Niels, King of Denmark

Niels, King of Denmark
King of Denmark
Reign 1104–1134
Predecessor Eric I Evergood
Successor Eric II Emune
Consort Margaret Fredkulla
Ulvhild Håkansdotter
Magnus I of Sweden
Full name
Niels Svendsen
House House of Estridsen
Father Sweyn II of Denmark
Born c. 1065
Died 25 June 1134 (aged 68–69)
Burial St. Bendt's Church, Ringsted
Religion Roman Catholicism
Danish Royalty
House of Estridsen
National Coat of arms of Denmark no crown.svg
   Magnus I of Sweden
   Inge Nielsen
Illegitimate Children
   Ingerid Nielsdatter
   Canute V
   Niels Magnussen

Niels of Denmark (c. 1065 – 25 June 1134) was King of Denmark from 1104 to 1134, following his brother Eric Evergood, and is presumed to have been the youngest son of king Sweyn II Estridson. Niels actively supported the canonization of Canute IV the Holy, and his secular rule was supported by the clergy. Niels supported his son Magnus I of Sweden in killing potential successor Knud Lavard, and was himself killed in the ensuing civil war. He was succeeded by Eric II Emune.



Niels was born around 1065,[1] as the son of king Sweyn II Estridson and a concubine. Four of Niels' brothers ascended to the throne before him. He is first mentioned in 1086, as a hostage sent to Flanders in exchange for his brother, later king Olaf I.[2] When his brother Eric Evergood died in July 1103 during a pilgrimage, Niels was the last surviving brother and was elected king the following year,[3] ahead of Evergood's chosen deputy Harald Kesja.[4] He married Margaret Fredkulla, the daughter of Inge I of Sweden, and she is believed to have wielded considerable influence during his reign.[2]

Coin depicting Niels of Denmark.

Niels saw internal peace for the majority of his reign. The contemporary Chronicon Roskildense describes him as mild and forthcoming, though not a competent ruler.[1] He carried through reforms of his personal hird retinue, separating it into a military and an administrative branch,[5] which was responsible for collecting taxes.[1] He placed family members as his jarls, including his son-in-law Jarl Ubbe, and his nephews Eric (Emune) and Canute Lavard, the sons of Eric Evergood.[1] Niels supported the canonization of his brother Canute IV the Holy by bestowing gifts on the clergy of Odense, as he sought to enlarge the power and influence of the monarchy through the aid of the church.[4] However, it is likely he did not win the full support of the magnates on Zealand.[4] He also campaigned against the Wends, in alliance with Poland.[1] In 1125, Niels' son Magnus was King of Sweden as Magnus I of Sweden.[6]

Margaret died in 1128 or 1129,[1] and Magnus was dethroned from the Swedish throne in 1130.[6] After 26 years of internal peace, conflict erupted between Magnus and his cousin Canute Lavard. Canute was popular in the Duchy of Schleswig, where he was jarl, and was seen as a potential successor to Niels.[2] On January 7, 1131, Magnus slew Canute near Haraldsted just north of Ringsted. Niels initially condemned Magnus, but eventually supported him, and a civil war ensued between Niels and the supporters of Canute's half-brother Eric (Emune). Niels had his strongest base of support in Jutland,[2] and the church also supported him.[3] He secured support from the Holy Roman Empire by agreeing to subordinate the Danish Archdiocese of Lund in Scania to the German Archdiocese of Hamburg-Bremen, which prompted Archbishop Asser of Lund to support Eric.[5]

Eric made little progress in Denmark, and took the battle to Scania in 1134. Niels and Magnus landed at Fotevik bay in Scania in June 1134, seeking to deal Eric a decisive defeat. At the Battle of Fotevik on June 4, 1134, Niels and Magnus were taken by surprise by a contingent of German soldiers on horses.[7] Niels escaped, while Magnus was slain.[2] Niels sought refuge with Holy Roman Emperor Lothar III of Germany, but did not make it past the city of Schleswig. Niels ventured into the former city of Canute Lavard on June 25, 1134, despite warnings. "-Should I fear tanners and shoemakers?", he supposedly remarked.[2] He was greeted by the clergy, but as the townspeople turned against him, he and his vanguard were slain before they could reach the royal palace.[2] When King Niels fell, the sixty-year reign of Sweyn II Estridson's sons was at an end, as Eric became king Eric II Emune.


Niels married Margaret Fredkulla, daughter of king Inge I of Sweden. After Margaret's death in either 1128 or 1129,[1] he married Ulvhild Håkansdotter, who had been married to Inge II of Sweden and later married Sverker I of Sweden. Niels had two children with Margaret, and one child out of wedlock.

  1. Inge Nielsen, he died as a child.[2]
  2. Magnus I of Sweden
  3. Ingerd of Denmark, born out of wedlock, she married Jarl Ubbe.[2]



Media related to Niels of Denmark at Wikimedia Commons

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Stefan Pajung, Niels 1065-1134, Aarhus University, January 22, 2010
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bricka, Carl Frederik, Dansk Biografisk Lexikon, vol. XII [Münch - Peirup], 1898, pp. 199-201. Available online
  3. ^ a b Kongerækken at The Danish Monarchy
  4. ^ a b c Niels, konge af Danmark at Gyldendals Encyklopædi
  5. ^ a b "Gads Historie Leksikon", 3rd edition, Copenhagen, 2006. Entry: Svend Estridsen-sønner, Paul Ulff-Møller, p.637
  6. ^ a b Kings and Queens of Sweden — A thousand year succession at Monarchy of Sweden
  7. ^ Krig og krigsteknologi i middelalderen at "Museer i København - og omegn"
House of Estridsen
Born: c. 1064 Died: 25 June 1134
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Eric Evergood
King of Denmark
Succeeded by
Eric II Emune

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