Count Christian VII of Oldenburg, Count Dietrich of Oldenburg, Count Otto IV of Delmenhorst, Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa, Holy Roman Empire, Kalmar Union, King Christian I of Denmark, King Christopher III of Denmark, King Eric IV of Denmark, King Eric V of Denmark, King Haakon V of Norway, King Magnus I of Sweden, Queen Margrethe I of Denmark and Norway and Sweden
Dietrich or Theoderic of Oldenburg (c. 1398 – February 14, 1440) was a feudal lord in Northern Germany, holding the counties of Delmenherst and Oldenburg. He was called “Fortunatus”, as he was able to secure Delmenhorst for his branch of the Oldenburgs.
The town of Oldenburg was first mentioned in 1108, at that time known under the name of Aldenburg. It became important due to its location at a ford of the navigable Hunte river. Oldenburg became a small county in the shadow of the much more powerful Free Hanseatic City of Bremen.
The earliest recorded inhabitants of the region now called Oldenburg were a Teutonic people- the Chauci. The genealogy of the counts of Oldenburg can be traced to the Saxon hero Widukind (opponent of Charlemagne) but their first historical representative was Huno of Rustringen (died 1088, founded the monastery of Rastede in 1059).
In the Holy Roman Empire Oldenburg was a county that developed around the settlement of Oldenburg, (first attested in 1108) and in the course of history gained control of a wider area. The Counts of Oldenburg stemmed from a Frisian princely house.
Huno’s descendants appear as vassals of the Welf Saxon Duke Heinrich III-XII the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Duke of Bavaria, they took advantage of his deposition by Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa to make themselves autonomous. They were given the title of princes of the Empire when Friedrich I Barbarossa dismembered the Saxon duchy in 1189.
The first Oldenburgs belonged to the line of the Rüstringen Frisians.
In 1234 the county was acquired by the also Frisian Stedingens, later by other Frisian territories (Butjadingen, Rüstringen, Wurden) and finally in 1575 came into the possession of the Lordship of Jever.
At this time the county of Delmenhorst formed part of the dominions of the counts of Oldenburg, but afterwards it was on several occasions separated from them to form an appanage for younger branches of the family, namely in ca. 1266-1436, 1463-1547 and 1577-1617.
The northern and western parts of what would become the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg were in the hands of independent, or semi-independent, Frisian princes, who were usually pagan, and the counts of Oldenburg seized much of these lands in a series of wars during the early part of the 13th century. The Free Hanseatic City of Bremen and the bishop of Münster also frequently warred with the counts of Oldenburg.
Dietrich of Oldenburg was the son of Christian V of Oldenburg, who became the Count circa 1398 and died in 1403. His mother was the Countess Agnes of Honstein. His grandfather, Conrad I of Oldenburg, who died circa 1368, left his lands divided between Dietrich’s father and uncle, Conrad II.
Dietrich’s father, Christian V, managed to gain the upper hand when Conrad II’s son Maurice II died in 1420. After this, most of the Oldenburg family patrimony was under the rule of Dietrich’s branch. However, the house had several minor branches with estates and claims, as was usual in any medieval fief.
Dietrich of Oldenburg was the grandson of Ingeborg of Itzehoe, a Holstein princess who had married Count Conrad I of Oldenburg. After the death of her only brother, Count Gerhard V of Holstein-Itzehoe-Plön in 1350, Ingeborg and her issue were the heirs of her grandmother Ingeborg of Sweden (d. ca. 1290, the first wife of Gerhard II of Holstein-Plön), the eldest daughter of King Valdemar of Sweden and Queen Sophia, who herself was the eldest daughter of King Eric IV of Denmark and his wife Jutta of Saxony who had no male descendants. Since there were no other living legitimate descendants of King Valdemar by this time, Dietrich was considered the heir general of Kings Valdemar I of Sweden and Eric IV of Denmark.
Dietrich succeeded his father as head of the House of Oldenburg in 1403.
Oldenburg gained importance when Count Dietrich of Oldenburg († 1440) married Helvig of Schauenburg, daughter of Gerhard VI of Schleswig-Holstein-Rendsburg. Dietrich’s younger son carried on the line of Oldenburg counts, which died out in 1667. The elder son, Christian, was elected King Christian I of Denmark in 1448 and Lord of Schleswig and Holstein in 1460. In 1667 this line acquired Oldenburg as well, which thereby was joined in personal union with the Danish crown.
Marriages and children
During his childhood, Dietrich married a distant cousin, the Countess Adelheid of Oldenburg-Delmenhorst, daughter of Oldenburg Count Otto IV of Delmenhorst, for reasons of succession and uniting the hereditary fiefs. Countess Adelheid is presumed to have died in 1404.
In 1423, Dietrich married again, to Helvig of Schauenburg (born between 1398–1400 and died in 1436), widow of Prince Balthasar of Mecklenburg and daughter of the murdered Duke Gerhard VI of Schleswig and Holstein and his wife Elisabeth of Brunswick and, thus, sister of the reigning Duke Adolf VIII. All his legitimate children were born by his second wife.
His second marriage strengthened this interest in the Scandinavian monarchies since Helvig was a descendant of King Eric V of Denmark, King Haakon V of Norway and King Magnus I of Sweden.
At this time, Scandinavia was ruled by the Kalmar Union, established by Queen Margarethe I of Denmark. In 1387, she had lost her heir Olav IV of Norway, who was succeeded as heir by Eric of Pomerania and his sister Catherine, who was married to a Prince of the Palatinate and Bavaria.
Dietrich of Oldenburg is said to have been a rival claimant to the crowns of Sweden and Denmark during the reign of Eric VII-XIII, whose succession was through Christopher I of Denmark, the younger brother of the murdered Eric IV, and through Magnus I of Sweden, younger brother of the deposed King Valdemar.
Count Theodoric had three surviving sons and one daughter:
Christian (1426–1481); who succeeded him as Count Christian VII of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst, and later became King Christian I of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden (following the deposition of Carl VII of Sweden), as well as Duke of Schleswig and Holstein. He would found the House of Oldenburg Dynasty in Denmark that still rules to this day.
Maurice V of Delmenhorst (1428–1464); when his elder brother became king, he was given the County of Delmenhorst.
Gerhard VI, Count of Oldenburg (1430–1500); two years after his eldest brother had become king, he was given the county of Oldenburg, and from his other brother’s heirs, he also inherited Delmenhorst in about 1483. The third son got his name from usages of the mother’s Holstein clan.
Adelheid (1425–1475), first married Ernest III, the Count of Hohnstein (d. 1454) and then, in 1474, Gerhard VI, Count of Mansfeld (d. 1492).
Male line of descendants
Dietrich of Oldenburg is a direct ancestor of the Danish royal family having given birth to the first House of Oldenburg King of Denmark, Christian I. He is also a direct ancestor of the British Royal Family, the pretenders to the Kingdom of the Hellenes, the Norwegian royal family, and the last Russian Emperors of Romanov-Holstein-Gottorp.