Diplomacy and Advocacy


The case of the King of Denmark v. Dutch Skippers before the Danzig City Council (1564–1567)


In: Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis / Revue d'Histoire du Droit / The Legal History Review
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  • 1 Universiteit Leiden, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Instituut Geschiedenis, Doelensteeg 16, NL-2311 VL Leiden, The Netherlands

  • | 2 Universiteit Leiden, Faculteit der Rechtsgeleerdheid, Instituut voor Metajuridica, Steenschuur 25, NL-2311 ES Leiden, The Netherlands


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Against the background of the Northern Seven Years’ War, a Dutch fleet carrying salt from France to the Baltic was arrested in 1564 by the Danish authorities in the Sound, and only allowed to proceed after declaring under oath that they would not sell their cargo to Denmark’s enemy. Afterwards, having reached the Baltic, the fleet encountered a Swedish man-of-war which (according to the Dutchmen) forced them to sail to Stockholm, where the salt was sold at a fixed price. The fleet then sailed to Danzig, where the ships and goods were seized. The incident appears to have played a part in the closure of the Sound to Dutch trade by the Danish Crown, which tried to put pressure on the rulers of the Netherlands for their support in his war efforts. A practical solution to the diplomatic crisis was worked out in setting up a trial opposing the king of Denmark to the skippers of the seized ships before the municipal authorities of Danzig, a city under the overlordship of the King of Poland, who was allied to Denmark in the war against Sweden, while Danzig itself endeavoured to avoid any direct involvement in the warfare. The lawsuit followed the format of civil law procedure. The memorandum and rejoinders, together with a consilium to which a subscriptio by several law professors of Louvain was added, document how a political and diplomatic dispute could be defused and managed through quasi-judicial proceedings and legal arguments. An interim decree of the Danzig authorities discharged the Dutch skippers (1565) and that provisional outcome was eventually confirmed by the king of Poland’s final decision (1567).


  • 8

     Frost, The Northern Wars (supra, n. 3), p. 23–37; J. Glete, Swedish naval administration, 1521–1721, resource flows and organisational capabilities, Leiden 2010, p. 160, 358; A. Zettersten, Svenska flottans historia, åren 1522–1634, Stockholm 1890, p. 416.

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  • 28

     DI nr. 4600.

  • 36

     DI Nos. 4964, 5174 and 5189; APG 300,208/104 fol. 99v.

  • 41

     DI No. 5157. The war was not seen as a general Hanseatic conflict, see DI No. 4472. As a result of the filing of this compilation among the Gdańsk Hanseatic records, the legal proceedings have escaped the attention of scholars, whether working on relations with the Netherlands or Denmark, on the Northern Seven Years’ War, or on legal history. Moreover, until 2012, the State Archives in Gdańsk (APG) did not allow readers to make their own digital photographs of the documents and imposed other restrictions on the use and reproduction of its holdings. For the role of the Hanse in the North Sea and Baltic, see R. Hammel-Kiesow, Die Hanse, München 2014, 5th edition; S. Selzer, Die mittelalterliche Hanse, Darmstadt 2010; J. Wubs-Mrozewicz, The Hanse in medieval Europe, An introduction, in: The Hanse and Late Medieval Europe, ed. J. Wubs-Mrozewicz and S. Jenks, Leiden 2013.

  • 56

     Glete, Swedish naval administration (supra n. 8), p. 160, 358.

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