Episode 123– Decline & Fall (Part 1)

1474-1531 was a time of immense change and upheaval for the Hanseatic League, and not just for them. The Habsburg empire is bedded into being, England’s war of the Roses is over, in the North the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth stretches all the way from Kyiev to Gdansk. The kingdoms and princes are getting stronger. Columbus tries to sail to India and Vasco da Gama actually sails to India. Luther nails his 95 theses on the doors of the churches of Wittenberg. All is in flux, and so is the Hanse and Lübeck, its most important city.

Well, is it still the most important city? What about Danzig/Gdansk and Hamburg who take advantage of shifting trade flows whilst Lübeck finds itself on the sidelines. Who do they blame? The Dutch and the Danes. Cometh the time, cometh the man – his name is Jürgen Wullenwever and he has all the solutions, or does he?..

Hello and welcome to the History of the Germans: Episode 123 – Decline and Fall (Part 1)

1474-1531 was a time of immense change and upheaval for the Hanseatic League, and not just for them. The Habsburg empire is bedded into being, England’s war of the Roses is over, in the North the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth stretches all the way from Kyiev to Gdansk. The kingdoms and princes are getting stronger. Columbus tries to sail to India and Vasco da Gama actually sails to India. Luther nails his 95 theses on the doors of the churches of Wittenberg. All is in flux, and so is the Hanse and Lübeck, its most important city.

Well, is it still the most important city? What about Danzig/Gdansk and Hamburg who take advantage of shifting trade flows whilst Lübeck finds itself on the sidelines. Who do they blame? The Dutch and the Danes. Cometh the time, cometh the man – his name is Jürgen Wullenwever and he has all the solutions, or does he?..

But before we start let me do my ritual prostration before all of you who are supporting the show. To quote Steve Young, Quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers: “In medieval times artists had patrons that supported them and this is a similar thing …We’re basically saying, Wouldn’t you like to be part of this”. And here are four of you listeners who have signed up on patreon.com/historyofthegermans because they wanted to be part of it, Walt B., Max B., Devri K. O. and Thomas N. Thanks to you all.

Last week we hurtled through the 15th century a time often seen as the high point of Hanseatic power, wealth and influence. The cities may stand like a victorious prize-fighter over the crumbled bodies of their opponents, but what few can see is that the contest had taken its toll. Many of the inner organs are damaged. The flow of goods and money had shifted from the land route between Lubeck and Hamburg to the sea route around the Jutland peninsula. As a consequence, the interests of the Livonian and Prussian cities had begun to deviate from those of the Wendish ones, in particular from those of Lubeck.

Lubeck still held the upper hand within the Hanse organisation, not because it was some sort of capital or head of the Hanse, but thanks to its role as the general secretary who sets the agenda for the Hanseatic Diets.

During the 15th centuries the frictions could be glossed over with feats of naval warfare and a huge dose of potluck. But we are now entering the 16th century and that is a very different kettle of fish.

The 16th century is the time when Europe changes fundamentally, politically, socially, culturally and spiritually

In 1477 Maximilian of the house of Habsburg married Mary, heiress to the duchy of Burgundy and the County of Flanders. In 1496 their son, Philip the Fair married Johanna of Castile, the sole daughter and heiress of the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile, Spain to you and me. Within just a few decades a pan-European empire had emerged that combined the wealth of the New World with some of the richest lands in Northern Europe and held the imperial title to boot.

The Kingdom of France too is on a roll. First, they take back the duchy of Burgundy that Maximilian struggled to hold on to. Then the marriage with Anne de Bretagne brings this once independent duchy into the kingdom. Provence and the south of France gets integrated in 1480 when Rene, the last of the Anjous had died.

