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


31.8.11
  More Rocks - The Karst Formations near Scharzfeld / Harz

Life's been a bit busy this week, so here's another short post with some photos. This time you'll get some odd rocks one can stumble across in the Harz.

Gypsum and dolomite boulders in a karst landscape

Once upon a time ... well, 250 million years ago, what is now Germany hung out around the equator, and it was a sea, the Zechstein Sea which covered most of central Europe-to-be. Like most seas, it had tiny critters swimming around, some with shells, it had coral reefs and nutrients like carbonates and sulfates. Since the climate at the equator is hot, the water evaporated, leaving behind layers of shells, corals and other organic material which over time baked together. Then the sea would flood back in. This happened several times over until the continental drift moved Germany further north.

The 'Steinberg' rock formation

About 100 million years ago, the Harz mountains began to fold up, and the layers of dolomite, limestone, and gypsum (all of organic origins, with dolomite being the hardest) shaped into hills and mountains along the fringes of the southern Harz. In other parts of the area, rocks like greywacke or granites came up on top. Below the gypsum layers in the southern mountains lies the 280 million years old rotliegend.

Rocks with view towards Scharzfeld

During the Ice Ages and interglacials, the landscape began to karstificate. Mildly acid water dissolved the soluble bedrock, seeping in through fractures and enlarging them. Over time, an undeground drainage system would develop (see the post about the Lonau Falls) which in turn carved out caverns and caves. Since karst landscapes are shortlived - not the formation iteself so much as the particular shapes - the caves, boulders and rock formations in the southern Harz are no older than 12,000 years.

The 'Sentinel'

The mining of gypsum in the Harz showed remains of the wooly rhinoceros, mammoth, cave bear, giant deer and other fauna of the Ice Age, as well as flintstone tools. One can also discern the regrowth of trees during interglacials, and the first traces of human settlements like man made clearings, and grain seeds.

The 'Bastion'

Dolomite areas can be arable or used for grazing, depending on the soil layer. Other features in the Harz are calcareous grasslands along the slopes, and forests of common beech on limestone ground. Including ant hills and pretty aggressive ants who found my bare feet in sandals irresistible.

The 'Knight's Stone', with a nose (an abris)

An abris is a half-cave opening at the base of a cliff. This one's very small, but larger such rock shelters have been used by the hunters of the Ice Age., also in the Harz.

The vales are running along the relief of the rotliegend; the dolomite layer was washed out in the channels and grooves, thus deepening the valleys.

One of several caves and hollows

There's one large cave that will get its own post one of these days, but I think I'll need to go back to the Romans for a change, or my Roman readers will run away. ;)

Source
Website Karstwanderweg Südharz


 


24.8.11
  Fancy Some Cold Water? - The Lonau Fall near Herzberg / Harz

Well, I don't think my British readers fancy any more cold water than they already got, but we have some very hot days in Germany, and the heat wave in the US seems to be still strong. And since the litte trip I did last Saturday included a waterfall (besides a cave and limestone rock formations), I'll share some photos with you.

Lonau river in the forest

The Lonau Fall is the only natural waterfall in the western Harz and a nice view even in summer. I've seen it at a time some years ago when the snow in the Harz mountains had just melted, and during such periods it is truly impressive. But the summer pics are interesting, too.

The Lonau river cascades 10 metres down a narrow ravine to confluence with the Sieber river about 100 metres further south. The most prominent feature of the surrounding landscape is a hornbeam forest with some moss-grown greywacke boulders.

Foaming over stones

Waterfalls are a sign for a disruption in the relief of a river, and a good chance to study the geological history of a landscape. The time that interests us here is the quartenary ice age, the the last 500,000 years of our history. Yeah, this goes a bit further back than the Romans.

Those millenia were defined by cycles of moderate, wet climates (like today) and dry, cold climates with permafrost, usually refered to as Ice Ages. Though the area in question was never covered by ice and thus we speak about glacial periods or glaciations; the warmer times are called interglacials. The last glacial period ended 15,000 years ago and we today live in an interglacial, the Holocene epoch.

(The first cascade)

The difference between greywacke and the softer limestone caused the beds of the rivers Lonau and Sieber to develop differently. The Lonau makes her way over the hard greywacke while the Sieber had to deal with the much softer limestone and over time carved its bed ten metres deep into the rock. Both rock layers meet at the Lonau waterfall.

