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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Margaret of Scandinavia

b. 1353, Søborg, Denmark; d. 1412, Flensborg, Denmark

Through political acumen, diplomatic maneuvering, and sheer force of will, Margaret united the Scandinavian kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The daughter of King Valdemar IV of Denmark, Margaret was betrothed to Haakon, king of Norway, at the age of six, and educated at the Norwegian court under the tutelage of Märta Ulfsdotter, a daughter of the Swedish saint Bridget. Margaret and Haakon married in 1363; their only son, Olaf, was born in 1370. The death of her father in 1375 and her husband in 1380 made her queen-regent of Denmark and Norway. Driven by a desire to expand her domain and to prevent further German encroachments into Scandinavia, she allied with Swedish nobles opposed to the usurper king, Albert of Mecklenburg. In 1388, they declared her the rightful ruler of Sweden, although she did not definitively defeat Albert’s supporters until 1398. Meanwhile, in 1397, her great-nephew, Erik of Pomerania, was crowned king of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, thus marking the beginning of the Kalmar Union. Erik ruled in name only; Margaret remained the true sovereign until her death in 1412.