Herluf Trolle, (1516–1565)


Danish-Norwegian admiral. Born on 14 January 1516 in Lillö, Scania, Herluf Trolle was a nobleman and a scholar. He owned several large estates and had wide political influence as a member of the Danish State Council. In 1559, without any previous naval experience, he was appointed admiral of the fleet and inspector of the navy.

Trolle threw himself into his work, and during 1560 he sailed with the fleet on maneuvers. He also encouraged construction of new ships. From the start of the Seven Years’ War of the North (1563–1570) he was commander in chief of the Danish-Norwegian navy. During 30–31 May 1564, a combined Danish-Lübeck fleet of 39 ships under his command met a Swedish fleet of 36 ships off Öland Island. After two days’ battle, the allies captured the Swedish flagship Makalös, the largest ship of the line at the time in Scandinavia; Swedish Admiral Jacob Bagge was taken prisoner. However, the ship blew up before she could be secured.

On 14 August 1564, Trolle with 39 ships again met a Swedish fleet at Öland. This time it consisted of 28 ships commanded by Admiral Klas Horn. The battle was indecisive. That year Trolle issued one of the first known sets of fighting instructions, in which he stressed fighting by line-ahead tactics. On 1 June 1565, Trolle again met Klas Horn, this time at Fehmam. Horn had 40 ships and Trolle commanded an allied force of 32 Danish-Lübeck ships. The action was hotly contested but again indecisive. Trolle, however, was severely wounded and died on 25 June in Copenhagen.


Briand de Crèvecoeur, E. Herluf Trolle: Kongens Admiral og Herlufholms Skoles Stifter. Copenhagen: C. A. Reitzels Forlag, 1959.