences from abroad, strengthened by the influx of German nobles, stimulated the greed of the native nobility, and, chiefly in Denmark, feudal privileges over the peasants were steadily extended.

The victory of feudalism in Denmark almost seemed destined to dissolve completely the unity of the kingdom. The weak King Christopher, stripped of all military and financial authority, vainly tried to defend the royal power against the nobles whom he himself had formerly helped to resist the king. The Danish nobles obtained a vigorous leader from abroad, one of the Counts of Holstein, the high-handed Gerhard, who became the tutor of his nephew, the young Waldemar Duke of Schleswig. Together with his cousin, another of the Counts of Holstein, he made himself the real ruler of Denmark. King Christopher possessed no other means of getting money to arm himself against his powerful rival than that of pledging away his lands, and after a few years he had hardly any land left, and not a single castle in his own country. Virtually all Denmark was divided between Count Gerhard and his allies; for some years King Christopher was a fugitive in Germany, while the count made his nephew the nominal King of Denmark. When Christopher died (1332), Denmark was without a king for eight years; Count Gerhard ruled with absolute power the whole of Jutland north of Schleswig as well as the island of Funen, while his cousin ruled Sealand and most of the other islands. This same cousin sold Scania to King Magnus of Norway and Sweden, who assumed the title of King of Scania, keeping at the same time Northern Halland, while Southern Halland with some other parts of Denmark were in the hands of his mother, who had married a Danish noble. The kingdom of Denmark seemed only a name, and the old frontiers between the Scandinavian countries were disappearing.

But the rule of the Counts of Holstein, demanding heavy taxes and putting new feudal burdens on the inhabitants, roused an opposition that combined with the jealousy of the lower nobility to make an end of their dominion. Count Gerhard was murdered (1340), and the son of King Christopher, Waldemar, who lived in exile in Germany, was recalled and ' elected King of Denmark; by shrewd negotiations he was able to make use of the situation to create for himself a position of power which was a sufficient starting-point for a restoration of the monarchy. Waldemar (IV) received the surname of Atterdag, the original sense of which, like that of several other surnames of Danish kings, is uncertain and disputed, but in popular tradition it is surmised that it originated from a customary phrase of his: “Tomorrow is a new day,” expressing his never-failing patience and hope. Indeed he proved to be a statesman who incessantly worked to strengthen the royal power. In agreements and promises he was just as unreliable as his father had been; but he was also as systematic and obstinate in pursuing his aims as his father had been unstable and weak. He started by marrying the sister of the Duke of Schleswig; he induced the Counts of Holstein as a preliminary measure to exchange northern Jutland for the duchy of Schleswig, and gained for himself a part of northern Jutland as the dowry of his queen. From this beginning he gradually succeeded in redeeming the peninsula bit by bit, utilising all his revenues for this purpose, and persuading his subjects to grant him taxes to restore peace and justice.

For the same purpose he received important assistance from the Church, which had suffered seriously from the lawlessness of the interregnum. Immediately on his accession the Bishop of Sealand handed over to him the castle and city of Copenhagen, and from there he could begin to redeem the whole island. He exploited the weakness of the Papacy in order to make the Church of Denmark an instrument of royal government, and so he laid the foundation of a durable gain to national organisation. He realised a large sum of money by selling Esthonia to the Teutonic Order, parting with a province that had been conquered in the crusade of Waldemar II more than a hundred years earlier, but had never been other than a burden to the kingdom. By means of this treasure he was able to start a series of proceedings with a view to recovering the Crown lands that had been lost during or even before the interregnum, and he enjoyed the advantage of the low price of land that was the consequence of the Black Death. The nobility, led by the Counts of Holstein, did not allow the king to increase his power in this way without resistance, and they took up arms repeatedly against him, but never in perfect accord; in each war Waldemar had the upper hand, and in the year 1360 they were compelled to make their peace with the king. By that time almost the whole kingdom was reconquered, and in a parliament of the realm a charter was sealed which was in fact an agreement between king and people for the defence of peace and justice as well as for the mutual maintenance of rights and privileges; an important advantage for the king was the formal confirmation of the royal courts of justice. It is true that in other respects he would have to govern the country through his faithful vassals; feudalism was still the reigning principle, but the kingdom of Denmark was again a reality.

At the same time, in Sweden and Norway, the national government was becoming ever more feudalised. While King Magnus was a minor, the representatives of the nobility and clergy were ruling in both countries, and they were not willing to give up their power after his coming of age. We may observe how the king himself was under the domination of the ideas of feudalism: when, in the year 1335, he married Countess Blanche of Namur, she received as her marriage portion certain districts in both kingdoms to administer and tax—a complete novelty in Scandinavia. These districts after some years were consolidated into a Swedish-Norwegian dominion on both sides of their southern frontier, following the example set by Duke Eric, the king's father. When the queen had given birth to two sons, one being named Eric after his Swedish grandfather, the other Hakon after his Norwegian great-grandfather, King Magnus and the nobility of both countries agreed to make each prince the heir of one of the two kingdoms; the younger, Hakon, even succeeded to the government of Norway as soon as he came of age, though King Magnus retained some provinces of Norway. So we see the two kingdoms treated without regard to national traditions; the only point of view seemed to be the personal interests of the members of the dynasty.

An exception to this policy may, however, be found in the work, set on foot by King Magnus, of combining all the different district-laws of Sweden into a national code, as had been done at an earlier time for Norway; and he succeeded in accomplishing such a codification for Sweden in the year 1347. This national law did not mean, however, the strengthening of the royal government; on the contrary, it enacted, what formerly was but customary, that the king could only exercise his authority in collaboration with the Council of Peers. In spite of this concession on his side, the nobility in both kingdoms felt jealous of his natural tendency to take decisions on his own account, particularly with regard to his third “kingdom”, Scania. Several times there was friction between the two parties, and the feelings of the Swedish nobility are expressed in the revelations of Saint Bridget, a lady of one of the greatest families of her country, who in her holy discourses reviled the king and queen in most venomous and foul terms, and at least succeeded in blackening their fame to posterity.