In 1485, August 22nd to be precise Richard III loses the battle of Bosworth Field, bringing an end to the War of the Roses. From that time until the British Civil war that starts in 1639, the country or now countries are largely at peace. Conflicts are either minor or short-lived allowing the king, parliament and the people to focus on useful things, like building a commercial empire. The Muscovy company was founded in 1555 by royal charter giving some English merchants the monopoly to trade with what was to become Russia. In 1592 we get the Levant company and by the very end of that century the British East India Company.

What few remember today was another great dynastic marriage, the marriage in 1386 between Jadwiga, heiress to the kingdom of Poland to the grand duke of Lithuania, who changed his name from the pagan Jogaila to Wladyslaw Jagiello. This was the beginnings of the personal union between Poland and Lithuania that resulted in the Polish Lithuanian commonwealth in 1559. This political entity would grow and grow until in 1619 it stretched all the way from Ukraine to the Baltic states and from Smolensk to Krakow.

Another future world power too was stirring in that period. Ivan III, ruler of a rather modest principality that used to pay tributes to the Mongol Khans expanded far and wide, laying the foundations of what would after some exceedingly bloody convulsions turn into Russia.

The Margraves of Brandenburg that we had not mentioned for a while, they too got busy. Well first they got busy dying out. In 1320 the last of the Ascanier Margraves, the descendants of Albrecht the Bear had died without offspring. The territory first went to the House of Wittelsbach who made a right old mess of it and in 1374 it came to the then reigning imperial family, the Luxemburgers. They too had a bit of a tough time so that the whole thing was handed over to Frederick of Hohenzollern, the Burgrave of Nurnberg. He came in, initially as some sort of governor but prove to be so successful that by 1415 he became the Margrave. Despite the poverty and chaos of the Mark, this was an important role because the Margraviate was one of the seven electors who chose the emperor. Frederick and his successors prove to be proactive and smart rulers who leveraged their status as electors and the meagre resources they had inherited into an expanding state that gradually reached out for the Baltic Sea.

And then there are the most important neighbours of the Hanse, the kingdoms of Danmark, Sweden and Norway. These three kingdoms had come together thanks to the efforts of Margaret of Denmark in the Kalmar union. The union established that all three kingdoms are ruled in a personal union by one monarch. That monarch was Eric of Pomerania, initially as a tool of Margaret but when she had died in 1412 on his own. As we heard last week, this ended in a bit of a disaster and Eric was expelled in 1439 ending his day in the tiny duchy of Pomerania – Rugenwald. After that the Kalmar Union did not vanish. An imperial prince, Christopher of Bavaria became king of all three kingdoms. But the Swedes had established a much stronger autonomy for themselves. No longer were they obliged to bear Danish soldiers or officers on their territory and their obligations to fund Danish wars was much reduced. Let’s leave this here. We will look at the next steps in this story towards the end of this episode.

Whilst these new or enlarged entities were growing in strength and importance, the long-time ally of the Hanse, the Teutonic Knights went downhill.

The latter, without telling too much of what we will discuss next season had become a shadow of their former selves after the battle of Tannenberg in 1410. Their new neighbour, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth gradually picks them bare until only East-Prussia and Livonia is left. The former ends up as part of the Margraviate of Brandenburg and gives its name, Prussia, to the new state. The Livonian possessions of the knights come under pressure from Russia and Sweden and are ultimately reduced to the tiny duchy of Kurland.

These new powers had little tolerance for city freedoms. One of their main objectives was to consolidate power within their kingdoms or principalities. That meant to end the perennial feuding between their subjects and between the subjects and themselves. To bring those to an end they had to break the power of all intermediaries, be that counts, knights or cities. What they could not tolerate in particular was that anyone in their lands engaged in their own foreign policy. And that meant by extension that they could not tolerate their cities to engage in the Hanse as a political project. They could probably tolerate it when the Hanse was standardising trading and organised a reliable system for judicial redress. But they took a very dim view of Hanseatic wars against other princes, princes they may have friendly relationships with.

