Alternate History

Eric V of Denmark (The Kalmar Union)

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Eric V
Eric V Den (The Kalmar Union).png
Eric V
King of Denmark
Reign 3rd September, 1333 - 16th December, 1372
Predecessor Cnut VII
Successor Valdemar II
Spouse Matilda of Württemberg
Issue Eric

Valdemar II

House Estridsson
Father Cnut VII
Mother Karin of Finland
Born 7th February, 1290
Lund, Denmark
Died 16th December, 1372
Copenhagen, Denmark

Eric V 's near forty year reign over Denmark was in many ways overshadowed by two utterly uncontrollable events; the Black Death, which caused as much chaos in Denmark as it did in other European and Leifian nations; and the meteoric rise of Olaf III the Great of Viken-Svealand. Historians have largely characterised Eric's reign and successes as being swept along on Olaf's coat-tails though this is a somewhat unfair view.

The eldest son of Cnut VII, Eric had watched his father spend much of his reign struggling to rule Denmark, cautiously treating the Danehof with a mix of fear and paranoia and, by the time he succeeded in 1333, Eric was eager to stamp his mark on the country. He started however with foreign adventures.

Cnut VII had bequeathed Estonia as a dukedom to his younger son John. John died in 1316 leaving his wife Elizabeth von Feuchtwangen and their one year old son as duchess regent and duke respectively. Although it was recognised as a Danish province it had never attracted a great degree of migration from Denmark to its shores, unlike Livonia and Prussia which had at least attracted some movement from Germany. Therefore Danish rule there was based upon a large degree of assistance from Odense. Eager to reduce Denmark's liabilities abroad to concentrate on home affairs Eric upheld the young Duke's right of inheritance, travelling to Reval to personally invest the teenage Nicholas I with the right to rule. There he arranged peaceful negotiations between Denmark, Saaremaa and the Teutonic Knights before joining a combined operation against the pagan Lithuanians, earning himself honourary membership of the order. Subsequently Estonia would remain a Danish vassal but in return for occasional taxes the dukes were given effective autonomy. In due course the Estonian Estridsson family would become thoroughly Estonianised though the ducal title was forbidden from leaving the Estridsson family.

The same year Olaf III had begun his campaign against Carl I of Svealand, regarding him as a usurper. For his own part Eric V had a poor relation with Carl (his own mother, Karin of Finland, was the deposed king Magnus III's half-sister) and so broadly supported Olaf, though gave no direct help. Eric had campaigned with Olaf in Pomerania only a couple of years before and relations between the two kings were generally very good. Therefore when Svealand was properly added to Olaf's lands in 1337 Eric sent a great delegation to Stockholm to reconfirm Denmark's friendship.

In 1349 disaster struck as the Black Death reached Danish shores. Over the next two years somewhere between a third and two-thirds of the entire population died. Eric was personally affected too; with Prince Christopher and Princess Katerina both dying from the plague. This led him to set up the chancery at Ejdersted, at immense personal cost, to pray for the souls of the Estridsson dynasty. Meanwhile he used the deaths of various lords to seize land from his enemies, improving his own standing and that of his close allies. However he was unrelenting when it came to taxation and by 1352 his peasantry was up in arms. Briefly forced out of Denmark he campaigned with Olaf in Thuringia in the early stages of Olaf's bid for the Imperial throne. Following the Battle of Eschwege, Eric, garlanded with victory over Luxembourg, returned to Denmark, a little more ready to deal with his nobles.

He let up in the taxation of his kingdom and, at the behest of his nobles, implemented a wage 'cap' which stopped the surviving peasant communities from demanding too much money now that labour was in short supply. To offset the loss of this income he reinstated the Sound Toll (with Viken's usual immunity). He was lucky in many respects as Olaf's feud with the papacy (which was dealing with an anti-pope at the same time) essentially provided a cover for Eric to pursue feuds with the church. He forced the Bishiop of Lund to release Copenhagen into his ownership, beginning the history of the city as Denmark's capital, while also strengthening his hold over Holstein. The Danehof meanwhile struggled to be reformed. Eric agreed to the allow it to meet at least once a year but when certain lords attempted to impose a håndfæstning charter on Eric he took up arms. They had not understood that the power in Denmark had shifted back to the crown and with a growing treasury and assistance from newly made lords in Holstein and Jutland Eric could impose a level of control of the country which his brother and grandfather could only have dreamt of.

For his allegiance and service to Olaf Eric was rewarded with vacant land in Pomerania in 1355, a vital step to securing the whole province, though the Dukes of Mecklenburg still held more. In addition he was made Reichsmarshall for the old Duchy of Saxony, a role which deeply annoyed Saxony itself (who claimed that the whole of Saxony should be under their aegis) as well as the rulers of Brunswick and Oldenburg who were now presumably annoyed about being at the Danes' beck and call. The title brought Eric no extra leeway in Germany and often Olaf simply had to go around him to gather men and resources he needed for his campaigns. That is not to say Eric did not participate at all in Olaf's Imperial campaigns. He was present at Králíky for the victory over Luxembourg in 1360, at the Siege of Mainz in 1367 and assisted in putting down various revolts. However the elderly Eric spent most of his time at home rather than follow Olaf on his constant restless tours of Germany.

Dying in 1372 Eric was succeeded by his eldest surviving legitimate son, Valdemar II of Denmark, who would begin the reclamation of Denmark as a major European power.


Eric married Matilda of Württemberg in 1317. They had the following children:

  • Eric (1320-1368), heir apparent, married Elizabeth of Scotland and had four children.
  • Margaret (1324)
  • Christopher (1326-1349)
  • Katerina (1328-1350)
  • Valdemar II (1339-1407), King of Denmark
  • Nicholas (1340-1380), Duke of Funen
  • Ingeborg (1343-1356)

It is known Eric had at least two illegitimate daughters:

  • Jutta (?-1356), married Earl Henner of Ribe. No issue.
  • Richeza (1341-1399), married Bernhard III of Anhalt and had three children.


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