To a certain degree, in Sweden and Norway we meet with the same tendency towards a dissolution of national unity as manifested itself in Denmark somewhat earlier. But even the political separation of the two kingdoms could not stop the welding together of the upper classes that had set in from the closing years of the thirteenth century. A particular event came to further this development: the Black Death, which devastated all the Scandinavian countries during the years 1349*50. Only Iceland escaped the plague, because it interrupted the navigation from Norway to that distant island; but this first great plague was followed by others in the course of the same century, and these reached Iceland as well, so that all peoples of the Scandinavian race had to bear the consequences of their devastations. In popular tradition the Black Death, in these countries called the Great Death, was said to have depopulated them almost completely. Statistics on this point are highly discordant, and the consequences of the plague are much disputed. Economic values, particularly those of land, seem likely to have been depreciated through the loss of a large number of the cultivators, and for that reason the wages of labourers and the conditions of peasants may possibly have improved. More certain is it that the incomes of the landowners must have diminished. In Denmark the king appears to have taken advantage of these conditions to win back much land for the Crown. In Sweden and Norway we see nothing of that kind. But the Norwegian land-owners were hard stricken by the effects of the plague, and the consequence was an increasing denationalisation of both nobility and Church. It became necessary in Norway to fill ecclesiastical offices to a great extent with incumbents from Sweden, and the number of noble families was manifestly dwindling. We observe at this time an avowed tendency of men and women of noble birth to marry only persons of their own rank, and the consequence was that inter-marrying of Swedish and Norwegian great families became increasingly frequent. In both countries there resulted a concentration of landed property in relatively few hands, some single families rising to hitherto unknown wealth. But necessarily this mingling of nationalities was more to the disadvantage of the nobility of Noray, which was easily outnumbered by that of Sweden. If on the whole the Black Death weakened the national and economic forces of Norway in relation to those of Sweden and Denmark, this was most marked in the case of the nobility, and so it pushed on the development which was already in progress and was undermining the national independence of Norway.

Without respect to national policy, the Swedish nobles went on fighting for their class privileges. When, in 1355, the younger son of King Magnus ascended the throne of Norway as King Hakon VI, a party of the Swedish nobles egged on the elder son Eric to rebel against his father, and they did not hesitate to accept foreign assistance. On this occasion a new power entered actively into Scandinavian politics, that of the Duke of Mecklenburg, Albert, the very fox of foxes, the match even of the “wolf” King Waldemar of Denmark. Twenty years earlier he had married the sister of King Magnus; and in pledge of her dowry he had received the control of the herring staples of Scania. Now he saw the opportunity of extending his power and his revenues; when, by his intervention, King Magnus was forced to divide Sweden, leaving the southeastern part to Eric, Duke Albert received his reward in the possession of several castles and districts in the country. For his defence, Magnus sought the alliance of King Waldemar and had his son King Hakon betrothed to Waldemar’s younger daughter Margaret, promising to cede the principal castle of Scania, Helsingborg. But he gained no advantage from the bargain; when, in the same year (1359), the young King Eric was removed by death, Waldemar attacked and conquered the whole of Scania, thus uniting again all the old Danish provinces (1360). The following year he even conquered the island of Gotland with the rich city of Wisby.

He had entered upon this policy of conquest with the connivance of Duke Albert, giving his elder daughter Ingeborg in marriage to the duke’s elder son Henry. But by taking Gotland he went beyond the limits that the duke could well tolerate, and he also renewed his alliance with King Magnus, causing the marriage between his daughter Margaret and King Hakon to be celebrated. Duke Albert took his revenge by an alliance with the nobles of Sweden, who willingly deposed King Magnus and elected the duke’s younger son Albert as King of Sweden (1363);

Magnus only succeeded in keeping some of the western districts of the country. In the war that followed, King Albert was not able to maintain himself in Sweden without the support of the nobility, and finally he was compelled to grant a charter or capitulation (1371), the first in the history of Sweden, by which he pledged himself to govern the country only by the consent of the council of lords, the lords themselves getting the right to nominate to the council and to appoint the governors of castles and fiefs. This meant the absolute power of the nobility.

With the increasing feudalism, which took away from the Crown much of its revenues and transferred the military control to the vassals of the realm, the kings had to look for new means to maintain the royal authority, and in the course of the fourteenth century the Scandinavian kings began borrowing money in order to have armies at their disposal. But the state loans became a new danger to their power; for, in most cases, they had no other way of paying their debts than by embarking upon new loans or pledging lands and revenues. The first state loans seem to have been supplied by the Pope and by the wealthy princes of northern Germany, the Counts of Holstein or the Dukes of Mecklenburg, and we can easily realise the political effects of the borrowing from the latter. But soon we see emerging another financial power, which in virtue of its economic superiority came to be a dominating element of Scandinavian politics for about two centuries; that power was the towns of the German Hansa, in particular the so-called Wendish towns, i.e. those of the Baltic.

Their wealth and power were due to their control of the great export trade of the Baltic countries, the rye from the plains of the Oder and Vistula, the furs from Russia, and so forth1. By their commerce they built up important funds of mobile capital, by which they were able to control the export and import trade of all the Scandinavian countries, the herring fisheries of Scania, the production of iron in Sweden proper, the exporting of cod from Norway, making themselves at home at Wisby, at Stockholm, at Bergen, and elsewhere. Starting in the thirteenth century by obtaining protection for their navigation, they were able to extend their privileges by agreement, by prescription, and by force, fighting with success all attempts to keep them to the strict letter of the original treaties; and gradually they became one of the great political powers of the North, particularly after uniting in the celebrated Hanseatic League, a name that appears in the midst of their disputes with the Scandinavian governments towards the middle of the fourteenth century.

