Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology


17.8.11
  Akershus, Part 2: A Heir to Three Kingdoms, a Mistress, and Architectural Evoutions

Some traces of the fortress built by King Håkon Magnusson and his great-grandson Håkon VI can still be seen, though much has either been changed or hides behind Renaissance and 19th century additions.

Akershus Fortress faced several more sieges in the years to come, but I'll spare you the details and more names with odd letters. The Mediaeval castle was never captured.

Another waterside view from the west:
Right to left: Monk's Tower, Virgin's Tower (with the red roof), Renaissance palace (South Wing),
central Romerike Wing with top of Romerike Tower, Mediaeval northern wing.

The most outstanding building dating to the time of King Håkon is the so called North Wing that once housed the great banqueting hall and the king's private quarters. You can distingush it by the crow stepped gable that reminds of the layout of the Håkon's Hall in Bergen. One of the towers, the Jomfrutårnet (Virgin's Tower) also remains unaltered. The lower storeys of the Romeriksfløyen (Romerike Wing; called after an area not far from Oslo) and the Romerikstårnet (Romerike Tower) are Medieaval as well.

In 1527, lightning caused severe damage, in particular of the inner bailey, so it looked like an afternoon walk for ex-king Christian II of Sweden, Norway and Denmark, to conquer the castle. The better part of the garrison was doing service elsewhere to boot - probably in castles with their living quaters still intact.

Munk's Tower (1559)

You may wonder how this guy became ex-king of three countries. Well, it goes back to the Kalmar Union from 1397. It was the doing of yet another Margaret, Margaret of Denmark who was married to Håkon VI of Norway and Sweden (we remember, his father Magnus had been king of both countries after Magnus' mother Ingeborg and her sister-in-law ousted King Birger of Sweden, who happened to be Magnus' uncle). Now the intermarriages had developed into a veritalbe Gordian Knot. A son of Håkon and Margaret could lay claim to all three thrones, and little Olav (* 1370) did. He was still a minor when his Danish grandfather, the king, died, and Olav became king with his mother Margaret as regent. In 1380, his father Håkon died as well. That made two crowns he got without too much hassle. The Swedes however, looked elsewhere for a king, so this position was still contested when Olav died in 1387.

That left Margaret of Denmark who must have been a capable women since she managed to get recognised as regent of Denmark and Norway ever after the death of her son. In the end, the Swedes decided they prefered a regent Margaret to Albert Duke of Mecklenburg, the other contender (his mother was Euphemia Eriksdottir, daughter of the unfortunate Erik of Södermanland and sister of King Magnus) as well. Albert was captured after a battle in 1389 and imprisoned in a Swedish castle for years.

Margaret adopted the grandson of her sister, a boy named Boguslaw (said sister had married into the Ducal House of Pomerania, an area today divided between north-eastern Germany and Poland, and they had names like that there) who prompty got renamed Erik, because we don't have enough of those already. ;) Erik, a boy of eight, was hailed king of Norway at the Thing of Trondheim, and he became King of Denmark and Sweden in 1396. He was crowned as king of all three countries in Kalmar a year later, probably at his coming of age, but his adoptive mother Margaret more or less remained in control until her death in 1412.

Pond between the old walls (right) and the 19th century buildings

Margaret also arranged Erik's marriage. Be prepared for another English connection. The girl she picked was Philippa of England, daughter of Henry IV (Henry of Bolingbroke), first king of the Lancaster branch of the Plantagenets. The marraige, which took place in 1406, seems to have been a happy one and Philippa was a ressourceful support to her husband. She died in 1430 without offspring.

At which point the nobles started to play Who's To Succeed the King. That and the ongoing troubles with the Hansa League and some dysfunctional German relations made life pretty difficult for Erik. One of the sieges of Akershus took place during that time.

Erik was deposed as king in Denmark and Sweden in 1439, whereof he retired to Gotland which was his personal possession (the Teutonic Knights had sold the island to Margaret). There must have been something about Gotland and pirates, because Erik followed the same career during his stay there, 'succeeding' some famous German pirates, the Victual Brothers. In 1449, he retired to Pomerania where he was still duke under the name Boguslaw. Erik died in 1459.

Seen from the park side; the brick and timber building is the former Double Battery from 1692,
today housing the Resistance Museum

The Kalmar Union from 1397, then known as Treaty of Kalmar, stipulated that the three realms would be united under one king (the king was elected, though usually among the sons of the previous king), but each country would keep its own government and laws. Foreign policy lay in the hands of the king and a group of advisors. The treaty also led to a situation that gave the nobles a good deal of power and independence.

The union survived several crises - the frist already under Erik - and lasted until 1523. So let's go back to King Christian II and how he became ex-king.

Munk's Tower, seen from inside the fortress

One of the problems was a pretty girl named Dyveke (little dove) Willoms. Christian II met Dyveke during a feast in Bergen in 1506 (before he became king), fell in love with the girl and made her his mistress, bought a house for her in Oslo and later took her with him to Copenhagen. Christian was crowned King of Norway and Denmark in 1513, and two years later married Elisabeth of Habsburg, but did not abandon Dyveke. Mistresses weren't that unusual in royal households, but it seems Christian really flung his pretty little dove into everybody's face and had no idea how to spell 'discretion'.

