Eric of Pomerania

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Erik I, 1382-1459, hertig av Pommern konung av Danmark Norge och Sverige - Nationalmuseum - 15058.tif
Duke of Pomerania-Stolp
Reign7 December 1446 – 24 September 1459
Predecessor Bogislav IX
Successor Eric II
Regent Maria of Masovia (1446–49)
King of Denmark and Sweden
Reign28 October 1412 – 24 September 1439
Coronation17 June 1397, Storkyrkan (destroyed 1678), Kalmar, Sweden
Predecessor Margaret I
Successor Christopher III
King of Norway
Reign8 September 1389 – 4 June 1442
Coronation1392, Oslo Cathedral
Predecessor Margaret
Successor Christopher
Regent Sigurd Jonsson
Born1381 or 1382
Darłowo Castle, Pomerania
Died24 September 1459 (aged 76–78)
Darłowo Castle, Pomerania
St. Mary's Church, Darłowo, Poland
(m. 1406;died 1430)

Cecilia (morganatic)
House Griffin (by birth)
Estridsen (by adoption)
Father Wartislaw VII, Duke of Pomerania
Mother Maria of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Religion Roman Catholicism

Eric of Pomerania (1381 or 1382 – 24 September 1459) was the ruler of the Kalmar Union from 1396 until 1439, succeeding his grandaunt, Queen Margaret I. He is known as Eric III as King of Norway (1389–1442), Eric VII as King of Denmark (1396–1439) and has been called Eric XIII [lower-alpha 1] as King of Sweden (1396–1434, 1436–39). Later, in all three countries he became more commonly known as Erik av Pommern [lower-alpha 2] (Eric of Pomerania), a pejorative intended to point out that he belonged elsewhere. [1] Eric was ultimately deposed from all three kingdoms of the union, but in 1449 he inherited one of the partitions of the Duchy of Pomerania and ruled it as duke until his death in 1459. [2]


Succession background

Eric was born in either 1381 or 1382 in Darłowo, Pomerania (Poland). Born Bogusław, Eric was the son of Wartislaw VII, Duke of Pomerania, and Maria of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.

Margaret I, who ruled the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, wanted her realm to be unified and peaceful and made provisions in the event of her death. She chose as her heir and successor Bogusław, the grandson of her sister Ingeborg (c. 1365 – c. 1402).

In 1389 Bogusław was brought to Denmark to be raised by Queen Margaret. His name was changed to the more Nordic-sounding Erik. On 8 September 1389, he was hailed as King of Norway at the Ting in Trondheim. He may have been crowned King of Norway in Oslo in 1392, but this is disputed.

Eric's father Wartislaw died between November 1394 and 23 February 1395. [3] When Wartislaw died, his thrones were all attained by Eric as the heir. [4]

In 1396 he was proclaimed as king in Denmark and then in Sweden. On 17 June 1397, he was crowned a king of the three Nordic countries in the cathedral of Kalmar. At the same time, a union treaty was drafted, declaring the establishment of what has become known as the Kalmar Union (Kalmarunionen). Queen Margaret, however, remained the de facto ruler of the three kingdoms until her death in 1412. [5] [6] [7]


Queen Philippa Queen Philippa of Dacia.jpg
Queen Philippa

In 1402, Queen Margaret entered into negotiations with King Henry IV of England about the possibility of an alliance between the Kingdom of England and the Nordic union. The proposal was for a double wedding, whereby, King Eric would marry King Henry's daughter, Philippa of England, and King Henry's son, the Prince of Wales and the future King Henry V, would marry King Eric's sister, Catherine of Pomerania (c. 1390–1426). [8] [9]

The double wedding did not come off, but King Eric's wedding to Philippa of England was successfully negotiated. On 26 October 1406, he married the 12-year-old Philippa in Lund. The wedding was accompanied by a purely defensive alliance with England. After Philippa's death later in 1430, King Eric replaced her with her former lady-in-waiting, Cecilia, who became his royal mistress and later his morganatic spouse. The relationship was a public scandal and is mentioned in the royal council's official complaints about the King. [10] [11]