When King Waldemar ventured to conquer Wisby, they felt their position highly endangered, and a coalition of towns under the leadership of Lubeck declared war against Denmark. The war developed into a general Scandinavian war after the Duke of Mecklenburg had made his son King of Sweden. On the one side were the Kings of Denmark and Norway, on the other side, not only Sweden and Mecklenburg but also the Counts of Holstein, the Duke of Schleswig, and finally (1867) an alliance of seventy-seven North-German towns, reaching from the Netherlands to Prussia, called contemptuously by King Waldemar “hens.” The “hens” however, proved strong enough to defeat the over-confident king, capturing the castles of Copenhagen and Helsingborg, ravaging the open plains of Denmark as well as the coast of Norway, and cutting off the foreign commerce of both countries. While Waldemar was absent in Germany, trying to win allies among the princes there, the Danish Council of the Realm made peace with the Hansa, which, on its side, found it profitable to treat on its own account without regard to its allies when it was offered an important extension of its commercial privileges. According to the terms of peace (1370), the German towns obtained not only full protection for all their commerce, but in addition a considerable lowering of the customs’ tariff, and even in certain cases entire exemption from duties; and, as reparation for damages, they were granted the dominion for sixteen years of the chief castles and marketplaces of Scania with two-thirds of the revenues. The transformation of economic into political interests was expressed in the treaty by the humiliating provision that the successor of King Waldemar should not be nominated without the consent of the Hansa towns. In the same year Norway made a truce for five years with the Hansa towns, confirming all the rights and privileges they had won in that country.

King Waldemar was obliged to accept the situation as determined by the treaty; returning to his country, he agreed to be reconciled with Duke Albert of Mecklenburg, to whom he gave the assurance that the grandson of them both, the infant son of Henry and Ingeborg, named Albert, would be elected King of Denmark on his death. By these agreements he at least was able to expel the Counts of Holstein completely from northern Jutland, and to limit their power in Denmark to the southern part of Schleswig. With Sweden alone the state of war subsisted, although the Norwegian kings on their side concluded a treaty of peace by which they recognised the younger Albert of Mecklenburg as King of Sweden.

The situation envisaged by the treaty with the Hansa towns in 1370 was realised on the death of King Waldemar in 1375, and the question arose whether the Danes would allow a Mecklenburg prince to mount the throne of Denmark, and so in fact make the Duke of Mecklenburg the master of Denmark and Sweden alike. The Hanseatic towns of Mecklenburg could not very well oppose the wishes of their sovereign, but they contrived that the Hanseatic League as such did not make use of its right of intervention and held aloof from the election in Denmark. So the matter rested with the Danish lords, and among them two parties formed.

At this moment, there entered the scene of Scandinavian history one who was quickly to become the most remarkable personage in these countries during the later part of the Middle Ages. This was a woman, Queen Margaret of Norway, the younger daughter of King Waldemar. Born in Denmark, and from the time of her marriage at the age of ten educated by a great Swedish lady, a daughter of Saint Bridget, probably in the part of Sweden that obeyed King Magnus, she was now Queen of Norway and therefore presumably dowered, like Queen Blanche, with the frontier fiefs of all three kingdoms. She thus represented more than anyone else the idea of a Scandinavian policy, which had been prepared by the preceding development. Her character proved her a true daughter of her father, only still more clever in dealing with men, using kindness, art, or force according to circumstances, always self-controlled and clearheaded, keeping firmly in view her ambitious plans. At this date she was aged twenty-two, and five years earlier she had given birth to her only child, her son Olaf, whom she made the first instrument of her desire for power.

At the news of her father's death, she hurried to Denmark with young Olaf, soon followed by her husband King Hakon, and there she proceeded to win votes for her son. She immediately acted as if the royal power were hers, granting fiefs and donations to the Danish nobles. While the Mecklenburgs allied themselves with the Counts of Holstein and received the support of the Emperor, Margaret delivered the decisive stroke in sending a communication to the Hanseatic towns, informing them that she would reconfirm all their privileges in Norway if they allowed Olaf to be elected King of Denmark. Having thus secured her position, she succeeded in gaining for Olaf the homage of the parliament of Denmark. In return, together with King Hakon, she signed the charter that defined Olaf’s obligations as king. A consequence of the election was war with the Mecklenburgs of Germany and Sweden, but it was a rather tedious affair, since the nobles on both sides had but little interest in carrying on feuds with one another. Queen Margaret stayed in Denmark, governing there as the guardian of her son, and four years later, at the death of King Hakon VI (1380), when her son inherited the crown of Norway, she became the virtual ruler of that country also. The chronicles of Lubeck have preserved the impression of wonder made upon her contemporaries by her “great prudence,” her wisdom and strength, and they tell how she made the nobles obey her will, sending the vassals from one castle to another, as the superior sends the monks from one monastery to another. It is true that she only obtained peace with the Counts of Holstein by granting them the duchy of Schleswig as an hereditary fief (1386). But on the other hand, in the same year, she regained the castles and markets of Scania from the German towns. In Norway she strengthened her power by having two of the clerks of her household made in succession Archbishops of Nidaros, first a German, and then a Swede; the brother of the latter was the chancellor of the realm. It was a sign of still farther-reaching plans that she made King Olaf, when he came of age (1385), take the title of “true heir of Sweden.”

