Valdemar II of Denmark

Valdemar II the Victorious

Coin minted for King Valdemar II, Lund University History Museum
King of Denmark
Reign 1202–1241
Predecessor Canute VI
Successor Eric IV Ploughpenny
Junior Kings Valdemar the Young
Eric IV
Duke of Schleswig
Reign 1183–1216
Predecessor Christopher
Successor Eric Valdemarsen
Co-duke Valdemar the Young
Born 9 May/28 June 1170
Died 28 March 1241 (aged 70)
Burial St. Bendt's Church, Ringsted
Consort Dagmar of Bohemia
Berengaria of Portugal
among others...
Valdemar the Young
Eric IV Ploughpenny
Sophia, Margravine of Brandenburg
Christopher I
Full name
Valdemar Valdemarsen
House House of Estridsen
Father Valdemar I the Great
Mother Sophia of Minsk
Religion Pre-Schism Royal Church
Danish Royalty
House of Estridsen
Valdemar II the Victorious
Valdemar the Young
Eric IV Ploughpenny
Sophia, Margravine of Brandenburg
Christopher I
Illegitimate Children
Canute, Duke of Estonia
Niels, Count of Halland

Valdemar II (9 May 1170 or 28 June 1170 – 28 March 1241), called Valdemar the Victorious or Valdemar the Conqueror (Valdemar Sejr), was the King of Denmark from 1202 until his death in 1241. The nickname Sejr is a later invention and was not used during the King's own lifetime. Sejr means victory in Danish.


The Seal of Valdemar II.

He was the second son of King Valdemar I and Sophia Valadarsdattir, a daughter of Richeza of Poland, and a West Russian Prince. When Valdemar's father died, young Valdemar was only twelve years old. He was named Duke of Southern Jutland (Latin: dux slesvicensis, literally Sleswickian duke[1]), represented by the regent Bishop Valdemar Knudsen (1182–1193).

Bishop Valdemar was an ambitious man and disguised his own ambitions as young Valdemar's. When in 1192 Bishop Valdemar was named Prince-Archbishop of Bremen, his plot to overthrow King Canute VI with the help of German nobility and sit on Denmark's throne himself was revealed.

Duke Valdemar realized the threat Bishop Valdemar presented. He invited the archbishop to meet him in Aabenraa in 1192. Then the bishop fled to Swedish Norway to avoid arrest. The following year Bishop Valdemar organised - supported by the Hohenstaufens - a fleet of 35 ships and harried the coasts of Denmark, claiming the Danish throne for himself. In 1193 King Canute VI of Denmark captured him. Bishop Valdemar stayed in captivity in Nordborg (11931198) and then in the tower at Søborg Castle on Zealand until 1206. Bishop Valdemar was released upon the initiative of the Danish Queen Dagmar and Pope Innocent III and after swearing to never interfere again in Danish affairs.[2]

Young Valdemar faced another threat from Count Adolph of Rendsburg. Adolph tried to stir up other German counts to take southern Jutland from Denmark to assist Bishop Valdemar's plot to take the throne. With the bishop in prison, Duke Valdemar went after Count Adolph and with his own troop levies march south and captured Adolph's new fortress at Rendsburg. He defeated and captured the count in the Battle of Stellau in 1201 and sent him to sit in a cell next to Bishop Valdemar. Two years later Duke Valdemar let Count Adolph buy his way out of prison due to an illness by ceding all of Schleswig north of the Elbe to Valdemar. In November 1202, Duke Valdemar's elder brother, King Canute VI died unexpectedly at the age of 40, leaving no heirs.


Realms of Scandinavia in 1219
Danish realm under King Valdemar II

Duke Valdemar was subsequently proclaimed king at the Jutland Assembly (landsting). The nearby Holy Roman Empire was torn by civil war due to having two rivals contesting for its throne, Otto IV, House of Guelf, and King Philip, House of Hohenstaufen. Valdemar II allied himself with Otto IV against Phillip.

In 1203 Valdemar invaded and conquered Lybeck and Holstein, adding them to the territories controlled by Denmark. In 1204 he attempted to influence the outcome of the Norwegian succession by leading a Danish fleet and army to Viken in Norway in support of Erling Steinvegg, the pretender to the Norwegian throne. This resulted in the second Bagler War which lasted until 1208. The question of the Norwegian succession was temporarily settled and the Norwegian king owed allegiance to the king of Denmark.

In 1207, a majority of Bremian capitulars again elected Bishop Valdemar as Prince-Archbishop, while a minority, led by the capitular provost Burkhard, Count of Stumpenhausen fled for Hamburg, being the seat of a Bremian subchapter with regional competence and delegating for episcopal elections two participants to the main Bremian chapter. The German King Philip, recognised Valdemar as the legitimate Prince-Archbishop of Bremen, because thus the Prince-Archbishopric would become his ally against Valdemar II.

