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Eric IV of Denmark: Wikis


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Church fresco in Saint Bendt's Church, Ringsted.
Erik plovpenning.jpg

Eric IV (Danish: Erik Plovpenning, 1216 – 9 August 1250), was king of Denmark from 1241 until his death. He was the son of Valdemar II by his wife, Princess Berengária of Portugal, and brother to Abel and Christopher I.


Early life

In 1218, shortly after his birth, he was created Duke of Schleswig. After the death in 1231 of his half-brother Valdemar, the designated heir to the throne, he was crowned king at Lund Cathedral 30 May 1232 as his father's coruler and heir. Subsequently he ceded the Duchy of Schleswig to his younger brother Abel. When his father died in 1241, he automatically acceded to the throne.


His rule was marked by bitter conflicts and civil wars against his brothers. Especially he fought his brother, Duke Abel of Schleswig who seems to have wanted an independent position and who was supported by the counts of Holstein. Eric also fought the Scanian peasants, who rebelled because of his hard taxes, among other things, on ploughs. The number of ploughs a man owned was used as a measure of his wealth (more ploughs, more farmland). This gave the king the epithet "plough-penny", Danish, Plovpenning). Abel and the Holsteiners stormed into Jutland burning and pillaging as far north as Randers in 1247. Eric returned the favor in southern Jutland the following year, and kept a wary eye on Christopher who held Lolland and Falster. A truce was arranged by Eric's sister Sofie which left Eric in firm control of all of Denmark.

At the same time Eric faced trouble from the religious orders who insisted that they were immune from taxes that Eric might assess. Eric wanted the church lands taxed as any other land holder would be. Bishop Niels Stigsen fled Denmark and Eric took Copenhagen and the bishops properties in Zealand as compensation for his troubles with Abel. The pope sent a nuncio to negotiate between the king and the bishops at Odense in 1245. Excommunication was threatened for anyone, great or small who trespassed upon the ancient rights and privileges of the church. It was a clear warning to Eric that the church would not tolerate his continued insistence at assessing church property for tax purposes.

In 1249 the peasants in Scania rose in rebellion against the plow tax. The king restored order with help from Zealand, but the church, Duke Abel, and the German counts in southern Jutland were pushed into an erstwhile alliance against the king.


Erik raised an army and sailed to Estonia to secure his base there in 1249. On his way home in 1250 he took his army to Holstein to prevent the capture of the border fortress of Rendsburg and to teach the German counts who was still king. His brother, Duke Abel of Southern Jutland offered him hospitality at his house at Gottorp in Schleswig. While they sat in the great hall, Duke Abel reminded Erik of the attacks that he had endured early in Erik's reign. "Do you remember that a few years ago your men ravaged this city, and my daughter was forced to run for her life without so much as a pair of shoes for her feet." "I have enough," replied Erik, "that I can give her a pair of shoes." That evening as the king gambled with one of the German knights, the duke's chamberlain and a group of other men rushed in and took the king prisoner. They bound him and dragged him out of the duke's house and down to a boat and rowed out into the Schlien. They were followed out onto the water by a second boat. When King Erik heard the voice of his sworn enemy, Lave Gudmundsen, he realized he was to be killed. The king asked for a priest to hear his last confession, and the conspirators agreed to Erik's request. The king was rowed back to shore; a priest was brought to hear Erik's confession, and then he was rowed back out into the bay. One of the captors was paid to deliver the king's death blow with an ax. Erik was beheaded and his body dumped into the Schlien. The next morning two fishermen dragged the king's headless body up in their net. They carried the body to the Dominican Abbey in Schleswig.

Abel swore that he had nothing to do with the murder. "I hadn't the will to hold him prisoner, let alone murder him," was his reply. Few Danes believed Abel and within a year and a half Abel was killed, many said, struck down by God for his part in Erik IV's death.

Marriage and issue

Eric had only daughters surviving from his marriage with Jutta of Saxony, who he married on 17 November 1239, the most important of whom were:

Eric and Jutta also had two short lived sons; Canute (Knud) and Christopher.

Eric IV of Denmark
House of Estridsen
Born: 1216 Died: 9 August 1250
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Valdemar II
King of Denmark
Succeeded by




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