Then, at a blow, all her plans and all her power seemed to fall to ruins, when King Olaf, in whose name she governed, suddenly died in Scania in the summer of 1387. At this critical moment, she shewed to the fullest measure the energy of her character; she proved strong enough to overthrow all the traditional rules of government and to make herself in law as well as in fact the head of her kingdoms. King Olaf left no direct successor; the nearest and only heirs by the law were the descendants of the sister of King Magnus, the Dukes of Mecklenburg, cither King Albert of Sweden or his nephew, the now reigning Duke Albert, who had been the rival of Olaf in the Danish election of 1376. Neither Queen Margaret nor the nobles of Denmark and Norway could have the slightest idea of admitting either of the dukes to the succession. On the other hand, neither law nor practice allowed the crown of any of the Scandinavian kingdoms to be conferred on a woman. Examples had, however, been recently given by foreign nations: during the forty years that ended in 1382, a queen of the house of Anjou, Joanna I, had reigned in the kingdom of Naples, and, in the same year that she met with her death, a princess of the same house was made “king” of Hungary, reigning there till 1387, while her sister Hedwig for a couple of years was “king” of Poland. Such a title Queen Margaret could not assume; but within a week after the death of King Olaf, the members of the Danish Council present with her in Scania consented to elect her regent of the realm, and in the weeks following she received the homage of nobles and people in all the provinces of Denmark as “mistress and ruler with full authority as guardian of the realm.” Immediately afterwards she went to Norway, where the Norwegian Council met at Oslo. She had been fortunate in having the new Archbishop of Nidaros, who had been in her service, with her in Scania when King Olaf died, and he summoned the spiritual and secular lords of the realm to meet. They had no legal authority to nominate the new king, but, in the beginning of 1388, they decided to elect Margaret regent of Norway for the rest of her life, denying the Mecklenburgs any right of succession inasmuch as they were enemies of the kingdom. By this act Margaret became the source from which the future succession was to be derived, and the Norwegian Council, passing over her nephew, the young Duke Albert, declared her grand-nephew of the same line, the infant Duke Eric of Pomerania, the nearest heir to the crown.

It is worth while noting that many of the lords who participated in this irregular election were Swedes married to Norwegian heiresses or otherwise land-owners in Norway, and at the same time we may observe the influence of the intermarriages between the noble families not only of Norway and Sweden, but of Sweden and Denmark as well, which created common economic interests particularly in the frontier provinces. Exactly at the same date that King Olaf died, many Swedish nobles had openly rebelled against King Albert because he tried to win back for the Crown the fiefs of his greatest vassal, who had just died; they allied themselves with their kinsmen beyond the frontier, and, in the spring of 1388, their delegates met with Queen Margaret in one of her Swedish castles, acknowledging her as the rightful ruler of Sweden and promising to accept a successor at her choice. War followed, and in the battle of Falkoping,  February 1389, King Albert was defeated and captured. The whole of Sweden submitted to Margaret, and so she became the ruler of all three Scandinavian kingdoms.

Her first object now was to regularise her position and establish a durable Scandinavian union. She immediately obtained the recognition of young Eric as her successor in Denmark and Sweden, and he even received homage as king, first in Norway, later in the two other kingdoms, while she kept as her personal dominion a combination of Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish provinces. When Eric came of age, she summoned a joint Scandinavian assembly of lords at Calmar in Sweden for the summer of 1397, with the object of having him crowned as the king of the Union and of making an agreement between the kingdoms that would seal their union. It was an unusually magnificent assembly that met at Calmar; the only serious disappointment was the complete absence of the prelates of Norway, which was probably to be explained by their reluctance to accept the abandonment of their ancient privilege in the election of kings in Norway. King Eric, at the age of fifteen, solemnly received the crown at the hands of the Archbishops of Lund and Upsala, and he created more than a hundred knights from all his kingdoms. But the negotiations for a real act of union ended in failure. A document was drawn up, confirming the perpetual union of the three kingdoms, establishing the right of succession of the king's sons in all of them, and providing for a common election in the absence of surviving sons; in this way a compromise was made between the constitution of Norway on the one side and that of Denmark and Sweden on the other. Further, the document established rules about mutual assistance in case of war, but the government of each kingdom was to be conducted according to its own laws. This agreement never obtained legal validity; the representatives of Norway refused to sign it, perhaps because it did not afford sufficient guarantees against neglect of their interests (there is no evidence in favour of the generally accepted hypothesis that Queen Margaret induced them to stay away because her desires were not met by the agreement), and no attempt was made to obtain its ratification by the councils of the separate kingdoms. So the Scandinavian Union was not placed upon a stable legal basis; its future was at the mercy of the conflicting interests of the royal power and the nobility and of national jealousies.

Margaret remained the virtual ruler of all the Scandinavian kingdoms until her death in 1412, and she kept the reins firmly in her hands. It is characteristic of her position that, on one occasion, the delegates  of Lubeck referred to her as “Lady King”. As long as she lived, King Eric exercised no real power; she instructed him never to decide anything by himself, but always to adjourn all matters until she could be present. After she was dead, he continued the government according to her principles, only carrying them still farther, following out their consequences with decision and energy.

Both Margaret and Eric strove to make a permanent unity of their kingdoms. In Sweden and Norway, even in Iceland and the western islands belonging to Norway, they adopted the ecclesiastical policy started by Waldemar IV in Denmark. By means of papal provisions they enthroned their personal servants or friends in all vacant sees, and, as most of these were naturally Danes, they became instruments for denationalising the Church of their adopted country. In Sweden, Margaret began intruding Danish nobles into the fiefs, and Eric extended this policy to Norway. Both of them omitted to fill the high offices of administration in Sweden, and they partly did the same even in Norway, where, at last, the king made the Danish Bishop of Oslo his chancellor. In fact, the administration of all the kingdoms was united in Denmark. Sometimes, members of the Swedish or the Norwegian Council of the Realm came to Denmark to assist at deliberations over matters concerning their countries, and occasionally common meetings of all three Councils were held. But, generally, decisions were taken with the assistance merely of Danish councillors or even by the royal chancery alone. On the part of the king, there was a demonstrable tendency to unify the administration in central bureaux, and Copenhagen tended to develop into the capital of an empire in the modem sense of the word. It would not be right to characterise all this as the expression of a truly Danish imperialism or nationalism; in Denmark itself, queen and king took into their service many German nobles, and thence they spread even to Sweden and Norway; their recommendation was their fidelity towards the king. But it must be added that these German immigrants brought with them a feudal spirit that in the end would be dangerous to the royal power.

