By Juha Heinänen
Ennen Ja Nyt, Vol.4 (2004)
Introduction: German nobility in 14th century Denmark has traditionally been viewed in nationalistic light. The influx of German nobles during the reigns of Eric Menved and Christopher II, as well as during the following period of Holsatian domination has been seen as a national disaster, from which the nation recovered during the reign of Valdemar IV. The German nobles have been seen as strangers, opposed to the native nobility, and whose influence and ties to the kingdom of Denmark were only temporary. Hence they have, apart from a few leading men, largely been treated as an anonymous mass.
In later studies the German nobility has received a more nuanced treatment. Michael Linton’s and Niels Bracke’s respective dissertations on Queen Margrethes and Valdemar IV reigns both address the immigration of German nobility and evaluate to a certain extent the emerging ties between the native and immigrated nobles. Due to the focus on royal administration – and rather scarce sources both center on a few powerful families.
The German immigration and integration of all families has been studied by Esben Albrectsen and H.V. Gregersen, but only within the boundaries of Southern Jutland. Even though the Germans have been studied as single families and as a group in the context of Southern Jutland, there seems to be a lack of an overview of the group in the whole kingdom of Denmark.
In this paper I shall discuss German chivalry in Denmark between the years 1340 and 1375, during the reign of Valdemar IV aka Atterdag. I survey German knights with emphasis on the men under royal lordship. I have concentrated on the knights as an aristocratic group, leaving out the military and the courtly aspects of chivalry. The period I study is relatively short in order to enable the entire group to be viewed.