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European Kingdoms

Northern Europe


Kalmar Union Norway
AD 1450 - 1905

The territory of today's Norway has been occupied since the end of the last ice age. It was Indo-European Germanic groups which populated the southern regions. initially being contained entirely within the southernmost third of early Sweden and Norway. Various Petty Kingdoms eventually formed, with many rulers who emerged from legendary origins.

Haraldr Hárfagri of the Norse petty kingdom of Agder fought a series of unification wars in the 860s and 870s to forge a single kingdom by AD 872. Even then, the kingdom still only comprised the southern third of modern Norway, with the rest forming part of a vast territory which was known to some as Kvenland. It was only in the latter days of the Viking age and in the late medieval period that the westernmost areas of this began to be absorbed.

A period of prolonged civil war erupted in Norway in 1130, following the long reign of Sigurd Jorsalfer. This was partially due to the state's muddy succession laws, but it was also due to various opposition groups which had their own interests in terms of claiming the crown. Conflict was frequent and prolonged until 1240, although there were periods in which it subsided to the level of a mere feud.

By the 1160s, in essence two power blocs now existed in the civil war, these being the 'Baglers' (the church and nobility led by the five year-old King Magnus V and his father), and the 'Birkbeiners' (a motley crew of brigands, 'ravers', and other outcasts who were led by King Sverre). Sverre came out victorious, and his long and able rule pushed the state towards a gradual settlement of affairs.

The civil war was all but over by 1217, with Norway's subsequently rulers forging a series of marriages and connections with the kingdoms of Sweden and Denmark which, in 1397, led to the creation of the Union of Kalmar (Norway and Denmark had already been held jointly in personal union since 1380).

So interlinked now were the three Scandinavian kingdoms that, from 1450, the kings of Denmark essentially ruled Norway directly, largely in their minds as hereditary kings. For its part, Norway often insisted on a formal election process, confirming the king as ruler of Norway some time after he had been proclaimed in Denmark.

This allowed Norway to retain at least the pretence of being a separate kingdom within the union. From 1536, governors (statholders) were appointed to manage Norway's internal interests for the king (shown below in light grey).


(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, from Gautreks Saga, from Fridthjófs saga ins frækna, from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), from The Heimskringla: Or, Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, Volume 1, from Glymdrapa, Hornklofe, from Saga: Six Pack 6, A Scandinavian Sextet (various authors), and from External Links: Visit Norway, and The War in Algiers (in Danish).)

1536 - 1551

Peder Hansen Litle

First statholder in Norway for Denmark.


The map of Scandinavia by Olaus Magnus shows a Kven settlement to the south of modern Tromsø in northern Norway, named 'Berkara Qvenar'. Integration is continuing, but Kvens are still easy to pick out in northern Scandinavia.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1581
In the near-three centuries since 1300 the Norwegians and Swedes had massively increased their dominance of the once-uncharted northern depths of Fenno-Scandinavia, although Denmark now dominated Norway (click or tap on map to view full sized)


The first known Norwegian tax records mention Kvens. These records are stored at the Norwegian national archives (Riksarkivet). This is at a time, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, that the Swedish government is encouraging settlement in many wilderness and border areas in order to secure territories against fears of expansionism by the Russians. Even Sweden proper has its wilderness areas which require settlement.

Thanks to this policy, many Finns migrate westwards across Scandinavia. Thousands of farmers from Savonia and Northern Häme make the journey as far as eastern Norway and central Sweden and become known as the Forest Finns.

They help to turn forests to farmlands using slash-and-burn agriculture, and in return they are given land. More of them head north to Ostrobothnia and Kainuu, east towards Northern Karelia, and south towards Ingria (Swedish land at this time, but now within Russia).

Despite occasional descriptive references from early writers such as Tacitus, pre-Viking Kvenland is shrouded in the mystery of a people with no writing and a lost oral tradition

An estimated ten or fifteen per cent also cross the Baltic Sea in search of largely uninhabited land fit for their needs.

Those Kvens who settle in Norway prior to the twentieth century - and in some cases prior to the Second World War - and their descendants are called Kvens today, as they had originated from the medieval area of Kvenland. Also, the descendants of all the native Kvens in northern Scandinavia continue to be known by that name.