Eric of Pomerania's Coronation Letter. Erik af Pommerns kroningsbrev (fladt foto).jpg
Eric of Pomerania's Coronation Letter.
Royal seal of Eric of Pomerania (1398) depicting: (Centre): a lion rampant crowned maintaining an axe (representing Norway) within an inescutcheon upon a cross over all; Quarterly: in Dexter Chief, three lions passant in pale crowned and maintaining a Danebrog upon a semy of hearts (representing Denmark); in Sinister Chief: three crowns (representing Sweden or the Kalmar Union); in Dexter Base: a lion rampant (Folkung lion) (representing Sweden); and in Sinister Base: a griffin segreant to sinister (representing Pomerania). Kong Erik av Pommern PI XX 1.jpg
Royal seal of Eric of Pomerania (1398) depicting: (Centre): a lion rampant crowned maintaining an axe (representing Norway) within an inescutcheon upon a cross over all; Quarterly: in Dexter Chief, three lions passant in pale crowned and maintaining a Danebrog upon a semy of hearts (representing Denmark); in Sinister Chief: three crowns (representing Sweden or the Kalmar Union); in Dexter Base: a lion rampant (Folkung lion) (representing Sweden); and in Sinister Base: a griffin segreant to sinister (representing Pomerania).
Depicted in 1424 as apparently of equal rank, King Eric (right) met with Emperors John VIII Palaiologos and Sigismund in Buda Emperors John, Sigmund & Eric.jpg
Depicted in 1424 as apparently of equal rank, King Eric (right) met with Emperors John VIII Palaiologos and Sigismund in Buda
Eric's grave at St. Mary's in Darlowo Eric the Pomeranian of Denmark, Norway & Sweden grave 2010 (1).jpg
Eric's grave at St. Mary's in Darłowo
Statue of Eric at Darlowo Castle Eric the Pomeranian of Denmark, Norway & Sweden statue 2010 Darlowo.jpg
Statue of Eric at Darłowo Castle

During the early period of his reign, King Eric made Copenhagen a royal possession in 1417, thereby assuring its status as the capital of Denmark. He also usurped the rights of Copenhagen Castle from the Bishop of Roskilde, and from then on, the castle was occupied by him. [13]

From contemporary sources, King Eric appears as intelligent, visionary, energetic, and a firm character. That he was also a charming and well-spoken man of the world was shown by his great European tour of the 1420s. Negatively, he seems to have had a hot temper, a lack of diplomatic sense, and an obstinacy that bordered on mulishness. King Eric was described by the future Pope Pius II as having "a beautiful body, reddish yellow hair, a ruddy face, and a long narrow neck … alone, without assistance, and without touching the stirrups, he jumped upon a horse, and all women were drawn to him, especially the Empress, in a feeling of longing for love". [14]

From 1423 until May 1425, King Eric went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. After arriving there, he was dubbed Knight of the Holy Sepulchre by the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, and subsequently himself dubbed his pilgrim fellows, among them, Ivan Anz Frankopan. During his absence, Queen Philippa served as regent of the three kingdoms from Copenhagen. [15]

Almost the whole of King Eric's sole rule was affected by his long-standing conflict with the Counts of Schauenburg and Holstein. He tried to regain South Jutland (Schleswig) which Queen Margaret had been winning, but he chose a policy of warfare instead of negotiations. The result was a devastating war that not only ended without conquests, but also led to the loss of the South Jutlandic areas that he had already obtained. During this war, he showed much energy and steadiness, but also a remarkable lack of adroitness. In 1424, a verdict of the Holy Roman Empire by Sigismund, King of Germany, recognising Eric as the legal ruler of South Jutland, was ignored by the Holsteiners. The long war was a strain on the Danish economy as well as on the unity of the north. [16]

Perhaps King Eric's most far-ranging act was the introduction of the Sound Dues (Øresundtolden) in 1429, [17] which was to last until 1857. It consisted of the payment of sound dues by all ships wishing to enter or leave the Baltic Sea passing through the Sound. To help enforce his demands, King Eric built Krogen, a powerful fortress at the narrowest point in the Sound, in the early 1400s. [18] This resulted in the control of all navigation through the Sound, and thus secured a large stable income for his kingdom that made it relatively rich, [17] and which made the town of Elsinore flower. It showed his interest in Danish trade and naval power, but also permanently challenged the other Baltic powers, especially the Hanseatic cities against which he also fought. From 1426 to 1435, he was at war with the German Hanseatic League and Holstein. The Hanseats and Holsteiners attacked Copenhagen in 1428, and King Eric left the city while his wife Queen Philippa managed the defence of the capital. [19]

During the 1430s, the policy of the King fell apart. In 1434, the farmers and mine workers of Sweden began a national and social rebellion which was soon used by the Swedish nobility in order to weaken the power of the King. The Engelbrekt rebellion (1434–1436) was led by Swedish nobleman Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson (c. 1390 – 4 May 1436). The Swedes had been affected by the war with the Hanseatic League (1426–35) which affected trade and disturbed Swedish exports with Schleswig, Holstein, Mecklenburg, and Pomerania. The rebellion caused erosion within the unity of the Kalmar Union, leading to the temporary expulsion of Danish forces from Sweden. In Norway, a subsequent rebellion in 1436 was led by Amund Sigurdsson Bolt (1400–1465). It resulted in a siege of Oslo and Akershus Castle but ended in a ceasefire. [20] [21]

King Eric had to yield to the demands of both the Holsteiners and the Hanseatic League. In April 1435 he signed the peace of Vordingborg with the Hanseatic League and Holstein. Under the terms of the peace agreement, Hanseatic cities were excepted from the Sound Dues and the Duchy of Schleswig was ceded to the count of Holstein.

