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of all the power which had been won by his great valour, and that of his father Valdemar I. and his brother Knud VI. In his grief at the thonight of dooming his sons to the fate from which he had just escaped, he wrote an earnest letter to the pope, praying him to use the power, which all good churchmen of those times believed he had, of absolving him from his oath to let his children go into captivity. The pope taking pity on him, granted his prayer, and sent one of his bishops to Count Henry of Schwerin to tell him that if he tried to enforce this wrong against the King of Denmark, who had appealed to the Church of Rome, he should be deprived of all the services of religion and be made to pay a heavy fine to the papal throne.
When first Valdemar returned to Denmark he was too much cast down and too full of sorrow to attempt to get back any of his old conquests. After a time, however, his spirit revived, and when in 1227 the peasants of the Ditmarshes refused to pay the tribute which the Danish crown had long claimed from them, he could not bear the insult, and putting himself at the head of his army marched into their lands. But fortune had left him, as it now seemed, for ever, and after seeing 4,000 of his troops killed by the rebels, who had been strongly helped by the German princes of Holstein, and being wounded in the eye by an arrow which struck him to the ground, he only escaped a second capture through the timely aid of a German knight. This friendly foe had in fotmer times been in Valdemar's service, and when he saw his old master helpless and bleeding, he lifted him to his saddle and carried hin from the field of battle at Bornhöved in Holstein, to Kiel where his wounds were tended, and means were found to convey him to his country palace, Vordingborg in Sjælland.'
Valdemar's Merits in Peace. After this campaign King Valdemar lived at peace with his neighbours, and the remaining
1 According to the legend of Bornhöved, Count Adolf of Holstein owed his victory over the Danes to the Virgin, who, having heard the vows which he made at the close of a long summer-day's fight to build churches and convents, and take upon himself the vows of a monk if he were successful, placed herself before the sun to prevent his rays from dazzling the eyes of the Germans. By these means Count Adolf was able to bring his men in the rear of the Danes and cut them down before they could rally in their own desence.
of his reign were devoted to the cares of government and to the preparation of several codes of laws for the various provinces of the kingdom, for there were not in that age any general laws for the whole monarchy. In 1241 Valdemar laid the Jutish code before the Thing of Jutland, which met at Viborg, and before the Sjælland Thing at Vordingborg. These laws, which had been revised by the learned Bishop Gunner, and were soon extended to South Jutland (or Slesvig) and to Fyen, continued to be in force for nearly 450 years, when the Danish King Christian V., in 1687, caused new laws to be framed, although even then all the provisions of Valdemar's famous code were not wholly set aside. Under these old laws the people continued, as in more ancient times, to decide upon ordinary cases of dispute by juries of which there were several kinds, one consisting of “eight good and true men” chosen by the king, and another of twelve jurors chosen by the community, who were all bound to tender an oath to the royal bailiff before the Thing that they would determine according to “what was most right and most true.” In many cases where in older times the ordeal by a red-hot iron had been in use, the oaths of twelve men were accepted in proof of the innocence of an accused person. The royal bailiff of the Danish Things had no judicial power, but was called upon to see the judgments of the juries carried out, to keep order, receive oaths, and see that everything was arranged according to prescribed custom during the sitting of the Thing, which met in the open air within a space enclosed by a ring of stones. The laws were lenient, and most crimes could be atoned for by money, or other fines; compensation to the sufferer being more considered among the Scandinavians than vengeance on the offender.
Valdemar's Children.— Three days after the Jutish laws were read and approved of before the Thing of Vordingborg, King Valdemar died at the age of seventy-one, leaving three sons, Erik, Abel, and Christopher, who all in turn ruled after him, and who were the children of his second queen, Berangaria,
1 Ten years earlier the king had caused a Jorde bog, or “ Book of Lands," to be drawn up, which gave an account of the value, produce and ownership of every farm and estate in his kingdom.
daughter of King Sancho V. of Portugal.
His eldest son, Valdemar, who had been crowned joint king with himself to secure his succession when he was only six years old, and who as we have seen shared his captivity at Danneberg, had died in 1231, at the early age of twenty-three, from a stab in the foot received when hunting. As the prince's wife and infant son had been carried off shortly before his death by some sudden disease, or as the people thought by poison, there was no descendant left of Valdemar's first queen, Margrete of Bohemia, whom the Danes, in their fond admiration of her gentleness and beauty, called Dagmar, “Day's maiden."
