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Christian I (February 1426 – May 21, 1481) was a Scandinavian monarch under the Kalmar Union. He was king of Denmark (1448–1481), Norway (1450–1481) and Sweden (1457–1464). From 1460 to 1481, he was also duke of Schleswig (within Denmark) and count (after 1474, duke) of Holstein (within the Holy Roman Empire). He was the first king of the House of Oldenburg.

Christian I was born in February 1426 in Oldenburg in Northern Germany as the eldest son of Count Dietrich of Oldenburg (or Theoderic of Oldenburg) by his second wife, Helvig of Holstein (died 1436). Christian had two younger brothers, Maurice (1428–1464) and Gerhard (1430–1500), and one sister Adelheid.

Christian I, King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Through his father, he belonged to the House of Oldenburg, a comital family established since the 12th century in an area west of the River Weser in north-western Germany. Based on the two strongholds of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst, the family had gradually expanded its rule over the neighbouring Frisian tribes of the area. Christian’s father was called the Fortunate as he had reunited and expanded the family’s territory. Also through his father, Christian was a cognatic descendant of King Eric IV of Denmark through his daughter Sophia. Christian of Holstein thus descended from the three surviving sons of Valdemar II of Denmark and his second wife Berengaria of Portugal.

Christian’s mother, Helvig, was a daughter of Gerhard VI, Count of Holstein, and a sister of Adolphus, Duke of Schleswig. Through his mother, Christian was also a cognatic descendant of King Eric V of Denmark through his second daughter Richeza and also a cognatic descendant of King Abel of Denmark through his daughter Sophie.

At the death of their father in 1440, Christian and his brothers jointly succeeded Dietrich as Count of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst. Christian, or Christian VII of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst as he then became, was raised by his uncle, Duke Adolphus of Schleswig, Count of Holstein (1401–1459) as the childless duke wished for his young nephew to become his heir, and also succeeded in having Christian elected as his successor in the Duchy of Schleswig.

In January 1448, King Christopher III of Denmark, Sweden and Norway died suddenly and without natural heirs. Before I discuss how Count Christian VII of Oldenburg became King of Denmark let me briefly explain how his predecessor became king and how Christian VII became his heir.

Christopher III was the son of Johann, Count Palatine of Neumarkt (1383–1443 and Catherine of Pomerania (c. 1390–1426). Catherine was the daughter of Wartislaw VII, Duke of Pomerania in Pomerania-Stolp, and sister of the Scandinavian king, Eric of Pomerania. Eric was numbered Eric III as King of Norway (1389–1442), Eric VII as King of Denmark (1396–1439) and Eric XIII as King of Sweden(1396–1434, 1436–39). Today, in all three countries he is more commonly known as Eric of Pomerania.

Count Palatine Johann was a son of King Rupert of Germany (1352–1410) a member of the House of Wittelsbach, who was Elector Palatine from 1398 (as Rupert III) and King of Germany (rex Romanorum) from 1400 until his death. Christopher III was probably born at Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz in Upper Palatinate, in Bavaria, Germany. In 1445, Christopher married Dorothea of Brandenburg (1430 – 25 November 1495) in Copenhagen.

Eric of Pomerania was deposed as king of Denmark and Sweden in 1439. As Eric’s nephew, Christopher, who was rather unfamiliar with Scandinavian conditions, was elected by the Danish State Council as the successor to his uncle, first as regentfrom 1439, and then proclaimed King of Denmark at the Viborg Assembly (Danish landsting) on April 9, 1440. He was meant to be a puppet king, as evidenced by the saying: “Had the Council demanded the stars of heaven from him, he would have ordered it.” He was later elected king of Sweden in 1441, and Norway in June 1442.

The death of Christopher III resulted in the break-up of the union of the three kingdoms, as Denmark and Sweden went their separate ways and Norway’s affiliation was unclear. Sweden elected Carl VIII of Sweden (1408–1470) king with the intent to reestablish the union under a Swedish king. Carl was elected king of Norway in the following year. The vacant Danish throne was first offered by the Council of the Realm to Duke Adolphus of Schleswig, being the most prominent feudal lord of Danish dominions. The duke declined and recommended his nephew, Count Christian VI of Oldenburg.

Coat of arms as King of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the Wends and Duke of Schleswig-Holstein.

Before being elected, Christian had to promise to obey to the Constitutio Valdemariana, a provision in the ascension promissory of King Valdemar III of Denmark, that promised that in the future, the same person could never be both ruler of the Duchy of Schleswig and Denmark simultaneously.

The council also demanded that Christian should marry dowager queen Dorothea of Brandenburg (ca 1430–1495), widow of his predecessor King Christopher III. On September 1, 1448, after signing his ascension promissory, count Christian VI was elected to the Danish throne as king Christian I at the assembly in Viborg. His coronation was held on October 28, 1449, in the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen, at which occasion his marriage with dowager queen Dorothea was also celebrated.