Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

having bound and gagged him, put him into a boat, and rowing with him out upon the river Slie, which flowed close to the castle walls, they cut off his head and threw his body, round which they had passed heavy chains, into the middle of the stream.

Abel, 1250–1252.—When Abel learnt how his brother had met his death by the hands of the knights, he sent off messengers to the Danish Islands to announce that Erik was dead, and to offer himself to the people as their king. But as he found that they accused him of being his brother's murderer, and would not believe his statement that King Erik had been drowned while fishing in the river, by leaning too far over the side of the boat and losing his balance, he took a solemn oath before the great Thing that he was guiltless, and brought twentyfour nobles to swear to the truth of his words. This practice of swearing for another man was an ancient northern custom, seldom made use of in those days. But although it always had been looked upon as a very solemn way of proving the truth, it did not now deceive the nation; yet, for the sake of the memory of their old king, Valdemar Sejr, the Danes would not withhold the crown from his eldest living son, although they knew that Abel was guilty of his brother's death, and looked upon him with distrust and fear. These events took place in the year 1250, but two years later, when the people had begun to find peace under King Abel and to benefit by his brave defence of the country against the attacks of pirates, he was murdered on his retreat from an unsuccessful campaign against the unruly Ditmarshers. Abel owed his death to the vengeance of a wheelwright, known in the marshes as Hans of Pelvorm, whom he had wronged on a former occasion, and who, having sworn to take the king's life, watched his opportunity, and when Abel was riding along a narrow road, by the great Milderdam, sprang forward and struck him dead with a blow of his sledge-hammer. Then lifting the body of the king off his horse, while the few royal attendants who had witnessed the deed fled in terror, he threw it into the bog near by, where it rapidly sank below the surface of the deep turf.

Erik's body recovered.—By a strange accident, about the very time that King Abel was murdered and his dead body left without burial in the Frisian marshes, the headless trunk of his slain brother, King Erik, was raised to the surface of the waters by the shifting of the under currents of the Slie, and the manner of his death was thus made known. The monks of Slesvig abbey had been the first to discover the body, and recognizing it to be that of the late king, they took the remains, and laid them in a grave near the spot on which they had been found. Soon a report was spread abroad that miracles were being done and marvellous cures wrought at King Erik's grave, and for a long time the abbey derived large revenues from the money paid by pilgrims who flocked to the spot. But although Erik was looked upon as a saint and a martyr, he was never canonized.

Abel's short reign is worthy of special note for being the first in which the burgher classes were permitted as a distinct body in the state to send representatives to the“ Danehof,” or yearly national assembly. They were also allowed to have their own courts of justice the towns, and to settle their affairs in civic or town-councils, presided over by a mayor, or chief burghermaster, although every town had its own royal bailiff who in the king's name enforced obedience to the laws of the country, and the payment of all proper taxes to the crown. After a time the town-councils in all the larger cities of the kingdom were left free to frame their own codes of laws, but about one hundred and fity years later, under Queen Margaret, these civic bylaws were almost all done away with and replaced by one general body of laws, binding on town and country alike.

King Abel, at his death in 1252, left several sons, but as they were young, and his brother Duke Christopher was a man in the prime of life, the Danes chose him for their king. It was not uncommon in the Middle Ages for young heirs to be set aside in that manner, in favour of some older kinsman. The crown of Denmark was, moreover, then and for a long time afterwards elective and not hereditary, that is to say, the nobles, clergy and burghers had the right of deciding which one of the late king's heirs should succeed him, although they generally chose the eldest son or nearest heir. So in this case the electors only used their just rights, and one reason that had great weight with them in passing over Abel's sons was that they were under the care of their mother's brothers, the Counts of Holstein, whom the Danes looked upon as enemies; and it must be owned that those princes never lost a chance of showing their ill-will to the people of Denmark.