Cities therefore came under increasing pressure from the princes to limit their involvement with the League. The Brandenburger Margraves were at the forefront here. They had several Hanse cities in their territory, including the two interconnected cities of Berlin and Coelln. Yes, that is Berlin, as in the capital of Germany. We are in episode 123 and this is the first time the place gets talked about properly. That tells you something about the difference between Germany and say France, England or Italy. No history of these countries could get to the 16th century without talking extensively about Paris, London and obviously Rome. Germany’s capital remained in the shadows for a very long time. It was founded in two steps. In 1251 there was a city called Berlin, located on the right bank of the Spree around the church of St. Nikolai. Its twin city was Coelln, founded probably 10 years later in the Spree Island today called the Museum Island.

This dual city was a member of the Hanseatic League and like other Hanseatic cities enjoyed a lot of autonomy within the margraviate. They elected their own council and had their own city laws. How economically significant the two cities were, is still somewhat in dispute. If you go around the quaint Nikolaiviertel today you may conclude that they weren’t. Historians disagree and place Berlin-Coelln amongst the mid-range of Hanseatic cities.

In 1440 Frederick of Hohenzollern as part of his consolidation drive decided to force the city into submission. He initiated the construction of a castle that dominated the bridge between the two cities. The citizens revolted and in 1448 flooded the construction site. Finally, a compromise was found and Berlin-Coelln agreed to leave the Hanse. The castle was built and later became the Stadtschloss, the primary residence of the Margraves, later the kings in and then of Prussia and finally the German Kaisers. Most of it was destroyed in the Second world war and the East Germans replaced it with the Palast der Republik, which the post reunification government decided to demolish and now in an astounding development has been replaced with a reconstruction of the former residence of Kaiser Bill.

The fall of Berlin-Coelln encouraged more and more princes, in particular those in Westphalia and Saxony to go after the cities’ autonomy in their lands. Gradually only the largest and most powerful cities could retain the freedom to set their own policies and follow through with the decisions of the Hanseatic diets. In the end the Hanse had to establish different tiers of cities, excluding some from participation in confidential discussions at the Hanseatic Diet because they could not be trusted to keep the information from their overlord.

If the Hanse did not have enough problems with strengthening powers on their doorsteps, state-sponsored capitalism in England and Holland and the princes nibbling away at the membership list, there was also the most significant development of the 16th century to consider, the Reformation.

The reformation kicked off in 1517 when Luther nailed his 95 theses on the doors of the palace chapel at Wittenberg, as well as several other churches in the town. Luther was excommunicated in 1521 and cited to the diet of Worms in 1522. Events accelerated from there. Johannes Bugenhagen was one of the most important figures in the reformation of Northern Germany and Denmark. Bugenhagen had joined Luther in Wittenberg in 1521 and had become his parish priest and confessor. In 1533 he became one of first Protestant doctors of theology and an important preacher and practitioner of biblical interpretation.

Aside from that he was also a great organiser, setting up Lutheran churches Brunswick in 1528, Hamburg in 1529, in Lübeck in 1531, In Pomerania in 1535 and in Denmark in 1537. Little shows the speed with which the reformation spread across the German speaking world than the conversion of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, Albrecht von Brandenburg to Protestantism in 1525, just 8 years after a minor theologian in a smallish university city in Germany wrote up his thoughts and publicised them to his fellow academics.

That gets us to events in Lübeck itself. There too the news of the reformation and the events at the diet of Worms spread like wildfire. The Patrician Council was opposed to what they called the Lutheran Heresy. They feared repercussions from emperor Charles V who after all ruled the Low Countries and they were simply conservatives who did not want to upset the existing order. An order under which many of their relatives enjoyed ecclesiastical honours and incomes.

The Council banned Luther’s writing, introduced penalties for anyone who possesses these books and expelled two Lutheran preachers.

