Open main menu

Eric IV, also known as Eric Ploughpenny or Eric Plowpenny (Danish: Erik Plovpenning), (c. 1216 – 10 August 1250) was king of Denmark from 1241 until his death in 1250. He was the son of Valdemar II of Denmark by his wife, Berengaria of Portugal, and brother of King Abel of Denmark and King Christopher I of Denmark [1]

Eric IV Ploughpenny
Erik d4 Plovpenning.jpg
Church fresco in St Bendt's Church, Ringsted.
King of Denmark
Coronation30 May 1232
PredecessorValdemar II the Victorious & Valdemar the Young
Senior kingValdemar II
Bornc. 1216
Died10 August 1250 (aged 33–34)
on the bay of the Schlei, near Gottorf Castle
ConsortJutta of Saxony
among others...
Sophia, Queen of Sweden
Ingeborg, Queen of Norway
Jutta, Abbess of St. Agneta
Agnes, Abbes of St. Agneta
Full name
Eric Valdemarsen
FatherValdemar II the Victorious
MotherBerengaria of Portugal
ReligionRoman Catholicism


Early lifeEdit

Eric was born in 1216 as the second legitimate son of King Valdemar II by his second wife Berengária of Portugal.[2] In 1218, when his older half-brother Valdemar was crowned king as their father's co-ruler and designated heir, he was created Duke of Schleswig. After the premature death of Valdemar in 1231, Eric in his turn was crowned king at Lund Cathedral 30 May 1232 as his father's co-ruler and heir. Subsequently, he ceded the Duchy of Schleswig to his younger brother Abel. When his father died in 1241, he automatically ascended to the throne. [3]


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). [4]

Eric had only been king for about a year when he first came into conflict with his brother, Duke Abel of Schleswig, in 1242. The conflict lasted for two years before the brothers agreed on a truce in 1244 and made plans for a joint crusade to Estonia. 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. 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. [5]

Infuriated, in 1249 King Eric directed his rage at Niels Stigsen, Bishop of the Diocese of Roskilde who fled Denmark the same year. Eric confiscated the bishopric's properties in Zealand, including the emerging city of Copenhagen, as compensation for his troubles with Abel. In spite of intervention from Pope Innocent IV who advocated the reinstatement of the bishop and the return of the properties to the diocese, the dispute could not be resolved. Niels Stigsen died in 1249 in the Clairvaux Abbey and the properties were not restored to the diocese until after the death of King Eric in 1250. [6]

In the meantime, the conflict between King Eric and his brothers had broken out again in 1246. The conflict started when Eric invaded Holstein in an attempt to restore his father's control of the county. Duke Abel of Schleswig, himself married to a daughter of Adolf IV, Count of Holstein and former guardian of his brothers-in-law, the two young counts of Holstein John I and Gerhard I, forced King Eric to abandon his conquest. The following year, Abel and the Holsteiners stormed into Jutland and Funen, burning and pillaging as far north as Randers and Odense. Abel was supported by the Hanseatic League city of Lübeck, as well as by his brothers Christopher, Lord of Lolland and Falster and Canute, Duke of Blekinge. [7]

King Eric retaliated immediately, reconquering the city of Ribe and occupying Abel’s patrimonial city of Svendborg the same year. In 1247, he captured the castle of Arreskov on Funen, as well as taking Christopher and Canute prisoners. A truce was arranged by Eric's sister Sophie of Denmark (ca 1217-1247) who was the wife of John I, Margrave of Brandenburg (c. 1213-1266). The terms of the accord left Eric in firm control of all of Denmark.

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. 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 (ca. 1195–1252), 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; his body was later transferred to St. Bendt's Church, Ringsted in 1257. [8][9]

His brother Abel was sworn in as the successor king. Abel contended he had nothing to do with the murder. Few Danes believed Abel and within a year and a half, Abel himself was killed. He was succeeded as king of Denmark by his younger brother Christopher. [10]

Marriage and issueEdit

Eric was married on 17 November 1239 with Jutta of Saxony daughter of Albert I, Duke of Saxony (c. 1175–1260).[11]They were the parents of:



  1. ^ "Erik 4. Plovpenning, 1216-50". Danmarks Historien. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e Line 2007, p. 581.
  3. ^ "Berengaria (ca. 1197-1221)". Dansk Kvindebiografisk Leksikon. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  4. ^ "Erik Plovpenning". Danmarks Konger. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  5. ^ "Den hellige Erik Plovpenning (1216-1250)". Den katolske kirke. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  6. ^ "Niels Stigsen". Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  7. ^ "Christoffer 1., ca. 1219-1259". Danmarks Historien. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  8. ^ "The Monastery of Ringsted and the St. Bendt's Church". Visit Ringsted. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  9. ^ "Lave Gudmundsen". Dansk Biografisk Leksikon. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  10. ^ "Christoffer 2. 1276-1332". Danmarks Historien (Aarhus University). Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  11. ^ "Albrecht I. (Albert)". Deutsche Biographie. Retrieved August 1, 2018.


  • Line, Philip (2007). Kingship and State Formation in Sweden: 1130 - 1290. (Brill Publishers). ISBN 978-90-47-41983-9
  • Bain, Robert Nisbet (1905) Scandinavia: A Political History of Denmark, Norway and Sweden from 1513 to 1900 (Cambridge: University Press)
Eric IV of Denmark
Born: 1216 Died: 10 August 1250
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Valdemar II
as sole king
King of Denmark
Duke of Estonia

with Valdemar II (1232–1241)
Succeeded by
Duke of Schleswig