Dyveke died suddenly in 1517, and Christian suspected that she had been poisoned by Torben Oxe, governor of Copenhagen Castle. Christian had him beheaded - against the judgement of his council. The fact that Dyveke's mother Sigbrit was one of his chief advisors didn't improve matters, either - a commoner and a woman, and Dutch. Oh dear. One can almost see the faces of the council members.

Sortie Gate (1834)

The Swedes, as usual, had their own candiate for kingship, and it took Christian some work, a few battles, and a score or so executiions to gain that crown as well (in 1520). But the reforms Christian introduced which strengthened the position of the king and favoured the wealthy middle classes over the nobility, led to an increasing adversity of the nobles who began to rise in all three countries. There was a peasant revolt as well, soon exploited by the disgrunted nobles. Christian was forced to seek exile in the Netherlands in 1523. He tried to fight for the throne again in 1532 but was taken prisoner and spent the rest of his life in somewhat comfortable captivity.

Christian II died in 1559 at the age of 80. The Kalmar Union had broken up in 1523 and Sweden became a separate kingdom from Norway / Denmark.

The above mentioned siege of Akershus took place during the time Christian tried to win back the throne(s). He was unaware of the bad shape and meagre garrison of the fortress and concluded an armistice with its commander, Mogens Gyldenstjerne. The siege was relieved by Danish forces in the following year. Now, this is pretty amazing: there's an entire army camped outside the fort for months and some 20-30 soldiers obviously managed to have them believe there was a whole badass army inside as well. The fortress was repaired after the siege.

One of the outer bastions (Prins Carls Bastion, 1648)

But it was King Christian IV (1573-1648) who gave the most important impulses for the Renaissance style House Overhaul. The fortress was expanded, the fortifications strengthened by stone manteled earth walls, and the interior was remodelled in the new style. Since the mix of bricks and limestone that had been used for the Mediaeval buildings was used again, the blend between old and new buildings is pretty seamless - except of course, for the different ornaments and layout of the new palace and such.

Nothing remains of the old keep, the Våghalsen; it had to give way to the Renaissance palace. One of the smaller towers, the Romerikstårnet (Roman Tower) was extended in heigth and changed into a staircase tower, and the building called Romeriksfløyen (Roman Wing) that once housed the kitchen, had a storey added with representative rooms. The chapel was replaced by the southern wing.

Akershus at that time was still used for council meetings and other official functions, and sometimes the king lived there for a time. But in the late 17th - early 18th century, the buidlings became outdated and the fort was only used for military purposes, and even that declined.

House of the Royal Guard (1724)

At the beginning of the 19th century, Akershus was in pretty bad shape. There were intentions to completely abandon the place and dismantle the buildings, but resistance of the Norwegian people led to a change of plans. Akershus was reactivated and repaired instead, new building like a riding hall and a commander's house were added, and part of the fortress was used as prison, known as Slaveriet because the inmates could be rented for work.

A second round of renovations took place after WW2, mostly repair work (everyone with an old house has to deal with crumbling roughcast, leaky roofs, mildewy timber and other fun). Today, Akershus represents 700 years of Norwegian history.
 
Comments:
Those cannons could do with some restoration, and they need looking after better than they have been!!!
http://woodsrunnersdiary.blogspot.com/
 
very interesting - I knew nothing about the connection of Phillippa of England's connection.
 
Another fascinating post! I know very little about Norwegian history, so it's been great to learn all this!
 
Fascinating, and very complicated :-) How you keep track of all this is amazing.
 
Great photos. One would never know from them that the fort is in down town Oslo.

I looked on Earth Google, the hill it sits on domiinates the harbor and would be a pain to capture without the fortifications. It is easy to see why it was important and the center of so much intrigue.



Hank's eclectic meanderings
 
Le Loup,
I think the cannons are more for show than for use.

Anerje,
I had to look that Philippa up myself (I only know Edwards III's wife by that name). It's past the time I usually deal with - moving into Susan Higginbotham's territory. ;)

Thank you, Kathryn.
I'm just reading up on Norwegian history which proves to be a fascinating subject.

Carla,
about the same way you manage to keep track of all those 'Dark Age' Englih petty kings and their feuds. *grin*

Thank you, Hank.
I'm getting pretty good at photgraphing around unhistorical buildings, though there was no way to get rid of that ugly grey ship wharft at the bottom of the hill (on the seaside pics).
 
Hi Gabriele, great and interesting work reflect in your blog!
However, the correct understanding of "Romerike" has nothing to do with the Roman Empire, as one could easily believe. "Romerike" in Norway is an area just north of Oslo. The name is of norse origin. And it is this area that the towers etc are named affter.
Great
 
Hello Kaj, welcome to my blog. Thank you for pointing out the correct origin of the name Romerike - my guess had been that Håkon or Eirik wanted to establish a connection to the old Romans they way King Edward I did in Caernarfon. But I remember the name Raumarike from the sagas, and it makes more sense anyway. I corrected the post.
 
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Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction author. Illustrated essays on Roman, Dark Age and Mediaeval history, Mediaeval literature, and Geology. Some poetry translations and writing stuff. And lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and the Baltic States.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

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I'm a writer of Historical Fiction living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History, I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, an avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.


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