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Christian II (July 1, 1481 – January 25, 1559) was a Scandinavian monarch under the Kalmar Union who reigned as King of Denmark and Norway, from 1513 until 1523, and Sweden from 1520 until 1521. From 1513 to 1523, he was concurrently Duke of Schleswig and Holstein in joint rule with his uncle Frederik.

Christian was born at Nyborg Castle in 1481 as the son of Hans, King of Denmark and his wife, Christina of Saxony. Christian descended, through Valdemar I of Sweden, from the House of Eric, and from Catherine, daughter of Inge I of Sweden, as well as from Ingrid Ylva, granddaughter of Sverker I of Sweden.

His rival Gustaf I of Sweden descended only from Sverker II of Sweden and the House of Sverker.Christian took part in his father’s conquest of Sweden in 1497 and in the fighting of 1501 when Sweden revolted. He was appointed viceroy of Norway in 1506, and succeeded in maintaining control of this country.

During his administration in Norway, he attempted to deprive the Norwegian nobility of its traditional influence exercised through the Rigsraadet privy council, leading to controversy with the latter.In 1513, he succeeded his father as King Christian II of Denmark and Norway.

Christian’s succession to the throne of Denmark was confirmed at the Herredag assembly of notables from the three northern kingdoms, which met at Copenhagen in 1513.The Swedish delegates said, “We have the choice between peace at home and strife here, or peace here and civil war at home, and we prefer the former.”

A decision as to the Swedish succession was therefore postponed. Christian’s corronation as king of Denmark and Norway took place in 1514.Whilst visiting Bergen in 1507 or 1509, Christian fell in love with a Norwegian girl of Dutch heritage, named Dyveke Sigbritsdatter. She became his mistress and remained with him until Dyveke’s death.

Their relationship was not interrupted by Christian’s marriage to Archduchess Isabella of Austria, third child of Archduke Philipp the Handsome of Austria, ruler of the Burgundian Netherlands and Infanta Joanna the Mad of Aragon, heiress to the Spanish kingdoms of Castile and Aragon.

Archduchess Isabella’s father was the son of the reigning Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and his deceased consort Mary of Burgundy, while her mother was the daughter of the Catholic Monarchs Fernando II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile.

They married by proxy on June 11, 1514 in Bruxelles. Isabella was brought to Copenhagen a year later, and the marriage was ratified on August 12, 1515 at Copenhagen Castle, in a ceremony conducted by Birger Gunnersen, Archbishop of Lund.Dyveke died in 1517, and Christian was led to believe that the magnate Torben Oxe had poisoned her.

Oxe’s status meant that he should have been tried by the Council of State, but instead he was brought to trial by a common jury at Solbjerg outside Copenhagen. He was found guilty and executed in November 1517.This act precipitated the division between the king and aristocracy that ultimately led to Christian’s deposition.Christian’s chief counsellor was Dyveke’s mother, Sigbrit Willoms.

Christian appointed her controller of the Sound Dues of Øresund, and took her advice on all financial matters.A bourgeoise herself, she acted to extend the influence of the middle classes, and formed an inner council, which competed with the Rigsraadet for power. Her influence was resented by the aristocracy, who blamed her for the king’s favouring the working classes.

As king, Christian tried to maintain the Kalmar Union between the Scandinavian countries which brought him to war with Sweden, lasting between 1518 and 1523. Though he captured the country in 1520, the subsequent slaughter of leading Swedish nobility, churchmen, and others, known as the Stockholm Bloodbath, caused the Swedes to rise against his rule.

The remaining Swedish nobility, appalled by the bloodbath, rose against Christian and the Swedish Diet elected Gustaf Vasa regent and subsequently King of Sweden. On account of the massacre Christian II is remembered in Sweden as Christian the Tyrant (Kristian Tyrann).

In June 1521, the Danish king paid a visit to Emperor Charles V in the Netherlands, where he remained for some months. He visited most of the large cities, made the personal acquaintance of Quentin Matsys and Albrecht Dürer, and met Erasmus, with whom he discussed the Protestant Reformation.Directly upon his return to Denmark in September 1521 Christian issued two bodies of laws – the Town Law and the Land Law – which governed respectively trade and the behaviour of the clergy.

The Town Law strengthened the rights of tradesmen and peasants at the expense of the nobility. Trade was reorganised and was to be conducted solely through market towns, which were to be governed by officials appointed by the king. Trading in peasants was forbidden, and peasants were given the right to negotiate the terms of their tenure with the nobility.

The Land Law permitted clergy to marry, and gave some control of the church over to the state. The new laws were radical, progressive, and perceived by the nobility and bishops as an existential threat.By 1522, Christian was running out of allies. In an attempt to set up a Danish-centered trading company in direct competition with the Hanseatic League, Christian had raised the sound tolls, which affected trade between Sweden and the Hanseatic towns.

As a consequence, Lübeck and Danzig joined the newly independent Sweden in war against Denmark.Domestic rebellion against Christian started in Jutland. On January 20, 1523, the herredag at Viborg offered the Danish crown to Christian’s uncle, Duke Frederik of Holstein.

Frederik’s army gained control over most of Denmark during the spring, and in April 1523 Christian left Denmark to seek help abroad. On May 1, he landed at Veere in Zeeland.

Exile and imprisonment

In exile Christian led a humble life in the city of Lier in the Netherlands (now in Belgium), waiting for military help from his brother-in-law Charles V. Christian corresponded with Martin Luther and he became a Lutheran for some time; he even commissioned a translation of the New Testament into Danish.

Queen Isabella died in January 1526, and Christian’s children were taken by her family so as not to be raised as heretics. Popular agitation against Frederik I in Denmark centered on Søren Norby, who gathered an army of peasants in Scania, but was defeated in 1525.By 1531, Christian had reverted to Catholicism and reconciled with the Emperor.

Çhristian II took a fleet to Norway, and landed in Oslo to popular acclaim in November 1531. Christian failed to subdue the fortresses of northern Norway, however, and accepted a promise of safe conduct from Frederik I.Frederik did not keep his promise, and Christian was kept prisoner for the next 27 years, first in Sønderborg Castle until 1549, and afterwards at the castle of Kalundborg.

Stories of solitary confinement in small dark chambers are inaccurate; King Christian was treated like a nobleman, particularly in his old age, and he was allowed to host parties, go hunting, and wander freely as long as he did not go beyond the Kalundborg town boundaries.

Frederik I died in April 1533, and the Danish Council of State was at first unable to choose a successor. The mayor of Lübeck, Jürgen Wullenwever, took advantage of the resulting interregnum to conspire for the restoration of Christian II to the throne of Denmark.

He formed an alliance with two prominent nobles, Ambrosius Bogbinder and Jørgen Kock, mayor of Malmö.With Christopher, Count of Oldenburg as his military commander he succeeded in seizing Scania and Zeeland in the name of Christian II in a conflict known as the Count’s Feud.

However, Frederik’s eldest son, also named Christian, raised an army in Holstein which, lead by Johann Rantzau, took in turn Holstein, Jutland and Zeeland in a series of brilliant military manoeuvers. He formed an alliance with Gustaf Vasa, who subdued Scania, and took the throne as Christian III of Denmark. Christian II remained in prison in Kalundborg.

Christian II died in January 1559, a few days after Christian III. The new king, Frederik II, ordered that a royal funeral be held in his memory.Christian II buried in Odense next to his wife, parents, and son John, who died in the summer of 1532.