1551 - 1556

Jesper Friis

1556 - 1572

Christen Munk

Danish statesman. Died 1579.

1561 - 1562

During the Livonian Wars (1558-1583), Tallinn in North Estonia, together with its vassals of Harju-Viru and Järva, asks Sweden for military support, and in June 1561 they pledge allegiance to King Eric to be incorporated into the kingdom as the duchy of Estonia. Sweden also gains Ingermanland, creating a Scandinavian empire.

1566 - 1568

Ösel (Saaremaa) is invaded by Swedes as an act of the Northern Seven Years War. They pillage the entire island and leave with a huge quantity of loot. Being unable to defend another castle besides Kuressaare if the Swedes attack again, the Danes destroy Maasi Castle in the same year.

Russian siege of Narva in 1558
The Russian siege of Narva in 1558 (as envisaged by Boris Chorikov in 1836) was the first step by Ivan IV of Russia in his attempted seizure of the Baltic lands, thereby sparking the Livonian Wars

They soon began to regret that decision and instead reinforce the castle again. The Swedes return in 1568, this time in eighteen ships. On 14 August Maasi Castle is handed over to them, together with Pöide and the island of Muhu.

1572 - 1577

Pouel Ottesen Huitfeldt

First official Danish governor-general of Norway. Died 1592.

1577 - 1583

Ludvig Ludvigsson Munk of Norlund

Danish noble. Died 1602.

1583 - 1588

Ove Juel

1588 - 1601

Aksel Gyldenstjerne

Danish noble. Died 1603.


The son of King John III of Sweden, King Sigismund III of Poland-Lithuania, inherits the Swedish throne, but his inflexible politics and passionate Catholicism causes opposition from the Swedish Protestant population, forcing the king to return to Poland. He does not relinquish his claim to the throne, however, which leads to conflict.


The Teusina Treaty agrees peaceful terms between Sweden and Russia. Kvenland ('Kaianske landet') is mentioned for the first time in an official government document as a territory which is governed by Sweden, although this claim seems not entirely to be merited as there is territory in the northern reaches of Scandinavia and Fenno-Scandinavia which is unlikely to be under any direct administration at this point.

Olavinlinna Castle
The late fifteenth century Olavinlinna Castle was constructed in Savonlinna by Erik Axelsson in an attempt to lay claim to the recently acquired Russian side of the border

1601 - 1608

Jørgen Friis of Krastrup

Danish noble. Died 1616.


Having strengthened his hold on the Swedish crown, Karl IX adds the title 'King of the Caijaners', referring to the inhabitants of Kainu, otherwise known as Kvenland, apparently using the title for the first time on 16 March 1607. However, Kvenland is recognised as being distinct from the rest of Finland for a long time to come.

1608 - 1618

Enevold Kruse of Hjermislov

Danish noble. Died 1621.

1611 - 1613

The Kalmar War sees Denmark-Norway successfully defend itself from Sweden. Karl IX's use of the title 'King of the Caijaners' has been part of a concerted effort by Sweden to avoid paying fees for the use of the Danish-controlled strait which accesses the North Sea.

Karl is even collecting taxes in the north, from Norway's territory. Denmark-Norway attacks him to safeguard its territory and rights and confirms its own position as a militarily-competent state.

The pre-Indo-European Kainu continued to enjoy a notably different way of life even when this photo was taken in 1900

1618 - 1629

Jens Hermansson Juel

Danish noble. Died 1634.

1629 - 1642

Christopher Knudsson Urne of Asmark

Danish noble. Died 1663.

1642 - 1651

Hannibal Sehested

Danish noble. Resigned from post. Temporarily disgraced.


One of the first acts of Queen Christina of Sweden is to negotiate the peace with Denmark. She does so successfully, gaining all of modern Estonia when the Danes hand over the island of Ösel (Saaremaa) under the Treaty of Brömsebro, along with the island of Götaland.

As a constituent of Danish holdings, Norway also has to concede territory, this being the districts of Härjedale and Jämtland which remain part of Sweden to this day.

1651 - 1655

Gregers Krabbe

Danish noble. Died 1655.

