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(Danish: Grevens Fejde - named for Count Christoffer of Oldenburg)

Danish civil war, lasting from 1534 to 1536.

Upon the death of King Frederik I of Denmark, in April 1533, the state council (Danish: rigsrådet) met at the Diet in Copenhagen later the same year, to defer the election of a new king.1

A nation without a king is perceived weak, and it was not long before the German Hanseatic city of Lübeck , in the person of its mayor, Jürgen Wullenwever, attempted to make use of the kingless situation, thereby strengthening Lübeck's position in the Baltic.

Citing as formal casus belli a wish to reinstate the deposed and imprisoned King Christian II of Denmark, Lübeck's general, Count Christoffer of Oldenburg, invaded and occupied Zealand2 and Scania3 during the summer of 1534. The citizens of Malmø, in Scania, and rebelled against the Danish state council in May, and made common cause with Count Christoffer.

On Funen4 and in North and West Jutland5, townsmen and peasants also rose in rebellion, demanding the return of Christian II. Funen was occupied by Count Christoffer in August 1534, but prior to that, the Jutish nobility (meeting in Ry) and the Funish nobility (meeting in Hjallese) had agreed to offer the crown to the eldest son of Frederik I, Duke Christian of Holstein (who was thus to become King Christian III of Denmark). Christian's experienced general, Johan Rantzau, moved from Holstein towards Lübeck, forcing the city to make peace in November 1534. Meanwhile, the Jutish nobility fought the rebellious commoners in North Jutland, losing a battle south of Ålborg.

With Lübeck out of the war, Duke Christian could concentrate his efforts on the Jutish peasant rebels. In December 1534, Ålborg was taken, and the leader of the rebellion, Skipper Clement was captured.

In March 1535, Christian's troops landed on Funen, and in June, general Rantzau defeated the combined forces of Count Christoffer and Funish rebels, in a fierce battle near Øksnebjerg. Meanwhile, the Scanian nobility, aided by King Gustav I Wasa of Sweden, had struck against Count Christoffer. By July, Christian's armies were besieging both Copenhagen and Malmø.

Subsequent to the peace settlement with Lübeck, the Netherlands6 had attempted to take over the rôle that Lübeck had had in the war. A Dutch attempt to relieve Copenhagen from sea had failed, however, and the city surrendered on July 29, 1536, after a year's siege.

The outcome of the war was significant. The ongoing process of decline of the influence of the Hanseatic League in the Baltic was further cemented, and Lübeck proved powerless to delay or deflect it. In Denmark, the nobility and the king were brought to a closer accord by their common victory, and the political instability that had plagued the country during the reigns of the preceding kings, Christian II and Frederik I, was replaced by a greater stability - at the price of greater privileges for the nobility (a process that was to lead to the introduction of absolutism, a century later7).

Finally, the victory and coronation of King Christian III led to the end of Catholicism in Denmark, and the beginnings of the Lutheran-Evangelical Church of Denmark as a state religion.


Note(s):

1 The Danish monarchy at this time was elective. Each successive king was obliged to secure the acclamation of the estates - though this in practice only meant the nobility. To secure this acclamation a charter (håndfæstning) was issued by the prospective king, granting (quid pro quo) additional privileges to the nobility, in return for election to the kingship.

2 Danish: Sjælland.

3 Danish: Skåne. At this time, Scania was a part of Denmark (ceded to Sweden in 1658).

4 Danish: Fyn.

5 Danish: Jylland.

6 King Christian II was related by marriage to the imperial dynasty.

7 See King Frederik III of Denmark.

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