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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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).

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     FrostThe 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. 49645174 and 5189; APG 300208/104 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

     GleteSwedish naval administration (supra n. 8) p. 160 358.

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