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Cnut VIII/III
Cnut VIII Denmark (The Kalmar Union).png
Cnut VIII
King of Denmark and Viken
Reign 22nd October, 1551 - 17th January, 1570
Predecessor Eric X
Successor Eric XI
King of Svealand (as Cnut III)
Reign 22nd October, 1551 - 1554
Predecessor Eric XI
Successor John IV
Emperor of 'The Protestant States of Germania and Scandinavia'
Reign 22nd October, 1551 - 17th January, 1570
Predecessor -
Successor Eric I
Born 6th April, 1528
Copenhagen, Denmark
Died 17th January, 1570
Mecklenberg, Denmark
Spouse Amalia of Jülich

Catherine Sophia of Münsterberg-Oels

Issue Dorothea

Estrid
Eric I
Cnut of Jutland
numerous illegitimate children

House Estridsson
Father Eric X
Mother Margarete of Hesse-Kassel

Cnut VIII ruled over a Denmark which gloried in a new expanded role in Europe; as the centre of a new and confident Empire made up of the Protestant states of Germany and much of Scandinavia. However at the same time it finally lost control of Svealand.

The second son of Eric X and Margarete of Hesse-Kassel, Cnut only assumed the position of heir-apparent following his brother Christopher of Rugia's death at the Battle of Töreboda in May 1551. The death of Christopher affected Eric X's health dramatically and Cnut was soon acting as regent for his ailing father. When Eric died in October 1551 Cnut was instantly proclaimed king. His first few years on the throne were a whirl of activity; Svealand was in revolt, Germany in religious war. Failure in the former would lead to success in the latter.

The Danish army was in disarray following Töreboda. John Leijonhufvud was a military commander of a calibre far beyond what Denmark had to offer at the time and Eric X had left most of his forces in Germany; Chancellor Ulrik Pederssen having convinced him that the Svealanders would be starving by Midsummer 1551 and would welcome the Danes with welcome arms. Cnut's forces fared no better than Eric's and succeeded only in occupying Gothenland, forcing King Svante II to pledge his allegiance to Denmark once more. Attempts to capture any major Svealandic fortress were constantly rebuffed as John Leijonhufvud seized control of the organs of the Svealandic state and secured his power-base. In 1554 the Danish presence was finally pushed out of Svealand and John Leijonhufvud was proclaimed King of Svealand by his grateful nobles. And the newly-crowned John IV celebrated his coronation with a surprise attack on Finland. The Danish garrisons there, mostly local Finns and with little hope of being relieved, barely provided any resistance.

Humiliated, Cnut had Pederssen arrested and eventually executed on not-entirely trumped-up charges of embezzlement and treason. In his place he would set the versatile and supremely able Chrisoffer Kaas who had served Cnut as administor of his estates in Viken and Scania. Kaas immediately offered peace terms to John IV, earning himself the emnity of various nobles but probably saving Danish Estonia from invasion in the process. Backed by Cnut who publicly defended Kaas by saying 'I trusted him with my farms and now I trust him with my kingdom', he grasped the reigns of the Danish economy, and slowly brought the Riksdag around to his, and Cnut's, way of thinking; if Scandinavia was peaceful then it could focus its efforts on Germany, just like Olaf the Great had done centuries before. Reorientating Danish focus to the south, Denmark could once again consider the entreaties coming from the German Protestant states; Denmark was meant to be a leading member of the Schmalkaldic League after all. The army's ineffectual commanders were mostly pensioned off and new men of ability, and not-necessarily noble-birth were promoted. It was too late to re-school the entire army in the latest tactics but by 1556 a refreshed army was ready to join the Second Schmalkaldic War in earnest.

‌In 1551 Emperor Charles V had chosen an opportune time to renew war with the Schmalkaldic League; the Protestant states were falling out with each other due to disagreements concerning Calvinism, Denmark was busy with Svealand, and much of the League's military preparations in the previous year had been directed toward a mooted invasion of Prussia and Livonia. Charles' war was complicated by the fact Bohemia had renounced Luxembourg rule for Austria and these two states would not fight for the Catholic side at all in the aftermath. Despite this the Catholic side made good headway against the unprepared and divided Schmalkaldic League. Still, Charles's largely Bavarian and Saxon army was mostly bogged down in Ducal Saxony and by 1553 the German Schmalkaldic states were acting in unison, even if they could not force a victory. Several lucky escapes from otherwise ruinous defeats had kept the Protestant leadership intact but it would be Denmark's entry into the war turned the tables decisively.