Coup d'état

When the Danish nobility subsequently opposed his rule and refused to ratify his choice of Bogislaw IX, Duke of Pomerania as the next King of Denmark, King Eric left Denmark in response and took up permanent residence at Visborg Castle in Gotland, which led to his deposition through coup d'état by the National Councils of Denmark and Sweden in 1439. [22]

In 1440, King Eric was succeeded by his nephew Christopher of Bavaria, who was chosen for the thrones of both Denmark and Sweden. Initially the Norwegian Riksråd remained loyal to him and wanted him to remain king of Norway. In September 1439, Eric had given Sigurd Jonsson the title of drottsete, under which he was to rule Norway in the King's name. But with the King isolated in Gotland, the Norwegian nobility also felt compelled to depose Eric through a coup d'état in 1440, and he was formally deposed in 1442, when Sigurd Jonsson stepped down as drottsete, and Christopher was elected king. [23]

At the death of King Christopher in 1448, the next monarch was Eric's kinsman, Christian of Oldenburg (the son of Eric's earlier rival, Count Theodoric of Oldenburg), who succeeded to the throne of Denmark, while Karl Knutsson Bonde succeeded to the throne of Sweden. A rivalry ensued between Charles and Christian for the throne of Norway. In 1450, Karl was forced to relinquish the throne of Norway in favour of King Christian. [24] [25]

Duke of Pomerania

For ten years, Eric lived in Gotland where he fought against the merchant trade in the Baltic. From 1449 to 1459, Eric succeeded Bogislaw IX as Duke of Pomerania and ruled Pomerania-Rügenwalde, a small partition of the Duchy of Pomerania-Stolp (Polish: Księstwo Słupskie), [26] as "Eric I". He died in 1459 at Darłowo Castle (German: Rügenwalde Castle), and was buried in the Church of St. Mary's at Darłowo in Pomerania. [27]

Titles and styles

Eric's full title was: "King of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, the Wends and the Goths, Duke of Pomerania". [28]

Family tree

Valdemar IV of Denmark
Bogislaw V of Pomerania Ingeborg of Denmark Margaret I of Denmark
Bogislaw VIII of Pomerania Wartislaw VII of Pomerania Maria of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Bogislaw IX of Pomerania Catherine of Pomerania Eric of Pomerania
Christopher of Bavaria (King of Denmark)


  1. Referring to Eric of Pomerania as King Eric XIII of Sweden—as on an 18th-century monument in Landskrona stating that the town was founded by king Erik XIII in 1413—is a later invention, counting backwards from Eric XIV (1560–68), who adopted his numeral according to a fictitious history of Sweden. It is not known how many historical Swedish monarchs were named Eric before this one (at least six were).
  2. Erik af Pommern in Denmark.

Related Research Articles

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Christian I was a Scandinavian monarch under the Kalmar Union. He was king of Denmark (1448–1481), Norway (1450–1481) and Sweden (1457–1464). From 1460 to 1481, he was also duke of Schleswig and count of Holstein. He was the first king of the House of Oldenburg.

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Engelbrekt rebellion

The Engelbrekt rebellion (Engelbrektsupproret) was an uprising during 1434–1436 led by Swedish miner and nobleman Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson and directed against Eric of Pomerania, the king of the Kalmar Union. The uprising, with its center in Dalarna and Bergslagen, spread throughout Svealand and Götaland. The rebellion caused erosion within the unity of the Kalmar Union, leading to the temporary expulsion of Danish forces from Sweden.

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The House of Griffin or Griffin dynasty was a dynasty ruling the Duchy of Pomerania from the 12th century until 1637. The name "Griffins" was used by the dynasty after the 15th century and had been taken from the ducal coat of arms. Duke Wartislaw I was the first historical ruler of the Duchy of Pomerania and the founder of the Griffin dynasty. The most prominent Griffin was Eric of Pomerania, who became king of the Kalmar Union in 1397, thus ruling Denmark, Sweden and Norway. The last Griffin duke of Pomerania was Bogislaw XIV, who died during the Thirty Years' War, which led to the division of Pomerania between Brandenburg-Prussia and Sweden. Duchess Anna von Croy, daughter of Duke Bogislaw XIII and the last Griffin, died in 1660.

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Cecilia was a Danish lady-in-waiting at the court of Philippa of England, Queen Consort of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, and later the mistress and morganatic wife of Philippa’s widower King Eric.

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  28. Diplomatarium Norvegicum

Other sources

Eric of Pomerania
Born: 1381 or 1382 Died: 3 May 1459
Regnal titles
Preceded by King of Norway
with Margaret I (1389–1412)
Succeeded by
King of Denmark
with Margaret I (1396–1412)
King of Sweden
with Margaret I (1396–1412)
Vacant King of Sweden
Regency of Karl Knutsson
Regency of Karl Knutsson
King of Sweden
Regency of Karl Knutsson
Title next held by
Preceded by Duke of Pomerania-Stolp
Succeeded by