Valdemar I of Denmark
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Valdemar I of Denmark

Valdemar I
Bracteate, 1157, comemorating wedding of king Valdemar (the Great) & queen Sophia (of Minsk) of Denmark.jpg
1157 bracteate depicting Valdemar and his wife, Sophia
King of Denmark
Reign1154 - 12 May 1182
PredecessorSweyn III
SuccessorCanute VI
Born14 January 1131
Schleswig, Denmark
Died12 May 1182(1182-05-12) (aged 51)
Vordingborg Castle, Vordingborg, Denmark
ConsortSophia of Minsk
Canute VI, King of Denmark
Valdemar II, King of Denmark
Ingeborg, Queen of France
Helena, Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg
Richeza, Queen of Sweden
Full name
Valdemar Knudsen
FatherCanute Lavard, Duke of Schleswig
MotherIngeborg of Kiev
ReligionRoman Catholicism

Valdemar I of Denmark (14 January 1131 - 12 May 1182), also known as Valdemar the Great (Danish: Valdemar den Store), was King of Denmark from 1154 until his death in 1182. The reign of King Valdemar I saw the rise of Denmark, which reached its zenith under his second son, and successor, King Valdemar II of Denmark. [1]

Valdemar den Store statue in Ringsted


Valdemar was the son of Canute Lavard, Duke of Schleswig, the chivalrous and popular eldest son of King Eric I of Denmark. Valdemar's father was murdered by King Magnus I of Sweden days before the birth of Valdemar; his mother, Ingeborg of Kiev, daughter of Grand Prince Mstislav I of Kiev and Christina Ingesdotter of Sweden, named him after her grandfather, Grand Prince Vladimir Monomakh of Kiev.

Valdemar was raised at Ringsted in the court of Danish nobleman Asser Rig of Fjenneslev (ca. 1080-1151). Asser was a member of the Hvide noble family and had been raised together with Valdemar's father Canute Lavard. Valdemar was raised together with Asser's sons, including Absalon (c. 1128-1201) who would become an Archbishop and Esbern Snare (1127-1204) who was a royal chancellor and crusader. Esbern and Absalon had a close relationship and formed an alliance with Valdemar.[2][3][4][5]

Struggle for the throne

In 1146, when Valdemar was fifteen years old, King Eric III of Denmark abdicated and a civil war erupted. Valdemar was a possible contender to the throne. The other pretenders to the throne were: Sweyn III Grathe, the son of King Eric II of Denmark and Canute V, the son of Magnus I of Sweden both of which declared themselves as kings of Denmark in 1146. The civil war lasted the better part of ten years. In 1154 Valdemar joined with Canute, and was recognized as co-king along with Canute. In July 1157 a temporary compromise was struck in which the three agreed to divide the country among themselves as co-regents in shifting alliances.

Canute was killed at the Bloodfeast of Roskilde in August 1157. Sweyn was defeated by Valdemar in the Battle of Grathe Heath (Slaget på Grathe Hede) on 23 October 1157. Sweyn was killed during flight, supposedly by a group of peasants who stumbled upon him as he was fleeing from the battlefield. Valdemar, having outlived all his rival pretenders, became the sole king of Denmark.[6][7]

Sole reign

In 1158, Absalon was elected bishop of Roskilde, and King Valdemar made him his chief advisor. The king reorganized and rebuilt war-torn Denmark. He built Sønderborg Castle as a fortified fortress, constructed on an islet in the Als Strait (Als Sund) that later was connected to Als Island.[8][9]

At Absalon's instigation, he declared war upon the Wends who were raiding the Danish coasts. They inhabited Pomerania and the island of Rügen in the Baltic Sea. In 1168, the Wendish capital, Arkona, was taken, and the Wends became Christians and subject to Danish suzerainty. Danish influence had reached into Pomerania. In 1175, King Valdemar built Vordingborg Castle as a defensive fortress and as a base from which to launch raids against the German coast.[10]


Valdemar married Sophia of Minsk (c. 1141-1198), the daughter of Richeza of Poland, dowager queen of Sweden, from her marriage to Prince Volodar of Minsk. She was the half-sister of King Canute V of Denmark. Valdemar and Sophia had the following children:

After Valdemar's death, Sophia married Landgrave Louis III of Thuringia.

Valdemar also had a son, Christopher (c. 1150-1173), with his lover, Tove. Christopher was duke of Jutland from c. 1170 until his death.



  1. ^ "Valdemar Den Store 1131-1182". Danmarks Historien. Archived from the original on 5 July 2011. Retrieved 2018.
  2. ^ "Asser (Rig), 1151". Dansk biografisk Lexikon. Retrieved 2018.
  3. ^ "Asser Rig". Den Store Danske, Gyldendal. Retrieved 2018.
  4. ^ "Absalon". Den Store Danske, Gyldendal. Retrieved 2018.
  5. ^ Bradley, S. A. J. (12 December 2008). N.F.S. Grundtvig, A Life Recalled: An Anthology of Biographical Source-Texts. ISD LLC. pp. 464, 578. ISBN 978-87-7934-007-7.
  6. ^ "Blood Feast of Roskilde". The Post Grad Chronicles. 2 December 2017. Retrieved 2020.
  7. ^ "Slaget på Grathe Hede 1157". Danmarks Historien. Retrieved 2018.
  8. ^ Otto Norn, Jørgen Paulsen and Jørgen Slettebo, Sønderborg Slot. Historie og bygning, G.E.C. Gad forlag, 1963.
  9. ^ "Sønderborg Castle". Retrieved 2018.
  10. ^ About Vordingborg Castle (

External links

Valdemar the Great
Born: 14 January 1131 Died: 12 May 1182
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Eric III
King of Denmark
with Sweyn III (1146-1157)
Canute V (1146-1157)
Succeeded by
Canute VI
Title last held by
Duke in Southern Jutland
ca. 1152-1154
Title next held by

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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