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Dorothea of Brandenburg

Dorothea of Brandenburg Queen consort of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden

Queen consort of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Queen consort of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden
A.K.A. Dorothea von Brandenburg
Countries Germany
Occupations Queen consort
Gender female
Birth 1430 (Brandenburg)
Death 10 November 1495 (Kalundborg)
Mother: Barbara of Saxe-Wittenberg
Father: John, Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach
Siblings: Barbara of Brandenburg Elisabeth of Brandenburg
Spouse: Christopher of BavariaChristian I of Denmark
Children: John, King of DenmarkFrederick I of DenmarkMargaret of Denmark, Queen of Scotland
The details

Dorothea of Brandenburg (1430/1431 – 10 November 1495) was Queen consort of Denmark (1445–1448 and 1449–1481), Norway (1445–1448 and 1450–1481), and Sweden (1447–1448 and 1457–1464) two times each by marriage to Christopher of Bavaria and Christian I of Denmark. She served as interim regent during the interregnum in 1448, and as regent in the absence of her second spouse during his reign.

She was the mother of two future kings of Denmark: John, King of Denmark who reigned from 1481 until 1513; Frederick I of Denmark who reigned from 1523 until 1533.

Early life

Dorothea was born in 1430 or 1431 to John, Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, and Barbara of Saxe-Wittenberg (1405–1465). She had two sisters: Barbara (1423–1481), who became Marchioness of Mantua, and Elisabeth (14??-1451), who became Duchess of Pomerania.

From about the age of eight, she lived in Bayreuth, where her father was ruler. In 1443, Christopher of Bavaria, the newly elected King of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, inherited Oberpfalz close to Bayreuth, and a marriage was suggested between Christopher and Dorothea to secure her father's support for Christopher's power over his German domain. The engagement was proclaimed prior to the application of Papal dispensation for affinity in February 1445, which was approved 10 March.

Marriage to Christopher of Bavaria

On 12 September 1445, the wedding ceremony was conducted between Christopher and Dorothea in Copenhagen, followed by the coronation of Dorothea as queen. The King had financed it with a special tax in all three Kingdoms, and the occasion is described as one of the most elaborate in Nordic Medieval history. The festivities lasted for eight days and was attended by the Princes of Braunschweig, Hesse and Bavaria and envoys of the Hanseatic League and the Teutonic Order as well as the nobility of Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Dorothea made her entrance in the city escorted by noblemen from all three Kingdoms dressed in gold riding on white horses, and crowned Queen of Denmark, Sweden and Norway by bishops from all three Kingdoms with the golden crown from the Vadstena Abbey. On 15 September, she was granted dowers in all three Kingdoms: Roskilde, Ringsted, Haraldsborg and Skioldenses in Denmark; Jämtland in Norway, and Örebro, Närke and Värmland in Sweden. Should she chose to live outside of Scandinavia as a widow, she would instead be given a fortune of 45,000 Rhine guilders, one third from each Kingdom.

Queen Dorothea left for Sweden with the King in January 1446, where they visited Vadstena Abbey and her dower Örebro. During this visit, she met her future antagonist Charles, Lord High Constable of Sweden. According to the chronicle Karlskrönikan, their meeting was a good one during which presented her and her ladies-in-waiting with many gifts. The couple returned to Denmark in September. The marriage between Dorothea and Christopher was politically favorable: her father governed Christopher's German domain and was a loyal supporter and adviser. It did not result in any offspring, however, and according to Ericus Olai, the marriage was in fact not sexually active.

In January 1448, King Christopher died childless, which resulted in a succession crisis that immediately broke the Kalmar Union of the three Kingdoms. Queen dowager Dorothea, being the only royal in Denmark, was proclaimed interim regent of Denmark until a new monarch could be elected. In Sweden, however, the Lord High Constable was elected as King Charles VIII, who was soon elected king of Norway as well. In September, Christian of Oldenburg was elected monarch as Christian I of Denmark and the queen dowager turned over the power to him upon his election.

Marriage to Christian I of Denmark

Queen Dorothea was given a proposal from king Casimir IV of Poland and Albert VI, Archduke of Austria, but she chose to remain in Denmark and marry the newly elected king, Christian I of Denmark. The wedding ceremony was conducted 26 October 1449, followed by the coronation of Christian and herself as king and queen of Denmark. She renounced her existing dower lands in Denmark and Norway, which were replaced with Kalundborg and Samsø in Denmark, and Romerike in Norway, but refused to renounce her Swedish dower lands. The election of Charles as king in Sweden and Norway deprived her of her dower lands in these kingdoms, and her as well as Christian's ambition was to have Christian crowned in Sweden and Norway as well, and thereby reunite the shattered Kalmar Union.