Greywacke is a hard sandstone that developed during the Palaeozoic Era ( 542-251 million years ago). The clastic sedi-mentary rock is usually found - among other geological formations - at the bases of mountain areas that once had been deep sea ground. While greywacke is composed mostly of the eroded grains of other stones like quartz, feldspar (crystallised magma) and flint that baked together in a layer of clay and hardened over millenia, the limestone that also can be found in the area is a sedimentary rock composed of organic fragments like coral or foraminifera and thus also former sea ground.

Limestone is soluble to water, and over time the water and weak acids from the overlaying soil enlarged the cracks and fissures in the limestone by dissolving the calcium carbonate. The result is a so-called karst landscape, with oddly shaped rocks and caves (one such cave is not far from the Lonau Fall). Another feature of karst landscapes is the lack of visible groundwater, that is, there are no rivers and wells. The water drains through the soil into the porous stone until it meets a layer of hader rock - such water reservoirs may reappear several miles from the original source; the Rhume Springs is a good example for that (and not far from the Lonau/Sieber confluence).

(The second cascade)

During every glacial, the rivers delved deeper into the bedrock, mostly by congelifraction: the water in rock fissures froze, thus expanded its volume and caused erosion. One can easly see how that would be a lot more efficient in limestone. During interglacials, the riverbeds partly refilled with gravel from higher regions, which in turn worked a bit like mortars.

Both rivers changed their course during the millenia. The Sieber moved closer to the Lonau and basically tapped her. One can still find a mix of Sieber and Lonau gravel in the middle terrace of the fall, dating to the Saale Glacial about 130,000 years past. But the final touch, the further deepening of the Sieber riverbed and the waterfall with its cascades, developed during the last, the Weichsel Glacial, which ended 11,700 years ago.

The Lonau waterfall marks a geological border between the greywacke and the zechstein layer, another sedimentary rock. It can be found all the way from the east coast of England to Poland; the European Permian Basin or Zechstein Sea. The zechstein is the lowest layer of former Oceanic sediments in the Harz. It is harder than limestone but still easier to erode than greywacke.

The border between greywacke and limestone runs in such a way that the limestone extends into the Sieber valley like a tongue, but doesn't reach the Lonau which runs on the greywacke. That way the Sieber deepened its limestone bed and eroded the zechstein at the fringe of the mountains faster than the Lonau, increasing the difference in height to ten metres.

Second cascade, another view

The ravine through which the Lonau gushes down was washed out of a softer black shale strata (another sea ground sedimentary rock with organic grains) within the greywacke.

The greywacke along the fall does not show its typical grey colour but a red tinge instead. This is caused by the so-called rotliegend (why are half of the geological terms German, lol?) a rock layer immediately below the zechstein along the borders of the Harz mountains. The colour is caused by iron that had been dissolved when the Zechstein Sea flooded the recently folded mountains 260 million years ago.

Lonau river past the falls

The Lonau fall marks the end of one of the most affluent drainage areas of the Harz. The surrounding mountains get about 1500 mm percipitation; the 70 km2 Sieber estuary has an annual average volumetric flow rate of 62 million m3 just before the fall (which makes 2 m3 every second), the Lonau estuary adds 10 miillion on 14 km2. There are great differences in the flow rate of the fall between summer and winter, from 0.04 m3 per second in June to 3.00 m3 in January.

I hope you enjoyed the little geology lesson. :)

Source
Website Karstwanderweg Südharz
 


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.
 


10.8.11
  King Eirik's Scottish Marriages

And other dynastic messes lol. When researching all that fun about Alv Erlingsson, King Eirik of Norway, and those Ingeborgs, I realised that Eirik was married to Scottish ladies twice, which is unusual, considering the often strained relationship between Scotland and Norway. So I took a closer look into the dynastic tangles and those marriages (dates are lifetimes). The illustrations to this post will consist mostly of pictures of Bergen which was Eirik's main seat, with some Dunkeld and Dunfermline thrown in as well.

(Remains of Dunkeld Cathedral; main nave)

Among others, I hunted for a connection between King Eirik II Magnusson of Norway (House Hairfair) and King Edward I of England (House Plantagenet), and after drawing some diagrams and using the new marker function of Word 2010, I managed to find one.

