Olaf II of Denmark

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Olaf II and IV
Kong Olav Magnusson PI XVIII 1.jpg
Olaf as depicted on his royal seal, with the shield of Norway (left) and Denmark (right)
King of Denmark
Reign3 May 1376 – 3 August 1387
PredecessorValdemar IV
SuccessorMargaret I
King of Norway
Reign29 July 1380 – 3 August 1387
PredecessorHaakon VI
Born(1370-12-00)December 1370
Akershus Castle, Oslo
Died3 August 1387(1387-08-03) (aged 16)
Falsterbo Castle, Falsterbo
Danish: Oluf Håkonsen
Norwegian: Olav Håkonsson
FatherHaakon VI of Norway
MotherMargaret I of Denmark
ReligionRoman Catholicism
Memorial plate commemorating King Olaf at the site of his death.

Olaf II of Denmark (December 1370 – 3 August 1387)[1][2] was King of Denmark as Olaf II (though occasionally referred to as Olaf III[3][4]) from 1376 and King of Norway as Olaf IV from 1380 until his death. Olaf was the son of Queen Margaret I of Denmark and King Haakon VI of Norway, and grandson of kings Magnus IV of Sweden and Valdemar IV of Denmark.


When his grandfather Valdemar IV of Denmark died, Olaf was just five years old. He was proclaimed king of Denmark by a Danehof in Slagelse the following year. His mother, Queen Margaret, was to serve as regent due to his young age. His proclamation included the title "true heir of Sweden" added at his mother's insistence since his paternal grandfather, Magnus IV, had been king of Sweden until forced to abdicate. Olaf was hailed as king in Scania, including the towns controlled by the Hanseatic league since the Treaty of Stralsund in 1370. Queen Margaret signed a coronation charter on behalf of Olaf, who was too young to rule until he came of age at fifteen. In the charter Olaf agreed to meet with the Danehof at least once a year and return properties his grandfather Valdemar IV had confiscated during his reign.[5]

Olaf became king of Norway on his father's death in 1380. Even when Olaf reached his majority in 1385, his mother ruled through him. With his ascent to the Norwegian throne, Denmark and Norway were thus united in a personal union ruled from Denmark. Denmark and Norway would have the same king, with the exception of short interregnums, until Norway's independence from Denmark in 1814.

Death and aftermath[edit]

Olaf died unexpectedly at Falsterbohus in August 1387 at age 16. He was buried at Sorø Abbey on the Danish island of Zealand where his grandfather and, later, his mother, were also buried. Rumors immediately arose that Olaf had been poisoned. Following her son's death, Margaret united all three Scandinavian kingdoms in a personal union.[6] After Olaf, no Norwegian king was to be born on Norwegian soil for more than 550 years, until Harald V in 1937. Olaf's death was also the end of the male line of the House of Bjelbo in Sweden.

Prussian historian Johan von Posilge reported that in 1402 a "poor sick man came to the country and stayed near the village of Grudziądz. A group of merchants from Denmark asked him if he was not well known in Denmark, since he looked very much like the late King Olaf. The merchants left to find another who had seen the king and returned with him. When the newcomer saw the one they took for Olaf, he cried out, "My lord king!" Many people especially in Norway did not believe that Olaf had died. They thought Queen Margaret had poisoned young Olaf to get him out of the way, so she could rule. According to the rumors, young Olaf hid himself and escaped. The news reached a merchant, Tyme von der Nelow, who took the man to Gdańsk. The high born of the town welcomed Olaf as the rightful King of Denmark and Norway and gave him fine clothes and presents. A seal was made for him, and he wrote to Queen Margaret informing her that he was her son and demanded the restoration of his lands and titles. Queen Margaret wrote back saying that if he could prove himself her son, she would gladly accept him.

The Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights escorted the pretender to Kalmar to be interviewed by the queen. As soon as the man arrived he was discovered to be an impostor. He could speak not a single word of Danish and on questioning admitted he was a Prussian who was the son of peasants: Adolph and Margaret from Eger. The false Olaf was taken to Lund in Scania. There he admitted to his breach against the monarchy and was condemned to be burned at the stake. The letters he wrote to Queen Margaret were hung around his neck and a mock crown placed on his head before he was lowered into the flames. His possessions were given to a monastery, and the queen had the false Olaf's seal destroyed. The Danish National Council released a detailed explanation of the real Olaf's death in 1387 to contradict the story that had spread around the Baltic.[7][8]


  1. ^ Etting, Vivian, Queen Margrete I, 1353-1412, and the Founding of the Nordic Union, Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2004, p. 54.
  2. ^ Brenner, S. Otto, Nachkommen Gorms des Alten (König von Dänemark -936-) I.-VVI. Generation, Stuttgart: Silberburg-Verlag, 1965, p. 122.
  3. ^ Nielsen, Kay: Danmarks konger og dronninger, Copenhagen, 1980. (pp. 36-37)
  4. ^ Overskov, Carsten: Fra Gorm til Margrethe. De første tusind år på topposten, Kolding, 2005. (pp. 8 & 58)
  5. ^ Danmarks Historie IIwww.perbenny.dk
  6. ^ Huitfeldt, Arild. Danmarks riges Krønike
  7. ^ Rosborn+ När hände vad i nordens historia 1996. p.69.ISBN 91-7643-350-1
  8. ^ Williams, Gareth.Sagas,Saints,and Settlements.

Other sources[edit]

  • Albrectsen, Esben Danmark-Norge 1380–1814. B. 1 Fællesskabet bliver til : 1380–1536 (Danske historiske forening. 1981)
Olav IV/Olaf II
Born: 1370 Died: 23 August 1387
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Valdemar IV
King of Denmark
Succeeded by
Margaret I
Preceded by
Haakon VI
King of Norway