Queen Margrete I, 1353-1412, and the Founding of the Nordic Union

Queen Margrete I, 1353-1412, and the Founding of the Nordic Union

Queen Margrete I, 1353-1412, and the Founding of the Nordic Union

Queen Margrete I, 1353-1412, and the Founding of the Nordic Union


This book presents the fascinating story of Queen Margrete I and her rise to power in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Her political ambitions culminated in the founding of the Nordic Union in 1397, which had vital impact on the history of Scandinavia for the next centuries. The book analyses the most central sources and gives a vivid picture of medieval society in Denmark during the late Middle Ages. At the same time the book describes the character of this dynamic woman, who is considered as one of the most important rulers in the Middle Ages. Only a very small part of the literature concerning Scandinavian medieval history has been published in English, and this book gives for the first time foreign readers the opportunity to read about the background to the founding of the Nordic Union. The text is well illustrated.


“By God, if women had written stories, as the clergymen have done within their oratories, they would have written more about the wickedness of men than all the sons of Adam may redress.” This remark from the Canterbury Tales, which the 14thC author Geoffrey Chaucer puts in the mouth of the impetuous Wife of Bath, is perhaps a little out of place in a book about Queen Margrete of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. For as a female historian I must admit, that women who climb to the summit of power usually are just as ambitious and ruthless as their male colleagues.

This was certainly the case with Queen Margrete (1353–1412), who is considered to be one of the most important political figures in Nordic history. the founding of the Nordic Union in 1397 was of fundamental importance for the history of Northern Europe during the following centuries. No doubt the driving force behind this achievement was the queen’s ambition to attain a level of political influence which matched her abilities, intelligence and position in society. in this she clearly overcame the limitations which normally excluded women from political life, and it is noteworthy that she became regent of three kingdoms by election.

This book tries to describe her dramatic life, seen against the background of society at that time. It is addressed to all those interested in Nordic history, a subject on which (except for the Viking Age) there is very limited literature available in English. the text is a revised and translated version of the second edition of my book “Margrete den Første,” which was published in 1997 for the 600-year jubilee of the founding of the Nordic Union. I have referred to some of the most important discussions among Nordic historians, but basically the book presents an account based on historical and archaeological sources.

Finally I would like to thank all the people who have helped and inspired me, first and foremost my colleagues from the National Museum of Denmark and the University of Copenhagen. Since it would be impossible to mention everyone, I will confine myself to the English edition. Marcella Mulder from Brill Academic Publishing . . .

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