Gerhard III. (Holstein-Rendsburg)

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Seal of Count Gerhard

Gerhard III. (* around 1293; † 1. April 1340 in Randers) from the Rendsburg line of the house Schauenburg was one of the most important personalities of this family. This also resulted in his epithet “de groote Gert” (Gerhard the Great). In Danish historiography, however, he is known as Den kullede greve (the bald count).


Gerhard III was a son of Heinrich I and Heilwig von Bronckhorst. After the death of his father in 1304, he was Count of Holstein-Rendsburg, while his cousin Johann III. Holstein-Kiel ruled.

Gerhard thus owned most of Holstein, while the other territories, which belonged to different cousins, were badly fragmented after several divisions of inheritance. Johann and Gerhard tried to bring these to themselves as well. When Adolf VI of Holstein-Pinneberg died in 1315, they tried to oust his minor son Adolf VII in order to increase their shares. However, Duke Rudolf of Saxony, as liege lord of Holstein, did not recognize their conquest. Adolf retained Holstein-Pinneberg in addition to the county of Schaumburg.[1] Two other cousins, Christoph and Adolf, sons of Johann II of Holstein-Segeberg, died in 1313/15, respectively by a defenestration and at the hands of a nobleman who sought to avenge his daughter’s honor. When their father died in 1321, Gerhard and Johann shared his dominion.

Subsequently, Gerhard played an important role in the domestic politics of Denmark, which at the time was in a difficult domestic situation. He had been able to bring much of the country under his influence when Erik VI. Menved mortgaged his property to pay for his wars. In 1326 Gerhard succeeded in installing his young nephew Waldemar III of Denmark, the son of Duke Erich II of Schleswig, on the royal throne in place of Christoph II. On August 15, 1326, he was the first Schauenburg to be enfeoffed with the Duchy of Schleswig. Thus Schleswig and Holstein were in one hand for the first time. Waldemar had to assure that the duchy, which had been largely independent since 1241, would no longer have the same ruler as Denmark(constitutio valdemariana). Since Count Gerhard was Waldemar’s guardian, he could easily enforce this. When Waldemar lost the royal throne again to Christoph in 1330, however, he assumed the dukedom of Schleswig himself.

Gerhard remained one of the most powerful figures in Denmark and Schleswig. After the death of King Christopher in 1332, he himself took over the government of Jutland and Funen, while John kept the rest. Growing opposition and peasant revolts led to anarchic conditions. The nobility, who had earlier supported him against Christoph II, now demanded the throne for Christoph’s son Waldemar. In 1340 Gerhard was slain by the Danish knight Niels Ebbesen. His sons renounced claims in Denmark and followed him as counts of Holstein-Rendsburg.

The terms the Great and the Bald Count show how differently Gerhard’s historical achievement was evaluated in German and Danish historiography. In the course of the national conflicts of the 19th century, Count Gerhard was highlighted on the Schleswig-Holstein side as the one who united Schleswig with Holstein, which was seen as an almost natural process. For the Danish national side, however, he was an occupier who further destabilized the kingdom in a time of crisis and seized part of the empire.

The Gerhardstraße in Kiel and Rendsburg are named after Gerhard III.

Marriage and offspring

Gerhard III was married to Sofie von Werle, the daughter of Nikolaus II von Werle, and had the following children with her:

  • Henry II (* about 1317; † 1384 or later)
  • Nicholas (* c. 1321; † 1397) ∞ Elisabeth of Brunswick-Lüneburg, daughter of William Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg
  • Adolf (* about 1330)
  • Elisabeth (* about 1340, † 1402) abbess in Elten


(see illustration) Circumscription: S(IGILLUM)*GERARDI*COMITIS*HOLTSACIE*I*REYNESBORCH (Seal of Gerhard, Count of Holstein and Rendsburg)


  • Esben Albrectsen: Abelslægten og de schauenburgske hertuger. In: Carsten Porskrog Rasmussen, Inge Adriansen, Lennart S. Madsen (eds.): De slesvigske hertuger (= Historisk Samfund for Sønderjylland. Skrifter. 92). Historisk Samfund for Sønderjylland, Aabenraa 2005, ISBN 87-7406-091-0.
  • Esben Albrectsen: The Abel dynasty and the Schauenburgs as dukes of Schleswig. Carsten Porskrog Rasmussen, Elke Imberger, Dieter Lohmeier, Ingwer Momsen (eds.): Die Fürsten des Landes. Dukes and Counts of Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg. Wachholtz, Neumünster 2008, ISBN 978-3-529-02606-5, pp. 52-71.
  • The Little Encyclopedia. Volume 1: A – K. Encyclios-Verlag, Zurich 1949, p. 600.
  • Karl Jansen: GerhardIII.(Count of Holstein). In: General German Biography (ADB). Vol. 8, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1878, pp. 738-740.
  • Wilhelm Koppe:Gerhard III. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 6, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1964, ISBN 3-428-00187-7, p. 266 f. (Digitalisat).

Individual references

  1. Hans Gerhard Risch: The County of Holstein-Pinneberg from its beginnings to the year 1640. Hamburg 1986, S. 67-70
Predecessor Office Successor
Waldemar V. Schleswig Arms.svg
Duke of Schleswig
Waldemar V.
Henry I. Count of Holstein-Rendsburg
Henry II and