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Title: Denmark–Norway  
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Subject: History of Denmark, Kalmar Union, Norwegian language conflict, Monarchy of Norway, Denmark–Norway relations
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Unitary personal union (1524-1536) and (1660-1814)
Dualistic unitary state (1536-1660)


Flag Royal Coat of arms
Map of Denmark–Norway, c. 1780
Capital Copenhagen
Languages Official use: Danish, German, Latin
Minority: Norwegian, IcelandicFaroese, Norn, Frisian, Greenlandic, Western Sami languages, Low German
Religion Lutheran
Government Elective monarchy (Denmark) 1524-1660, Absolute monarchy from 1660.
 -  1524–1533 Frederick I
 -  1588–1648 Christian IV
 -  1648–1670 Frederick III
 -  1808–1839a Frederick VI
Historical era Early modern Europe
 -  Gustav Vasa elected
    king of Sweden

June 6, 1523
 -  Kalmar Union collapsed 1524
 -  Danish rigsråd

October 14, 1660
 -  Lex Regia confirms

November 14, 1665
 -  Treaty of Brömsebro August 13, 1645
 -  Treaty of Roskilde February 26, 1658
 -  Treaty of Kiel January 14, 1814
 -  Congress of Vienna Sept. 1814 – June 1815
 -  1780b 487,476 km² (188,216 sq mi)
 -  1645c est. 1,315,000 
 -  1801d est. 1,859,000 
Today part of
  • a: Frederick VI was regent for his father, so ruled as de facto king from April 14, 1784; he continued to rule Denmark after the Treaty of Kiel until his death on December 3, 1839.
  • b: Denmark (43,094 km2 or 16,639 sq mi), Schleswig-Holstein (15,763 km2 or 6,086 sq mi), Norway (mainland: 324,220 km2 or 125,180 sq mi), Faroes (1,399 km2 or 540 sq mi), Iceland (103,000 km2 or 40,000 sq mi). (With Greenland: additional 2,175,600 km2 or 840,000 sq mi.)
  • c: Estimated 825,000 in Denmark, 440,000 in Norway and 50,000 in Iceland[1]
  • d: 929,000 in Denmark, 883,000 in Norway and 47,000 in Iceland[2]

Denmark–Norway (German: Dänemark–Norwegen) is the historiographical name for a former political entity consisting of the united kingdoms of Denmark and Norway, including overseas Norwegian dependencies of Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and the Northern Isles. Following the departure of Sweden from the Kalmar Union, and its subsequent dissolution, in 1524 Denmark and Norway entered into another personal union, under Danish hegemony. In 1536 the kingdom of Norway was formally dissolved and integrated into Denmark, and as a consequence its Council of the Realm was abolished. However, Norway continued to have separate institutions and its own laws. Norway was re-established as a kingdom in 1660 after the introduction of absolutism. The personal union of the two kingdoms lasted until 1814, when Norway was ceded to Sweden by the House of Oldenburg after Denmark–Norway's defeat in the Napoleonic wars.

The corresponding adjective and demonym is "Dano-Norwegian".

Usage and extent

The term Kingdom of Denmark or just Denmark is sometimes used to include both countries in the period, since the political and economic power emanated from the Danish capital of Copenhagen and was dominated by the Danish political elite. These terms cover the "royal part" of the Oldenburgs as it was in 1460, excluding the "ducal part" of Schleswig and Holstein. The administration used two official languages, Danish and German, and for several centuries both a Danish and German Chancery existed.[3]

The term Denmark–Norway reflects the historical and legal roots of the union. It is adopted from the Oldenburg dynasty's official title. The kings always used the style "King of Denmark and Norway, the Wends and the Goths". Denmark and Norway, sometimes referred to as the "twin-realms" of Denmark–Norway, officially had separate legal codes and currencies, as well as mostly separate governing institutions, although following the introduction of absolutism in 1660 the centralisation of government meant a concentration of institutions in Copenhagen. The term Sweden–Finland is sometimes, although with less justification, applied to the contemporary Swedish realm between 1521 and 1809. Finland was never a separate kingdom, and was completely integrated with Sweden, while Denmark was the dominant component in a personal union.


Enlargeable map of Denmark–Norway and its possessions c. 1800

Throughout the time of Denmark–Norway, it continuously had possession over various overseas territories. At the earliest times areas in Northern Europe, for instance Estonia and the Norwegian possessions of Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Iceland.

From the 17th century, the kingdom acquired colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and India.


Denmark–Norway maintained numerous colonies from the 17th to 19th centuries over various parts around India. Colonies included the town of Tranquebar and Serampore. The last towns it had control over were sold to the United Kingdom in 1845. Rights in the Nicobar Islands were sold in 1869.