Daivn of Slesvig-Holstein Wars. The first act of the Holstein princes after Christopher was made king was to insist that he should confirm to his and their young nephews all the rights over the duchy of Slesvig, which Abel had claimed in Erik's lifetime as due to him in accordance with the intentions of their father, the late king, Valdemar Sejr. When Christopher refused, the Holsteiners made war on Denmark, and after much fighting King Abel's son, Valdemar of Slesvig, was allowed to hold the duchy, but on what terms both parties purposely left to be settled at some other time. And thus the seeds of dispute about that richest of all the Danish crown lands found a good soil, in which to multiply into an abundant harvest of troubles for future generations.

Differences between Church and State.—This was the first reign in which the king and prelates had not been on friendly terms, and Christopher soon fell into serious disputes with his primate, Jakob Erlandsen, a man of great learning, who had been a fellow student in Rome of the pope, Innocent IV., and was so devoted to the Römish Church that he considered his duty as a subject much less binding on his conscience than his obligations as one of the clergy. Christopher, finding that the Danish bishops were gaining more power and greater riches than the highest nobles of the land, threatened to call them to account for their exercise of seignorial rights, and their defiance of the laws, on which Erlandsen declared that unless the king ceased his attempts to curtail the privileges of the clergy, the kingdom should be laid under an interdict. This so enraged Christopher that he caused the primate to be seized in his own palace and carried, chained like a common felon, to one of the royal castles,

This act, as might have been expected, brought the anger of Rome on the kingdom of Denmark, which was laid under an interdict, and a sentence of excommunication passed on the king and all who had taken part in the seizure and ill-treatment of the primate. The people, however, at first, paid little heed to these acts, and as the clergy in Jutland and some of the islands refused obedience to the papal decrees, the services of the Church were still carried on in many parts of the kingdom. At the moment, however, when Christopher was about to seize upon some of the crown lands held by the bishops, his sudden death while he was receiving the communion in the cathedral of Ribe, from the hands of the abbot, Arnfast, plunged Denmark into greater troubles than any it had yet known. The suspicions generally current amongst the people that the king had died from the effects of a poisoned wafer given him by Arnfast became still stronger when shortly afterwards the abbot, who was known to be a secret friend of Erlandsen, was raised to the rank of Bishop of Aarhus.

:

CHAPTER X.

DENMARK FROM 1259 TO 1387.

:

Erik Glipping; his minority ; the Queen-Regent ; his quarrels with Slesvig

and with the Church ; settlement of disputes; his evil habits; civil war ; conspiracy; his murder in a barn ; fifty.six conspirators—his son Erik Menved's reign a repetition of his own—The Queen-Mother-Waranarchy-Disputes with clergy-Rebels swarm over the country—The young King's mode of education, love of war and tournaments, want of money ; he pawns crown lands—Hansers secure fisheries and forbid royal servants to fish-Treatment of Primate Grand-Consequences of the outrage-Interdict--Conduct of people-Erik's domestic troubles in losing fourteen children; his advice to his nobles ; his deathChristopher II.-Magna Charta of Danish barons-Perfidy of the King -Civil wars-Struggles-Geert of Holstein rules and sets up a puppet King-Geert's murder ; revenge of his sons on Niels Ebbesön-Valdemar returns from Germany and is chosen King ; his brother Otto's fate

- Valdemar's marriage ; his conduct ; his recovery of crown lands ; his taking of Wisby; his contempt for Hansers-Wars with Germany; seizes on Elizabeth of Holstein ; marries his daughter Margaret to the heir of Sweden-Enemies close round Valdemar ; his subjects do not help him ; his defeat, and humiliation-Hansers' arroganceValdemar's merits ; people's hatred of him—“Valdemar the Bad "; his death—"Atterdag," its meaning ; his family; his heirs-Olaf Queen Margaret's regency-Hakon's death-Olaf's death-Margaret's mistaken policy.

PART I.

AN AGE OF TROUBLES.

Erik Glipping, 1259-1286.-On the death of Christopher I., the last of Valdemar Sejr's sons, there seemed some chance that the crown of Denmark would pass away from his descendants, for the clergy, who enjoyed excessive power in

« AnteriorContinuar »