History of Denmark between 1397 - 1522
The most important aspect of the Kalmar Union was the personal union between the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Also included in this fellowship was Finland, that was a part of Sweden (until 1809), and Iceland, Greenland, the Faroes and the Shetland archipelago, belonging to Norway, meaning that the union encompassed all of the Nordic countries. The formal marking of the unification took place in the Swedish city of Kalmar, where Erik of Pomerania was crowned king of all three realms in 1397. The union’s centre of power was located in Denmark, but all the countries were principally ruled according to their own laws and traditions.
In connection with his wars, Erik of Pomerania had also drafted soldiers and raised taxes in Sweden and Norway. This lead to a peasant rebellion in Sweden in 1434, which quickly gained support from the Swedish aristocracy. In 1436, a similar uprising took place around Oslo in Norway. The consequence of this would be assorted standstills, agreements and new uprisings, which eventually culminated in Erik of Pomerania being deposed as king of Denmark and Sweden in 1439. Before this, a massive peasant rebellion had also broken out in Denmark.
His nephew, Christoffer of Bavaria, who in the period from 1440 to 1442 managed to become king of all three realms, succeeded Erik. This would be the end of the strongly centralised government that Margrethe and Erik had maintained during their reigns. The Councils of the Realms in the individual countries had been responsible for this change in king, and thus increased the own power afterwards.
Christoffer of Bavaria died at an early age in 1448, leaving no children. Afterwards, the Swedes elected the Swedish magnate Karl Knutsson as king, while Denmark chose a distant relative of the Danish kings, Christian of Oldenburg. Following this, a race began to claim the crown of Norway, which Christian I won in 1450. A few years later, Christian managed to take advantage of an internal disagreement in Sweden to become the king of Sweden in 1457. However, his reign there would only last until 1464, where he was deposed and Karl Knutsson returned. After Knutsson’s death in 1470, Christian I made another ambitious attempt to claim the Swedish crown, but suffered an ignominious defeat at the Battle of Brunkeberg in 1471.
Christian had made sure that his own son, Hans, would be his successor in all three kingdoms. After Christian’s death in 1481, protracted negotiations began about the terms of Hans’s kingship of the three realms. When all the details had been agreed upon, however, the Swedes bailed at the last minute, meaning that Hans had to settle for becoming king of only Denmark and Norway in 1483. In 1497, the Swedish aristocracy was again in disagreement, which Hans used to become king of Sweden. It would only be four years, however, before he was deposed in 1501.
The final attempt at sustaining the Kalmar Union was made by King Hans’s son, Christian II, who became king of Denmark and Norway in 1513. His ambition was to strengthen the Royal power and reclaim Sweden, which – after yet more internal disagreements in Sweden – he succeeded at in 1520. Shortly after Christian II’s festive crowning ceremony, the Stockholm Bloodbath was carried out, killing 82 former enemies of Christian II. If Christian II believed that this would crush all future Swedish resistance against him, he would be sorely disappointed; on the contrary, the bloodbath led to a rebellion, and the year after, in 1521, Christian’s reign over Sweden ended. The rebellion was led by the Swedish magnate Gustav Vasa, who was crowned king of Sweden in 1523.
This signalled the end of the Kalmar Union, as well as the king’s fall in Denmark and Norway the same year. Christian II was deposed and replaced by his uncle, Frederik I. He, as well as Gustav Vasa of Sweden, feared that Christian’s powerful brother-in-law, Emperor Charles V, would put him back into power. Thus, the following years were characterised by a relative peace between the two countries, which in time would be called archenemies.
The Kalmar Union was caused by the inability of the three old Nordic royal families to produce more than one acceptable candidate at a time, coupled with the persistently rebellious nature of the Swedish magnates during the 14th century. During the 1400s, it became obvious, that this rebelliousness was a symptom of factions vying for power in Sweden. A number of Swedish magnates, due to connections through marriage and inheritances in several countries, had a vested interest in maintaining the Nordic personal union, while others sometimes saw an advantage in supporting the Danish kings in order to further their own positions in the power struggles. However, the dominant school of thought seems to have been that a personal union without a king provided the best opportunity for not having to share the power with a king. Therefore, the basic idea of the union persisted for so long.
Perched atop its cliff where the Ploučnice meets the Elbe, Děčín Castle is one of the oldest and largest landmarks in northern Bohemia. In the past several hundred years it has served as a point of control for the Bohemian princes, a military fortress, and noble estate.
The forerunner of the Děčín Castle was a wooden fortress built towards the end of the 10th century by the Bohemian princes. The first written record of the province dates from 993 A.D. and of the fortress itself from 1128. In the thirteenth century it was rebuilt in stone as a royal castle that, under unknown circumstances, fell into the hands of the powerful Wartenberg dynasty around 1305.
Numerous later renovations has erased all but fragments of the original medieval semblance of the castle. A significant change to the castle came in the second half of the 16th century when it was held by the Saxon Knights of Bünau, who gradually rebuilt the lower castle into a Renaissance palace with a grand ceremonial hall. The current semblance of the castle is the work of the Thun-Hohensteins, who held the Děčín lands from 1628 to 1932. The Thuns originally came from southern Tyrol and gradually worked their way to the upper echelons of Hapsburg society where they regularly filled important political and church appointments.
The Thuns reworked the castle twice. The first reconstruction, in the Baroque style, was undertaken by Maximilian von Thun, Imperial envoy and diplomat, and was meant to enhance the ceremonial aspects of the property. A central element of the project was a grand access road, the Long Drive, ending in the upper gate of the completely rebuilt entry wing. Along the drive stretched an ornamental garden (today known as the Rose Garden) and a riding yard. Maximilian’s brother Johann Ernst von Thun was responsible for the erection of the Church of the Ascension of the Holy Cross in the town below.
The second and final reconstruction of the castle was undertaken in 1786–1803. The Gothic and Renaissance palaces were torn down, all structures were leveled to the same height and gave them a unified facade. On the riverfront the castle's new dominant feature arose, a slender clock tower. Thus the castle took on the Baroque-Classical style we see today.
In the course of the 19th century, the castle became an important cultural and political center. In the 20th century the castle was used as a military garrison for German and Soviet troops after being handed to the Czechoslovak state in 1932. In 1991 the castle reverted to the ownership of the city of Děčín and the gradual renovation of the devastated structure began.
The eastern wing serves as a branch of the Děčín Regional Museum. The northern wing is occupied by the State District Archives. The staterooms of the western wing welcome individual and group tours, weddings, concerts, exhibits, and other cultural events. The castle courtyard comes to life throughout the year with events ranging from the Historic May Fair to the Wine Festival in September.