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Middle Ages without borders: a conversation on medievalism

Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri
Pierre Savy
Lila Yawn

c) Political medievalisms 1

1) For king and country. Politics and nationalism in Sander’s Niels Ebbesen of Nörreriis (1797)

Berit Merete Kjærulff

Texte intégral

1At the beginning of the Age of Revolutions, Denmark’s literary scene saw a sudden, renewed interest in the medieval Danish freedom fighter Niels Ebbesen. Niels Ebbesen had won his renown by killing the tyrant count Gerhard and thereby ending the 1332-1340 Interregnum and paving the way for the reinstitution of the Danish monarchy. In much of the new literature about Niels Ebbesen, he was reinterpreted as on the one hand a defender of civil liberties and on the other a guard of monarchy. This paper examines how the character of Niels Ebbesen was employed in order to experiment with uniting republican conditions with a monarchical form of government in one of the most popular recreations of the story—Christian Levin Sander’s 1797 play Niels Ebbesen of Nörreriis (Niels Ebbesen af Nörreriis). The play uses the unstable historical situation of the Interregnum as a backdrop for discussion about the requirements for a good regent, the Danish form of government, rights to the throne, national identity, and loyalty to king and homeland. The paper argues that the play’s medievalism makes it function as an echo chamber for considering political questions pertinent to the Age of Revolution about national identity and forms of government, and in particular how to ensure the republican liberties in increasing demand in Europe. The paper concludes that the play’s medievalism reconciles republican ideas with the Danish tradition and shows a way to ensure republican freedom under monarchy and through that manoeuvre also reinterprets the function of the king from a primarily political figure to more of a national rallying point.


2Sander, Niels


Aarhus University

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