||For thousands of years ice sheets
made Denmark uninhabitable. Once the ice sheets receded northward,
various tribes migrated to the area. Unlike most of Europe,
Denmark was not a Roman province. Therefore little was recorded
on ancient Denmark. Not much is known about Denmark before the
time of the Vikings. The Vikings (meaning sea robbers) controlled
the region from the 8th century until the 11th century. The
Vikings originally hailed from Sweden.
However, the Viking’s power was far reaching. They established
the first Danish state around 800. The Vikings plundered most of Europe.
They strategically targeted wealthy Christian monasteries judged to
be weak. The Vikings had mastery of the sea and their longboats were
especially feared throughout Europe. The Viking King Harald Bluetooth
unified Denmark and introduced Christianity to the country with the
help of a German missionary named Poppo around 965. Herald was mysteriously
killed in 987. Harald’s son Sweyn I succeeded him and conquered
England in 1013. Sweyn’s son, Canute II, ruled over England,
Denmark, and part of Sweden. After Canute’s death, the kingdom
was divided. Canute’s son, Sweyn II, was passed the crown of
Copenhagen was originally called Havn. The first mention of Havn
came in 1043. The area had become a busy trade center. A trade fair
was held in Havn each year for two months and attracted merchants
from various Baltic port towns.
Valdemar I became the Danish King in 1157 and entrusted Copenhagen
to his brother, Bishop Absalon. Absalon then commissioned the writing
of the Gesta Danorum (History of Denmark) by Saxo Grammaticus. The
Slavic Wends had been pirating the east coast. Absalon built a fortress
in Copenhagen and successfully drove the Wends away. Considered
Copenhagen’s founding father, Absalon died in 1201.
Due to its strategic location, Copenhagen became an important port
town. Members of the Hanseatic League became envious of Copenhagen’s
growing wealth. Attacks were launched against Copenhagen in 1249.
Valdemar IV died in 1375 without a male heir. Valdemar’s
daughter, Margaret, was married to King Haakon VI Magnusson of Norway.
It was decided that Margaret’s infant son, Olaf, should rule
the kingdom. Margaret was to rule until Olaf had reached a suitable
age. Tragically, Haakon and 12 year old Olaf died. Margaret was
then officially acknowledged as Queen of Norway and Denmark. Scandinavia
was united under the Union of Kalmar in 1397 and Margaret’s
grandnephew was crowned King Erik VII. In 1417, Erik moved his court
In 1438, the Swedes withdrew from the Kalmar Union. Dissatisfied
Danish nobility dethroned Erik VII. In 1448 Erik’s distant
cousin, Christian I, was crowned king. The coronation was held in
Copenhagen. Copenhagen prospered under Christian I becoming Scandanavia’s
premier city. Christian II made many enemies as a result of his
heavy taxes. In 1520, Christian II had 100 Swedish nobles murdered.
The horrific event became known as the Stockholm Bloodbath and didn’t
favor Christian. Christian II was dethroned and replaced by his
uncle Frederik I in 1522. During Frederik’s reign reformation
took a strong hold on Denmark. Religious conflicts broke out between
the Catholics and the Lutherans. The Danish Lutheran Church was
founded in 1536. The Danish crown confiscated formerly owned Catholic
estates. Therefore, increasing the monarch’s wealth.
In 1588, Christian IV was crowned king. Christian IV is one of
Denmark’s best remembered monarchs. During the 60 years that
he ruled, Denmark and especially Copenhagen experienced unprecedented
During the 1600’s tensions swelled between Sweden and Denmark
and numerous conflicts broke out over territorial claims. Charles
V of Sweden argued that Sweden held the right of succession to the
Danish thrown. Sweden invaded Jutland and defeated the Danish forcing
them to cede territories. Denmark’s Frederik III attempted
to regain the lost territories but was defeated in battle by Sweden’s
King Charles X Frederik later crowned himself Denmark’s first
absolute monarch in October of 1660. The Skane War erupted in 1675
and lasted until 1679. After numerous defeats, the Danish lost control
of the Skane, a valuable piece of land in southern Sweden. In 1699
the Danes, under the rule of Frederik IV, went to war again with
the Swedes and German states. The war was called the Great Northern
War and lasted until 1730. Denmark was victorious and gained control
of territories in northern Germany. In the 18th century, Denmark
took control of various islands in the West Indies and portions
of Greenland. Denmark’s extended power positioned them as
the guardian of the western entrance to the Baltic Sea.