Sofia Eriksdotter of Danmark was Queen of Sweden in 1260—1275.
Sofia Eriksdotter was born at the earliest in 1240 in Denmark, the daughter of King Erik Plogpenning and Queen Jutta of Sachsen. Very little is known about her childhood but it must have been marked by the politically uncertain times in Denmark with among other things her father’s constant feud with his brother Abel. King Erik was captured and murdered in 1250 by Abel, who was himself killed two years later. He was succeeded on the throne by a third brother, Kristofer I, who, after having been murdered in 1259 was succeeded in his turn by his son Erik, with the widowed Queen Margareta Sambiria as regent.
According to Erik’s Chronicle (Erikskrönikan), Birger Jarl consulted his wife Ingeborg about who could be considered a suitable wife for their son King Valdemar, and suggested that one of the late Danish king’s five daughters might suit. It was not only that such a marriage created vital alliances, but the daughters were about to inherit considerable estates.
Sofia Eriksdotter was described as mild and proud. When she found out that she was to be Queen of Sweden, and “bear the crown” she prayed to the Virgin Mary that she would be happy with Valdemar, and he with her. According to the Chronicle, she received many barrels of gold and silver as her dowry as well as the towns of Trelleborg and Malmö which were Danish at that time. The wedding was held in a place called “Ymninge” in the Chronicle, which might be Öninge in Ödeshög parish. There was much pomp and splendour, and in the annals called Skänningeannalerna the wedding was noted as being in 1260.
Sofia Eriksdotter and Valdemar were probably about the same age. Since they were second cousins, papal dispensation was sought for the marriage. It was granted with the motivation that a marital alliance between Sweden and Denmark would help defence against the infidels.
Sofia Eriksdotter’s time as Queen was marked by her husband’s many conflicts with his brothers, Duke Magnus and Duke Erik, for whom she apparently had little liking. According to Erikskrönikan, she called Magnus “ketla böter” (dialect for “coppersmith”), because he was dark and skinny and resembled a wandering craftsman who mended copper vessels. To Erik she gave the dialect name “alzenkte”, which meant that he was nothing at all.
Sofia Eriksdotter’s own sisters came to mean a good deal in her life. Agnes started a convent in Roskilde, and the younger sister Jutta had entered a convent in 1266 where she later became prioress. Both sisters left convent life in 1271 however and joined their sister in Sweden. Erikskrönikan describes the arrival of Jutta as being like an angel from the heavens. Jutta became King Valdemar’s mistress. According to tradition, because of his attachment to Jutta, Valdemar was then compelled to make a pilgrimage to Rome.
The conflict between Valdemar and his brothers resulted in civil war. In 1275, Valdemar suffered a severe defeat at the battle of Hova and barely more than a month later he abdicated in favour of Magnus — later called Ladulås. Sofia Eriksdotter probably accompanied Valdemar when he travelled west and on to Denmark to seek the support of neighbouring kings for the battle against Magnus. He was related to them by his marriage to Sofia Eriksdotter. Together with her husband, the Queen made new alliances, not least by marrying her daughter Ingeborg to Gerhard II of Holstein. The exiled royal couple also tried to get the margraves of Brandenburg to support them by pledging Gotland. One explicit witness to Sofia Eriksdotter’s engagement is that the letter with the pledge, like several other letters, also bore her seal. Together with first and foremost King Erik Klipping of Denmark, Valdemar attacked his brother’s territories, but without success.
During the 1280s, after the uprising, Sofia Eriksdotter called herself “the former Queen” or “the older Queen” and she continued to be active in Sweden. Among other things, she donated a salmon fishery in Norrköping to the nuns at the powerful Skänninge Convent. In a letter dated 16 August 1280, Sofia Eriksdotter certifies that she personally had been present when her husband sold the Husby Estate in the province of Östergötland to Folke, a judge in Värend. The same day she witnessed in the presence of King Magnus that Valdemar had paid back a debt to Bishop Anund in Strängnäs. After that date, no documents have been saved that imply that Sofia Eriksdotter and Valdemar were still together.
Sofia Eriksdotter appears instead together with King Magnus Ladulås. When on 2 September 1285 she gave her mill in Mjölby to her servant Ingrid for faithful service, King Magnus sealed the deed of gift with her. In that letter, Sofia Eriksdotter also approved that the mill should be handed over to the Skänninge Convent when Ingrid herself joined it. The marriage contract according to which Sofia Eriksdotter’s daughter Rikissa Valdemarsdotter was promised to Duke Przemyslaw of Poland in 1285 was drawn up between the duke and King Magnus.
Sofia Eriksdotter and her sisters were involved in a long-drawn-out dispute about their inheritance after their father, King Erik of Danmark. It was only in 1284 that the sisters were granted their paternal inheritance by among others Bishop Jakob of Schleswig, Bishop Tyko of Ribe and the council in Denmark. Interestingly enough, Sofia Eriksdotter was called Queen of Sweden, and her sister Ingeborg Queen of Norway.
Sofia Eriksdotter died in 1286 and was probably buried at Vreta Convent.
On her Queen’s Seal, Sofia Eriksdotter is depicted sitting on a throne, dressed in a full-length robe, with a fur-trimmed mantel and a crown upon her head.