Ok, let's go back a bit. Edward I (1239-1307, son of Henry III ∞ Eleanor of Provence) was married in first marriage to Eleanor of Castile (1241-1290; House Burgundy), daughter of King Fernando II of Castile and Leon, and Jeanne of Ponthieu. But Fernando had been married before to Beatrice of Swabia (also called Elisabeth of Hohenstaufen, † 1235), and with her he not only had Alfonso X of Castile, his successor as king, but several more sons, among them a Felipe (1231-1274). This Felipe was married to Christina of Norway (1234-1262), sister of Magnus Lawmender King of Norway (∞ Ingeborg of Denmark), who in turn was the father of Eirik II (1268-1299) and Håkon V (1270-1319).

The marriage between Christina and Felipe remained childless and Christina died only five years after her arrival in Spain 1257, but Edward I and Eleanor had several children, among them the future King Edward II (born 1284).

The father of Magnus Lawmender and Christina was Håkon IV (1204-1263), their mother was Margarete Skuledottir, daughter of Skule Bårdson. Skule and Håkon both claimed the kingship of Norway and in the end settled the conflict by a marriage. But the quarrelsome Skule had a sister, Ingeborg (yes, I know, that's the 4th or 5th of that name we've come across) who was married to the grandfather of our dear friend Alv Erlingsson, the pirate (~1260-1290). Which makes Alv related to Eirik II of Norway, and Eirik related to King Edward I of England, but spare me to actually name the degrees of relations here.

Edward I had a sister, Margaret (1240-1275) who was married to Alexander III of Scotland. (1241-1286; House Dunkeld). Alexander in turn was the grandson of William the Lion of Scotland (1143-1214, ∞ Ermengarde de Beaumont --> Alexander II ∞ Marie de Coucy). Alexander III and Margaret of England had a two sons who died childless (David in 1281, Alexander in 1284) and a daughter, another Margaret.

This Margaret, whose father was King of Scotland and whose grandfather (Henry III) had been King of England, married King Eirik II Magnusson of Norway in 1281. OK, can anyone besides Kathryn (who's written about Margaret of Scotland here) still follow this? Good, that's an A for all of you. :)

Sigil of Eirik Magnusson (Bryggens Museum)

When King Magnus Lawmender died in 1280, Eirik ascended the throne at the age of 12 and thus a minor. A guardianship board was established, led by the influential noblemen Audun Hugleiksson (~1240-1302) and Bjarne Erlingsson (~1250-1313; not related to Alv Erlingsson) who already had served as advisors of King Magnus; Audun even as marshal. Eirik's mother Ingeborg of Denmark was a member, too, and she brought Alv Erlingsson in as inofficial partifcipant.

Magnus Lawmender had maintained a politics of reconciliation towards Scotland. A long standing military conflict between both nations was ended by the Treaty of Perth in 1266. The Hebrides, which had been formally given to Norway under King Edgar of Scotland (1088) now were returned to Scotland, together with Man, for a financial recompensation of 4000 mark silver and an annuity of 100 mark silver. The Orkneys and Shetland Islands remained in Norway's possession.

But for some reason the Scots stopped paying that annuity, and Eirik and his advisors looked for a way out of the financial troubles of the Norwegian Crown. Marriage to a girl with a good dowry was a solution, and Margaret of Scotland had a good dowry, plus such an alliance would cement the peace between Norway and Scotland. So a marriage agreement was signed in Roxburgh in July 1281. The leader of that delegation may have been Bjarne Erlingsson; he also stood in as one of the hostages until the marriage was consumated. Yeah, this may sound odd, but Eirik (born 1268) was only thirteen at the time the wedding took place, Margaret 20 (born 1261). It turned out though, that the boy was perfectly capable of doing his duty.

The Treaty of Roxburgh also included a provision for Margaret's childern, or herself, to inherit the throne of Scotland should Alexander III die without male issue. Her dowry was 14,000 mark silver, partly in coin, partly as income from lands in Scotland.

Håkon's Hall, Bergen
(Håkon's Hall was built as royal banqueting and representation hall by king Håkon IV Håkonarson between 1247 and 1261. It is part of Bergenhus fortress and a fine example of a Gothic hall, influenced by Anglonorman architecture.)