Centered around what is known as the Virgin Islands, Denmark–Norway established the Danish West Indies. This colony was one of the longest lived of Denmark, as it was sold to the United States in 1917, to become the U.S. Virgin Islands.

West Africa

In the Gold Coast region of West Africa, Denmark–Norway also over time had control over various colonies and forts. The last remaining forts were sold to the United Kingdom in 1850.


Origins of the Union

The Scandinavians were Christianized in the 10th–13th centuries, resulting in three consolidated kingdoms.

Denmark forged from the three Lands of Denmark (including Blekinge, Halland and Skåne in modern-day Sweden and Southern Schleswig in modern Germany).

Sweden forged from the Lands of Sweden (most of Svealand, Götaland and Finland).

Norway forged from various petty kingdoms (including Båhuslen, Herjedalen, Jemtland and Idre & Särna) plus overseas possessions of Shetland and Orkney (from approximately 9th century), Faroe Islands (from 1035), Greenland and Iceland (from 1261–62).

The three kingdoms then united in the Kalmar Union in 1397. Sweden broke out of this union and re-entered it several times, until 1521, when Sweden finally left the Union, leaving Denmark–Norway (including overseas possessions in the North Atlantic as well as the island of Saaremaa in modern Estonia).

Carta marina, an early map of Scandinavia, made around end of Kalmar Union and start of Denmark–Norway

Northern Seven Years' War

The outbreak of the Northern Seven Years' War in 1563 is mainly attributed to Denmark's displeasure over the dismantling of the Kalmar Union in the 1520s. When the Danish king Christian III (reigned 1534–1559) included the traditionally Swedish insignia of three crowns into his own coat of arms, the Swedes interpreted this as a Danish claim over Sweden. In response Erik XIV of Sweden (reigned 1560–1568) added the insignia of Norway and Denmark to his own coat of arms.

After Swedish king Erik introduced obstacles in an attempt to hinder trade with Russia, Lübeck and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth joined Denmark in a war alliance. Denmark then carried out some naval attacks on Sweden, which effectively started the war. After seven years of fighting, the conflict concluded in 1570 with a status quo ante bellum.

Kalmar War

Christian IV of Denmark

Because of Denmark–Norway's dominion over the Baltic Sea (dominium maris baltici) and the North Sea, Sweden had the intention of avoiding paying Denmark's Sound Toll. Swedish king Charles IX's way of accomplishing this was to try to set up a new trade route through Lapland and northern Norway. In 1607 Charles IX declared himself "King of the Lapps in Nordland", and started collecting taxes in Norwegian territory.

Denmark and king Christian IV of Denmark protested against the Swedish actions, as they had no intentions of letting another independent trade route open, Christian IV also had an intent of forcing Sweden to rejoin its union with Denmark. In 1611 Denmark finally invaded Sweden with 6000 men and took the city of Kalmar. Eventually on January 20, 1613, the Treaty of Knäred was signed in which Norway's land route from Sweden was regained by incorporating Lapland into Norway, and Swedish payment of a high ransom of 1 million silver riksdaler for two fortresses which Denmark had taken in the war. However, Sweden achieved an exemption from the Sound Toll, which had only previously been secured by Britain and Holland.

Aftermath of the Älvsborg Ransom

The great ransom paid by Sweden (called the Älvsborg Ransom) was used by Christian IV, amongst many other things, to found the cities of Glückstadt, Christiania (refounded after a fire), Christianshavn, Christianstad and Christianssand. He also founded the Danish East India Company which led to the establishment of numerous Danish colonies in India.

Thirty Years' War

Not long after the Kalmar war, Denmark–Norway got involved in another greater war, in which they fought together with the mainly north German and other Protestant states against the Catholic states led by German Catholic League.

Christian IV sought to become the leader of the north German Lutheran states, however following the Battle of Lutter in 1626 Denmark met a crushing defeat. This led to most of the German Protestant states ceasing their support for Christian IV. After another defeat at the Battle of Wolgast and following the Treaty of Lübeck in 1629, which forbade Denmark from future intervening in German affairs, Denmark's participation in the war came to an end.

Torstenson War

Treaty of Brömsebro, 1645.
  The provinces of Jemtland, Herjedalen, Idre & Serna and the Baltic Sea islands of Gotland and Ösel, which were ceded to Sweden
  The province of Halland, ceded for 30 years.

As Sweden was having great success during the Thirty Years' War, together with Denmark being a failure, Sweden saw an opportunity of a change of power in the region. Denmark–Norway had a threatening territory surrounding Sweden, and the Sound Dues were a continuing irritation for the Swedes. In 1643 the Swedish Privy Council determined Swedish territorial gain in an eventual war against Denmark–Norway to have good chances. Not long after this, Sweden invaded Denmark–Norway.

