Queen Dagmar overviewing Ribe. Statue by Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen.
Queen Dagmar (about 1186-1212)
In 1205, princess Drakomira of Bohemia was married to the Danish King Valdemar Sejr. She became Queen Dagmar of Denmark and she was very popular amongst the people. She died very young in Ribe, where a statue of her is situated. The famous folk song ”Dronning Dagmar ligger udi Ribe syg” (Queen Dagmar is ill in Ribe) is about Valdemar’s attempt to get to her prior to her death in Ribe.
Drakomira becomes Dagmar
In the beginning of the 1200s, Ribe was one of Denmark’s richest trading towns and an important church center. King Valdemar Sejr (1170-1241) was very successful, but he was missing something: a queen. According to the tale, he had been looking for a suitable wife for a long time and one day a troubadour passed and showed the King a painting of a beautiful young woman. It was princess Drakomira of Bohemia, and the King fell in love immediately. He sent his men to Bohemia to bring Drakomira to Ribe, where she should be crowned Queen of Denmark. Drakomira was the daughter of King Premysl Ottokar and Adela. When Drakomira was young, her parents divorced, which was very unusual at that time. Ottokar had the marriage annulled after 20 years, because he claimed to be related to Adela. Together with her children, six daughters and one son, Adela moved back to Meissen, where she came from. When Drakomira came to Denmark, she got the name Dagmar, meaning ”virgin of the day”.
Queen of the people
In 1205, Dagmar was sailed to Ribe from Meissen to marry the Danish King. The wedding took place at Riberhus Castle in the northwestern corner of town.
According to tradition, the day after the wedding, Dagmar received a morning present from Valdemar, but she had not wanted jewelry or other riches. Instead she wanted all prisoners in Valdemars prisons released and the hight taxes for farmers should be lowered. Valdemar granted both her wishes and Dagmar quickly became a beloved Queen of the people. Unfortunately Dagmar died seven years later in birth bed on Riberhus, just 23 years old. She was buried in Ringsted in St. Bendt’s Church.
Folk songs about Dagmar
Many stories and folk songs exist about Dagmar and Valdemar. The bells of Ribe Cathedral play the melody of ”Dronning Dagmar ligger udi Ribe syg” (Queen Dagmar is ill in Ribe) every day. The song is about how the King and his men rode to Ribe from Skanderborg, when he heard of her illness. He rode so fast that no one could keep up with him. According to the song, Dagmar was dead when he arrived at Riberhus, but she woke up and asked two things of Valdemar: he should pardon all prisoners and outlawed. He granted her this wish. The other wish was for Valdemar to marry Liden Kirsten and not princess Berengeria (Bengerd) of Portugal. He did not grant her this wish, since he married Bengerd (about 1190-1220)two years later.
Dagmar and Bengerd
It is said that Bengerd demanded Samsø and plenty of riches for her wedding. Of course, Valdemar could not give her that, since many were poor and only able to provide for themselves. Instead Bengerd demanded that no women could dress nicely and no peasant could own a good horse. Folk songs tell that Dagmar visited Valdemar in a dream and said that he should take his new wife to war with him. Valdemar did as Dagmar had said and Bengerd died by the enemy’s arrow.
Since Dagmar was such a popular queen, it was hard for Bengerd to live up to her. All she did, made her look like a dark version of kind Dagmar. Folk songs were the newspapers of that time and they made it easy to send a clear message. The folk songs about Queen Dagmar were surely written by her fans.
The myth of Queen Dagmar still lives on in Denmark: the statue on Slotsbanken was created by Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen (1863-1945) and put on in 1913, and one of the two anniversary stamps from Post Danmark has the statue of Queen Dagmar as motive.
Annemette P. Karpen: Dronning Dagmar og hendes tid, 2001.
Helle Kolding: Herrens udvalgte, 2002.
Monarchy in Denmark
Queen Dagmar in front of the ship, taking her to Ribe. Statue by Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen.