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The Earliest Records A Distinguished Family
Noted Members The Untitled Family Rosenkrantz In Germany
The Rosenkrantz Family In Holland And Norway  



The Earliest Records

On the Herringholm estate, Jutland, Denmark, now Germany, in the Province Schleswig Holstein, and in the beginning of the 13th century, there lived a Nobleman named Erik. Nothing seems to be recorded of him in Danish history prior to 1227, A.D., when he was known as the head of the Noble Family of Denmark, now called Rosenkrantz (letter 15) Whether his nobility and distinction came from lineage or from personal valor and knighthood, or from all these, we know not, but he lived in the days of chivalry and was probably a knight among the Crusaders to the Holy Land. He seems to have been a new comer in Holstein at the time, perhaps from Northern Denmark, or from Norway, as the name of Erik was famous in Norway as early as the Viking Kings, and the Norman conquests, and it is said that "Erichs is no Holstein name," (letter 20. )

One Erik, of Norway, 886 A.D. , commanded a fleet of war vessels and gave battle to Charlemagne. Another Erik conquered Sweden in the 9th century, and became king, whose daughter, Gagda, according to promise, married King Harold the Fair Haired, after he had conquered all Norway 860, A.D. Earl Erik, of Norway, by his personal prowess, became king and 1000 A.D., conquered the noble and illustrious Olaf Tryggvessen, the Saint, who, in order to escape his enemy, threw himself into the sea.

Earl Erik, the warrior and King, called in Scandinavian chronicles "Erik Raud," or Erik the Red, was the father of Leif, who, as a European, immortalized his name by being the first to land, at the close of the tenth century, on the eastern coast of this continent at a place called Vine Land. This Erik, or Erichs, of Holstein, the first known head of the Danish Noble Family which subsequently took the name of Rosenkrantz had a son named Iver Eriksen. Iver had two sons called Niels Iverson, and Mauritz Iverson, the latter historically known 1270. Niels Iversen, known 1308, had three sons: Erik Nielsen, Knight; Jenseller Johannis Nielsen and Iver Nielsen.

Erik Nielsen, the Knight, was particularly distinguished and was evidently the Erichs of German history reported by Pastor Lieboldt as recorded in "Hellbach" (letter 20), who, 1325, visited the Pope; received from him a rosary or Rose-wreath, which he added to his coat of arms and took the name of Rosenkrantz. In the Danish records, Erik, the Knight, was the first in Denmark to use a seal, or coat of arms, 1355, while his brother Jenseller Johannis, usually called John Nielsen, used a coat of arms (Lion and Shield) 1377, and his brother Iver, 1378. Iver’s seal seems not to be described in any of the European reports, but Erik’s must have been a helm, since after adding to it the Rose-wreath it is said to have been "upon the Helm a wreath of Red and Silver Roses," (20.)

The Archivist of Norway places Niels Iversen 1308 at the head of the Noble Family, which subsequently took the name of Rosenkrantz as the Norwegian records extended no further back. It is probable that in his time this Noble Family was naturalized in Denmark, or received special powers and privileges, since his three sons had seals and were the first to adopt coats of arms in Denmark. Erik Rosenkrantz’s knighthood was probably received from the king for bravery in war, or for some feat of daring on the battlefield, after which he visited the Pope and received the Rose-wreath. This was prior to the beginning of Protestantism, when all Christendom regarded the Pope as the temporal head of the Christian church and his act of visiting the Pope indicates that he was a Christian and a favorite of the Pope. He was apparently the eldest son of the eldest, and these accounts concerning his reception of the Rose-wreath, adding it to his coat of arms and adopting the name Rosenkrantz, remarkably corresponds with the tradition concerning him (3) received by the writer in 1880 and which inspired his continued efforts and inquiries in Europe till the time and place of the beginning of the family and name were found. According to the tradition, Erik must have been a warrior and an ancestor of his, a Mack Donald, of Scotland, who probably married and settled in Norway or Denmark about the year 830 A.D.

Though Erik Rosenkrantz took the name 1325, it was not adopted by the entire Noble Family until two hundred years later, as family names had not then become fixed in Scandinavian, nor till centuries later. As stated in formation of names and in letter 15, the name of the father ended with the son, thus changing every generation (15). To improve this condition of things, the King of Denmark, 1524, after consultation with the leading Noble Families, issued a proclamation that all the Noble Families should take family names to be entered upon the public records (15). This included Norway, which was subject to the Crown of Denmark, having become so 1397 through the inheritance of Queen Margaret.

In compliance with this demand, it is said that the descendants of Niels Iversen of 1308, after consulting together in 1525, adopted the name Rosenkrantz from the Rose-wreath on their coat of arms (15), but the Rose-wreath could have been found only with the descendants of Erik Rosenkrantz, since his brothers seals did not contain it (15). The fact that Erik Nielsen, Knight, adopted the name, as reported from Germany (20) seems not to have been recorded elsewhere, as the reports from Norway, Sweden and Denmark make no mention of the name till after its adoption by the family 1525.