The Lanercost Chronicle says that the marriage was not happy and that Margaret came into a barbarian court and had to teach her husband French and English. Well, said chronicle also manages to mix up Eirik with Magnus and get his age wrong, so I won't consider it the most reliable souurce (and it seems to be anti-Alexander biased, too). Already Eirik's grandfather Håkon had introduced chivalric culture in Norway, had French romances translated and built the above hall in Anglornorman style. Eirik's sigil (photo above) shows him in the same knightly stance you'll find on French or English sigils of the time., Audun Hugleiksson too, depicted himself as knight on his sigil. What Margaret most likely did was to give further impulses to introduce chivalric culture in Norway.

Another point mentioned in the chronicle is that Eirik's mother Ingeborg was against Margaret's coronation as Queen of Noway following the wedding. We don't know why she opposed the coronation, but one proof that the Lanercost Chronicle may have got a point in this case is the absence of Ingeborg's favourite, Alv Erlingsson, from the marriage negotiations. Ingeborg may also have feared that Margaret, who was a grown woman after all, would gain more influence over Eirik than his mother. (This is pure speculation, but maybe Ingeborg would have prefered an English marriage - King Edward had two daughters of suitable age.)

Another photo of the ruins of Dunkeld Cathedral

Queen Margaret gave birth to a daughter, another Margaret, in April 1283, and died shortly thereafter, most likely from a fever. She was buried in the Old Cathedral (also know as Christ's Church) in Bergenhus Fortress.

King Edward I of England seems to have had an early interest in a marriage between his son and little Margaret, who came to be known as Maid of Norway. There is some correspondence between Edward and Alexander to the effect, dating shortly after the birth of Edward II.

When Alexander's son died without issue, the little Maid remained the only heir to the throne of Scotland, and offspring from.Alexander's second marriage to Yolande de Dreux (1285) was still only a chance. So the king summoned the earls and barons of Scotland as well as the leading westcoast chiefs (Alexander of Argyll, Angus Mór of Islay, Alan macRuari of Garmoran) and had them formally recongise the little Margaret as heir and domina. Surprisingly, they agreed.

This agreement would prove important shortly thereafter, since Alexander died of a riding accident im March 1286, and Yolande's baby later turned out stillborn. I dunno what was the matter with riding accidents at the time; King Eirik had one back in 1283 that left him lame and obviously gave him times of pain when he withdrew from most official duties.

(right: Dunfermline Abbey)

Alexander III was buried in Dunfermline Abbey in March 1286, and the magnates and clerics of the realm assembled to select guardians for the three year old Margaret. But the guardians didn't seem particularly eager to call their little queen back to Scotland.

Eirik, who meanwhile had come of age, sent two embassies in 1286, one to Scotland to establish the claim of little Margaret and her father, and one to King Edward. The latter was the one led by Alv Erlingsson - officially to loan 2000 mark silver (I hunted that letter down in the Regesta Norvegica). Things are a bit murky here and some of the too many Danish Eriks got messed up, but it seems that Alv learned of the peace between Denmark and Norway, and the assassination of Erik V Coin Clipper (dowager Queen Ingeborg's nephew) during his embassy to Paris and London, and informed King Edward *. That's just the sort of political information that could lead to marriage negotiations, and we know that Edward was interested (see above).

The negotiations with the Scottish guardians came to naught that time; Robert Bruce 5th Lord Annandale (1210-1295, grandfather of King Robert I) and John Balliol didn't want the girl around - they didn't want each other around either, but there was not much they could do about that. Robert was also mightily miffed that he didn't get a seat among the guardians but his rivals, the Comyns, did.

King Eirik sent another embassy in 1289, this one led by Audun Hugleiksson, and all parties sat down and played nice for a change. Eirik and Edward had already concluded a marriage between Margaret and the crown prince Edward of Wales, and Edward I had seeked papal dispensation (we remember, Ed's sister was Margaret's grandmother and young Edward's aunt). Edward then met with Robert Bruce and the guardians and made it clear to them that they better play along and agree to the marriage, and stop that Bruce / Balliol feuding. So it was concluded in the Treaty of Birgham (October 1289) that Margaret would be sent to Scotland and marry Edward of Wales; and both would rule each their kingdom one day; Scotland would remain independent. I'm not guessing how that would have worked out.

