Denmark buys the bishoprics of Ösel-Wiek and Courland; duke Magnus arrives to Livonia

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13. May 1559

Frederik IIIn the beginning of the Livonian war, the situation of domestic and foreign policy get very confusing, and the new Danish king, Frederick II (see image) decide to make most of it. In 1558, the Order had turned to Denmark with urgent requests for help, and old king Christian III had agreed to diplomatically aid Livonia. In spring 1559, ambassadors from Denmark signed a 6 month truce between Russia and Livonia, and many Livonians hoped the Danes to be their saviors. During the truce, the bishop of Ösel-Wiek, Johann von Münchhausen, who was clearly Denmark minded, began to negotiate the sale of the bishopric. He was aided by his brother Christoph, who was Danish vassal. Danish king had interest in it for two reasons: Denmark regained part of the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea; and he wanted to avoid sharing his land in Holstein with his brother Magnus. As Johann was also the bishop of Courland, it also was sold to Denmark. About the latter deal, it is thought the the bishop sold it to Magnus a bit later, but it is more likely that Courland went to him during the sale of the bishopric of Ösel-Wiek.

The obtained lands were not added to Danish kingdom, but Frederick II gave them to his brother, Magnus, who, in the one hand, was Danish vassal, but in the other, at least officially, the bishop of Ösel-Wiek and Courland. Ambitious Magnus was dissatisfied with his brothers gift, and soon began to find means to widen his influence and domains. In 1560, he also bought the bishopric of Reval (Tallinn), but it did not grant him power over Northern Estonia, as the bishop of Reval, aside few forts, did not hold a secular dominion. In addition, Magnus claimed himself to be a heritor of the bishopric of Dorpat (Tartu), as directly before Russians had seized Tartu, bishop Hermann II offered the bishopric to him. Magnus also tried to gain the bailiwick of Maasilinn, as its land were mixed with the ones of Ösel-Wiek. By late summer of 1560 he had succeeded, and this brought along a conflict with the Order. This was solved in August of the same year, but soon after, Russians raided Wiek, and this ended Magnus' ambitious plans. He was unable to defend his lands, and lost the trust of most of the Livonians. Soon, he found himself in financial trouble, and feuded most of his lands. Frederick II was displeased with his borther's actions, and in 1562-1566 royal lieutenants ruled in his place.

Source: Andres Adamson. Hertsog Magnus 1540-1583: tema elu ja aeg. Tallinn: Argo, 2005.

Source: Mati Laur. Eesti ajalugu varasel uusajal 1550-1800. Tallinn: Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus, 1999.

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