Denmark was itself poorly prepared for the war, and Norway was reluctant to attack Sweden, which left the Swedes in a good position.

The war ended as foreseen with Swedish victory, and with the Treaty of Brömsebro in 1645, Denmark–Norway had to cede some of their territories, including Norwegian territories Jemtland, Herjedalen and Idre & Serna as well as the Danish Baltic Sea islands of Gotland and Ösel. So, as the Thirty Years' War would see the rise of Sweden as a great power, it marked the start of decline with the Danish.

Treaty of Roskilde, 1658.
  Halland, previously occupied by Sweden for a 30-year period under the terms of the Peace of Brömsebro negotiated in 1645, was now ceded
  the Scanian lands and Båhus County were ceded
  Trøndelag and Bornholm provinces, which were ceded in 1658, but rebelled against Sweden and returned to Danish rule in 1660

Second Northern Wars

The Dano-Swedish War (1657–1658), a part of the Second Northern War, was one of the most devastating wars for the Dano-Norwegian kingdom. After a huge loss in the war, Denmark–Norway were forced in the Treaty of Roskilde to give Sweden nearly half their territory. This included Norwegian province of Trøndelag and Båhuslen, and all remaining Danish provinces on the Swedish mainland plus the island of Bornholm.

However, two years later, in 1660, there was a follow-up treaty, the Treaty of Copenhagen, which gave Trøndelag and Bornholm back to Denmark–Norway.

Royal Absolutist State

In the aftermath of Sweden's definite secession from the Kalmar Union in 1521, civil war and Protestant Reformation followed in Denmark and Norway. When things had settled down, the Rigsraad (High Council) of Denmark became weakened, and finally abolished in 1660[4] when Denmark–Norway became an absolutist state and Denmark a hereditary monarchy, as Norway had been since the Middle Ages. These changes were confirmed in the Lex Regia signed on 14 November 1665, stipulating that all power lay in the hands of the king, who was only responsible towards God.[5] The Norwegian Riksråd was assembled for the last time in 1537. Norway kept its separate laws and some institutions, such as a royal chancellor, and separate coinage and army.

Scanian War

Denmark had lost its provinces in Scania after the Treaty of Roskilde and was always eager to retrieve them, but as Sweden had grown into a great power it would not be an easy task. However, Christian V finally saw an opportunity when Sweden got involved in the Franco-Dutch War, and after some hesitation Denmark invaded Sweden in 1675.

Although the Danish assault initially was a great success, the Swedes led by 19 year old Charles XI managed to counter-attack and take back the land that was being occupied. In the end the war was concluded with the French dictating peace, with no permanent gains or losses to either of the countries.

Napoleonic Wars and end of the Union

Battle between the frigate HMS Tartar and Norwegian gunboats near Bergen in 1808.

During the French Revolutionary Wars Denmark at first tried to keep itself neutral, so it could continue its trade with both France and United Kingdom, but when it entered the League of Armed Neutrality, the British considered it a hostile action, thus attacking Copenhagen in 1801 and again in 1807. Because of this Denmark allied itself with France.

Denmark–Norway was defeated and had to cede the territory of mainland Norway to the King of Sweden at the Treaty of Kiel. Norway's overseas possessions were kept by Denmark. But the Norwegians objected to the terms of this treaty, and a constitutional assembly declared Norwegian independence on 17 May 1814 and elected the Crown Prince Christian Frederik as king of independent Norway. Following a Swedish invasion, Norway was forced to accept a personal union, but retained its liberal constitution and separate institutions, except for the foreign service. The Union between Sweden and Norway was dissolved in 1905.


Denmark–Norway was amongst the countries to follow Martin Luther after the Protestant Reformation, thus the official religion was established as Lutheran Protestantism throughout the entire life span of the kingdom.

There was however one other religious "reformation" in the kingdom during the rule of Christian VI, a follower of Pietism. The period from 1735 until his death in 1746 has been nicknamed "the State Pietism", as new laws and regulations were established in favor of Pietism. Though Pietism never did last for a substantial amount of recurring time, the next 200 years would see numerous new small pietistic resurrections. In the end, Pietism was never firmly established as a lasting religious grouping.

See also


  1. ^ Historisk Tidsskrift: Nyt om Trediveårskrigen (Danish)
  2. ^ - Skandinaviens befolkning (Swedish)
  3. ^ Rigsarkivets Samlinger. Arkivalier før 1848. Danske kancelli 1454–1848; Rigsarkivets Samlinger. Arkivalier før 1848. Tyske kancelli.
  4. ^ Krig og Enevælde: 1648–1746
  5. ^ Kongeloven. Lex Regia

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