Margaret I of Denmark

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Margaret I (Danish: Margrete Valdemarsdatter, Norwegian: Margrete Valdemarsdotter, Swedish: Margareta Valdemarsdotter) (1353 – 28 October 1412) was queen consort of Norway and Sweden, omnipotent ruler of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and founder of the Kalmar Union, which united the Scandinavian countries for over a century. De facto a queen regnant, the laws of contemporary Danish succession denied her formal queenship.[1]

Contents

Name

She is known in Denmark as "Margrete I", to distinguish her from the current queen. Denmark did not have a tradition of allowing women to rule and so when her son died she was named "All-powerful Lady and Mistress (Regent) of the Kingdom of Denmark.[2] She only styled herself Queen of Denmark during 1375. Margaret usually referred to herself as "Margaret, by the grace of God, Valdemar the King of Denmark's daughter" and "Denmark's rightful heir" when referring to her position in Denmark. Others simply referred to her as the "Lady Queen" without specifying what she was Queen (or female king) of, but not so Pope Boniface IX, who in his letters styled her "our beloved daughter in Christ, Margaret, most excellent queen of Denmark, Sweden and Norway".[3]

With regards to Norway, she was known as Queen (Queen-consort, then Dowager Queen) and Regent. In Sweden, she was Dowager Queen and Plenipotentiary Ruler. When she married Haakon, in 1363, he was yet co-King of Sweden, making Margaret queen, and despite being deposed, they never relinquished the title. When the Swedes expelled Albert I in 1389, in theory, Margaret simply resumed her original position.

Biography

Margaret was born in Vordingborg Castle, the daughter of Valdemar IV of Denmark and Helvig of Sønderjylland. She married, at the age of ten, King Haakon VI of Norway, who was the younger and only surviving son to Magnus VII of Norway, Magnus II of Sweden.

Her first act after her father's death in (1375) was to procure the election of her infant son Olav as king of Denmark, despite the claims of her elder sister's husband Duke Henry of Mecklenburg and their son. She insisted that he be proclaimed rightful heir of Sweden among the other titles. Olav was too young to rule in his own right and Margaret proved herself a competent and shrewd ruler in the years that followed. In 1380, on the death of his father, Oluf succeeded his father as King of Norway. Young Olav died at age 17 rather suddenly. The following year Margaret, who had ruled both kingdoms in his name, was chosen Regent of Norway and Denmark. She had already given proofs of her superior statesmanship by recovering possession of Schleswig from the Holstein Counts, who had held it absolutely for more than a generation, and who now received it back indeed as a gift by the compact of Nyborg, but under such stringent conditions that the Danish Crown got all the advantage of the arrangement. By this compact, moreover, the chronically rebellious Jutish Nobility lost the support they had hitherto always found in Schleswig-Holstein. Margaret, free from all fear of domestic sedition, could now give her undivided attention to Sweden, where the mutinous nobles were already in arms against their unpopular King, Albert of Mecklenburg. Several of the powerful nobles wrote to Margrethe advising her that, if she would help rid Sweden of King Albert, she would become Regent. She lost no time gathering an army and invading Sweden.

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