1656 - 1661

Nils Trolle Trollesholl Gauno

Danish noble and brother-in-law to Krabbe. Died 1667.


The Treaty of Roskilde sees Denmark-Norway hand over Bohuslän in south-eastern Norway and Skåneland (Scania) in southern Sweden to the kingdom of Sweden. At least part of Bohuslän had formerly been part of the Norwegian pre-unification kingdom of Alfheim, while Scania had been a Danish minor kingdom.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1660
The Swedes had removed themselves from the Union of Kalmar with Denmark and Norway in 1523, and since that time had built up a Nordic empire of their own which now dominated the eastern lands and Baltic territories (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1661 - 1664

Iver Tageson Krabbe

Danish noble. Died 1666.

1664 - 1699

Ulrik Frederik Gyldenløve

Son of Frederick III of Denmark. Count Laurvig-Tønsberg.

1669 - 1675

Ove Juel

Acting statholder for Ulrik during Scanian Wars.

1675 - 1682

Jens Juel

Acting statholder for Ulrik during Scanian Wars.

1682 - 1694

Just Högh of Fultoffe

Acting statholder.

1699 - 1708

Frederik Gabel

Danish vice-governor-general. Died 1708 in Copenhagen.

1700 - 1710

The Great Northern War (1700-1721) is fought when Sweden finds itself facing Russia, Poland, and Denmark (alternatively entitled the Second Northern War).

Sweden's expansion at the end of the Livonian Wars had antagonised several states, notably those on the receiving end of defeats such as Russia and Denmark. The latter state takes the opportunity presented by the death of Charles XI of Sweden to organise an anti-Swedish coalition.

An attack on the unified kingdom of Saxony and Poland in 1702 sees Sweden occupy large areas of Poland until 1710. The situation deteriorates rapidly at the Battle of Poltava in 1709, when Sweden suffers a disastrous defeat at the hands of Peter the Great of Russia, and the following year loses control of Finland, Ingria, Estonia and Livonia to the Russians.

Karl XII seeks refuge within the Ottoman empire from the field of battle at Poltava and remains there, in exile.

Capture of Malmo 1709
The capture of the town of Malmo in 1709 by Count Magnus Stenbock was probably one of the last Swedish victories of the Great Northern War as Russia and her allies defeated the Swedes later the same year

1708 - 1710

Johan Vibe

Danish vice-governor-general. Died in office.

1710 - 1712

Ulrik Frederik Valdemar

Baron Løvendal.

1712 - 1712

Claus Henrik Vieregg

Danish vice-governor-general. Died in office.

1713 - 1722

Frederik Krag

Danish noble. Died 1728.

1716 - 1718

Karl XII attempts to break the threat of attack on Sweden by Denmark, England, Hannover, Russia, and Saxony by attacking Norway, a vital part of Denmark's war effort. However, Swedish efforts are largely rebuffed. A repeat with greater numbers in 1718 ends prematurely when Karl is killed by a shot through the brain, and under potentially suspicious circumstances.

1722 - 1731

Ditlev Vibe

Danish noble. Died in office.

1731 - 1733

Patroclus Romeling

Danish noble. Acting statholder.

1733 - 1739

Christian Rantzau

Count Rantzau. Removed from office by the king.

1739 - 1750

Hans Jakob Arnold

Acting statholder. Office remained vacant during this period.

1750 - 1771

Jacob von Benzon

Danish noble. Removed from office.


For the past two centuries, Forest Finns have been settling a swathe of land in Norway from a point about 150 kilometres north of Oslo and covering a long stretch of border land between Norway and Sweden. That border is only now properly established between the two countries.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1721
The Great Northern War of 1700-1721 was Sweden's undoing as it had stretched itself too far - Russia was able to secure Livonia, Estonia, and Ingria, and Prussia gained Nearer-Pomerania in 1720 (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1766 - 1768


Acting statholder. Son of Frederick II of Hessen-Kassel.

1769 - 1772

Soon after becoming the dey of Algiers, Muhammad V demands that the Danish increase their annual tribute. They refuse but three Danish-Norwegian vessels are hijacked shortly afterwards. The Danish-Algerian War results, otherwise known as the Algerian Expedition, or The War Against Algeria. The outcome is not especially favourable for the Scandinavians once Algiers proves that it can defend itself.