But by 1531 the council crashed into its perennial problem, they were running out of money. And again, they had to call a committee of this time 64 non-patricians. Those were partially artisans but also upper middle-class merchants, shippers and other professions. The committee of 64 quickly moved beyond matters of taxation and demanded the return of the expelled Protestant vicars  and the right to “preach the gospel” in all the churches in the city. From there it took only a few months before Bugenhagen arrived and the city became Protestant. Church property was confiscated, and the monasteries were dissolved. The committee ordered the churches to be stripped of all its popish frills, yielding a cool 48 tons of gold and silver for the city treasury.

Bugenhagen also created a new constitution for the city which limited the power of the council. From now on any alliances, ordinances or borrowing by the council required the consent of the committee of 64 as well as that of another committee of 100 formed by representatives of the parishes.

By 1531 Lübeck was a fully Protestant city. The city joined the Schmalkaldic League, the military alliance of protestant princes and cities established to protect each other against a backlash from emperor Charles V.

For the Hanse as a whole the Reformation caused some serious problems. Whilst some important member cities like Lübeck, Wismar, Rostock and Brunswick had embraced the Reformation, some like Cologne did not want to and others again were restrained by their catholic overlords, for instance Danzig which was now part of Catholic Poland-Lithiuania.

If the political situation was already precarious with territorial princes encroaching on to the Hanse world and the Reformation undermining solidarity of the cities, their economic position was also threatened.

In 1492 an Italian navigator in the pay of Ferdinand and Isabella of the newly formed kingdom of Spain had discovered what he believed was a sea route to India. The discovery of the Americas was one of the reasons that trade shifted towards the Atlantic ports. The other, arguably commercially more important one was the discovery of an actual route to India via the Cape of Good Hope by Portuguese navigators. These events did create a whole new set of trading routes that partially replaced existing channels and partially brought previously unknown goods onto European tables, leaving aside the avalanche of precious metal that created wave upon wave of inflation.

The Hanse as an organisation did not directly participate in these new trade routes. But they still benefitted from the huge amount of wealth that was created. The growing cities of not just Amsterdam and London, but also smaller ones like Bordeaux, Nantes, Rouen and Bristol demanded grain and beer as well as vast amounts of wood to build their ships. The volume of trade of the Hanseatic cities kept growing strongly all throughout the 16th century.

So, whilst the shift in global trade did not negatively affect the Hanse overall, it did impact the relative importance of the Hanse members. Danzig became the main export harbour for grain and wood to the Low Countries, France, England and at times Spain and Portugal. Hamburg and Bremen, located on the North Sea were closer to where the action and became larger, richer and more important.

Lübeck on the other hand declined not in absolute, but in relative terms. They were in the wrong place and had the wrong products.

Since the very end of 15th century the copper that was brought into Lübeck from Sweden faced competition from the copper king of Europe, Jakob Fugger. Jakob Fugger was a merchant and banker from Augsburg who made his fortune by lending to the perennially skint emperor Maximilian a relationship he levered into a pan-European commercial empire nobody had seen before. Some people claim that Jakob Fugger was the richest man who ever lived, though he had some serious competitors like Mansa Musa, Marcus Licinius Crassus or John D. Rockefeller. But a place in the top 10 is probably a fair assumption. He was definitely the richest man the Holy Roman empire ever produced.

Jakob Fugger spread his tentacles deep into the Hanseatic world, showing up in Lübeck in 1494 and a few years later in Livonia, trading not just in copper, but in all and everything the Hanse had believed to have had a monopoly in.  The appearance of the Fuggers was a bit like the arrival of Amazon in the world of general retail. His business model was that of a modern corporation with branches, double bookkeeping, huge financial firepower and close links to government. And facing him were mid-sized Hansards with shoddy accounting and reliant on a network of friends and relatives.

The Hanse retaliated with good old-fashioned piracy. They seized several Fugger ships and refused to hand them back. Jakob Fugger was a formidable opponent who could mobilise not just vast amounts of money but also the emperor himself if that was in his interest.