Valdemar II and the fled capitulars protested to Pope Innocent III, who first wanted to research the case. When Bishop Valdemar left Rome for Bremen against Pope Innocent's order to wait his decision, he banished Valdemar by an anathema and in 1208 finally dismissed him as Bishop of Schleswig. In 1208, Burkhard, Count of Stumpenhausen, was elected by the fled capitulars in Hamburg as rival prince-archbishop and Valdemar II, usurping imperial power, invested Burkhard with the regalia - with effect only in the prince-archiepiscopal and diocesan territory north of the Elbe. In 1209 Innocent III finally consented the consecration of Bishop Nicholas I of Schleswig, a close confidant and consultant of King Valdemar, as successor of the deposed Bishop Valdemar. In 1214 King Valdemar appointed Bishop Nicholas I as Chancellor of Denmark, succeeding the late Peder Sunesen, Bishop of Roskilde.

In the same year Valdemar II invaded with Danish troops the prince-archiepiscopal territory south of the Elbe and conquered Stade. In August Prince-Archbishop Valdemar reconquered the city only to lose it soon after again to Valdemar II, who now built a bridge of the Elbe and fortified a forward post in Harburg upon Elbe. In 1209 Otto IV persuaded Valdemar II to withdraw into the north of the Elbe, urged Burkhard to resign and expelled Prince-Archbishop Valdemar.

In 1210, Innocent III made Gerhard I, Count of Oldenburg-Wildeshausen Bremen's new Prince-Archbishop. In 1211 Duke Bernard III of the younger Duchy of Saxony escorted his brother-in-law Valdemar, the papally dismissed Prince-Archbishop, into the city of Bremen, de facto regaining the See and enjoying the sudden support of Otto IV, who meanwhile fell out with Innocent over Sicily. As a reaction Valdemar II recaptured Stade, while in 1213 Henry V, Count Palatine of the Rhine, conquered it for Prince-Archbishop Valdemar.

In 1213 Valdemar instituted a war tax in Norway, and the peasants murdered Valdemar's tax collector at the Trøndelag Assembly and revolted. The uprising spread over several regions in Norway.

In 1216, Valdemar II and his Danish troops ravaged the County of Stade and conquered Hamburg. Two years later Valdemar II and Gerhard I allied to expel Henry V and Otto IV from the Prince-Archbishopric. Prince-Archbishop Valdemar finally resigned and entered into a monastery. Valdemar supported Emperor Frederick II and was rewarded with the emperor acknowledging Denmark rule of Schleswig and Holstein, all of the Wendish lands and Pomerania.

Battle of Lyndanisse

Dannebrog falling from the sky during the Battle of Lyndanisse
Christian August Lorentzen

The Teutonic Knights, who had been attempting to Christianize the peoples of the eastern Baltic, were (by 1219) being hard pressed and turned to Valdemar for help. Pope Honorius III elevated Valdemar's invasion of Estonia into a crusade. Valdemar raised an army and called all of Denmark's ships to gather to transport the army eastward. Once assembled, the fleet numbered 1500 ships.

When the army landed in Estonia, near modern-day Tallinn, the chiefs of the Estonians sat down with the Danes and agreed to acknowledge the Danish king as their overlord. A few of them allowed themselves to be baptized which seemed to be a good sign. Three days later on 15 June 1219 while the Danes were attending mass, thousands of Estonians broke into the Danish camp from all sides. Confusion reigned and things looked bad for Valdemar's crusade. Luckily for him, Vitslav of Rügen gathered his men in a second camp and attacked the Estonians from the rear.

During the Battle of Lyndanisse the legend says that whenever Bishop Sunesen raised his arms the Danes surged forward and when his arms grew tired and he let them fall the Estonians turned the Danes back. Attendants rushed forward to raise his arms once again and the Danes surged forward again. At the height of the battle Bishop Sunsen prayed for a sign and it came in the form of a red cloth with a white cross which drifted down from the sky just as the Danes began to fall back. A voice was heard to say "When this banner is raised on high, you shall be victorious!"[3] The Danes surged forward and won the battle. At the end of the day thousands of Estonians lay dead on the field, and Estonia was added to the Danish realm. Estonians were forcibly baptised as Christians, but according to a in depth study of the Liber Sencus Daniæ by the historian Edgar Sachs, the Estonians quite voluntarily converted to the Christian faith.

Valdemar ordered the construction of a great fortress at Reval, near the site of the battle.[4] Eventually a city grew around the hilltop castle which is still called Tallinn, "Danish-castle/town" in the Estonian language. The red banner with a white cross (Dannebrog) has been the national flag of the Danes since 1219. Dannebrog is Europe's oldest flag design still in modern use.

Battle of Bornhöved

In 1223, King Valdemar and his eldest son, prince Valdemar, were abducted by Count Henry I of Schwerin (Heinrich der Schwarze), while hunting on the island of Lyø near Funen. Count Henry demanded that Denmark surrender the land conquered in Holstein 20 years ago and become a vassal of the Holy Roman Emperor. Danish envoys refused these terms and Denmark declared war. While Valdemar sat in prison, most of the German territories tore themselves away from Denmark. Danish armies were dispatched to hold them in line. The war ended in defeat of the Danish troops under the command of Albert II of Orlamünde at Mölln in 1225. To secure his release Valdemar had to acknowledge the break away territories in Germany, pay 44,000 silver marks, and sign a promise not to seek revenge on Count Henry.

