Eric of Pomerania, Feast Day of St. Margaret of Antioch, Kalmar Union, King Valdemar IV of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, Queen Margrethe I of Denmark
Union of Kalmar
On July 20, Margrethe capitalized on the general rejoicing by publishing the famous Treaty of Kalmar, “a masterly document that sealed the union of Norway, Sweden and Denmark”. The date she chose was no coincidence – it was the Feast Day of St. Margaret of Antioch, who like the Lady King herself, was cast off by her father and thrown into prison.
The Treaty proposed “everlasting union”, which reflected her dearest ambition, that “all three realms should exist together in harmony and love, and whatever befalleth one, war and rumors of war, or the onslaught of foreigners, that shall be for all three, and each kingdom shall help the others in all fealty …and hereafter the Nordic realms shall have one king, and not several”.
Well aware of regional pride and prejudice, Margrethe played a careful strategy, assuring her subjects that each state would be governed according to the laws and customs of each, no new laws would be introduced without the consent of the subjects, officials from governors to soldiers would be recruited from the native populations, thus showing her subjects that they would enjoy every benefit of union without any threat to national identity.
To weld the united kingdoms still more closely together, Margrethe summoned a congress of the three Councils of the Realm to Kalmar in June 1397, and on Trinity Sunday, June 17, Eric of Pomerania was crowned king of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
The Act of Union resulting from this was never completed. Scholars continue to debate the reasons, but the Union existed de facto through the early 16th century reign of King Christian II, and the union of Denmark and Norway continued until 1814.
A few years after the Kalmar Union, the 18-year-old Eric of Pomerania was declared of age and homage was rendered to him in all his three kingdoms, although Margrethe was the effective ruler of Scandinavia throughout her lifetime.
Kalmar Union and royal policy
So long as the union was insecure, Margrethe had tolerated the presence of the Riksråd, but their influence was minor and the Royal authority remained supreme. The offices of High Constable and Earl Marshal were left vacant; the Danehof fell into ruin, and “the great Queen, an ideal despot”, ruled through her court officials, who served as a superior kind of clerk.
In any event, law and order were well maintained and the licence of the nobility was sternly repressed. The kingdoms of Sweden and Norway were treated as integral parts of the Danish State, and national aspirations were frowned upon or checked, though Norway, being more loyal, was treated more indulgently than Sweden.
In 1396, according to Grethe Jacobsen, she issued an ordinance that one should to a higher degree than hitherto respect and enforce peace towards church (pax dei), houses, farms, legal assemblies, workers in the fields – and women, expressed in the word “kvindefred”.
Jacobsen believes that as punishment for rape was normally not associated with the other forms for upholding peace in the tradition of pax dei, this may be an expression of Margrethe’s perception of women as being particularly vulnerable in times of unrest, and for her own interpretation of the ruler as protector of personae miserabiles, which included maidens and widows.
Another testament was her dispositions of 1411 through which she distributed the sum of 500 marcs among the women who had been ‘violated and debased’ during the wars between Sweden and Denmark 1388–1389.
Margrethe recovered for the Crown all the landed property that had been alienated in the troubled times before the reign of Valdemar IV. This so-called reduktion, or land-recovery, was carried out with the utmost rigour, and hundreds of estates fell into the hands of the crown. She also reformed the Danish currency, substituting good silver coins for the old and worthless copper tokens, to the great advantage both of herself and of the state. She always had large sums of money at her disposal, and much of it was given to charity.