The copper issue and the antagonism with Jakob Fugger was a challenge, but not the only one. Salted herring and Stockfish, two of Lübeck’s mainstays were already less in demand in the Protestant world that scrapped all these 140 fast days where one could only eat fish, alligator and beaver. The same could be said of beeswax, which again was not as much in demand in protestant rites as it is in Catholic ones. And that comes on top of the dwindling stock of herring in the Baltic and the attempts of the other Hansards and Dutch to bypass the Lubeck-dominated Kontor of Bergen.

And then there is the other important leg of its economy, the link between the Baltic and the North Sea via Hamburg. As we heard last week, the trade in grain and wood was moving more and more onto the route via the Oresund and Kattegat into the North. As shipbuilding and navigation skills advanced, this once dangerous trajectory had become manageable and much cheaper than the land and river route that had allowed Lübeck to flourish.

This route via the Oresund was used not just by the Hanseatic traders from Livonia or Prussia, but also by the Merchant adventurers from England, Soctland and Holland. Their trade had grown for a while now.

The English were still hampered by the imbalance in trade privileges. In 1474 the then king of England, Edward IV had agreed that the Hanse could retain its vast privileges in the Steelyard in London but did not have to grant similar privileges to Englishmen who wished to sail into the Baltic.

The Dutch on the other hand had much less impediments to deal with. Some had initially been members of the Hanse, including Amsterdam, but by now they were outside the association. What they had instead was an enormous market for Hanse products. This market was not just the low countries themselves but all of Western Europe that traded first through Antwerp and later through Amsterdam. Many a merchant was tempted to give up solidarity to his fellow Hansards in exchange for a good relationship with such important customers.

I think it is fair to say that neither the English nor the Dutch constituted a mortal danger for the cities in the Hanseatic League. As we will see, cities like Hamburg and Danzig/Gdansk benefitted enormously from the co-operation with the foreigners. But that is not how the population of Lubeck, in particular the lower classes saw it.

They were convinced that all the relative decline was down to the pesky Dutchmen who kept supplying the Danes in the regular conflicts the city had with its neighbour to the north.

It was just simpler to blame it all on the Dutch and the Danes, because the problems with the Fuggers, the herring, the Bergen Kontor, the Reformation, the princely oppression, all that is complex. The Dutch and the Danes, that is pretty simple. Everybody understands that.

“Cometh the Hour, cometh the Man” as your run of the mill cricket pundit would say. And that man was Jürgen Wollenwever, and his sidekick, Marx Meier.

Wollenwever managed to weave all these strains together into one near unbreakable pike he pointed at Denmark, only to find himself and all the ambitions of his adopted hometown kebabbed on it.

Jurgen Wollenwever came from a successful family of merchants who had settled in Hamburg. He was probably born in 1488. We know little about his career, apart from the fact that he settled in Lubeck in 1526 and became a citizen there in 1531. We do not hear much about his commercial successes which suggests there weren’t many even though his family was growing in prominence in Hamburg. This lack of success may well have fuelled his disapproval of the patricians on the council.

As we mentioned before, the years 1526-31 is when Lübeck converts to Protestantism. Wullenwever and his family have wholeheartedly embraced the reforms Martin Luther proposed. Because of his sincere conviction and a substantial dose of demagoguery, Wullenwever became a key figure in this transition.

He joined the committee of 64 that represented the artisans and lesser merchants who were all staunchly protestant, forcing the city to change course. His moment came when the new constitution that Bugenhagen had drafted is announced. Immediately afterwards two patrician Burgomasters leave the city, and they are followed within a week by the majority of the old city council.

As it happened in 1408, the council is then replenished with members of the committee of 64. This time the difference is that all these new members are in one way or another beholden to Jurgen Wullenwever. This trader of modest success had managed to become the undisputed dictator of the Empire’s second city within just 5 years of arriving at the city gates. 2 years later his position was confirmed when he was elected as Burgermeister.

