Valdemar I of Denmark

Valdemar I the Great (1131-1182) was King of Denmark from 1157 until 1182.

He was the son of Canute Lavard, a chivalrous and popular Danish prince, eldest son of Eric I of Denmark. His father was murdered only days before his birth. His mother, a Russian princess, named him after her grandfather, Vladimir Monomakh of Kiev.

As one heir to the throne and with his rivals quickly gaining power he was raised at the court of Asser Rig of Fjenneslev together with Asser's son Absalon who would become his trusted friend and minister.

When Valdemar was sixteen years old King Erik III abdicated and a civil war erupted. The pretenders were Sweyn (Grathe) son of Eric II, Canute son of Magnus who was son of king Niels, and Valdemar himself (he was holding Jutland (at least southern Jutland) as his possession). The civil war lasted the better part of ten years.

In 1157 king Sweyn hosted a great banquet for Canute, Absalon and Valdemar. This banquet was designed to dispose Sweyn of all his rivals. King Canute was killed but Absalon and Valdemar escaped. Valdemar returned to Jutland were Sweyn quickly launched an invasion only to be defeated by Valdemar and killed during flight, supposedly by a group of peasants who stumbled upon him as he was fleeing the battlefield. Valdemar had outlived all his rival pretenders and became sole King of Denmark.

In 1158 Absalon was elected as bishop of Roskilde and Valdemar made him his chief friend and advisor. He reorganized and rebuilt wartorn Denmark and at the instigation of Absalon declared war upon the Wends who inhabited Pomerania and the island of Rügen. In 1168 the Wendish capital of Arkona was taken and the Wends became Christians and subject to Danish suzeranity. Danish influence reached into Pomerania.

Valdemar's reign saw the rise of Denmark, which reached its zenith under his second son Valdemar. Valdemar I died in 1182 and was succeeded by his first son Canute VI.

Valdemar married Sophia of Polacak (daughter of Rahvalod Barysavič, Duke of Duchy of Polacak) and had the following children:

Preceded by:
Sweyn III
King of Denmark
Succeeded by:
Canute VI

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