Christian II of Denmark
Christian II (1 July 1481 – 25 January 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 Frederick.
|King of Denmark and Norway |
|Reign||22 July 1513 – 20 January 1523|
|Coronation||11 June 1514, Copenhagen|
20 July 1514, Oslo
|King of Sweden |
|Reign||1 November 1520 – 23 August 1521|
|Coronation||4 November 1520|
|Born||1 July 1481|
|Died||25 January 1559 77) (aged|
Kalundborg Castle (as prisoner)
St. Canute's Cathedral
Isabella of Austria
(m. 1514; died 1526)
Dorothea, Electress Palatine
Christina, Duchess of Milan
|Father||John, King of Denmark|
|Mother||Christina of Saxony|
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. He was deposed in a rebellion led by the nobleman and later king of Sweden Gustav Vasa. He attempted to bring in a radical reform of the Danish state in 1521–22, which would have strengthened the rights of commoners at the expense of the nobles and clergy. The nobility rose against him in 1523, and he was exiled to the Netherlands, ceding the Danish throne to Fredrick I. After attempting to reclaim the thrones in 1531, he was arrested and held in captivity for the rest of his life, first in Sønderborg Castle and later at Kalundborg Castle. Supporters tried to restore him to power both during his exile and his imprisonment but they were defeated decisively during the Count's Feud in 1536. Christian died at Kalundborg in 1559.
Christian married Isabella of Austria, granddaughter of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1515. Isabella died in 1526, after which her family took Christian's three children from him. His relationship with his mistress, Dyveke Sigbritsdatter, pre-dated his marriage and continued until her death in 1517. Christian's persecution of her supposed murderer contributed to his political isolation and downfall. Dyveke's mother, Sigbrit Willoms, became an influential councillor and followed Christian into exile.
Until 1521 Christian's regime was strongly allied, financed and dependent on Pope Leo X and Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor (he was also his Duke of Holstein) in a plan to take control of Sweden politically and economically.
In the background was an economic power struggle over the mining and metal industry in Bergslagen (the main mining area of Sweden in the 16th century) which added much greater financial resources to military capacity, but also strong dependencies, to a conflict that already lasted for decades over the Kalmar Union. An economic struggle, where the parties were financed and stood between:
- Jakob Fugger (early extremely rich industrialist in the mining and metal industry on the continent) trying an unfriendly business-takeover of Bergslagen, allied with those of Fugger's economically dependent Pope Leo X (with the Swedish Archbishop Gustav Trolle) and Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor in alliance with Christian II of Denmark/Norway, claiming being the union king (also in Sweden), where his marriage in 1515 with Isabella of Austria confirmed the pact.
- The Hanseatic League (the Free City of Lübeck) who in practice had a trade monopoly in Sweden and Bergslagen, allied with the regents of Sweden Sten Sture the younger and later Gustav Vasa, who made them strongly dependent on the Hanseatic League.
The planned conquest of Sweden by Christian II, with Fugger's intended takeover of the industry in Bergslagen, was financed with a very large dowry, for Christian II's wife, financed by Fugger. Fugger later withdrew from the project in 1521 after losing to Gustav Vasa’s rebellion of the Swedish War of Liberation in the Battle of Västerås (and the control over shipping from Bergslagen). Thus, Fuggers former ally Christian II, lost the resources to win the war against Gustav Vasa, but also lost the resources to maintain his position in Denmark (against Frederick I of Denmark 1523).
The sharp increase in funding and financial dependence meant that at times the parties could keep up with larger amounts of expensive hired mercenaries, which explains the swinging of power and quickly changes of the situation, during the course of the proceedings. The costs were significant and after Christian III's victory with Gustav Vasa's Sweden as ally 1536 in Count's Feud in Scania and Denmark, the money was gone, Christian II, the Catholic Church's and the Hanseatic League's influence in the Nordic countries was over.
Followed by the Reformation in Denmark-Norway and the Reformation in Sweden, the nationalization of the Catholic Church with the Lutheran clergy under royal governmental payroll as civil servants, that financed the regimes of the new much more independent sovereigns.
Christian was born at Nyborg Castle in 1481 as the son of John, 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 Gustav 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 of Denmark and Norway. Christian's succession to the throne[of Norway and 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 Isabella of Austria, the granddaughter of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. They married by proxy on 11 June 1514 in Bruxelles. Isabella was brought to Copenhagen a year later, and the marriage was ratified on 12 August 1515 at Copenhagen Castle, in a ceremony conducted by Birger Gunnersen, Archbishop of Lund.
Dyveke died in 1517, and Christian was lead 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.
Reconquest of Sweden
Christian was meanwhile preparing for the inevitable war with Sweden. The anti-Danish faction, headed by the regent Sten Sture the Younger, was opposed by the pro-Danish party lead by Archbishop Gustav Trolle. In 1517 Christian dispatched ships and soldiers to the relief of the archbishop's fortress of Stäket, but was defeated by Sture and his peasant levies at Vedila. A second attempt the following year was also frustrated by Sture's victory at the Battle of Brännkyrka.
A third attempt made in 1520 with a large army of French, German and Scottish mercenaries proved successful. Sture was mortally wounded at the Battle of Bogesund on 19 January, and the remaining rebel forces were suppressed in April at the bloody Battle of Uppsala. Under the leadership of Sture's widow Christina Gyllenstierna, Stockholm held out until September 1520. Ultimately Christian was crowned by Trolle in November, with the agreement of the Swedish Privy Council (Riksråd), who had, however, extracted an indemnity for the past and guarantee that Sweden should be ruled according to Swedish laws and custom.
