Birgitte og Herluf sakrofager

A learned admiral

A humanistic flame is lit

Herluf Trolle, the son of Joachim Arvidsen and Kirsten Herlufsdatter Skave, was born on January 14, 1516 at Lillø in Skåne. He was educated at Vor Frue Skole in Copenhagen and in Wittenberg, where he studied from 1536-1537. During his stay in Wittenberg he became acquainted with Professor Philipp Malanchthon, who was one of intellectual leaders in the Protestant Reformation. Herluf Trolle returned from Wittenberg strongly inspired by Melanchthon’s Christian humanism, and he stayed in contact with the professor for a number of years.

Upon his return to Denmark from Wittenberg Herluf Trolle served at the court for some time. In 1543 he received his first enfeoffment Gladsaxe in Skåne. In 1544 he exchanged it for Krogen Castle and Fief. The same year he married Birgitte Gøye, whom he had probably met at the royal court. They settled at Hillerødsholm and built an estate, which they parted from in 1560. Both King Christian III and Frederik II appreciated Herluf Trolle’s qualities and described him as a very capable and loyal man. He was knighted by Frederik II, which was a great honor.

Herluf Trolle was true and loyal to the King. He participated in the Swedish border negotiations in 1554, became a member of the Rigsråd (State Council) in 1557, and in 1562 he helped with negotiations with Poland. He was also a very cultured and learned man. He translated 31 psalm (of David) into Danish verse and spoke in favour of literature and education for poor students at home and abroad. He found a soulmate in Birgitte Gøye, both were god-fearing and gentle towards their servants. They surrounded themselves with young people, Birgitte Gøye with young noble women and Herluf Trolle with students from Copenhagen University or foreign universities.

In battle against the Swedes

In 1559 Herluf Trolle became an admiral and was often at sea. When war came in 1563 he took over as the highest admiral in the navy after Peter Skram. In May the Danish fleet met a superior Swedish fleet outside Øland. The Swedish fleet was commanded by Jacob Bagge. With great courage Herluf Trolle attacked the Swedish flagship Mars (aka Makaløs or Jutehater). At that time Mars was the largest battleship in the North, but after a day of fighting the Danes conquered the Swedish ship and took the admiral prisoner. The rest of the Swedish fleet took refuge in Stockholm.

Realization of the school plans

The victory over the Swedes was big, but it did not mean that the war was over. The Danish fleet with Herluf Trolle remained at sea from August 14 to October 13. The winter months he spent at Herlufsholm where he planned the foundation of Herlufsholm School together with Birgitte Gøye. On May 23, 1565, they wrote a foundation letter or charter. Herlufsholm School had begun.

A short time after the charter had been signed, Herluf Trolle was again called to battle. A good friend of Herluf Trolle tells in his burial service that he had asked Herluf Trolle why he went off again to battle when he had already served the king. Allegedly Herluf Trolle answered that along with noble rank came an obligation to guard, protect and defend the mother country.

On June 1 the Danish fleet again sailed out, The new Finnish admiral, Klaus Horn, commanded the Swedes, and on 4 the two fleets met outside Femern. The two fleets fought all day at close quarters until the weather conditions brought a halt to the attacks in the evening. During the fight Herluf Trolle had been wounded in his left shoulder and leg during the fight, but he insisted that the surgeon should attend to the more severely wounded before treating his own wounds. This example of magnanimity probably cost him his life.

When the Danish fleet landed in Copenhagen on June 8 Herluf Trolle was met by his brother Børge Trolle and a very worried Birgitte Gøye. His spiritual adviser, Niels Hemmingsen, reports that Herluf Trolle soon realized where he was heading, and he grieved that he would not see his school materialize. On June 25 he died in Copenhagen.