Dithmarschen 1500

In 1473 Emperor Frederick III. enfiefed King Christian I. of Denmark with Dithmarschen - a political act with no immediate consequence as Dithmarschen was a peasant republic which regarded the Counts of Holstein and the Kings of Denmark their political enemies, and which rejected feudal rule in general. The issue of legitimate rule over Dithmarschen, from the Emperor's point of view, had only come up, as Dithmarschen repeatedly had rejected invitations to send representatives to the Imperial diet (and to share in the costs of what was decided at the diet). Dithmarschen had taken the position of being under the nominal sovereignty of the Archbishop of Bremen. The 1473 enfiefment, however, provided the Kings of Denmark with an excuse to launch an expedition against Dithmarschen any time they liked, notwithstanding the fact that Pope Sixtus IV. confirmed - at the request of the Dithmarschers - the Archbishop of Bremen as the sovereign of Dithmarschen 1477, and that Emperor Frederick III. in 1481 nullified the act.
In 1499 the opportunity for a decisive strike against Dithmarschen seemed to have come, as King Hans (Johann) of Denmark just had been recognized as King by the notoriously rebellious Swedes, thus having restored the Kalmar Union, while Dithmarschen was at odds with the Hanseatic city of Hamburg, her traditional ally (since 1468 Dithmarschen was allied with the Hanseatic cities).
In 1500 King Hans lead an army of Danish and northern German Knights as well as of mercenaries (landsknechts), in total c. 12,000 men, into Dithmarschen. The invading army outnumbered the force the land of Dithmarschen could muster under the best of circumstances by two to one; trusting into their superior numbers, arms and fighting experience, the invaders were confident and careless. The army plundered Meldorf - Dithmarschen's capital (February 13th), and on February 17th near Hemmingstedt, on terrain soaked by rain, and partially flooded by the defenders, was routed by a force of poorly armed Dithmarschers, who made best use of the terrain. The number of the defenders, in various sources, is estimated at c. 300, c. 1,000 or c. 3,000. King Hans managed to escape; 360 Danish nobles were slain.
The campaign has cost King Hans 200,000 fl.

The peasant republic fell to another Danish invasion in 1559.

Kampanjen mot Ditmarskerna 1500, from Svenskt Militärhistoriskt Bibliotek, in Swedish
Hemmingstedt, from Schleswig-Holstein von A bis Z, in German
Die Schlacht bei Hemmingstedt, by Frank Stegemann, in German
Die Schwarze Garde, from Kriegsreisende, in German
Die Schlacht von Hemmingstedt, from Spuren bäuerlichen Selbstbewusstseins in Dithmarschen, in German, scholarly & extensive
Ein wenig Dithmarscher Geschichte (A bit of Dithmarschen History), from Bauer und Bonde, in German
DOCUMENTS Falne adelige i slaget ved Hemmingstedt i Ditmarschen 17.2 1500: Westphalens liste 1745, from Ridderskap og Adel i Schleswig og Holstein 1500-1600, in Danish
Liste der am 17.02.1500 bei Hemmingstedt gefallenen Ritter und Knappen auf Seiten der Schleswig - Holsteinischen Ritterschaft, posted by Frank Stegemann, in German
Ditmarsie, from Heraldique Europeenne, French-language site (Coat of Arms)

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on March 25th 2004, last revised on November 18th 2004

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