Unfortunatley, little Margaret died on her way to Scotland. Edward had sent a ship, equipped as comfortably as possible, to bring the girl over, but the Norwegians, ol' Vikings that they were, decided to use one of their own ships. The vessel set out from Bergen and came in a nasty storm on its way to the Orkneys. Margaret obviously took ill during that storm and died on the Orkneys in October 1290 (those islands had already proven fatal to another Norwegian ruler, Håkon IV Håkonarson who died there on his way home from the war in the Hebrides, 1266).

The remains of Margaret were buried beside her mother in the Old Cathedral in Bergen.

St. Mary's Church in Bergen, where Margaret and Eirik married.
(St Mary's Church is the oldest remaining stone building in Bergen, completed about 1180; so Erik's wives would have known it. It is a three naved Romanesque basilica with a Gothic choir that was added after a fire in 1248.)

Let's stay in Scotland for a moment longer. After the death of the Maid of Norway, Scotland was at the brink of civil war between Robert Bruce 5th Lord Annandale and John Balliol. Both claimed the throne by descendance from David of Huntingdon, younger brother of King William the Lion (who was Alexander's ancestor). And soon more claimants crept out of the woodwork, several of them tracing back to illegitimate children of King William, but there was also King Eirik of Norway. In the end there were thirteen.

To avoid civil war, King Edward I of England was asked to abritrate (oh dear, if only the Scots had had a crystal ball that showed them the future). Edward started out with claiming suzerainity over Scotland (at which point Bruce and Balliol should have put their own war to rest and kicked Ed out). After some hackling, the claimants did swear homage and the guardians had to concede.

Eirik knew his claim was not strong, and used it mostly to get financial recompensation, fe. for the lands of his late wife in Scotland. The main contenders were Bruce and Balliol; Balliol claimed the throne by primogeniture, Bruce by the older laws of tanistry. In 1292, Edward decided that Balliol had the better claim, and John Balliol was crowned king in December.

I'm not going into the troubles that would follow. Worth mentioning is the fact that Robert Bruce resigned the lordship of Annandale in favour of his son, another Robert (1243-1304), who was married to Marjorie of Carrick ( † 1292). The couple had a bunch of kids, among them the future King Robert of Scotland, and the second wife of Eirik of Norway, Isobel (also spelled Isabella).

King's Hall in the Rosencrantz Tower
(The Rosenkrantz Tower in Bergenhus fortress dates back to 1270 but has been expanded in Renaissance times. It had been the residence of King Eirik, the last king to hold court in Bergen. Some of the original rooms still remain.)

Isobel traveled to Norway with her father in 1293 (the letter of safeconduct still exists) to marry King Eirik who was 25 at the time; she was 12 (born 1280). I suppose negotations for that marriage were a little side product of the meetings during the succession troubles in Scotland. We know that Audun Hugleiksson was member of the Norwegian delegation there, and he also witnessed the list of Isobel's trousseau, listed in the Diplomatarium Norvegicum (no. 390; where Audun signs as Odoeno Vglaci). Isobel brought an array of robes made of scarlet and other expensive materials, fur lined cloaks and a collection of shinies (among them two little crowns, parue corone) and tableware: 2 golden cauldrons, 24 silver plates, 4 silver salt dispensers; plus three chests for wardrobe, and more.

Isobel and Eirik had a daughter, Ingeborg, in 1297; she would remain the couple's only child.

Somehow, the marriage of Eirik to a Bruce, a family that was going to cause King Edward a lot of trouble, would prove to be fitting in that respect, because the relationship between Norway and England detoriated as well. Main reason seems to have been missing recompense payments that had been agreed upon in 1290; both John Balliol and King Edward sat on their money chests. Things got so bad that Eirik sent the omnipresent Audun Hugleiksson to France to establish an alliance with King Philipp IV 'the Handsome' of France - England's arch emeny. One expected result was that Philippe would use France's alliance with Scotland to force Balliol to pay that money already. But the new alliance never became important because there was an armistice between England and France in 1297 (and the betrothal between Edward of Wales and Isabella, daughter of Phillippe, in 1303).

