Denmark–Norway (Danish and Norwegian: Danmark–Norge) (also known as the Oldenburg Monarchy or the Oldenburg realms) was an early modern multi-national and multi-lingual real union consisting of the Kingdom of Denmark, the Kingdom of Norway (including Norwegian overseas possessions Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, et cetera), the Duchy of Schleswig, and the Duchy of Holstein. The state also claimed sovereignty over two historical peoples: Wends and Goths. In addition, the state included colonies: St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix, Ghana, Tharangambadi, Serampore, and Nicobar Islands. The state’s inhabitants were mainly Danes, Norwegians, and Germans, and also included Faroese, Icelanders and Inuit in the Norwegian overseas possessions, a Sami minority in northern Norway, as well as indigenous peoples and enslaved Africans in the colonies. The state’s main cities were Copenhagen, Christiania (Oslo), Altona, Bergen and Trondheim. The state’s primary official languages were Danish and German.
Olaf II of Denmark inherited the Kingdom of Norway titled as Olaf IV in 1380 after the death of his father, Haakon VI of Norway, who was married to Olaf’s mother Margrete I. Margrete I was ruler of Norway from her son’s death in 1387 until her own death in 1412.
In 1397, Denmark, Norway and Sweden established and formed the Kalmar Union. Following Sweden’s departure in 1523, the union was effectively dissolved. From 1536/1537, Denmark and Norway formed a personal union that would eventually develop into the 1660 integrated state called Denmark–Norway. Prior to 1660 Denmark–Norway was a constitutional and elective monarchy in which the King’s power was limited; in 1660 it became one of the most stringent absolute monarchies in Europe.
The union lasted until 1814, when the Treaty of Kiel decreed that Norway (except for the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland) be “ceded” to Sweden; this however was not recognised by Norway, which successfully resisted the attempt in the 1814 Swedish–Norwegian War and afterwards entered into a much looser personal union with Sweden as one of two equal kingdoms.
In Norway the 434 year union from 1380 until 1814 with Denmark is called the 400 Year Night (400-årsnatten).
Usage and extent
The term “Kingdom of Denmark” is sometimes used to include both countries in the period, since the political and economic power emanated from the Danish capital, Copenhagen. These terms cover the “royal territories” of the Oldenburgs as it was in 1460, excluding the “ducal territories” of Schleswig and Holstein. The administration used two official languages, Danish and German, and for several centuries both a Danish and German Chancery existed.
The term “Denmark–Norway” reflects the historical and legal roots of the union. It is adopted from the Oldenburg dynasty’s official title. The kings always used the style “King of Denmark and Norway, the Wends and the Goths” (Konge til Danmark og Norge, de Venders og Gothers). Denmark and Norway, sometimes referred to as the “Twin Realms” (Tvillingrigerne) of Denmark–Norway, had separate legal codes and currencies, and mostly separate governing institutions. Following the introduction of absolutism in 1660, the centralisation of government meant a concentration of institutions in Copenhagen. Centralisation was supported in many parts of Norway, where the two-year attempt by Sweden to control Trøndelag had met strong local resistance and resulted in a complete failure for the Swedes and a devastation of the province. This allowed Norway to further secure itself militarily for the future through closer ties with the capital Copenhagen.
The term “Sweden–Finland” is sometimes, although with less justification, applied to the contemporary Swedish realm between 1521 and 1809. Finland was never a separate kingdom, and was completely integrated with Sweden, while Denmark was the dominant component in a personal union.