1771 - 1809

The Swedish-created post of statholder is vacant during this period. This is largely under Gustavus III of Sweden who reintroduces an absolute monarchy, forcing parliament to accept a secondary role.

Despite two failed military campaigns in 1788-1790, first to capture Norway and then to recapture the Baltic Provinces from Russia, he is still able to restore Sweden's military power and restore to the country some of its former sense of greatness.

Czarina Catherine the Great
The assassination of Czar Peter III and the seizure of the imperial throne by his widow, Catherine (pictured on the balcony at the time of her accession as czarina), resulted in a shift in Russian policy and in its administration of the Baltic Provinces

In 1807, Sweden loses Nearer-Pomerania to Napoleonic France, which occupies it until all of Pomerania is regained by Sweden in 1809. In the same year, 1809, Sweden permanently loses its provinces in Finland to the Russians as a result of the Finnish War.

Only the westernmost of them remain in Swedish hands, and these continue to be referred to as Österland. The disaster triggers a revolt against the king. He is seized by army officers and forced to abdicate in favour of his uncle, Karl XIII. The power of the monarchy is again strictly limited.

In the same period (1807) Denmark is threatened with invasion by Napoleonic France, with the French army massed on its southern border. Napoleon Bonaparte wants the Danish fleet after losing his own at Trafalgar in 1805, so to prevent this, Britain mounts a raid on Copenhagen and captures the fleet.

Napoleon Bonaparte cornwed king of Italy in 1805
As depicted in 'The Coronation of Napoleon', by Jacques-Louis David, Napoleon was crowned king of Italy in Milan, in May 1805, virtually completing his domination of Southern Europe as far east as the Adriatic Sea

1809 - 1810

Christian August

Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg.

1810 - 1813


Son of the landgrave of Hessen-Kassel.

1813 - 1814

Christian Frederik of Denmark

Later Christian VIII of Denmark.


Marcus Gjøe Rosenkrantz

Last Danish statholder. Swedish control established.

1814 - 1905

Denmark loses Norway, which then comes under the rule of Sweden from the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The post of statholder is retained, but now with Swedish nobles fulfilling the duties of office. The brief Norwegian-Swedish War of 1814 does nothing to alter the situation. From 1818, Sweden's new king is Karl XIV, but in Norway he is known as Karl III John.

1814 - 1816

Hans Henrik

Swedish statesman and general. Count von Essen.

1816 - 1818

Carl Carlsson Mörner

Count Mörner of Sweden.

1818 - 1827

Johan August Sandels

Count Sandels of Sweden.

1827 - 1829

Baltzar von Platen

Count von Platen of Sweden. Died in office.

1829 - 1836

The post of statholder is vacant, not for the first time, and seemingly with little urgency to refill the post by King Charles XIV of Sweden, the ex-marshal of the French First Empire.

Swedish Troops in the Napoleonic Wars
Swedish troops were notable in the part they played during the 1813 campaign against Napoleon Bonaparte in Germany, being present at the Battle of the Nations - Leipzig

1836 - 1840

Johan Caspar Herman

Count of Wedel-Jarlsberg in Sweden. Died in office.

1841 - 1856

Severin Løvenskiold

Swedish noble. Oversaw early industrial revolution. Died.

1856 - 1873

The post of statholder is again vacant, primarily due to the role played by the strongly conservative Severin Løvenskiold in distancing his position from Norway's own political establishment. The empty post is formally abolished in 1873. Full rule of Norway returns to the kings of Sweden until 1905.


Tension has been building between Sweden and Norway, which are joined in personal union under the king. The possibility of war is in the air, so it is with tactful negotiation and understanding that Sweden withdraws from the union on 7 June 1905.

King Oscar of Sweden renounces his claim to the Norwegian throne, formally dissolving the union. On 12-13 August a plebiscite is held in which male voters agree to formally end the union with Sweden while only 184 vote against the move. Women collect 250,000 signatures in support of the move.

Prince Carl of Denmark is asked to become the country's new king, and he arrives on 25 November to take his seat on the throne of a newly independent Norway.

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