Reconciled to John IV, the kings meeting in 1556 in a conference brokered by Svante II, fresh Danish and Svealandic armies entered Germany in early 1557. The first campaigning season achieved a few minor successes and but the decisive blow came the year after at the Battle of Nordlingen. There the Emperor Charles's brother Georg was killed, the Bavarian army comprehensively smashed and much of the baggage train captured. With the jubilant Protestants now marching on Dresden the outgunned Emperor reluctanty sued for peace.

In the aftermath of the First Schmalkaldic War the idea of a Protestant Empire had been mooted however Christopher of Rugia had argued against it, theorising that such an entity would lead to Denmark ceding power to some German princling. In the wake of the stunning victory at the end of the Second Schmalkaldic War however there was a renewed clamour for a rival empire to 'eclipse the corrupt and moribund puppet of the papacy'. Cnut had none of the same qualms as his deceased brother and accepted the title with 'grasping hands and undisguised glee' (as it was described at the time by his supposed ally Christopher I of Hesse-Kassel). His vanity on the rise he commissioned an extravagantly expensive crown to be made (in the end it would never be completed as funds ran out) and a new Imperial palace to be built in Copenhagen. That the Empire ever got off the ground to begin with was largely a product of the efforts of Christopher I, Konrad II of Berg and Cristoffer Kaas rather than Cnut, whose sole contribution appeared to be a willingness to play host and ingratiate himself with his fellow Protestant rulers.

Lade and Svealand, both having relatively recently escaped from Danish control refused to join the Empire, merely allying with it. Henry IV would withdraw Anglia from the Kalmar Union, saying he would not spend a single Gilder on 'petty German wars', and aligning the kingdom with Luxembourg instead. Gothenland and Hordaland both accepted a place within the Empire, being given electorates in reward.

With a period of peace now looming and Cnut attending to new Imperial politics Kaas was largely left alone, or sometimes working with the Queen's council, to manage Denmark. Faced with a likely period of peace he attempted to rout corruption out of the incoherent tax system and would slowly manage to increase the crown's income from the Sound Toll without increasing prices. That Cnut would largely divert much of this increase into his own pockets was something which Kaas did little to oppose and he may have even encourgaed it as a strategy to overawe the German lords with Danish extravagance. While it may have kept the new Imperial title in Danish hands it did little to shore up the treasury.

In 1557 Denmark occupied a string of islands in the Taino Sea. The first of Denmark's overseas possessions this gave Danish merchants an important foothold in the region, but during Cnut's reign it did not immediately prove profitable as the navy was relatively small and still mostly engaged in trade with Northern Leifia. Indeed the Riksdag questioned its usefulness on several occasions. In 1563 a new navy was ordered which Cnut hoped would compete in earnest with Luxembourg and Anglia's growing fleets, however Cnut and the Riksdag refused to spend enough to achieve this goal, perhaps rightly pointing out 'Saxony does not have a coastline'.

Supposedly Cnut never truly overcame the early death of his first wife Amalia of Jülich in 1547. His second wife Charlotte Sophia would spend much of his reign in Copenhagen whilst he spent time in Germany taking a long-succession of not-particularly secret mistresses. That five of his children with the mistresses, out of potentially many more, were officially recognised and given land and titles, was an extra bone of contention between the couple. Cnut supposedly gave the freshly-occupied Taino islands as a gift to his estranged wife (hence their unofficial name of the Charlotte Sophia Islands) following the recognition of one illegitimate child.

Cnut died in early 1570. His eldest legitimate son Eric would succeed to the Danish throne and would be confirmed as Schmalkaldic Emperor later in the year.


Family

Cnut married Amalia of Jülich in 1544. They had a single child.

  • Dorothea (1546-1587)

Following Amalia's death in 1547 he would marry Charlotte Sophia of Münsterberg-Oels in 1548. They had three children:

  • Estrid (1549-1562)
  • Eric XI (1551-1605)
  • Cnut of Jutland (1554-1611)

It is known that Cnut took a steady stream of misstresses, fathering numerous children. Several were formally recognised:

  • Torben, Count of Ejdersted (1550-1586)
  • Christopher, Count of Kiel (1555-1600)
  • Kristina Jernskjaeg (1563-1621) reportedly Cnut's favourite child
  • Oluf, Count of Haslev (1566-1574)
  • Augusta Huitfeldt (1566-1631)

Ancestry

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