King Eirik died in 1299 and was succeeded by his younger brother Håkon V Magnusson.

(One of the walks in Bryggen. The quarter of the members of the German Hansa in Bergen, called Tyske Bryggen, was established in 1360, but the timber houses of the town Isobel would have seen didn't look much different.)

Isobel remained in Bergen after her husband's death and didn't return to Scotland even when her brother Robert became king in 1306. One can't blame her - several of Robert's brothers got executed and two sisters imprisoned; Bergen was a much safer place for a Bruce than Scotland. And it rains a lot in both places.

Isobel seems to have had a good relationship with her brother-in-law Håkon and his family. She was a politically active woman; arbitrating peace between a divided family on the Orkneys and in Scotland, and personally negotating the betrothals of her daughter Ingeborg (first with the Jarl of Orkney, Jon Magnusson, who did untimely, and then with Valdemar Duke of Finland (brother of King Birger of Sweden). I mentioned the double wedding in 1312, between Ingeborg Eiriksottir with Valdemar of Finland, and Ingeborg Håkonardottir with his brother Erik of Södermanland, as well as the unhappy fate of both men, in the post about Akershus .

Ingeborg must have had some of the Bruce blood of her mother, to come down on the killer of her husband, together with her sister-in-law and both their men, and kick him out of Sweden. Ingeborg, who had no children of her own, continued to live in Sweden after Valdemar's death but little is known of her; she must have been dead in 1357, since her mother inherited after her.

Håkon V died in 1319 (his wife, Eufemia of Rügen, had died in 1312) and was succeeded by the son of his daughter, Magnus Eriksson (who became Magnus VII of Norway and Magnus II of Sweden). Isobel Bruce, dowager Queen of Norway, died in 1358 - she had survived her brother King Robert († 1329).

Isobel had made generous donations to the Church during her life, and set out 20 mark silver in her will for masses to be held and the poor to be fed, and the bells should toll in the morning and eveing as befitting a chieftain. Proud and humble both, it seems.

View towards the old town, with the Bryggen to the left

If we play the What If game Kathryn suggested in one of her blogposts and wonder what would have happened had the Maid of Norway survived and married Edward II of England, and produced a son, my guess would be that instead of a Hundred Year War with France, there would have been big troubles with Norway and the other Scandinavian countries (since they're such an intermarried lot). Since Håkon died without male offspring, a grandson of his older brother Eirik would have had a better claim than his own grandson, and I'm not sure all the Norwegian nobles would have liked an half-English, half-Scottish king. If you look close enough, you can always find other options in those geneaological tangles. ;)

* The Regesta name Erik IV Plowpenny, but that king had died in 1250 and it seems unlikely that it would take 36 years for the news to reach King Edward. The letter also says that Alv was to loan 2000 mark, not 6000. It moreover is interesting to see that Alv obviously had learned about the changed situation in Denmark before he returned to Norway. Maybe he thought it would remain messy and his mercenaries would indeed be needed, even after the Coin Clipper's death.

Sources:
Chronicle of Lanercost 1272–1346, ed. H. Maxwell. Glasgow, 1913
Fordun, Cronica Gentis Scotorum, ed. W.F. Skene. Edinburgh, 1871–72,
Regesta Norvegica online (Norwegian translation)
Diplomatarium Norwegicum online (Latin)
Biographies in the Store Norske Leksikon
 


1.8.11
  A Norwegian Fortress in the South: Akershus - Part 1: Kings and Pirates

I've mentioned that King Håkon V Magnusson who built Vardøhus Fortress, also built Akershus in the south and made Oslo the capital of his realm (until that time it had been Nidaros, modern Trondheim). While Vardøhus retains the charme of a border fort with its timber houses and grass roofs, Akershus has developed into a large fortress with mostly stone buildings, due to its strategical importance.

I only paid it a brief visit between the arrival of the Copenhagen ferry and the departure of the train to Bergen. Left the luggage at the station and walked over to the place with my camera. The fortress is sitll military terrain but parts of it are open to public; there wasn't even any control at the entrance and when I climbed a wall I wasn't supposed to climb, I got a grin from the guard. I hope Norway can keep this sort of freedom even now.

