Queen Dagmar –  Queen of Denmark

Queen Dagmar was married to the Danish King Valdemar II the Victorious.
Queen Dagmar was – and is – also one of the most loved Queens who ever lived in Denmark although most of our knowledge of her is based on legends and old Danish folk ballads.Queen Dagmar, Ribe, Denmark. Statue at the rampart of Riberhus Castle

Queen Dagmar lies ill in Ribe

One of the best known medieval folk ballads in Denmark is called  “Queen Dagmar lies ill in Ribe” (“Dronning Dagmar ligger i Ribe syg”).

Queen Dagmar lies ill in Ribe
To Ringsted she is expected.
She has sent for
all the ladies in Denmark
(Refrain) In Ringsted Queen Dagmar is buried

Dagmar was the Bohemian princess Margaret

Margaret of Bohemia was the daughter of the Bohemian king Premysl Ottokar I and Adela of Meissen. She seemed to have the Slavic byname Dragomir (the peace-loving).
In 1205 she was married to the Danish King Valdemar the Victorious (Valdemar II). In Denmark she was given the name Dagmar (today’s maid – the bright and friendly woman).
In 1209 she gave birth to a son, Valdemar den Unge (Valdemar the Young). Already in 1212,  seven years after her arrival in Denmark, the young queen died, and was buried in St. Bendts Church in Ringsted on Zealand – the same place as the King’s parents King Valdemar the Great (Valdemar I) and his Queen Sophia of Minsk were buried.

The Legend about Queen Dagmar

The rest of what we know about Queen Dagmar comes from legends, myths and 6 different ballads.
Dagmar is described as very popular and beautiful, and she is said to have done many good deeds for the Danes.

It was said about her that:
“She came without burden, she came with peace;
She came the good peasant to cheer”

As said before, the best known ballad is “Dronning Dagmar ligger i Ribe syg” (“Queen Dagmar lies ill in Ribe”). The ballad tells the tale of Dagmar’s sickbed and King Valdemar’s wild ride along with 100 men all the way from the city of Skanderborg 120 kilometres away before he reached the dying queen at Riberhus. When he arrived in Ribe, he was alone – the men could not keep up with him.

“When the king rode out of Skanderborg
Him followed a hundred men.
But when he rode over Ribe Bridge,
The king was riding alone”

When King Valdemar arrived Queen Dagmar was already dead, but woke up and asked three things of the King: To free all prisoners and release all outlaws of their bonds; not to marry Princess Berengaria (Bengerd) of Portugal; and lastly, to make sure that their youngest son Knud was made King of Denmark.
King Valdemar freed the prisoners, but two years later he married Berengaria, the daughter of King Sancho I of Portugal.

King Valdemar II the Victorious. (1170 – 1241)

King Valdemar was closely attached to Ribe and Riberhus Castle was one of his preferred castles.
Valdemar is one of the greatest medieval Danish kings. He is mostly known for his successful crusade to the Baltic States, which was compared to a crusade to the Holy Land by the Pope. According to legend a red cloth with a white cross fell from the sky during the battle of Lyndanisse (Tallinn) in Estonia in 1219, and since then the Danish flag, Dannebrog, has looked like that. The Estonian capital, Tallinn, was originally founded by Valdemar the Victorious and Tallinn means Danish City.

In 1241 the Jutlantic Law was established by Valdemar II the Victorious in Viborg, Jutland. In his foreword to the law the king said these wise words: “With law shall land be built, but would everyone be content with his own belongings, no law would be necessary at all.” This law was from the beginning meant for Jutland, but was later the basis of the formation of the Danish State and the Danish Law.
The king died shortly after the Jutlantic Law had been issued and he was buried in Ringsted like both his wives, Dagmar and Berengária.

The uppermost triangular relief on the old main entrance (Kathoveddøren) to Ribe Cathedral is most likely from the time of Valdemar the Victorious (see photo on the bottom of this page). It is assumed that it depicts King Valdemar passing a cross to the Virgin Mary. Next to the King is Queen Bengerd, whom he married against the last will of Dagmar, and under the King’s head is a picture of Queen Dagmar’s head.

The Queen Dagmar Cross

Dagmarkorset (The Queen Dagmar Cross), a lovely piece of jewellery, is named after Queen Dagmar.  The one you see on the picture is the original cross found in Dagmar’s grave in Ringsted. It is probably of Byzantine origin and is now to be seen in the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. See photo at the bottom of this page.
The Dagmar Cross, made in silver, is a traditional christening gift for girls in Denmark.

Riberhus Castle. Engraving 1588. A medieval Danish castle in Ribe, Denmark. Georgii Braunii :Theatrum Urbium

Riberhus Castle – a medieval castle for Danish kings

For several centuries during the Middle Ages, Riberhus Castle was a popular resort for the Danish kings, who at that time did not stay at any one castle but travelled from one part of the country to another in order to keep an eye on the state of the kingdom.
Ribe was one of the most important cities in Denmark; it was the country’s trading harbour to the west and border town to the duchy of Slesvig in the south. That is why for centuries, Riberhus Castle was the outpost of both Ribe and all of Denmark. Riberhus Castle was probably erected in the beginning of the 12th century by King Niels, who in 1127 celebrated the wedding of his son Magnus here “where the harbour is swarming with ships bringing wonderful goods to the town from all over the world” as the famous Danish historian Saxo has put it.
From around 1200 until the end of the 14th century, Riberhus was one of the Danish kings’ favourite castles. Following this period, it fell into some decay. The wars of the 17th century took their toll on the castle. The Swedes occupied it, and in 1644 the Danish general Christian Rantzau had his men fire at them with cannons from the tower of Ribe Cathedral. After the wars, the castle was almost ruined and from 1685, Riberhus Castle was used as a quarry. Everything was removed and its present state is due to the restoration that took place in the 1940s.
On Riberhus Slotsbanke (the rampart of Riberhus Castle) a statue of the popular Queen Dagmar beholds the city of Ribe. Queen Dagmar is one of the most important characters associated with Riberhus Castle. Nowadays the rampart and moat of the former Riberhus Castle is still a popular destination due to its beautiful scenery. A little paradise for walking in all seasons