In forming the coat of arms for the family, Erik’s helm and Rose-wreath coat of arms was adopted, and portions of his brothers’ also, else they were added afterwards (15), since the family coat of arms in Sweden contains the lion and shield of John Nielsen and other devices also. The first Danish record of the name Rosenkrantz was, after its adoption by the family, in a Royal letter addressed to Holger Holgerson Rosenkrantz, Knight, in Jutland, January 6, 1525 (15). Jutland was the starting point of the Noble family and long remained the home of leading members of the family at Herringholm and Rosenholm and at Rosenkrantz even to the present generation (21). There are four lines, or branches, of the Noble Family Rosenkrantz in Europe, the Old Danish Noble Family; the Old Baronial line; the younger Baronial line, and the adopted branch in Sweden (15). The family probably entered Norway about Queen Margaret’s time, and the Baronial line in the person of Ludvig, 1637, who was Baron of Rosendal. That branch we are told is extinct (18). The Swedish branch of the Noble Family entered Sweden with the transfer of Scania from Denmark 1658, and was naturalized there 1752. The adopted branch, which is the more numerous in Sweden, began with the marriage of Captain P.C. Sylvan to a woman of the family and was adopted into the Rosenkrantz family 1805 (16).

There is no baronial line in Sweden, and the political privileges of the Nobility are abolished, but the house of Nobles remains a social corporation, with its assemblies and funds and social advantages (16). The political power and privileges of the Nobles in Denmark and Norway, which included the election of the King, were abolished by King Frederick 3, about 1659, when he revolutionized the government, and rendered the throne hereditary (see the history of Christopher among the distinguished members). The Danish Noble Family was extended into Germany as it was into Sweden, as the result of war — Schleswig Holstein, the hereditary seat of the Noble Family, having been ceded, with its members, to Germany 1864 (21). Dr. VonWeber Rosenkrantz purchased the two estates of Nobility there 1828 (20), and, as VonAspern the Nobleman informs us, received for them a patent of Nobility confirmed by the King 1862. As to the time of the naturalization of the family in Germany we are not informed, but it must have been done in Dr. VonWeber’s time, since he belonged to the Association of Nobility and was "Royal Master of the Chase," and his son Robert was a Lord. Members of the family are still living in Germany, but, like the Baronial line in Norway, all the male members are extinct (20).

According to the reports received, the Baronial line probably remains only in Denmark, though possibly in Norway, also.

A Distinguished Family

That the Rosenkrantz Family of Denmark, which has spread into Norway and Sweden and Germany is a distinguished one for learning and wealth and statesmanship, is testified to by the following witnesses: "Hellbach," the German author, says Rosenkrantz a very old Holstein family, which has spread especially in Denmark, and of whom have sprung great statesmen, the first which was known was called Erichs (20). We quote from Pastor Lieboldt: "The family, VonRosenkrantz, is very great and mighty in the kingdom of Denmark," (20). Rector Bendixen says: "The Rosenkrantz is perhaps the most famous of all the Noble Families in Denmark, and is still flourishing" (18). The following historical extracts also testify to the wealth and importance of the family: "Otte," author of "Denmark and Iceland," says: "Near Kjoge with woods and water closing it in on every side, stands Volo castle, once the property of the Thotts and Rosenkrands, and now a richly endowed lay convent for unmarried ladies of the higher order of Nobility. It became a royal possession under Frederick 4th. who bestowed it on his queen, Anna Sophia Reventior, but on his death his son and successor, Christian 6th, took it from that lady and passed it on his own queen, who, in 1738, endowed it with lands and converted it to its present purpose. "

He further says: "At Marriager which once could boast of a church so large that Mass could be celebrated simultaneously at several altars without disturbing the various groups of worshippers, and a monastery so rich that the Monks in journeying to Rome might sleep every night on lands belonging to their house, now all that remains is one of the arches of the nave, the rest having been demolished in 1788, while of the conventional house for Monks and Nuns, founded in 1400, by Otte Rosenkrands, which were reputed the richest in Denmark, and repressed in 1788, nothing survives but a few rooms in the central building of the manor house, as Marriager Kloster. " Otte elsewhere says: "Between Arhus and Randus the coast line is carried abruptly out into the Categate, where an expansion of the main land brings the longitude of Jutland as far east as eleven degrees. On this eastern extension of the peninsula in the Kallo are grouped together the family seats of several of the old Nobility, and of these the most noted is Rosenholm, the ancient house of the Rosenkranses, where the learned Holger Rosenkrands added, in 1620, an observatory to the mansion which had been enlarged in 1569 by his grandfather and still retains the tower which was then added to it.