The inner yard of the palace and some rooms can be visited on guided tours, but I was too early for that. Opening times in Norway during winter season are very limited. The advantage is that there are few tourists around.

Akershus Fortress, seen from the land side

Akershus is one of the most important fortresses in Norway. It started out as fortified king's seat in ~1300, was turned into a Renaissance palace with bastions in the early 17th century, used as prison in the 19th century, and today houses the Ministry of Defence and two museums; some of the rooms in the palace are used for representation. Akershus has seen several sieges but was never taken.

I could start with King Håkon V building Akershus some time between 1299 and 1304, but I'll start a bit earlier and say that it was all Alv Erlingsson's fault. *grin* Well, it was not his fault that the old king's seat in Oslo couldn't withstand a siege, but he brought the point home. Plus, his story is interesting and so I'll tell it to you.

Alv Erlingsson was member of the powerful Tønsberg family and second cousin of King Magnus VI Lawmender (who in turn was son of Håkon IV, the one who lost the Hebrides to Scotland at the battle of Largs in 1263; Alv's father had fought in that battle, too). Alv was governor of Borgarsyssel (today county of Østfold at the Oslofjord) and jarl of Sarpsborg (comes de Saresburg, as he styled himself in documents). When King Magnus died in 1280, he left his sons Eirik and Håkon as minors, and a guardianship board was established. Alv was not an official member of that board but nevertheless wielded great influence because of his position as governor of an important province and because the dowager Queen Ingeborg held him in high esteem.

Akershus, seen from the fjord
(The main building is the Renaissance palace; the older north wing can be seeen to the left)

In 1284, the problems between Norway and the Hansa League reached a new peak (I'll get back to details about that when I'm covering the Hansa history), with the League basically blockading Norway. Alv wasn't going to play that game and personally led some privateers, sinking a bunch of Hansa ships and gaining renown as 'mighty pirate'. A year later, the Danish king Erik V 'Klipping' (Erik the Coin Clipper) joined the side of the Hansa League. Erik was a cousin of the dowager Queen Ingeborg, and there was still the issue of an unpaid dowry between her and the rest of her family. So Alv had a double reason to add good ol' viking-ing to the privateering, and started to harry the coasts of Denmark.

But in the end King Eirik Magnusson of Norway made peace with the Hansa League - sinking ships doesn't really help with the economy in the long run. He had to pay a fine of 6000 mark silver, a huge sum at the time, and a sum he didn't really have. Plus there was still war going on with Denmark. A number of nobles, centered around Eirik's younger brother Duke Håkon (the later King Håkon V), started an opposition against Alv Erlingsson whom they held responsible for the mess. Though for the time being Alv remained in power.

He went on an embassy to King Edward I of England where he - successfully - tried to loan 2000 mark silver and hire mercenaries for the war with Denmark. I wonder a bit why Edward would be willing to help Alv and/or the King of Norway, but maybe Kathryn can shed a light on that (if it were Edward II, I'd have said he had a soft spot for pirates, lol). Meanwhile back home, the Danish King Erik had solved his little civil war that had prevented him from participating in the peace negotiatons between the King of Norway and the Hansa League. He now made his own peace with King Eirik Magnusson of Norway.

Fortress Entrance (Festningsporten, 1553)
with the Jomfrutårnet in the background left
and the 13th century great hall (crow stepped gable) to the right

So when Alv returned with a large group of mercenaries, they were no longer needed. In 1287, Queen Ingeborg died and Alv lost his most important support at court. The problems with the young Duke Håkon increased into a military conflict. Alv refused to hand over the 2000 mark silver (he probably needed the money to pay the mercenaries he also kept), conquered the king's seat in Oslo, burned the town and took the garrison commander Hallkjell prisoner and later killed him. For that he was declared an outlaw. After Alv lost a battle against Håkon where most of his mercenaries were killed, he fled to Sweden and further to Riga.

In Riga, he went back to his Viking life, setting up a new base, obviously a mix of pirate and highway robber activities. The grand master of the Teutonic Knights complained about the 'harmful wolves led by the Count of Tønsberg'. Though Alv Erlingsson seems to have tried to make peace with King Eirik; there's a letter to King Edward I of England, dating to 1290, asking him to act as arbiter between Alv and Eirik.

