Thursday, December 15, 2011

600 Years of the Kalmar Union 30.5.1997

This Åland picture postcard and the stamp on it were issued on 30.5.1997. Five heads of state - the Danish Queen with Prince Henrik, the Swedish and Norwegian royal couples and the Finnish and Icelandic presidents with their wives, joined 20 000 Swedes and 200 journalists to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the Kalmar Union. At one time Kalmar, in the south of Sweden, was the capital of the largest state in Europe. This state was composed of Denmark, Norway and Iceland and Sweden and Finland. And it was all thanks to a strong woman called Margrethe. She became regent of Norway, Sweden and Denmark through extraordinary manipulation amid most unusual circumstances. She came to be widely respected, often admired, but not much loved. Although she was a woman of royal parentage, she was never to rule from a throne simply because she was a woman. And it was ironically only when the present Queen of Denmark, Margrethe decided to be known as Margrethe II that the first Margrethe of the 14th century was elevated to royal status posthumously.
Margrethe embarked on her remarkable, nearly incredible, rise to power at the tender age of six. A treaty between her father King Valdemar Atterdag of Denmark and Magnus Erikson, the King of Sweden, pledged her to Magnus’s 18-year-old son Haakon who had inherited the throne of Norway through his mother, the granddaughter of Haakon V. Margrethe and Haakon did not live together as man and wife until she reached the age of 16. In 1371 Margrethe gave birth to her only son, Oluf. King Valdemar died in 1375 the following year leaving Margrethe as his only surviving child. She was successful in having her son Oluf proclaimed King of Denmark with herself as regent. Five years later, when Haakon died, Oluf was recognized as both king of Norway and of Denmark while Margrethe became regent of Norway also. Soon thereafter, Margrethe was called in by the Swedish nobility to help it topple the hated King Albrekt of Mecklenburg. She was able to establish Oluf as the legitimate claimant to the Swedish throne. Now Margrethe became regent to all three countries.
The sudden death of the 17-year-old Oluf in 1387 undid the stability Margrethe had managed to achieve. But she acted quickly to secure her position as royal guardian. She also quickly adopted the six-year-old son of her niece who was married to the Duke of Pomerania and chose him, Erik, as her successor. After being declared the regent of the Danish and Norwegian kingdoms, she formed common cause with the Swedish nobles and having had the distinct advantage of having consistently demonstrated outstand-ing qualities of royal administration and integrity, she did not have too much problem in being hailed as the rightful ruler of Sweden. Now she commanded all of northern Europe. Margrethe went on to propose a coronation ceremony for Erik. She called a special meeting of the powerful nobles, the clergy and magnates of Sweden and got their consent. In June of 1397, the Archbishops of Lund and Uppsala crowned Erik King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden in the town of Kalmar. Why Kalmar? It is important to remember that the borders looked somewhat different from what they do today and the Swedish provinces of Skåne, Blekinge and Halland belonged to Denmark. Kalmar was actually very close to Denmark being on the southern coast of Sweden.
After Erik’s crowning ceremony, Margrethe proceeded to negotiate a "union document". The document declared that Erik, having been elected King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden had further been elected King of the one consolidated combined Kingdom of Norway-Sweden-Denmark. And it is the 600th anniversary of this Union that was celebrated in 1997. This was a truly Nordic union as Iceland and Finland were also included. Pia gave me this FDC commemorating this important event.

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