Reply To: Baltic Pirates

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Hans Hellinger

The previous entry was from page 79, this is page 80.

“The Hansa tried to bring pressure to bear on Rostock and Wismar to stop themsheltering the pirates, but the two towns made the loyalty due to their overlord an excuse for refusing to take any action against the pirates or even to return goods which had been looted. The insecurity at sea was such that the [Hanseatic] diet of 1392 had to order a suspension of all trade with Skania for a period of three years. As a result, according to Detmar, the price of herring rose, in Prussia to three times the previous level and in Frankfurt ten times. Lübeck and Stralsund fought a hard battle with the pirates simultaneously. But if the seaways were to be made safe the co-operation of the Teutonic Order was indispensable. However the Grand Master, Conrad von Jungingen, was dreaming of further territorial expansion in the Baltic; he intended to profit by the war and did not choose to further the cause of Denmark.

A great step forward was finally achieved in 1395 when the Hansa induced the belligerents to accept its mediation. By the peace of Skanör Albert was set free, and Stockholm was handed over to a group of seven Hansa towns – Wendish, Prussian and Livonian – to be ceded to [Queen] Margaret [of Denmark] after three years against a ransom of 60,000 marks, which however was never paid. This treaty ensured Margaret’s triumph over her enemies. In 1397 she caused a proclamation to be made at Kalmar establishing the union of the three Scandinavian kingdoms under her grand-nephew, Eric of Pomerania. This union was to remain in existence, at least in theory, for more than a hundred years. A year later, in 1398, the queen made a triumphal entry into Stockholm, after confirming the Hanseatic privileges in all three kingdoms.

The Peace of Skanör removed the justification for piracy, but it remained rampant in the area around Gotland and would have persisted even longer if the Grand Master had not at least decided to co-operate with the Hansa in putting a stop to it. He may have been afraid that if he refrained from doing so he would lose to Denmark all the benefits of pacification. So he assembled 84 ships and 4,000 men at Danzig, and captured Visby without difficulty. The combined fleets of Lübeck and the Prussian towns then pursued the pirates so energetically that by 1400 the Baltic was entirely free of them.

However most of the Vitalienbrüder had merely moved on to another theater of operations. They took refuge in the North Sea, where they met with a friendly reception from the count of Oldenburg and the minor lords of east Frisia. Bremen and Hamburg only got the better of them by a considerable effort, but in 1400 the pirates suffered a serious defeat in Frisia, and in the following year the last of their leaders, Godeke Michels and Klaus Störtebecker, were captured and beheaded in Hamburg, together with hundreds of their companions, whose heads weere displayed to the people.”

[this is where the Chronicles of Three Free cities excerpts up above take over for a minute]