Noted Members

Among the noted members of the Rosenkrans Noble Family of Europe, as referred to in the foregoing reports and in history, are the following: Erik, 1227, who was the beginning of the family in Denmark; Niels Iversen, 1308, the first of the family known in the records of Norway, and Erik, his son, Knight whose seal was the first known in Denmark, who received the Rose-wreath from the Pope, 1325, added it to his coat of arms and took the name of Rosenkrantz. Also John Nielsen, his brother, whose seal was the Lion and Shield. Holger Holgerson, Knight, who was the first to be addressed by the King as Rosenkrantz 1525. Then came the learned Henry of Denmark, and George Rosenkrantz, heir at Rosenholm, who after the death of King Fredrick, 2nd, was one of the State Counselors, and Erik heir of Bestrop, Royal Mayor, who died at Novarg 1575.

Another greatly distinguished member of the family was Holger Rosenkrands, at Rosenholm, especially "learned, and honored by the King, Royal Clerk at the Monastery Dalun, talented and learned, who favored the arts and amateurs of all kinds, collected a great library of rare and fine books to whom 1617 Christian 4th gave the Monastery Dalun situated near the Odensell, and him honored and loved. " Griffin in "My Danish days" thus refers to him, "Danish literature at this time (17th century) was elevated by Kasper Bartholin and Thomas Bartholin, Ole Romer, and Holger Rosenkrands and their imitators. "

Another distinguished member was Erik, of Norway, Governor of the Northern provinces, 1660, Statesman, Diplomat and Warrior, who rebuilt the King Haakon Haakonson Tower in Bergen, which has since been called Rosencrantz Tower. Lastly we notice a noted member of the family in Denmark, Christopher, born at Giesgaard 1589, of fluctuating fame and fortune, whose picture, painted by Marstrand, hangs in the Chapel of Christian 4th, at Roskield Cathedral. His name is not mentioned in the letters received, but is known in history and cannot well be overlooked in this report, though of tarnished reputation, since one Mr. Miller, of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, has honestly, no doubt, but erroneously, reported to a member of the family there, (Ira D. R. ) and to the writer in 1893, that Christopher Rosenkrans committed forgery in Denmark and fled to America, and became the ancestor of the family in this country.

The facts are as follows: Christopher is represented in Danish history as a powerful Nobleman who was accused of forgery, and condemned by King Christian 4th. His property was confiscated and he banished. But he was evidently believed to be innocent by the King’s son, Fredrick 3, since he, when he succeeded to his fathers throne, 1658, recalled him and restored to him his title and estates. Yet other misfortunes awaited Christopher and all the Nobles of Denmark, on account of King Frederick’s design to elevate himself at the expense of the Nobles. He evolved a secret scheme which proved successful of wresting the political power from the Nobility, and the people who had elected him King and of rendering the throne hereditary. This naturally embittered the Nobles and aroused their most determined opposition resulting in their attempt to overthrow him during the war with Sweden 1659, in which they failed.

The opposition was secretly led by Korfitz Ulfelt, bother-in-law to the King, assisted by Christopher Rosenkrands, and his brother Gund. The King, supported by the Commoners, who were also deprived of their political privileges afterward, accomplished the defeat of the Nobles and consequently the leaders, Korfitz, Christopher and Gund were compelled to flee from Denmark and Korfitz’s wife, sister of the King, was imprisoned for twenty-two years, and not released till after the death of the dowager Queen. This case of the King and Nobles was one in which "might makes right," the power of the victor establishing the right, as tribute must be paid to "the powers that be. " Had the Nobles overpowered the King, who was the first transgressor and who revolutionized the government, the result would have been quite different. His flight or punishment would have followed and their course justified by the people. Let us then be charitable in judging Christopher Rosenkrands, the Nobleman of Denmark, though not our ancestor. Joergen, a Danish historian, says that "Christopher Rosenkrands fled to Germany and there died in poverty near the Rhine." This was subsequent to the marriage of our ancestor, Harmon Hendrick, in New York, 1657.

The Untitled Family Rosenkrantz in Germany

As the province of Schleswig Holstein in Denmark, where lived Erik Rosenkrantz the Knight, lay along the border line of Germany, some of his sons, or early descendants must have settled in Germany, as the Rosenkrantz name was early found there and had spread to Holland with the Rose-wreath coat of arms even before the Noble Family of Denmark had adopted the name, but not being naturalized, or adopted into the German association of Nobility, the recognition of them as a Noble Family eventually died out. As we learn from Mr. Roe’s report (1) a member of the German branch of the family was a Burgomaster in Amsterdam 1520, having been appointed by the German Emperor, as Holland was then a part of the German Empire.