On one particular point Queen Margaret maintained a tenacious struggle against the feudal principles that from Germany threatened to get a foothold on Scandinavian soil. This was the question of the succession in the duchy of Schleswig. When the Count of Holstein, to whom, in 1386, she had felt forced to grant this Danish duchy as a hereditary fief, died in the year 1404, leaving only children under age, she succeeded in making King Eric their formal guardian, and she began to seize lands and castles of the duchy for the direct royal administration. When, accordingly, in 1410, the eldest son of the former duke at last proclaimed himself Duke of Schleswig, Eric protested, claiming that according to Danish law no heredity in fiefs was allowed. Wax* broke out, and, with interruptions of negotiations, law-suits, and judgments, it lasted for more than twenty years. King Eric went so far as to contend that fiefs in the European sense could not legally exist in Denmark, and appealing to the Emperor Sigismund, who was his cousin, he obtained in 1424 an imperial sentence in his favour. But the Counts of Holstein did not submit to a decision even of such an authority. They allied themselves with the Hansa towns, they were able to conquer Schleswig by arms, and finally, in 1432, Eric was forced to leave the duchy in their possession; his fight over this matter ended in defeat.

On other points too he brought himself into conflicts which he could not control. The war of Schleswig was an expensive affair, and he had to seek for money wherever it was to be found. He tried to extort as high duties as possible from the German merchants, limiting their liberties and exemptions as far as he was able, and this policy was the reason why the Hansa too went to war against him. In this war he was more successful, and in any case he was able to establish, from the year 1428, a royal revenue of a new kind, the Sound dues on all ships passing through the straits between Sealand and Scania. But the extension of the war meant still more expense, and he was obliged to tax his subjects more heavily than they had been accustomed.

Queen Margaret had continued her father’s policy of regaining lands, castles, and fiefs for the Crown, and, in particular, she had pursued the same object in Sweden in order to increase the royal revenue; in all her countries as far as possible she appointed her own bailiffs in place of the feudal lords. In this way, the peasants came as it were between the upper and the nether millstone. If, after the Black Death, their condition had improved, now the reaction set in more and more strongly, king, bailiffs, and landlords vying with one another in heaping upon them all kinds of taxes and imposts. For the peasants, both feudalism and the development of royal power led to the same result—increasing oppression. But another consequence was dissatisfaction and disquietude, and from about 1420 we notice a tendency to riots and rebellions among the peasants, particularly directed against the foreign bailiffs and fief-holders. Of these there were most in Sweden, in all probability because the lands and fiefs there were richer and more attractive than those of Norway, and so, naturally, the movement in Sweden became more important than that in Norway. For the same reason, the native nobility of Sweden was more irritated in its national particularism than that of Norway; but in both countries, even among the nobility, dissatisfaction and opposition to the royal policy made themselves increasingly felt. The intrusion of foreign clerics into the sees created a certain uneasiness in the Church of Norway as well as of Sweden, and from 1432 a sharp conflict arose between King Eric and the chapter of Upsala regarding the nomination of a new archbishop. So, in Sweden, quite an army of different forces united to oppose the government of the king. Besides, a new social force entered the field, strengthening the movement; this was the growth of an independent merchant and industrial class, based chiefly on the export trade of Stockholm and the iron-smelting of the province of Dalame (Dalecarlia). From this province came the leader of the movement.

His name was Engelbrecht, son of another Engelbrecht, a mine-owner of knightly rank. Personal interests were involved in his rebellion: heavy taxes burdened the mining industry, and wealthy nobles were busy shouldering out the original owners. But the noble character of Engelbrecht raised him above egoistic considerations, and his far-sighted views made the rebellion a revolution in the history of Sweden. After appealing in vain to the king for the removal of the oppressive Danish bailiff of the province, he put himself at the head of the dissatisfied peasants and yeomen, who, perhaps, were encouraged by the reports of the Hussite rebellion in Bohemia. In the summer of 1434 he marched with his army through the eastern and southern provinces of the country, everywhere calling men to arms against foreign masters, capturing the castles, and expelling the bailiffs. Some of the higher nobility joined the rebellion; but the Council of the Realm met at the order of the king, fearing to lose its privileges and anxious to repress the people. Engelbrecht, however, forced the Council to throw off, in the name of all Sweden, their allegiance to King Eric, and a general parliament was called for the next year (1435) in the town of Arboga, near the home of Engelbrecht. With this parliament, something new was created in Sweden; there met not only the old orders of the realm, secular and spiritual lords, but besides them the burghers and the yeomen, thus forming an assembly of four orders and thereby establishing an institution destined to remain for more than four hundred years an important element in Swedish politics; for centuries it was the most democratic body in any European country.

The Parliament of Arboga elected Engelbrecht regent of the realm. The Council looked for means of annulling such revolutionary proceedings; it negotiated with King Eric with the object of acquiring the government of the country and the transference of the fiefs to itself, and it appointed a man of the higher nobility, Karl Knutsson, regent along with Engelbrecht. In the first place, the popular rebellion was defeated by the murder of Engelbrecht in the spring of 1436. His ideas and his example, however, were kept alive in the tradition of the new classes he had called to power, and one of his friends composed songs about the little man raised by God to save the people, praising liberty as the finest thing in the world.

