Two kings examine the sex life of the lords of the manor 

Two generations apart, rumours circulate that the lords of the manor cannot keep their hands off their sisters-in-law. 

A particularly juicy indictment is discreetly nailed to the gates of Odense Castle in 1581. The king is visiting the city, and the accuser seizes the opportunity to call the monarch’s attention to a morally corrupt matter in the upper reaches of society on Fyn. 

The accusation lists some of the most heinous crimes of the age, including incest, sex outside of wedlock and the birth of a bastard child. 

Strangely, sixty years later, the king’s own son – Christian IV – finds himself on the receiving end of similar accusations from the people at the same manor house: Jerstrup. 

The accused flee the country 

Eiler Brockenhuus becomes Lord of Jerstrup Manor in 1575. 

His CV is already littered with scandals and mischievous deeds. In particular, he takes a relaxed approach to the sexual mores of the age. Rumours abound concerning sex with peasant women, sex before marriage and children born out of wedlock. 

Local outrage reaches its peak, however, when stories are circulated suggesting he is having an affair with his sister-in-law, Margrethe Rantzau, and that they have had a child together. 

The accusation proves to be true, but no trial is held as the accused flee the country. We do not know what happened to Margrethe Rantzau thereafter, but Eiler Brockenhuus’ influential family finally convinces the king to pardon him. 

The second case of incest ends in infanticide 

Mourids von Ascherleben – Brockenhuus’ grandchild – takes possession of Jerstrup in 1630. He is married to Ellen Gøye. Rumours soon emerge that the estate owner has had a child with his young sister-in-law, Sibylle Gøye. 

King Christian IV must now, just like his father, investigate the family at Jerstrup to get to the bottom of the accusations of incest and bastard children. 

The king has the accused questioned in Odense in 1635. Mourids von Ascherleben is found not guilty. Sibylle Gøye admits that in all secrecy, she has given birth to a child at Jerstrup – and subsequently killed it, hiding the tiny body in a chest. She refuses to name the father of the child. 

Her admission is a clear confession of having clandestinely borne a child and of having committed infanticide. Aged just 24, Sibylle Gøye is beheaded in the castle courtyard. 

The manor tales are written by Linda Corfitz