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.
Gisselfeld, a former monastery, is Denmark's fifth-largest estate. The three-storeyed Renaissance-style building has stepped gables, loopholes and a projecting tower over the main gate. The grounds include a moat, a well-kept park, lake, waterfall, gardens, greenhouse, and a fountain. The estate measures 3,850 hectares, including Hesede, Edelesminde, Brødebæk and Gødstrupgård, of which 2,400 hectares is forest.
Gisselfeld is first mentioned at the end of the 14th century when the owner was Bo Falk. At that time, there was a small manor situated some 2 km northwest of the site of today's main building. It stood next to an older fort, possibly the now demolished Valgestrup. Today's estate was founded by Peder Oxe til Nielstrup who built the manor from 1547 to 1575. It originally consisted of four interconnected red-brick wings, three storeys high with thick outer walls, a number of loopholes and large stepped gables. A protruding gate tower stands at the centre of the left wing. The fourth wing, now demolished, housed a chapel.
After Peder Oxe's death, his widow Mette Rosenkrantz til Vallø became the owner of the estate. After her death in 1588, her niece Karen Banner inherited Gisselfeld. She married Henrik Lykke til Overgaard whose family ran the estate until Kai Lykke was executed and relieved of all his rights in 1661. After a short period of ownership by the Crown, in 1670 the property was presented to Count Hans Schack as a reward for the part he played in the Swedish wars. In 1688, his son Otto Diderik sold the estate to Adam Levin Knuth whose family maintained ownership until 1699 when Christian V's illegitimate son took it over. As a result of his will, on his death in 1703 the manor should have become a convent but this did not happen until the death of his widow Dorothea Krag in 1754. Since 1755, under the name of Danneskiold-Samsøe his descendants have run the estate as 'Gisselfeld Adelige Jomfrukloster I Sjælland' (Gisselfeld Convent in Zealand for Virgins of Noble Birth). The 11th in line, Hele Danneskiold-Samsøe, has run Gisselfeld since 2010.
Today Gisselfeld houses a hotel, restaurant and provides event services.