In the meantime, the rebellion of Engelbrecht had infected the people of Norway. Some weeks before his death, yeomen and peasants in the districts around Oslo rose against the foreign bailiffs under the leadership of a noble, Amund Sigurdsson. The Council of the Realm assembled and made an agreement with the rebels, prudently securing their adhesion to a purely national programme, which included provisions that all fiefs were to be given to natives and all high government offices to be filled up. Such was the policy of the Swedish Council too, and it succeeded in crushing new risings of the farmer class. When the peasants of Denmark likewise rebelled, the Danish Council joined its Swedish colleagues and would not obey King Eric any longer. Now the whole movement against the king had passed into the hands of the nobility, fighting for its class interests. When Eric fled the country in the year 1438, the Danish Council summoned from Germany his nephew Christopher, son of the Count Palatine of the Rhine (Pfalz-Neumarkt). He was made King of Denmark in 1440, and later in the same year King of Sweden. When the Norwegian Council, whose requests had been complied with by King Eric, found itself deserted by its lawful ruler, it last of all, in 1442, saw no other way open but to elect Christopher King of Norway as well.

The accession of King Christopher to the throne of the Scandinavian kingdoms meant the defeat of the aspirations for monarchical power that had animated the government of his immediate predecessors. In all three countries the nobility took the undisputed control. The Church rose again from its former subordination and freed itself from the encroachments of the kings upon the episcopal elections, only indeed to drift under the dominion of the nobility. The nobles took advantage of the decisions of the Council of Basle which dissolved the alliance of king and Pope, and in Sweden and Norway alike native bishops of noble families filled the sees. At the same time, the interests of the rising national burgher class were sacrificed; the powerlessness and poverty of King Christopher made him dependent on the financial assistance of the Hanseatic towns, and he confirmed their commercial privileges to the widest extent in spite of the protests of the native burghers; he himself jestingly declared that the Hansa had more privileges and liberties in his countries than the king. He even gave up the dues on shipping in the Sound.

When, after a short reign, he died in 1448, the nobility saw no limits to their power. In Sweden, a party of the nobles elected one of themselves king, the regent during the former interregnum, Karl Knutsson (Charles VIII). In Denmark, the nobles offered the crown to the greatest of their order, the Duke of Schleswig, who was at the same time Count of Holstein. He refused, however, being probably not at all desirous of falling under the influence of his Danish compeers; but he recommended to them a German nephew of his, Count Christian of Oldenburg, who was accordingly elected King of Denmark with a capitulation that left all power in the hands of the Council of the Realm. In Norway two parties formed, which favoured respectively the Swedish and the Danish candidate. At first, the Swedish party, led by the Archbishop of Nidaros, had the upper hand and caused King Karl to be crowned, on which occasion he signed a capitulation corresponding to the Danish one. In fact, earlier in the same year (1449), King Christian had already agreed to a capitulation for his election in Norway, the first act of this kind issued for that country; and, when the archbishop died shortly after, the Danish party carried the election of its candidate, making Christian King of Norway. Now a formal act of union was signed by representatives of the Councils of Denmark and Norway at Bergen on 29 August 1450, laying down the principle that both kingdoms should always obey the same king, and providing for a common election by the two Councils on the death of the reigning monarch. As a matter of fact, this agreement was a copy of a similar agreement signed by representatives of the Councils of Denmark and Sweden a few months before, and, after a war of some years, King Karl was forced to flee the country, Christian I being crowned as King of Sweden as well (1457).

The reign of Christian I marks the lowest point in the decline of royal power in the Scandinavian kingdoms. Apparently, his position was a brilliant one. He not only united the crowns of three kingdoms, but he added to them the dominion of Schleswig and Holstein, succeeding his uncle there in the year 1460, on the condition, however, of granting new privileges to the nobility of both provinces, thereby confirming the famous provision that Schleswig and Holstein should for ever remain linked together, a provision that was originally drawn up to protect the interests of the landed nobility, but later became a kind of national programme. Some years later, Christian gave his daughter Margaret in marriage to King James III of Scotland; but for the payment of most of the dowry he pledged the Norwegian islands of the Orkneys and Shetlands (1468). Still later, he undertook with great splendour a journey to Rome, obtaining from the Pope the authority to found a university at Copenhagen and from the Emperor the elevation of the county of Holstein into a duchy. For all such things he had to pay dearly. In order to win the two duchies he was obliged to give other claimants 123,000 florins in all; he loved to hold a splendid court, and he always travelled in great state. But he was always in straits for money, and in Swedish tradition he received the surname of “the leaking purse? He was obliged to borrow, and he incurred large debts, particularly with the nobles of Holstein and the Hanseatic towns; they became his real masters. Of course, he could not avoid confirming all Hanseatic privileges in his kingdoms, and he even tolerated it when the German merchants of Bergen slew the castellan of the city who tried to limit their control.