Three days after the coronation, Archbishop Trolle accused the followers of Sture of heresy for their part in the rising against him. Gyllenstierna used the fact that the Swedish Diet had made a 'swearing in common' (sammansvärjning) in 1517, which had bound the nobles to Sture's cause, in defence of her husband's followers. However, Christian seized on this as an opportunity to cement his control over Sweden by removing his opponents. He convened an ecclesiastical court which condemned all parties to the swearing in common. On 8 and 9 November eighty-two Swedish noblemen were executed at Stockholm castle, including the bishops of Skara and Strängnäs. As well as Sture's supporters, who had formed Trolle's original list, Christian's suspicious nature led him to even execute supporters of the Kalmar Union. The bodies of Sten Sture and his child were dug up and burnt. Gyllenstierna and other noble Swedish ladies were sent as prisoners to Denmark.
The bloodbath, rather than cementing Christian's control of the Swedish throne, lead in short order to Sweden's secession from the Kalmar Union. Didrik Slagheck, whom Christian appointed to the bishopric of Skara and as one of the three regents of Sweden, proved brutal and inept. The remaining Swedish nobility, appalled by the bloodbath, rose against Christian and the Swedish Diet elected Gustav Vasa regent and subsequently King of Sweden. On account of the massacre Christian is remembered in Sweden as Christian the Tyrant (Kristian Tyrann).
Legal reforms and downfall
In June 1521, the Danish king paid a visit to 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 20 January 1523, the herredag at Viborg offered the Danish crown to Christian's uncle, Duke Frederick of Holstein. Frederick's army gained control over most of Denmark during the spring, and in April 1523 Christian left Denmark to seek help abroad. On 1 May, 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. 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 Fredrick 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. He 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 Fredrick I.
Frederick 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.
Fredrick 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, Fredrick'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 Gustav 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, Frederick II, ordered that a royal funeral be held in his memory. He is buried in Odense next to his wife, parents, and son John, who died in the summer of 1532.
Christian II is one of the most discussed of all Danish kings. He has been regarded as both a hypocritical tyrant and a progressive despot, who wanted to create an absolute monarchy based upon "free citizens". His psychological weaknesses have caught the interest of historians, especially his frequently mentioned irresolution, which as years passed seemed to dominate his acts. Christian clearly made too many enemies. Furthermore, the Danish middle class was still not strong enough to support royal power. However some of his ambitions were fulfilled by the victory of absolutism in 1660.
Jean Sibelius composed in 1898 incidental music King Christian II to a play about the king, and derived from it a suite.
The Fall of the King (Danish: Kongens Fald), a novel by the Danish author and Nobel Prize Lureate Johannes V. Jensen, published in three parts from 1900 to 1901, is considered a major work of modern Danish literature. It relates the tangled history of Christian II reign and downfall as seen by the (fictional) Mikkel Thøgersen, a loyal follower of king.
The Corridors of Time by Danish-American science fiction writer Poul Anderson includes a section where a modern American travels in time to 16th Century Denmark, arriving there shortly after Christian II's downfall - where he meets and befriends a diehard follower of the deposed King, and the two of them share various adventures.
Christian II had six children by his wife, Isabella of Austria (1501–1526), only three of whom survived infancy and two reached adulthood. They were:
- Hans in Danish
- Margareta Skantze ”Där brast ett ädelt hjärta: Kung Kristian II och hans värld” (”There a noble heart broke. King Christian II and his world”) ISBN 9789197868136
- Lockhart 2007, p. 12.
- Bain 1911.
- Danmarkshistoriens årstal [The History of Denmark's dates]. Skipper, Jon Bloch. (2. revid. udg ed.). Copenhagen: Aschehoug. 2002. p. 143. ISBN 87-11-11597-1. OCLC 55219013.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Lockhart 2007, p. 13.
- Lockhart 2007, p. 14.
- Lockhart 2007, p. 15.
- Lockhart 2007, pp. 15–16.
- Lockhart 2007, p. 16.
- Reiter 1943.
- Lockhart 2007, pp. 17–18.
- Lockhart 2007, pp. 14,18.
- Lockhart 2007, pp. 18–19.
- Lockhart 2007, pp. 20–21,61.
- Lockhart 2007, p. 22.
- Lockhart 2007, pp. 25–28.
- Lockhart 2007, p. 25.
- Bricka 1887, pp. 566–567.
- Bricka 1887, pp. 306–307.
- Bricka 1887, pp. 573–574.
- Bain, Robert Nisbet (1911). ed.). Cambridge University Press. . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th
- Bricka, Carl Frederik (1887). Dansk biografisk Lexikon. Copenhagen: Gyldendal. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
- Lockhart, Paul Douglas (2007). Denmark, 1513-1660 : the rise and decline of a Renaissance monarchy. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199271214.
- Reiter, Paul Johann (1943). Kristian Tyrann. Personlighet, själsliv och livsdrama (in Swedish). Witting, Gustaf (tr). Natur och kultur.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Christian II of Denmark.|
- The Royal Lineage at the website of the Danish Monarchy
- Ripley, George; Dana, Charles A., eds. (1879). . The American Cyclopædia.
House of OldenburgBorn: 2 July 1481 Died: 25 January 1559
| King of Denmark and Norway
| Duke of Holstein and Schleswig
with Frederick I
and Christian III
Title last held byJohn II
| King of Sweden
Title next held byGustav I