Frederik II and the Protestant Cause: Denmark's Role in the Wars of Religion, 1559-1596

By Paul Douglas Lockhart | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
THE THIRD PERIL, 1586–1588

The security of all the Christian reformed churches makes it absolutely
necessary that we muster as much secular might as is possible, so that
the arrogance of the papists, like a pernicious fire that expands and
[threatens] to take hold of a neighbour’s house, might be warded off.

Frederik II, 15871

I pray God, Your Majesty may hold good and stryckt amyty with that
king [Frederik II]; he ys ye fyttest for ye of all others and lett no men
perswade you otherwyse and Your Majesty must use him kindly.

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, 15872

In traditional Danish historiography, Frederik II is renowned for several qualities and achievements, nearly all of them of dubious merit: a predilection for war, especially early in his reign; lack of moderation in drink; low intelligence and weak governance; and a well-intentioned if unsuccessful desire to mediate confessional disputes throughout Europe in the latter part of his reign. Thanks to recent attempts to ‘resurrect’ Frederik’s deplorable reputation, nearly all of these assumptions about the king—deeply entrenched in Danish historical literature, but based in the main on little or no evidence—have been pushed aside in favour of a more deeply nuanced view of the father of Christian IV. Instead, Frederik II is now generally portrayed as a competent administrator, who—after 1570, at least—ruled Denmark during its most prosperous and peaceful decades in the early modern period, who hoped to adjudicate the internecine confessional struggles in western Europe as he carried out a thoroughgoing reform of his state church at home.

But even this portrayal of Frederik II is flawed. For Frederik, mediation of religious controversies was a means to an end rather than an end in itself, and the role as mediator was not one that he

1 RAK TKUA/AD/AusReg 1586–88, fol. 416v–17v, Frederik II to Joachim
Friedrich of Magdeburg, Georg Friedrich of Brandenburg, and Wilhelm IV, 28
June 1587.

2 H. Brugmans (ed.), Correspondentie van Robert Dudley Graaf van Leycester en andere
documenten betreffende zijn gouvernement-generaal in de Nederlanden 1585–1588
(3 vols, Utrecht,
1931), vol. 3, p. 245, Leicester to Elizabeth I, 15 October 1587.

-242-

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