Of the later family there were Jacob Dircksen, the banished, and Dirk Roosecrans, his son, Captain of the Civil Guard, both of whom used the Rose-wreath, the one upon his dwelling and the other as his coat of arms (19.) This is conclusive evidence that the German branch whence they sprang were descended from Erik of the Rose-wreath, for, till 1525, none but his descendants used it. Further evidence that the German branch, which is now numerous, was originally of the Noble Family, and long resident in Germany, is given by William Rosenkranz, a German, 521 E. 15th Street, New York, formerly of the firm of Rosenkranz Brothers, electricians, who reports that very early records of the family may be found at Valmarstein and Blankenstein, Germany, and that a Nobleman of the name built the capitol building at Breslau.

A noted member of the German family mentioned in the American Cyclopaedia, was Johannis Karl Frederick Rosencranz, born at Magdeburg, 1805. He was a Philosopher and scholar and published a work on the Science of Education, which has been translated into English, and is used in the institutions of learning in this country, and which is said to be the most profound and the best work on the subject ever published.

The Rosenkrantz Family in Holland and Norway

As previously stated, the early Rosenkrantz family in Germany were descended from Erik, the Knight of Holstein, and first appeared in Amsterdam, Holland, in the person of the Rosenkrauntz Burgomaster 1520. In 1553 a Jacob Dircksen, probably a brother or son, or near relative, came to Amsterdam and secured citizenship, and from these two members of the family all the Rosenkrantzs in Amsterdam were probably descended, as we have no tidings of the coming of others in the records of citizenship, and the family in Holland, which were apparently confined to the city were never numerous. This Jacob Dircksen is supposed to be the same who, 1552, lived in the Rosenkrantz or Rose-wreath dwelling, on Warmoes Street (19), whose wife’s name was Adrianna, and who was the father of Captain Dirk, of the Civil Guard.

Jacob was a conspicuous man, whose name is mentioned in the public dockets and was banished on account of his religion, and his property confiscated. He undoubtedly went to Bergen, Norway, where all his descendants eventually followed him. Dirk Roosecrans, his son, who seems to have adopted the Dutch mode of spelling the name, was conspicuous as Captain of the Civil Guard, and afterward Commissary of Marriages. He was Captain of the Guard when William the Silent was assassinated, 1584. His coat of arms was the Rose-wreath, still preserved in Amsterdam.

Herman Rosenkrantz, the merchant, who went to Norway and secured the right of whale fishing on the coasts of Norway and Greenland, 1617 - 1626, is supposed to have been his son, and the father of Henrik, the Burgesell of Norway, 1657, who was probably the father of our American ancestor, Herman Hendrickszen, as the name indicates. During the years of war and persecution which followed Jacobs banishment till 1652, nearly or quite all of the Rosenkrantz family in Holland emigrated to Bergen, or thereabout, after a stay in Holland of about 130 years. At the present time not a person of the name is to be found in Amsterdam or Holland, as reported by Attorney Roe (1) and also by Dr. E.M. Rosenkrans (187), of Chicago, who has been there and made inquiry in Amsterdam.

This Holland Family, at Bergen, Norway, seem to have found the great Rosencrantz Tower there a rallying point where the titled family had resided for about 350 years, and while there they still manifested the martial spirit of Erik the Knight, and of Captain Dirk, as it is reported that "In the 17th and 18th centuries some of the Rosenkrantz family from Holland were officers in the Royal Danish Norwegian army" (15). According to reports, Herman Hendrickszen, our American ancestor from Bergen, may have been born in Holland, but more probably in Norway. When the Dutch from Holland emigrated to New Amsterdam during the early part of the seventeenth century, those about Bergen joined them and among them was Herman Hendrickszen, our ancestor, who was married in New York, 1657.

As we are now with the family in Norway, let us imagine it to be the middle of the seventeenth century when our ancestor was about to sail for America; let us step aboard the vessel — not a steamer, for steam power was then unknown. but a sailing craft — and cross the ocean with him. Let us attend his wedding in New Amsterdam; call on him at his residence in Kingston, observe the "New Settlements and New Churches" of his time; look up his descendants, now scattered throughout the land from the Eastern States to the Pacific Slope, and from Canada to Texas, and learn of their whereabouts and their welfare. But let us not fail here to render thanksgiving to the Giver of "every good and perfect gift" for the spiritual blessings and long life vouchsafed to the Rosenkrantz family in Europe, and seek to be worthy recipients of the same blessings here. Let us be grateful that our birthplace and our home is in this broad land and this great nation so signally blessed of the Lord from the beginning and which seems destined in His hands to become the greatest nation on earth and to lead the nations in education and spiritual development in Christianity and self-Government to the millennial times now dawning upon the world.


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This page was last updated on February 26, 2007 .
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