This queen long continued to be a special favourite with the people of Denmark, amongst whom the fame of her virtues was kept alive in many of the most popular of their national rhyming verses, known as Kæmpeviser, where King Valdemar's Dagmar is represented as a fair, fragile, golden-haired princess, gentle and pure as a saint. According to one of these old ballads, when she lay on her death-bed and her chaplain urged her to confess, she could recall no sin but that of having decked herself in her best new boddice and plaited her long hair with bright ribbons before she went to mass. But while the Danes thus took delight in trying to extol the virtues and beauties of their favourite, there was nothing too bad for them to relate of Valdemar's second queen, the tall, black-haired Berangaria, whose name they turned into “ Bengjærd,” which from that time forth became a by-word for any vile woman. stitious peasants even believed that fierce and loud cries of rage and terror might be heard from her tomb in Ringsted Abbey by those who passed near it at midnight, while at the same moment the softest strains of heavenly music floated over the neighbouring grave of Valdemar's first and best loved queen, Dagmar.
The memory of Valdemar II. has always been especially cherished by the Danes, who regard him as the greatest of their conquerors, and the most patriotic of their early kings. In his own age and in those immediately succeeding his death, he was looked upon as the perfect model of a noble knight and royal hero, and while he was honoured for his gallant and successful efforts to raise Denmark to a height of power which it had
never before reached, he won the love and pity of the people on account of the miseries and degradation brought upon him in return for those very efforts to exalt the greatness of the Monarchy
A CENTURY OF TROUBLES.
Erik, 1241-1 250.-Nearly one hundred years separates the beginning of the first Valdemar's reign in 1157 from the close of his son Valdemar Sejr's reign in 1241 ; and that century marks the rapid rise and decline of the power of Denmark in Northern Europe.
But whether in its successes or its losses, it was an age of glory of which the people have cause to be proud. It was very different, however, in regard to the following century, from 1241 to 1340, which was filled up with the reigns of Valdemar Sejr's three sons and their immediate descendants, for during that period the Monarchy was gradually stripped of all its domains and seemed for a time nearly blotted out, while the people rapidly lost their national independence and ceased to exhibit the daring spirit for which they had once been noted.
Valdemar's excessive love for his children had been the first cause of the terrible disasters and civil wars which followed quickly upon his death; for in order to make provisions for his younger sons he had given Slesvig with the title of duke to Abel, and Laaland and Falster to Christopher, while he bestowed Bleking and Halland on his grandson, Nikolaus. When, therefore, Erik became king, he found that little more than the title of royalty was left to him, for his brothers on the plea that their father had given them full sovereignty over their lands, refused to do homage to the Crown. The disputes which sprang up when Erik tried to enforce his rights soon ended in fierce civil war, and cost the lives and properties of a great number of the Danish and Slesvig peasants, who cared nothing for the quarrels of their princes, and only wanted to be left to till their fields and earn their living in peace. Erik was not a bad ruler, and whenever his brothers gave him the chance, he
lived on friendly terms with them; but he brought ill-will upon himself amongst the people by going to war with the pagans in Esthonia, and levying a tax to meet the expenses which gained for him the nickname of “Plov-peng"-plough-money-because it was laid upon the peasants in accordance with the number of ploughs that each man used on his land.
Quarrel between the Brothers.—On his return from Esthonia, where the Danish king reaped some glory but no pront, he wished to make friends with his brother Duke Abel, and therefore went to pay him a visit in his castle of Slesvig. The duke received the king very well and made a feast for him, but he bore hatred in his heart, and when after dinner they were amusing themselves according to the fashion of the day, with playing chess, he began to complain of all the troubles and the losses which he and his family had suffered at the hands of the king's soldiers in the last war. Erik begged him to "let bygones be by-gones," and not rake up old grievances, but this only seemed to make him more angry, and he cried out “No! King Erik, I am not going to let bygones be bygones !' cannot forget that my two daughters had to run for their lives from your soldiers when they laid siege to this castle, and that the poor children, barefooted and bareheaded, had to hurry out of my gates and take shelter in a mean burgher's house !"
“I am truly grieved, dear brother," said the king goodnaturedly; "and though I am not, God knows, as rich as I could wish to be, I have surely enough left in my treasury to buy shoes and hoods for my pretty nieces.”
This speech did not appease Duke Abel, and rushing forth into the outer hall, he called to him two knights, Lave Gudmundsen and Tyge Post, who had lived in his service since they had been outlawed by the king Reminding them of all the wrongs that King Erik had done them, he bade them go into the inner chamber and do with him what they liked, so that they took care no one should see him again, living or dead. The knights waited for no further orders, and arming themselves, they hastened to the hall where the king had thrown himself on a couch to rest a while till his brother returned, whose anger had given him no concer, as he knew of old that his temper was hasty. Here they fell upon him unawares, and