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Olaf III of Viken (The Kalmar Union)

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Olaf III
Olaf the Great.png
Olaf III the Great, King of Viken-Rugia, King of Svealand, Holy Roman Emperor
King of Viken-Rugia
Reign 3rd May, 1325 - 12th February 1383
Predecessor Wizlaw III
Successor Wizlaw IV
King of Svealand (as Olaf II)
Reign 19th August 1337 - 12th February 1383
Predecessor Carl I
Successor Wizlaw I
Holy Roman Emperor
Reign 1st September 1354 (de facto) - 12th February 1383
Predecessor Louis IV
Successor Wenceslaus I
Spouse Anna of Kiev

Elizabeth of Namur

Issue Margaret

Elizabeth
Wizlaw IV
Jaromar
Helena
Sophia
Niels

Full name
Olaf Wizlawsson
House Rugia
Father Wizlaw III
Mother Märta of Anglia
Born 14th December, 1301
Oslo, Viken
Died 12th February, 1383
Zweibrucken, County of Zweibrucken (now United Netherlands)

Olaf III is widely regarded as the finest king Viken ever had and is recognised as the grandfather of 'Greater Denmark' and the Kalmar Union. He is the only Scandinavian monarch afforded the epithet 'the Great'.

The third son of King Wizlaw III, he was the only one to survive to adulthood. As a prince he was given Lordship of Rugia's mainland territory and he lavished money and attention on his fief, expanding several towns including Stralsund, which he turned into a major fortress. Whilst prince he served on several campaigns against German princes with the king of Denmark, Eric IV. Quick to display a keen military mind he often frustrated his Danish allies with tactical retreats and feigns which they mistook for cowardice only to be rewarded in the end with victory. He was campaigning in Anhalt against the Imperial forces of his distant cousin Emperor Louis IV when word reached him of his father's death in 1325; however, quietly assured of his position and keen to foster support with Denmark he saw out the year's campaign before returning to Oslo for coronation.

His slow pace had fermented division. Though Rugia remained loyal, some lords in Viken had taken the opportunity to seize land and repudiate various laws laid down over the centuries. Olaf, unhurried as always, was crowned in November in Oslo then took the winter to sort those who were loyal from those that weren't, carefully blocking off help from Viken's neighbours and only then began the political strangulation of the rebellious lords. By April 1326 he was in full control of the country, restoring lands to their rightful owners and reaffirming the rights of the lords and the serfs. His calm unhurried approach to the business of ruling gave him a great standing amongst his lords as they could be assured of a considered and thorough response to their issues. Once he had turned Viken-Rugia into the very model of a medieval state, wealthy and prosperous, he began to look beyond to secure an even greater legacy.

Regarding Carl I of Svealand as a usurper Olaf declared war against him in 1333. After two kings from the House of Rugia between 1221 and 1261, Svealand had suffered almost seventy years of civil war as the three branches of the House of Eric had fought for the crown. Carl I belonged to one of the branches not aligned by marriage to the House of Rugia and therefore Olaf felt confident enough to challenge his rule and re-impose the rule of the House of Rugia. His invasion was assisted by Gothenland, who had their own issues with Carl, and helped by a collapse in his support amongst his lords. Defeated at the Battle of Broo, Carl retreated eastward where, as winter began, he was forced to sign the Treaty of Uppsala. By this Olaf III was named Carl's successor.

In 1337 Carl died and Olaf quickly travelled to Uppsala to cement his rule. Carl's sons, Eric and John rebelled, however they were outclassed militarily, and Olaf soon had Svealand's nobles on his side with grants of land and taxation rights. Many great families such as the Leijonhufvud and the Vasa can trace the growth of their estates and rank to Olaf's gifts. A further revolt from the other branches of the House of Eric was quashed and he was crowned King of Svealand in Birka in June 1342. He even handed land north of Lake Vatten to Gothenland for their assistance and neutrality in the 'Carlssons War'. Olaf also took the decision to revoke the 1323 Treaty of Noteborg. This gave the Svealandic nobles the right to wage war against Novgorod once more and allowed Olaf to take his eye off them safe in the knowledge they would not ferment revolt against him while they were being kept busy in the East. Svealand was expanded dramatically Northwards as a by-product as Olaf and his lords campaigned repeatedly in Finland, Karelia and Ingria.