What characterises the national development of the latter half of the fifteenth century is the eclipse of Norway and the rise of Sweden. In Norway, the only authority that remained a bulwark, however weak, of its independence, was the Church; the fight for ecclesiastical freedom became identified with that for national independence. The nobility, too, had chiefly their class interests in view; but the national demands which they had been driven to put forward in 1436 had very soon lost their hold upon them. The immigration of Swedish nobles had been followed by that of Danish, and about 1450 most of the leading families of the country were in fact essentially foreign; it is characteristic that the last appeal sent by the Norwegian Council of the Realm to King Eric, in 1440, was written in the Danish language, thus foreboding the supersession of Norwegian as the official language of the nation. A Council of the Realm with such a foundation could have neither the will nor the ability to maintain a strong national policy, and patently the government of the kingdom was continually growing weaker. The pledging of the Orkneys and Shetlands in 1468 really meant the final loss of the islands. Already before the end of the fourteenth century the administration of the earldom was left to the Scottish family of St Clair; from this time the bishops were Scots; both earls and bishops gave offices to their fellow-countrymen, who acquired land in the islands, and about 1440 the judge of the Orkneys gave his decisions in English. Now, from 1472, the Bishop of the Orkneys and Shetlands was made a suffragan of the Archbishop of St Andrews, and from that time the Norwegian character of the people of the Orkneys began rapidly to disappear, although in Shetland the Norwegian language still lived on for three more centuries. The national resistance of the Shetlands could be so durable because of the continual commercial intercourse with Norway. But, as a matter of fact, the active commerce of Norway was, towards the end of the Middle Ages, at its lowest ebb. Obviously, that was one reason why the traffic with far-off Greenland came absolutely to an end about the middle of the fifteenth century; and the government neglected its duties toward the colonists, so that, left without assistance from the mother country, they died out in starvation and degeneration.

Since the thirteenth century, the export trade from Norway was almost completely in the hands of the Hanseatic capitalists, and such a condition was not exclusively to the disadvantage of Norway, since they were able to make Bergen a great staple for fish, selling the Norwegian cod to the whole of northern Europe. One of the consequences was the development of fisheries in the northern parts of the country, and during these centuries Norwegian fishing-folk spread in settlements along the coast of Finmark as far east as the Varanger Qord, thus making this part of the kingdom truly Norwegian. But the economic superiority of the Hansa merchants was an almost insuperable obstacle to the growth of a native burgher class; at Bergen the merchants of Lubeck, at Oslo those of Rostock formed a power against which the natives vainly tried to rise. It was the chief weakness of Norway that, in an age when the nobility had lost all national force and spirit, the country could not produce a burgher class that might take over the task of a national policy. In the fjords and the valleys there lived a sturdy race of farmers who kept up the national traditions of law and language, and there are signs that, during these centuries of national depression, a popular literature of folk-songs developed among them, in part founded upon the sagas of the thirteenth century. But yeomen and peasants here had no political interests or aspirations, and so no powerful class was left to defend the independence of the nation.

In Sweden, on the contrary, commercial and industrial activities created a burgher class that was able to comprehend intellectual and political interests, and at the same time was strong enough to animate with new ideas both the lower ranks of the nobility and the higher ranks of the yeomanry, thus uniting them into an efficient body able to express a national will. For some decades it might seem as if Swedish politics were nothing but the rivalry of different sections of the higher nobility, using for their egoistic purposes alternately Christian I and Karl Knutsson. During a period of twenty years, until his death in 1470, Karl was thrice made King of Sweden without ever having any real power; wars were fought with changing success, and great families joined one or other party for merely personal reasons. But beneath the surface of ignoble ambitions we are able to observe the new life awakening. The struggles of Engelbrecht and Karl were told in rhymed chronicles, imitating those of the age of Duke Eric, and in these chronicles we meet with a really national spirit, proclaiming the idea of independence. Other authors strove to build up complete histories of the kingdom of Sweden, trying in this way to rouse a national consciousness.

Finally, upon the death of King Karl, the programme of Engelbrecht was revived again by the king’s nephew Sten Sture. Against the majority of the Council of the Realm, chiefly with the assistance of burghers and yeomen, he was proclaimed regent of Sweden, and he kept this position for almost thirty years. In a hard battle just outside Stockholm, on a hill that now forms a part of the city, he won a decisive victory with his army of burghers and yeomen over the forces of King Christian (1471). The burghers of Stockholm had rushed against the enemy, singing the song of St George, the patron saint of their city; and sis a token of gratitude for the victory Sten Sture made a German artist carve a magnificent sculpture of St George killing the dragon which still adorns the Great Church of Stockholm, an expressive witness to the burghers’ pride. Immediately after the victory, the citizens ’of Stockholm, assisted by representatives of other towns, forced the Council of the Realm to expunge from the law the provision that half of each town council should be Germans; this was the declaration of independence of the Swedish burgher class. The new spiritual life of the nation manifested itself by the foundation of the University of Upsala (1477), preceding by a year that of the University of Copenhagen, and in the following decade the new art of printing was employed for the national propaganda.

At the same time, Swedish population and Swedish power were spreading northward and eastward. Merchants and farmers of Swedish and Finnish nationality settled on both sides of the Gulf of Bothnia, and the whole of Finland was brought more and more closely under Swedish administration. At the easternmost point of the Gulf of Finland, the town of Viborg obtained its chartered privileges in 1403, and in the decade from 1470 to 1480 it was strongly fortified by the same castellan, a relative of King Karl and of Sten Sture, who, a little farther to the north, founded the strong castle of Olofsborg. At this part of the frontier, the Swedes met rivals for commerce and power in Russian cities and princes. This was a rivalry which, as early as the middle of the fourteenth century, had led to war, but which received a more dangerous and important character after the erection of the dominion of the Tsars of Muscovy. As a matter of fact, under the rule of King Karl and the independent regents who succeeded him, Sweden entered upon the policy of conquest that aimed at extending its power over the lands of the Teutonic Order east of the Baltic. As yet, these plans did not produce durable results, but they inaugurated a momentous feature of future Swedish politics, and they already played a part in the relations of Sweden with Denmark.

In Denmark and Norway, King Christian I, who died in 1481, had been succeeded by his son Hans. On the part of Norway, there had been some vacillation, the Archbishop of Nidaros desiring to unite with the Swedes; but, finally, the two Councils of the Realms met together and elected Hans as common king of both countries (1483), obliging him to sign a capitulation that confirmed the absolute authority of each Council over the royal power; it even stated the duty of resistance on the part of the subjects in the event of the king not keeping its provisions. It testifies to the increasing closeness of the union of the two kingdoms that on this occasion the royal capitulation was issued in common for both of them. On the other hand, in the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, King Hans was obliged to divide power with his younger brother Frederick.