Pope Leo X, the one who excommunicated Martin Luther had famously writtento his brother Giuliano on the day he was elected: “God gave us the Papacy, let us enjoy it”. Not sure how much he did enjoy it in the end. In any event, by 1531, 18 years later, such a sentiment was no longer appropriate. Wullenwever did not see himself as a dictator who could now enjoy the fruits of his scheming. He believed that he had to enact “the will of the people”. And the will of the people was to get rid of the Dutch and hit out at the Danes, because the Danes and the Dutch were responsible for everything that has gone wrong.

Specifically, his main policy objective was to compel the king of Denmark to close the Oresund for all Dutch shipping.

And he believed he was in a good position to get this done. Because for the umpteenth time, Denmark and with it the Kalmar Union were in a succession crisis. Two competing Danish kings were slugging it out, Frederick I and Christian II. Wullenwever’s plan was to offer the support of the city of Lübeck to Frederick I in exchange for a complete closure of the Oresund.

That sounds sensible but to understand what it really meant we have to go back to 1448. In 1448 King Christopher of Bavaria died. Christopher was that imperial prince from the Platinate who was plucked out of a hat by the Danish Royal Council to become king instead of the hapless Eric of Pomerania.

The intended successor of Christopher was another German prince, Christian of Oldenburg. That is Oldenburg in Oldenburg, not Oldenburg in Holstein. Christian was one of those guys who won the inheritance lottery. From his father he had inherited the county of Oldenburg somewhat of a backwater in Frisia, surrounded by floodplains and tribal chieftains. Don’t get me wrong, I love Oldenburg and even lived there for a period. But I would not have wanted to live there in the 15th century. Nor did our friend Christian. He grew up at the court of his uncle, Adolphus count of Holstein and duke of Schleswig. That uncle was childless which may have been a good reason for little Christian to be extra special nice. Christian was extra special nice, and his uncle made him the heir to Holstein and Schleswig.

When King Christopher of Denmark, Sweden and Norway died in 1448, the Danish royal council looked round for any suitable prince to become the new king. Denmark was as you know an elective monarchy and in the absence of a natural heir the royal council was free to choose whoever they liked.

They offered the crown to Adolphus of Holstein, him being the most important noble in the region and bringing Schleswig Holstein to the Danish crown. Adolphus declined citing old age, but put forward his nephew and heir, Christian of Oldenburg. Only condition, he had to marry the previous king’s wife, Dorthea of Brandenburg.

With that Christian, son of an obscure count from the foggy North Sea shore became king of Denmark. That was great, but he also wanted to be king of Sweden and king of Norway like his predecessor.

But the Swedes are now fed up with Danish kings who are in fact German princes picked out of a hat by the Danish Royal council. The Swedes elect one of their own, Karl Knudsson as king Charles VIII. Because anything the Danes can do, the Swedes can do too. Karl was an important noble and during his term as head of the Swedish Royal council had become a very wealthy landowner. In this role he had ruled Sweden as an independent kingdom, even at a time when king Christopher had still been alive. Crowning him in 1448 was just a natural progression in Sweden’s exit from the Kalmar union. 

Christian and Charles would fight it out, first over who would get the third kingdom, Norway. Charles won this one. But in 1457 Charles loses support in Sweden and get deposed. Christian takes over but in 1464 Charles is back. In 1470 Charles dies and the kingdom of Sweden is then ruled by Charles nephew Sten Sture. Sture defeats the Danes in 1471.

After that the Kingdom of Sweden is ruled by various protectors of the realm, occasionally interspersed with brief periods where the Danes force their way into Stockholm.

Meanwhile in Denmark itself the family of Christian of Oldenburg rules. Christian’s son John takes over in 1481. Apart from his fight over Norway and Sweden, John’s main focus was to strengthen Denmark commercially and militarily. He supported Danish merchants in their competition with the Hansards and built a navy, partially to use against the Swedes, but also to counterbalance the power of the Hanse.

