Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Philippa of England, Beloved in Scandinavia

Philippa of England (born 4 June 1394)


Philippa of England was the youngest child born to Henry Bolingbroke, later Henry IV of England, and his first wife, the great English heiress Mary de Bohun--the two were married on 27 July 1380, and since Mary's birth year is uncertain, some historians indicate she may have been as young as twelve years old (Henry was about fourteen). Their first child, a boy, survived only a few days after his birth in April 1382. By the time of her death twelve years later, Mary de Bohun had given birth to five more children--she died in in 1394, giving birth to her seventh, Philippa. Mary de Bohun died five years before her husband would become king.

A detail from the nineteenth-century
stained glass representation
of Philippa of England,
Vladstena Abbey
Once Henry Bolingbroke became King Henry IV, he arranged advantageous marriages for his two daughters. The elder, Blanche, was married to Louis III, count palatine of the Rhine. To further an alliance with the Kalmar Union (the united sovereign states of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway), Philippa was married to Eric of Pomerania, the heir to Queen Margaret I of Denmark.

The two were married on 26 October 1406 in Lund Cathedral, Sweden. The two spent most of their time after their marriage at their residences in Sweden.

According to his titles, Eric began his reign as king of king of Denmark in 1386, Norway in 1389, and Sweden in 1396, but the reality is that Queen Margaret of Denmark, the daughter of the Danish king Valdemar IV and the widow of the Norwegian king Haakon VI, had formed the Kalmar Union and had been ruling the joined kingdoms as queen regnant from 1388, when she was elected "Sovereign Lady and Ruler"; she continued to govern until her death in 1412.

Queen Margaret's effective rule may well have led to Philippa's successes in Scandinavia. When Eric assumed his full role as ruler, he trusted and relied on her; while her husband was away at war during an extended period from 1423 to 1425, Philippa ruled as regent of the Kalmar Union. She continued her active role in government after the end of her regency, including organizing the defense of Copenhagen against forces of the Hanseatic League in 1428 and embarking on a diplomatic mission to Sweden, where she died on 5 January 1430.

Nineteenth-century stained glass,
Vladstena Abbey
As king, Eric had many good qualities, but he was also hot-tempered, obstinate, and lacking in diplomatic skills. For her diplomacy, her many works of charity for the poor, and her obvious political skills, Philippa earned the respect and love of the people of the Kalmar Union.

Philippa of England was buried in the Abbey of Our Lady and of St. Bridget, more commonly referred to as Vladstena Abbey, founded in 1346 by St. Birgitta of Sweden (about whom I'll be posting next month.

The Abbey Church