Christian was crowned in Norway as well in 1450. The task to win back Sweden was more difficult, and Dorothea upheld as several years long campaign recruiting followers among the Swedish clerics and nobility, to which she stated that their elected king Charles VIII, as her former Lord Constable and subject, was to be regarded as an usurper and a traitor who had broken his vow by depriving her, his former queen, of her dower lands in Sweden. In 1455, she also appealed to the Pope. In February 1457 her campaign was crowned with success when the rebellion of Archbishop Jöns Bengtsson Oxenstierna deposed Charles VIII, who fled to Germany, and in July 1457, Christian was elected king of Sweden, thereby again uniting the union of the three Nordic kingdoms. Dorothea made an official entry in Stockholm in December, and her Swedish dower lands was returned to her: in May 1458, further more, the Swedish council approved her and Christian's wish that their sons be secured the succession to the Swedish throne, a position they had already been secured in Denmark and Norway. The king and queen returned to Denmark in July.

In 1460, Christian bought the Duchy of Schleswig and Holstein, which placed him in debt, forced him to raise taxes and destroyed his support in Sweden, who again elected Charles VIII as king in 1464. The loss of Sweden was reportedly a blow to queen Dorothea, who started a life long campaign to have her spouse (and later her son) again elected king of Sweden, to restore the Kalmar Union of the three Kingdoms and to retrieve her Swedish dower lands. The loss of her personal dower lands enabled her to personally pursue the Swedish cause in court, and she sued Charles VIII before the Pope in Rome for depriving her of her dower lands. When Charles VIII was succeeded as the regent of Sweden by Sten Sture the Elder, she pursued her case against him. In 1475, she traveled to Italy and visited her sister Barbara in Mantua, and the Pope Sixtus IV in Rome, and formally applied to have Sten Sture excommunicated. By use of an excommunication, the Swedish regent would be unable to govern and the Swedish kingdom would be economically and politically ruined, which would result in the fall of the Swedish regent and the election of the Danish king as king of Sweden, which was a policy she withheld and worked for her last twenty years.

In Denmark, queen Dorothea was granted the Slotsloven, which gave her the right to command all the castles in Denmark, and she served as regent whenever the king was absent. Her personal wealth also gave her influence. When king Christian acquired Holstein and Schleswig in 1460 and was unable to pay, she loaned him the amount necessary to by these domains and incorporate them to Denmark. By 1470, she had de facto seized control over Holstein and Schleswig: when Christian was unable to pay back the loan she had given him to buy the domains, she took over the rule of Holstein (1479) and Schleswig (1480) herself and ruled them as her own fiefs. After the death of her father in 1464, she battled her uncle Frederick II, Elector of Brandenburg, over the inheritance.

Queen Dorothea has been described as efficient and ambitious, haughty and frugal.

Queen Dowager

Christian I died in 21 May 1481 and was succeeded by her son John, King of Denmark. As queen dowager, she preferred to reside at Kalundborg Castle. She remained politically active during the reign of her son until her death. She granted the Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein to her younger son Frederick, but it caused a conflict with her elder son and ended in the division of the Duchy between her sons.

Dorothea continued with her ambition to reunite the Kalmar Union of the Nordic Kingdoms, now by her having her son elected king of Sweden rather than her spouse, by means of ousting the Swedish regent through an excommunication officially for the theft of her Swedish dower lands. I January 1482, she stated this plan for her son the king, and in 1488, she made a second trip to her sister Barbara in Mantua, meeting the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III in Innsbrück on the way, and visited Pope Innocent VIII in Rome, were she again pressed the matter of an excommunication of the Swedish regent and place the kingdom of Sweden under Interdict. It was with great difficulty that the Swedish envoy in Rome, Hemming Gadh, managed to prevent this. The queen dowager continued this process until her death: the matter was not resolved until three years after her death, when her son, the year prior elected king of Sweden, stated that he did not wish to pursue the matter further. Though she died two years before her son was elected king of Sweden, her work is regarded to have contributed to this outcome.

Dorothea died on 25 November 1495, and is interred next to her second spouse in Roskilde Cathedral.


Name Birth Death Notes
Olaf 1450 1451
Canute 1451 1455
John 2 February 1455 20 February 1513 King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Had issue.
Margaret 23 June 1456 14 July 1486 Married King James III of Scotland in 1469. Had issue.
Frederick I 7 October 1471 10 April 1533 King of Denmark and Norway. Had issue.


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