Archive for July 9th, 2009

1294: Rane Jonsen, Marsk Stig conspirator

2 comments July 9th, 2009 Headsman

On an unknown date in 1294, the former page of the late Danish King Eric V was put to death for regicide outside Roskilde.

Rane Jonsen or Jonsson (here’s his short Danish Wikipedia page) had been present at the hunt during which the former monarch, more popularly known as “Erik Glipping”, was murdered by unknown assailants in 1286.

The convention — and the official verdict of state — have it that Jonsen contrived to admit marsk Stig Andersen Hvide and fellow conspirators to the vulnerable king’s presence for the purpose of murdering him, possibly revenging the king’s rape of Andersen’s wife. “Marsk Stig” and Rane both fled, and were condemned along with seven other men by the Danish Assembly in the spring of 1287.

Although there is little remaining primary documentation, it does seem that the guilt of these people was decided above all by political expedience. It was Stig Anderson’s opponents who got control of the government (and the regency of 12-year-old Erik Menved), conveniently declaring the guilty parties to be their own rivals, who had formerly been close to Erik Glipping.*

Our page, himself a noble, got the short end of the stick in all this; he energetically denied the story that he had stood aside to permit the murder of his liege, claiming that he fought back albeit unarmed and outnumbered.

But as an emblem of the perfidy of the king’s inner circle, you couldn’t do much better than Rane theatrically planting his sword into a table and standing aside to signify the king’s vulnerability. You can just picture that story being retold with a meaningful ahem to the boy-king Eric VI.

In fact, it was retold: wrongful conviction or no, this episode (in its official version, with Rane and Stig as evildoers) was the basis for a number of entries in the rich Danish ballad genre.

Though popularly cited as medieval ballads, disputed dating places different verses anywhere from Rane Jonsen’s own time to three centuries later.** In any era, they offer some lovely exemplars of the art.

This book reproduces several; topical for this entry is an imagining of the fugitive regicide’s plight, both sad (for his hopelessness) and menacing (for his violent seizure of a bride) — disconcertingly delivered in a repetitious lullaby singsong.

Ranild bade saddle his charger gray,
‘Twas told me oft before,
“I’ll be the Algrave’s guest today,
“Tho’ friends I have no more.”

Ranild rode up to his castle gate
‘Twas told him oft before
Where ermine-clad the Algrave sate,
Tho’ friends he had no more.

“Hail noble Algrave, here I come,
‘Twas told thee oft before
“To fetch my trothplight Kirstin home,
“Tho’ friends I have no more.”

Then up and spake her mother dear,
“‘Twas told thee oft before,
“For thee is bride no longer here,
“For friends thou hast no more.”

“I’ll either with the maid return,
“‘Twas told you oft before
“Or else your house and chattels burn,
“Tho’ friends I have no more.”

“Nay set not thou the house on flame,
“‘Twas told thee oft before,
“E’en take the bride thou ‘rt come to claim,
“Tho’ friends thou hast no more.”

In mantle wrapt the gentle maid,
‘Twas told her oft before,
On Ranild’s good gray horse was laid,
Tho’ friends he had no more.

No other bridal bed had they,
‘Twas told her oft before,
Than bush, and field, and new made hay,
For friends he had no more.

“The wood has ears, the mead can see,
“‘Twas told thee oft before,
“A wretched outlaw’d pair are we,
“For friends I have no more.”

“And had you not King Erick slain,
“‘Twas told you oft before,
“We still might in the land remain,
“But friends we have no more.”

“Stay, Kirstin, stay, such words forbear,
“‘Twas told thee oft before,
“Where strangers are, take greater care,
“For friends we have no ore.”

With that he slapp’d her cheek so red,
“‘Twas told thee oft before,
“It was not I, smote Erick dead,
“Tho’ friends I have no more.”

From the same source, our day’s principal meets his end:

Report is rife in all the land
Ranild at last is caught;
He surely had never gone from Hielm,
His doom had he bethought;
A death of torture he must die,
As he has long been taught.