In the reign of this king two opposite tendencies were clearly manifested. On the one side, he was the creature of the nobility, dependent on the will or the consent of the members of the Council for all his actions. On the other side, he appears as a kind of burgher king, almost on a par with his contemporary, King Louis XI of France, finding his friends and associates among the wealthy burghers of Copenhagen, even having his son and successor educated in the house of one of them; and he was able to reverse the weak policy of his immediate predecessors in regard to the Hansa towns. This task was facilitated for him by the discords inside the Hansa League and even inside the single towns, particularly in Lubeck. But the essential factor was the development of a native class of merchants and artisans in the Danish towns, while in eastern Norway Dutch merchants began an active competition with the Wendish towns, coming there to buy and export on an increasing scale a new commodity, timber. King Hans dared to engage in a privateering war with the Hanseatic towns, and they were forced to acquiesce in the grant of equal commercial privileges to their rivals. It was an omen of a new age for Norway too when his son Prince Christian, as viceroy of this country, in 1508 issued new privileges for the city of Oslo, by which all those of the German merchants were revoked and the retail trade was made a monopoly of the burghers of the city.

When, however, King Hans schemed to renew the Scandinavian policy of his father by winning the crown of Sweden, he had to consider exclusively the interests of the nobility. In fact, already in the year 1483, the Swedish Council of the Realm had agreed with the Councils of Denmark and Norway to acknowledge him as their king, accepting with pleasure the provisions of his capitulation in favour of the nobility. But the regent Sten Sture, supported by the lower classes, succeeded in putting off the realisation of this promise from one year to another, and even papal excommunication could not induce the people to abandon him. He roused the enmity of the higher clergy by interfering in the nomination of bishops and abbots, and the nobles complained of not receiving the fiefs to which they thought themselves entitled. He threatened them with a social revolution, with “another Engelbrecht;” but at last they organised a rebellion, and at the same time King Hans made an alliance with the Russian Great Prince Ivan, who invaded Finland. Arriving at Stockholm with a strong army, Hans forced Sten Sture to capitulate and was crowned as King of Sweden (1497).

This renewal of the Scandinavian Union lasted only for a few years. King Hans had the misfortune to be completely defeated when, with his brother Duke Frederick and a strong force of knights and German mercenaries, he attacked the yeomen of the Ditmarschen in Holstein; the battle (1500) ended in a disaster, similar to that of so many other conflicts between feudal knights and yeomen towards the close of the Middle Ages. In the same year, a man of a new type began to agitate for a rising in Sweden; his name was Dr Hemming Gadh. He was an ecclesiastic by education, a diplomat by his talents, a revolutionary by instinct. For twenty years he had lived in Rome as representative of Sten Sture and had been able to obtain the removal of the regent’s excommunication. On returning, he succeeded in reconciling Sten with one of his bitterest enemies among the Swedish nobility, a distant kinsman, Svante Sture, and, being himself nominated bishop to a vacant see—a nomination, it is true, that was never confirmed by the Pope, but, instead, drew down on him the papal excommunication—he became a member of the Council of the Realm. As such, with both the Sture and a few other members, he proclaimed the deposition of King Hans (1501), accusing him of oppression of the people and of alliance with the Russian enemies of the land. At the same time, he instigated a rebellion in Norway, led by a noble of mixed Norwegian and Swedish descent. This rebellion, however, was unsuccessful, the leader being murdered by a personal enemy, one of the Danish nobles in Norway; his widow fled to Sweden and married Svante Sture. In Sweden, the rebels had the upper hand against both the nobles’ party and the Danish armies.

Upon the death of Sten Sture (1508), Svante Sture was made regent, to be succeeded in 1512 by his son, the younger Sten. Under the regency of these two Hemming Gadh was the dominating spirit, agitating for an increasingly democratic and national programme. He had to give up his episcopal see and was made a military commander; recalling the former extortions of Danish bailiffs, he excited the hatred of the people against the Danes and the higher nobility alike. Meanwhile the representatives of the nobility addressed an appeal for assistance to their fellow nobles in Denmark. “We speak the same tongue, and almost all of us are kinsfolk/ So, more and more clearly, the antagonisms of home politics were deciding the dividing lines in the fight for independence.

Hemming Gadh achieved his greatest success when, as a delegate to the Hansa assembly at Lubeck, he induced the Wendish towns to declare war against Denmark. This war, however, impelled King Hans to appeal to the Dutch and English rivals of the German merchants and to build up a strong Danish fleet for the defence of his own burghers. In fact, when he died in the year 1513, he was victorious on the sea, breaking the predominance of the Hanseatic power, and at home he had strengthened the royal authority so far as to give the Council of the Realm occasion to complain that he had broken more than half of the articles of the capitulation granted at his accession, particularly in conferring high positions on non-noble persons.

In Denmark, as well as in Sweden, the result of the development was the decline of the political importance of the nobility. In both countries a burgher class was rising that was able to reconquer the national independence, both economic as against the Hansa and political as against its Scandinavian neighbour. In part leaning upon this burgher class, the royal power organised itself more firmly, thus preparing the creation of truly national kingdoms. Only Norway was lagging behind, because the growth of an independent burgher class came more slowly there; for that country, then, the sixteenth century meant the climax of the power of the nobility and, as a consequence, the loss of national independence.

For all three countries, the crisis began with the accession of King Christian II (1513). His government meant the sharpening of all social and political conflicts, and led, through much bloodshed, to the establishment of new conditions for the classes and the nations of the Scandinavian North.