Alv obviously was on his way to England when he got captured at the Danish coast. The local sheriff had him tortured and executed at Helsingborg (another fortress in my collection). The interesting point is that Norway and Denmark were at war again at the time - looks neither king cared much about Alv's fate. Thus died the man who would later be refered to as 'the last Viking'.

Inner gate at the Knutstårnet

Håkon became king after his brother's death in 1299. The previous events had shown him that Trondheim was too far north and a capital further south would be more useful, with all those troubles going on with Denmark and Sweden, and that it needed to be well fortified. He also tried to curb the power of the great old families - Håkon didn't want another Alv Erlingsson.

Akershus Festning is situated on a liittle salient in the Oslofjord. Today, the town envelops the shores on both sides and the hinterland, but in the 13th century, it was a place that could be easily defended. Akershus was built of stone and bricks from the beginning, not of timber like Vardøhus, but much of the original buildings are either gone or has been changed during time (the north wing is the oldest part of the palace). Some parts of the inner defenses still date back to the late 13th / early 14th century, like the Jomfrutårnet (Virgin's Tower) and the partly reconstrcuted Knutstårnet (Knut's Tower).

Akershus is first mentioned in a charte dating to 1300, and thus it's assumed the fortress was built shortly before that date. Maybe Håkon had it started already while he still was duke.

View from the bastion walls to the fjord

It didn't take long for the place to see its first siege. Ok, this is getting complicated again; kings should not produce three sons, that only leads to trouble. But the King of Sweden, another guy called Magnus, did, and the two younger brothers promptly didn't get along with the eldest. So Erik and Valdemar fled to Norway while the oldest, Birger, found an ally in his brother-in-law King Erik VI of Denmark - not the Coin Clipper but his son. King Håkon gave Erik, who was Duke of Södermanland already, the lands of Kungahälla (the place is today in Sweden) and promised him marriage to his daughter Ingeborg once she came of age.

In 1306, Erik and Valdemar snatched their brother Birger during a feast in Sweden (later know as the Håtuna Games) and threw him into the dungeon in Nyköping. But alliances shifted and things turned against Erik and Valdemar. In 1308, King Håkon was at the side of King Birger of Sweden who had been released from captivity, claimed Kungahälla to be returned to him and refused to marry Erik to Ingeborg. From what I could find out, it seems that Erik had played the game of shifting alliances as well, and behind Håkon's back made peace with King Erik of Denmark. But now it was Erik of Denmark and Håkon of Norway against Erik of Södermanland and Valdemar, with Birger watching from the stands.

Erik laid siege to Akershus at some point during the war, but his troops were defeated by a Norwegian army. Though overall Erik was able to ride out the storm without too many losses, and in 1310, there was peace again. What consisted as Sweden at the time was more or less divided between the three brothers.

Despite the war, despite never having returned Kungahälla, breaking almost all promises to Håkon and for some time having been betrothed to another woman, Håkon agreed to the marriage between his daughter (who was 11 at the time) and Erik in 1312. Makes you wonder about politics.

Munk's gate (dating to the Renaissance)

It was a double marriage: Erik married Håkon's daughter, while his brother Valdemar married the daughter of the late King Eirik, Håkon's brother, another Ingeborg. Sorry, I didn't name the lot. ;) To make it a bit easier, one was named Ingeborg Håkonardottir (modern spelling also Haakonsdatter) and the other Ingeborg Eiriksdottir.

But there was not to be a Happily Ever After. A few years later, in 1317, their brother Birger, de jure King of Sweden, invited Erik and Valdemar to a Christmas banquet in Nyköping. There he had them put in chains and thrown into the same dungeon he'd been in, where they starved to death. Revenge best served cold and all.

But Birger had misestimated the political situation and the lack of support. The two Ingeborgs came swooping down on him with the followers of their husbands and chased him out of Sweden; his son got killed. Birger found an exile with Erik of Denmark, and Magnus, the son of Erik of Södermanland and Ingeborg Håkonardottir, was installed as King of Sweden.

Magnus' son Håkon VI later would spend a lot of time in Akershus during the years 1360 - 1370 and have the fortress expanded.

Part 2 can be found here.
 


Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction and Fantasy 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 and Scandinavia.

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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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