Ranild he stepp’d within the door,
‘Good evening’ bade the king,
And all the guard of gentlemen,
Who round him stood in ring;
“Christ! may no son of loyal Dane
“Such trouble on him bring!

“But, O King Erick, noble liege,
“Remember you no more;
“The best was I of all the swains
“Your father’s livery wore;
“And you through wood and flowery mead
“In arms so often bore?”

“Full well I know thou servedst here
“For clothes and food and pay;
“And, like a vile and treacherous knave,
“My father didst betray;
“For which the stake thy carcase bears,
“If I but reign a day.”

“My hands and feet hack from my limbs,
“Tear from my head these eyes;
“With racking tortures martyr me,
“The worst you can devise;
“So much the wrong I’ve done your house
“For vengeance on me cries.”

“Thine eyes put out, that will we not,
“Nor lop thy hands or feet;
“But with a traitor’s hardest death
“The worst of traitors treat;
“And on our father’s murderer take
“Such vengeance as is meet.”

As forth from Roskilde he was led,
He wrung his hands anew,
And tears to see him go to die
Wept ladies not a few;
He turn’d him round, and bade them all
A thousand times Adieu.

They led him forth to where the rack
Stood ghastly on the plain;
“O Christ, from such a martyring death
“Protect each honest Dane!
“Had I but stay’d at Hielm this year,
“And there in safety lain!

“Now were there here one faithful friend,
“Who home for me would go,
“And would my sorrowing wife Christine,
“Her path of duty show!
“O Christ, look on my children dear!
“O comfort thou their woe!

“And you, I pray, good Christian folk,
“Who here are standing round,
“A pater noster read for me,
“That grace for me be found;
“And that this night I reach the land,
“Where heavenly joys abound.”

Marsk Stig, however, is the primary focus of these dramas; he raided shipping from his island base on Hielm (Hjelm), dying of natural causes in 1293. Some additional translated ballads about this character are available here.

But since this is poetry, take a moment to dig the original Danish,† which should be at least partially comprehensible to any English- or German-speaker.

Marsti ind aff dorren tren
med suerd i hoyre hend:
kongen sidder hannem op igien,
saa giorlig han hannem kende

>>Hor du, Ranil Ienssen!
oc vilt du verie mit liff:
jeg giffuer dig min soster
oc halff min rige in min tid.<<

Det vor Ranil Iensson,
han hug i borde oc balck;
det vil ieg for sanden sige:
hand veriet sin herre som en skalck

De stack ham ind at skulder-bende,
oc det stod ud aff halss;
det vil ieg for sandingen sige:
det vaar alt giort med falsk.

De stack hannem ind at skulder
oc ud aff venster side:
>>Nu haffuer wi giort den gierning i dag,
all Danmarck baer for stor quide<<.

Stig burst through the door,
his sword in his right hand;
the king sat upright
and recognized him.

“Hear me, Rane Jonson!
If you defend my life
I will give you my sister
and half of my kingdom.”

Rane Jonson swung his sword
and stuck it in the table and in the wall;
in truth,
he betrayed his lord shamefully.

They stabbed him in the shoulderbone
and out through the neck;
in truth,
they did it all deceitfully.

They stabbed him in the shoulder
and out through the left side.
“Now we have done the deed today,
all Denmark bears too heavy a load”

* Discussed at length in “Killing Erik Glipping. On the Early Days of a Danish Historical Ballad” by William Layher in Song and Popular Culture, 45, 2000. Layher reports that the Norwegian government (which received the fugitives) and the Danish were still trading nastygrams over the propriety of the convictions in the early 1300s. On the instigation of the Archbishop of Lund, who supported the exiles, the Church interdicted sacraments to Denmark for several years around the turn of the century.

** See Layher again. At least one contemporaneous bard, minnesinger Meister Rumelant, is known to have composed on the famous murder.

† Extract and translation from Layher, once again.

Part of the Themed Set: The Ballad.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 13th Century,Arts and Literature,Broken on the Wheel,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Denmark,Execution,Gruesome Methods,History,Infamous,Murder,Nobility,Notable for their Victims,Public Executions,Treason,Wrongful Executions

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