Queen Margaret of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden



Margaret of Denmark is perhaps the most underrated monarch Denmark has ever had.  To call Margaret of Denmark the Queen of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway is inaccurate because with the exception of Sweden, where she was married to Swedish King Haakon VI in 1363, she was only a regent to these countries.  She in effect, ruled under her son’s name, Olaf, until his death at the age of 17 in 1387.  Although being a regent to these countries her accomplishments were many, first she continued the reconstruction of the country, which her father Valdemar IV had stated, she strengthened the unification between Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, and lastly she took an active role in shaping Denmark’s future in European politics.  With so many accomplishments, Margaret is over shadowed by the unfortunate timing of her death in Flensburg, Germany on October, 1412.  Her death is significant because it is listed as unknown; it could have been accidental, natural causes, or even murder.   

Margaret’s rule started in 1375, after her Valdemar IV’s death in 1375.  Her first political act was to install her son as the elected king of Denmark in 1375.  Having ruled in her father’s name, then later in her son’s name, Margaret was granted title of Regent of Norway and Denmark in 1380.  Although her son died seven years later in 1387, Margaret through her superior statesmanship, political power, and sheer likeability, remained the ruler of all three nations.  As a testament to her great political power, Margaret was able to bring the Swedish crown under her rule when she convinced the Swedes to expel King Albert in 1386 and elect Margaret’s son Olaf to the throne. 

Under Margaret’s reign Norway, Denmark, and Sweden all enjoyed new levels of political, social, and military peace.  Margaret exercised her power to end wars in her countries.  During her reign Margaret order the destruction of private castles, prohibited private warfare, strengthened the royal through using the royal court system.  Margaret also strengthened relations with the Catholic Church by donating large grants of money to the institution after she came to power.  Margaret could not rule in her own power for long, because of her gender, so she appointed her 8 year old nephew, Eric of Pomerania king of Norway, Sweden and Denmark in 1389.  This was a smart move because picking such a young king allowed her to rule in his name until he came of age in 1401.  Despite Eric age, Margaret continued to rule these three countries until her own death. 

The reforms and social programs which Valdemar IV started in the late fourteenth century carried over to prosper during Margaret’s reign.  Margaret did much to improve Denmark’s social, economic, and political standing in Europe.  At her death, however, the importance of her rule would wear off when Norway and Sweden break away from the crown.  Sweden would leave the arraignment in 1439 and Norway would leave in 1442 over political and social disagreements as well as a weak King, Margaret's son.  Although Margaret was a very astute ruler, able to get her children elected king in three countries, she is often overshadowed in importance in Danish history.  Furthermore, controversy surrounds her death aboard a ship traveling to Flensburg, Germany.  Her death could have been of natural causes, but that would have been unlikely because she was physically active up till her death.  Furthermore, much is written about her political career, but almost nothing is known about her personal life.  The most significant controversy surrounding Margaret's life was her death.  It is yet to be proven that she was not murdered by political enemies or zealots. 

Annotated Bibliography

Birch, J. H. S.  Denmark in History.  London:  Butler and Tanner Ltd., 1938.  
Broken into twenty three sections, this work, focuses on the the political and social history of Denmark from prehistory to the 1920's.  Although this book was written in the 1930's, it still has an amazing amount of literature devoted to the rule of Margaret.  More than most resources currently available, this work devotes much attention to her foreign policy, domestic policy, and her importance as a great leader of Denmark.  The controversy of how Margaret died is not examined in this work, but enough information is written about her to make this a good source of information.  Although written in the 1930's this remains a good source compared to some of the more recent internet sources.   

Dahmus, Joseph.  Seven Medieval Queens.  Garden City, New York:  Doubleday and Company, 1972.
This work concentrates on the biographers of seven medieval queens.  The person who are discussed in this short but informative biographies are Theodora a Byzantine Empress, Brunhild a Merovingian Queen, Theophano a Queen of Germany, Zoe a Byzantine Empress, Eleanor of Aquitaine a Queen of England, Margaret a Queen of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, and Margaret of Anjou a Queen of England.  In Margaret's biography the author discusses how she came to power, what she accomplished during her reign, and what affects she had on her country.  In addition to this, Dahmus does an in-depth analysis on what the social and political state of Denmark both before and after her reign.   

Lauring, Palle.  A History of The Kingdom of Denmark.  Forlag, Copenhagen:  Host and Son, 1960.
Concentrating in twelve different time periods in the history of Denmark, this work provides powerful insight into the formation and growth of the kingdom of Denmark.  Like many comprehensive history books written about Denmark, Queen Margaret only gets a marginal role in history.  With about ten pages written about her in the entire text, Margaret's role in Denmark's history seems to have been limited.  What is written about her in this work is important because it brings up the challenges she face both during and after her reign.  This work also stresses that Margaret was never the real queen of Denmark, but rather she ruled as regent in her son's name.

NNDB. “Margrethe I.”  Soylent Communications.  <http://www.nndb.com/people/080/000095792/>  (18 December 2005)
This is a very good searchable site which is concerned with tracking notable people.  This biographical website contains over 15,000 biographies of important or famous people from all time periods around the world.  This is a newly created database in its beta version only.  The site does offer a brief, but well written, and historically accurate account of Margaret of Denmark.  This site adds valuable data to the biography of Margaret.   

Nygaard, Ken.  "Ancestors and Family of Margaret Valdemarsdottir of Denmark."  Ken Nygaard. <http://nygaard.howards.net/files/2305.htm> (18 December 2005).
This site offers an excellent biography on the life and accomplishments of Margaret of Denmark.  The most important element of this site is the citing of all the sources in the biography.  This not only gives legitimacy to the site, but also it offers the visitor the ability to also use the author's resources.  This site does offer new information on her childhood activities with many detailslike where and when she married.  In addition to this, the author of this site keeps the site updated as of October 17, 2005.  This is good because it means that the information provided on the site is constantly updated and reviewed for errors. Overall this was a good site for detailed information on her childhood.

Oakley, Stewart.  A Short History of Denmark.  New York and Washington:  Praeger Publishers, 1972.  
The primary focus of this work is the examination of the history of Denmark from the earliest inhabitants to the Enlightenment, Romanticism periods, to the First and Second World Wars, up till the 1971.  This informative and comprehensive book sheds light onto Denmark's most important events and rulers including Margaret of Denmark.  Only a little portion of the book is dedicated to this important monarch.  What is written about her is short but it emphasis that was instrumental in keeping the reforms and economic programs running in Denmark for her deceased father, and her teenage son.     

Site Designed by Diverse,  “History of Denmark: Union of the Crowns: AD 1363-1523.”  HistoryWorld. <http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=aa59> (18 December 2005).

This is a very informative and easy to use history database of the history of Denmark.  Through its searchable files, the site offers articles and descriptions of many historical events and people.  Several of these articles are contributed to Valdemar IV, Margaret, and Olaf.  This site does offer a quick history lesson on her life and her accomplishments.  This is a good site to use for a jumping off point on doing more research on this particular figure.      

The Metropolitan Museum of Art “Eastern European and Scandinavia, 100-1400A.D.”  The metropolitan Museum of Art. <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/07/eue/ht07eue.htm> (18 December 2005).
Although this is a museum site, this site does have basic biographical information on Margaret of Denmark. Several articles are dedicated to both Valdemar IV and his daughter Margaret.  Included in this site is a timeline located at the top of the page indicating were she fits into the Danish history.  Margaret is placed in a cultural and societal context, which many sources leave out of her biography. 


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URL: http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/margaretden.html
Original Written by Andrew Wakefield, 2005
Last Revision 18 December, 2005
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