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Eric III of Denmark (The Kalmar Union)

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Eric III
Eric III Den (The Kalmar Union).png
Eric III
King of Denmark
Reign 3rd October, 1252 - 15th February, 1291
Predecessor Eric II
Successor Eric IV
Spouse Constance of Hohenstaufen

Elizabeth of Holstein
Sophie of Viken

Issue Eric IV

Anastasia
Cnut VII
Nicholas
Christopher
Otto

Full name
Erik Eriksen
House Estridsson
Father Eric II
Mother Matilda of Pomerelia
Born 1235
Lund, Denmark
Died 15th February, 1291
Copenhagen, Denmark

The eldest son of Eric II and Matilda of Pomerelia, Eric III presided over a kingdom perennially short of money but growing in strength and ambition.

He had acted as regent for his father before, while he had campaigned in Poland against the Mongols in 1241-2 and campaigning in Estonia in 1245-6. His regencies had been taken as opportunities by certain nobles and churchmen to renege on their duties, leading to significant upheavals when his father inevitably returned. Eric took up his final regency while his father set off on pilgrimage to Rome, a journey he would not return from. After his father died at Verona in October 1252 Eric was crowned king.

His father had long held out for an Imperial marriage for his heir and indeed Eric would be married to Frederick II's daughter Constance. The couple were ill-matched and apparently had no love for one another. It may have been some relief when Constance died in 1253 not long after Eric took the throne. He subsequently married a distant cousin, Elizabeth of Holstein, a union which not only strengthened Denmark's hold over the duchy but produced a surfeit of heirs.

An alliance with his brother-in-law Conrad of Anglia led Eric into a long period of interfering in Germany which was deep into a civil war between the Hapsburg candidates and William of Holland. Eric used the political chaos to not only quietly extend his authority over Holstein and Pomerania but sent armies campaigning deep into Germany itself. While they were temporarily successful at frustrating William's ambitions they were hugely expensive operations and Eric soon found himself in financial difficulties especially as another dispute with the church had arisen. This eventually forced Eric into signing a håndfæstning with his nobles, a charter which in theory limited his power. To fill the gaps in the treasury he took to debasing the coinage which only caused unrest, and thought up more long-term taxes, such as the Sound Toll which would intermittently power the Danish crown until the end of the 19th century.

In 1275 Eric's army in Pomerania was routed by the Germans. Emperor William himself took great pleasure in capturing Rugian Stralsund and subjected Rugia itself to a siege. It would only be the Vikene and Gothenlandic navies' arrival that would prevent the island falling, however for now Rugia's rich mainland possessions were lost. Wizlaw II's entreaties to William produced nothing so instead he angrily turned to Eric for compensation.

When Danish officials attempted to collect the first sound tolls the confrontation inevitably turned to violence and Wizlaw raised an army, crossed Gothenland and invaded Scania. The two kings met at the so-called 'Battle' of Orust. However an actual battle was avoided after the intense diplomacy of the bishops of Aarhus and Hamar. Eric granted Wizlaw full control of Rugia (meaning it was no longer a technical vassal of Denmark's) and exemption from the sound tolls (which were only haphazardly collected anyway) whilst Wizlaw agreed to respect the nominal and virtually useless title of High King of Norway which Eric held. Eric then married Wizlaw's daughter Sophie. Moreover Wizlaw agreed to campaign in Pomerania for Eric in return for a slice of 'all conquests'.

In 1289 the line of earls of Lade ran out with the death of Haakon VIII. Both Hordaland and Viken-Rugia had distant and vague claims on the title however nobles in both realms were anxious to avoid a potentially ruinous war between the two and equally eager to keep it out of opportunistic Svealandic hands. Eric stepped in, playing on the title of High King of Norway, paying both kingdoms a substantial sum of money (paid for by the mortgage of the rebellious Bishop Nicholas of Aarhus' estates) to forego their claims. Lade therefore became a fief of Denmark and would remain so until the Ladish revolt of the early 16th century.

Continued antagonism against the church would lead to Eric's death in early 1291 when he was suppressing a revolt in Lund. Loudly decrying the authority of Archbishop Rudolph I he was dragged from his horse by an angry mob. He would succeeded by his eldest son Eric IV and then by his second son Cnut VII.

Family

Married Constance of Hohenstaufen in 1245. No issue.

Married Elizabeth of Holstein in 1254. They had the following children:

  • Eric IV (1257-1323), King of Denmark (1291-1323)
  • Anastasia (1259-1330), married John III of Mecklenburg in 1288 and had three children
  • Cnut VII (1263-1333), King of Denmark (1323-1333)
  • Nicholas (c. 1266)
  • Christopher (1266-1346)

Married Sophie of Viken in 1275. They had the following child:

  • Otto, (1277-1326) married Kristjana IV of Vinland, had several children though none survived past the age of 3

Ancestry

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