John died in 1513 after a long and ultimately fruitful reign. He might not have been able to suppress the Swedes and even suffered a defeat by the peasant republic of Dithmarschen. But his rule materially improved the economic position of Denmark and strengthened the royal position by suppressing the power of the rebellious nobles.

John’s son, Christian II takes over in 1513. Christian II continued his father’s domestic policies, supporting the commoners against the nobility. What he became famous for though was his brutality. Even before he succeeded his father, he had become viceroy in Norway and was considered tyrannical in his attempts to reduce the power of the local nobility.

Once king, he made a large-scale attempt on Sweden. He was supported in this effort by his brother-in-law, the emperor Charles V, pope Leo X and Jakob Fugger. Christian II had remained Catholic, whilst the Swedish protector of the realm, Sten Sture the Younger and his privy council were leaning towards Protestantism. That explains the support from the pope and the emperor. Jakob Fugger who had funded the dowry and a big chunk of the war was after the great copper mine at Falun Grove. That in turn explains the involvement of the Hanse in this war. The Hanse, and Lubeck in particular did not want to let the copper mines fall into the hands of the Fugger. And if that meant war with Denmark, well than it is war with Denmark.

In 1520 Christian II and his army of mercenaries from France, Germany and Scotland, paid for by the Fuggers, takes Stockholm.  On November 4th 1520 Christian II is crowned king of Sweden. Three days later he organises a party at the palace and by the stroke of midnight soldiers enter the great hall and arrest several nobles. A prescription list is produced by the archbishop of Uppsala that includes all the opponents of Danish rule in Sweden and even some who were supportive of the Kalmar union, just enemies of the archbishop. The day after, November 8th, a court headed up by said archbishop convicts all 82 accused, including fellow 2 bishops, of heresy. On November 9th they are led out to the grand square before the palace and beheaded or hanged.

One of the executed was Erik Johannsson Vasa. His son, Gustav Vasa swears revenge and within days Sweden is ablaze with war. Vasa inflicts a first major defeat on the Danes in April of the following year. The Hanse, namely Lübeck join Gustav Vasa’s efforts in 1522 and by June 1523 Christian II had to withdraw completely. Sweden was free and its king owed the city on the Trave for their support.

When Christian II returned to Denmark, defeated and broke, the Royal Danish council was not best pleased. Also, the Reformation was gradually taking hold in Denmark making Christian II even more unpopular.

What needed to happen happened fast. Christian II was deposed and his uncle, Frederick I became king instead. Christian wasn’t killed, he was just sent into exile in Holland, where his brother-in-law, Charles V was the ruler.

Frederick I was now king of Denmark. He was a more measured man than his nephew. Though he remained Roman Catholic, he allowed Lutherans to preach in his kingdom and encouraged the publication of the first Danish translation of the bible. And he continued his predecessor’s policies of supporting economic growth and the build-out of a navy.

In 1531, the old king Christian II tried to come back. Again, with help from his brother-in-law the emperor Charles V and the pesky Dutch merchants he mustered an army and landed in Norway.

Now the stage is set:

This is the same year, Juergen Wullenwever becomes the de facto ruler of Lübeck. He believes that Christian II’s landing in Norway is the opportunity for Lübeck to regain its control of the Baltic Sea, to push out the Dutch and to advance the Reformation.

His idea is that the Hanse, led by the city of Lübeck, should support Frederick I and in exchange Frederick would close the Oresund to Dutch shipping for good. Gustav Vasa, who still owed them for the support in the Swedish war of independence would do the same. The Hanse monopoly on Baltic trade would be recovered. Protestantism would flourish. Everything will be great!

But will it? That we will find out next week. I hope you will join us again.

As usual, I would like to thank my wonderful patrons who have signed up on patreon.com/historyofthegermans or on my website historyofthegermans.com/support. Your help is really, really appreciated.

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