On the death of Emperor Louis IV in 1347 the Empire once again exploded into civil war. There was already a rival anti-king of Germany, Charles I of Luxembourg, meanwhile the heirs of Louis supported Gunther, at least until his death in 1349. Charles was widely regarded as a Papal-appointed king and a disparate anti-papal camp vigorously opposed him. Into this waded Olaf, characteristically late, in 1352. He had a slim claim to the throne anyway, through his maternal grandmother and soon garnered a level of support amongst the anti-papal camp who saw his apparent invincibility as a sign that God was on their side. Using the latent military strength of Svealand to bolster the forces of the anti-papal camp he entered Thuringia and immediately began scoring victory after victory. After the victories of Eschwege and Eiterfeld he gained the support of the Hapsburg and Wittelsbach families, meanwhile an alliance with his cousin Henry II of Anglia served to threaten Charles' possessions in the Low Countries. A series of drawn out sieges of the ecclesiastical electorates eventually resulted in his election to the German throne in 1354.

His war against Charles had enraged the pope, as did his Golden Bull of 1355 which expanded the electorates dramatically and regulated the election of the Emperor. This brought both the Archbishop of Riga and Grandmaster of the Teutonic Order in as electors and dragged Livonia and Prussia into the Empire. Innocent VI called for war against the barbarian, stopping short of calling it a crusade. Olaf spent much of the next twenty years in the saddle, putting down various revolts, both in Germany and in Scandinavia, and seeing off a parade of anti-kings. His real aim, to reunite the lands of Charlemagne, guided him into a war with France that would rumble off and on for seventy years. A secondary front into Italy led to a huge array of rights being granted to the Swiss lands to guarantee passage before a victory over the Florentine army at Vernio in 1372 allowed Olaf to claim the Lombard crown. Creating an anti-pope of his own, the Pisan John XXIII, to complement those in Tours and Rome, he marched on Rome where he was finally crowned Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day.

His final decade as Emperor was spent criss-crossing Europe to fight increasingly heavy revolts. His usual slow consideration of issues which had worked so well in Scandinavia became a problem in the vastness of the Empire, especially as he reignited war with France and from 1380 several areas were in revolt against his rule. He died in Zweibrucken in February 1383 planning the coming year's campaign against France.

Olaf's realms were badly affected by the Black Death. It is believed that there was a 30% drop in the populations of Scandinavia and the Empire during the first wave of outbreaks. The ensuing shortage of labour created spiralling food prices and eroded ties between the peasantry and their lords. Olaf largely allowed his lords to deal with the economic and social problems acerbated by the plague themselves which inevitably led to widespread peasant revolt.

Family

He married Anna of Kiev in 1320 though he apparently cared little for her. She had five children who all died before the age of two. After her death he married Elizabeth of Namur, distant cousin of Emperor Henry VII, and some twenty years his junior in 1345. They had seven children.

  • Margaret
  • Elizabeth
  • Wizlaw IV - King of Viken-Rugia, King of Svealand. Married Matilda of Brunswick and had one child: Elizabeth of Viken.
  • Jaromar
  • Helena
  • Sophia - Became Abbess at Stralsund convent
  • Niels

Succession

Wizlaw IV was aware of his own limitations as a ruler and declined the Imperial throne. After a small civil war it passed to Wenceslaus of Luxembourg, son of Charles I. Wenceslaus would be hard pressed to solve the schism within the Western church and found the war against France a hard slog. While Italia was brought definitively into the Imperial sphere it exploded into unrestrained internecine warfare which would give Aragon purchase on the peninsula while enriching the mercenary companies of Europe.

Meanwhile in the North after a period in Viken's shadow, Denmark would once again become Scandinavia's main protagonist, using the renewed Imperial conflicts to further its grip on Pomerania. Wizlaw held on to the kingdoms of Viken-Rugia and Svealand, paving the way for the Kalmar Union after his only heir, Elizabeth, married Prince Eric of Denmark, soon to be Eric VII.

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