Valdemar immediately appealed to Pope Honorius III to have his oath declared void, a request granted by the Pope. Honorius III excused Valdemar from his forced oath, and he immediately set about trying to restore the German territories. Valdemar concluded a treaty with his nephew Otto I, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and headed south to take back what he thought were his lands by right, but his luck deserted him. A series of Danish defeats culminating in the Battle of Bornhöved on 22 July 1227 cemented the loss of Denmark's north German territories. Valdemar himself was saved only by the chivalrous acts of a German knight who carried Valdemar to safety on his horse.

Code of Jutland

From that time on Valdemar focused his efforts on domestic affairs. One of the changes he instituted was the feudal system where he gave properties to men with the understanding that they owed him service. This increased the power of the noble families (højadelen) and gave rise to the lesser nobles (lavadelen) who controlled most of Denmark. Free peasants lost the traditional rights and privileges they had enjoyed since the Viking era.[5]

Valdemar spent the remainder of his life putting together a code of laws for Jutland, Zealand and Skåne. These codes were used as Denmark's legal code until 1683. This was a significant change from the local law making at the regional assemblies (landting) had been the long-standing tradition. Several methods of determining guilt or innocence were outlawed including trial by ordeal and trial by combat. The Code of Jutland (Jyske Lov) was approved at meeting of the nobility at Vordingborg in 1241 just prior to Valdemar's death, in the same city. Valdemar was buried next to Queen Dagmar at Ringsted.


Imaginary portrayal of Valdemar II.

Before his first marriage Valdemar had been betrothed to Rixa of Bavaria, daughter of the Duke of Saxony. When that arrangement fell through, he married first Margarethe of Bohemia, also known as Queen Dagmar, in 1205. She was the daughter of Premysl Ottokar, King of Bohemia, and quickly won over the hearts of the Danes. By this marriage, Valdemar had a son, Valdemar, whom he elevated as co-king at Schleswig in 1218. Unfortunately, Prince Valdemar was accidentally shot while hunting at Refsnæs in North Jutland during 1231. Queen Dagmar died in childbirth in 1212. Old folk ballads say that on her death bed she begged Valdemar to marry Kirsten, the daughter of Karl von Rise and not the "beautiful flower" Berengaria of Portugal (Bengerd). In other words, she predicted Berengaria's sons' fight over the throne would bring trouble to Denmark.

After Margaret's death, in order to build good relations with Flanders, Valdemar married Berengária of Portugal in 1214. She was the orphan daughter of King Sancho I of Portugal and a sister of Ferdinand, Count of Flanders where she stayed until her marriage. She was beautiful, but so hard-hearted that she was generally hated by Danes until her early death, in childbirth, in 1221. Valdemar's two queens play a prominent role in Danish ballads and myths - Dagmar as the soft, pious and popular ideal wife and Berengária as the beautiful and haughty woman.


With his first wife, Margaret of Bohemia, whom he wed in 1205;

With his second wife, Berengaria of Portugal, whom he wed in 1214;

With his mistress, Helena Guttormsdotter, a noblewoman of Swedish birth and wife of an important Danish nobleman.

With an unknown mistress;

In memoriam

Valdemar enjoys a central position in Danish history because of his position as "the king of Dannebrog" and as a legislator. To posterity, the civil wars and dissolution that followed his death made him appear to be the last king of a golden age. Since 1912, June 15 has officially been called Valdemarsdag (Valdemar's Day). The date now belongs to the group of 33 Danish annual Flag Days where Dannebrog is raised in celebration.

The 1997 film Eye of the Eagle was about a fictional story about Valdemar the Young. His father Valdemar was played by Lars Lohmann. In the film Arn: The Knight Templar Valdemar was portrayed by actor Mads Mikkelsen.



  1. Esben Albrectsen, "Das Abel-Geschlecht und die Schauenburger als Herzöge von Schleswig", Marion Hartwig and Frauke Witte (trls.), in: Die Fürsten des Landes: Herzöge und Grafen von Schleswig, Holstein und Lauenburg [De slevigske hertuger; German], Carsten Porskrog Rasmussen (ed.) on behalf of the Gesellschaft für Schleswig-Holsteinische Geschichte, Neumünster: Wachholtz, 2008, pp. 52-71, here p. 52. ISBN 978-3-529-02606-5
  2. Hans Olrik, "Valdemar (Knudsen), 1158-1236, Biskop af Slesvig", in: Dansk biografisk leksikon, vol. XVIII: Ubbe - Wimpffen, pp. 193–197, here p. 195.
  3. Olsen, Peder.Slaget ved Lyndanise
  4. Huitfeldt, Arild. Danmarks Riges Krønike
  5. Danmark Historie
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Valdemar II..
Valdemar the Victorious
Born: 9 May 1170 Died: 28 March 1241
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Canute VI
King of Denmark
with Valdemar the Young (1218–1231)
Eric Ploughpenny (1232-1241)
Succeeded by
Eric Ploughpenny
Preceded by
Duke of Schleswig
with Valdemar the Young (1209–1216)
Preceded by
Canute I
Duke of Estonia
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/10/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.