Amber’s Swedish History – Chapter 8

Amber Hist 8

Crime and Punishment

A lot of Swedes remained Catholic in the early 1600’s, even though it was illegal. Nothing strengthens religions so much as repression, if you ask me. In Duke Karl’s Sweden there were about seventy crimes that could earn criminals the death penalty, or have their ears cut off . . . sometimes an arm. The heads of Duke Karl’s enemies were kept in cages at the entrance gates to Stockholm. If you said the wrong thing about the church you could have your tongue cut off, which must have been a real bummer. Murderers at sea were tied to the backs of their victims and thrown into the ocean. Those who murdered on land were buried alive.
It took about a hundred years for Gustav Vasa’s Lutheran reforms to take hold. People were given examinations to see how much they knew about the bible and Lutheran teaching. God help you if you couldn’t pass the test. In 1617 a new law demanded that all Catholics leave Sweden within three months after its passing, but there are still some Catholics in Sweden today, and Swedes still celebrate Santa Lucia at Christmas time.
When Gustav Vasa had been king for five years he decided it was time to get married. He was thirty-two years old, but didn’t have much of a kingdom, and people weren’t sure how long what he did have would last. This did not make him the most eligible bachelor in town. He wore a lot of fancy clothes in an attempt to look cool and approve his image.

Kat von SachsenWife No. 1 Katarina von Sachsen

He finally married Katarina von Sachsen, who was the daughter of a prince who’s kingdom was even smaller than Vasa’s, but the prince had a small army of mercenaries which seemed like a good deal. Katarina was eighteen when they married and managed to give birth to a son, Erik. Almost everyone was named Erik in those days. It was not a happy marriage. Katarina only spoke German, and Vasa only Swedish. Katarina died two years later while dancing with her brother in law.

Margareta LeijonhufvudWife No. 2 Margareta Leijonhufvud

One year later Vasa married Margareta Leijonhufvud who was Swedish and a good breeder. She was twenty years younger than him and had a whole litter of children, ten to be exact. Margareta also died early, probably from having too many children.
The faces in these paintings look pretty much the same, if you ask me. I don’t think the artists paid much attention to what the queens really looked like.

Katerina StenbockKatarina Stenbock

This time the artist got it right . . . or wrong, depending on how you look at it.
Vasa married Katarina Stenbock next. He was fifty-five. She was sixteen, and a not-so-distant relative. It was another unhappy marriage and no children came of it, which was probably a good thing. Gustav passed a new law that made it illegal for priests to bless the marriage of two people, “…when one is young and the other old.”

*         *         *

Katarina’s first born, Erik, now six, and two year old Johan, one of Margareta’s offspring, sat with Vasa on the throne. Gustav Vasa summoned his councilors and bishops and had them kneel before him, placing their hands on his sword. He ordered them swear to allegiance to the King and all that inherited his throne, making Sweden a hereditary kingdom.

Son Erik – better known as Erik XIV- later became the first king to inherit the throne by law. He was pretty smart, spoke several languages, and was well versed in astrology, art, and music. He wanted his coronation to be a major event, and had some Flemish masters create a crown, scepter, key, and orb made out of gold and precious stones. I would mind having one of those orbs to fool around with, but the servants tell me they can’t afford one.

Ummm. Where was I? Oh yes, Erik. Like I said, he was smart, but unstable.

Erik's CrownErik’s Crown

Next Week -Erik’s Evil Genius


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Observing Sweden – Blacksmith Shop

House Old- Fixed

1700’s? Just guessing.

Inside old house - 2

Bellows on right.

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Cormac McCarthy

BloodMy favorite author, Cormac McCarthy, was born on this day in Providence, Rhode Island – 1933. He had no interest in literature until he was in the Air Force, stationed in Alaska, and had nothing to do but read. Soon after, he began to write. “I never had any doubts about my abilities. I knew I could write. I just had to figure out how to eat while doing this.” For years he lived in poverty, often unable to pay rent.

When he finished his first novel, The Orchard Keeper (1965), he sent it to Random House because it was the only publisher he had ever heard of. Albert Erskine, who had edited Faulkner, liked the manuscript and agreed to publish it. McCarthy barely sold very few books, but won awards and grants, which gave him money to keep going. He turned down regular jobs — and even speaking invitations. He moved to Texas. He said: “I ended up in the Southwest because I knew that nobody had ever written about it. Besides Coca-Cola, the other thing that is universally known is cowboys and Indians. You can go to a mountain village in Mongolia and they’ll know about cowboys. But nobody had taken it seriously, not in 200 years. I thought, here’s a good subject.” He wrote a few more novels, but they continued to sell poorly. He mostly lived in run-down motels, which were so dimly lit that he carried around a good light bulb so that he could see better to read and write.

When Erskine retired McCarthy switched publishers. His new editor arranged to have 30 pages of McCarthy’s new manuscript published in Esquire, and suddenly everyone wanted to read it. All the Pretty Horses (1992) won the National Book Award and was a best-seller. None of his previous books sold more than 5,000 copies in hardcover; All the Pretty Horses sold nearly 200,000 copies in its first few months. His other novels include Blood Meridian, The Crossing, No Country for Old Men, and The Road.

Ah, to be born without a doubt of one’s ability.

Blood Meridian: “I venture that no other living American novelist, not even Pynchon, has given us a book as strong and memorable.” Harold Bloom.

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Amber’s Swedish History – Chapter 7

Amber History 7AThe Stockholm Bloodbath – 1520

Another Danish regent, Hans, the son of Kristan I, was the king of Sweden, but got driven off. Two decades later Kristan II. another Dane, decided he would take the crown.

Kristan IIKristan II

The Danes were stronger than the Swedish army. They resisted, but in time Kristan succeeded. He granted amnesty for all who’d fought against him. The losers happily accepted Kristan’s invitation to his coronation in Stockholm, where the new king had a change of heart. He had his men kill all of the attendants who had once opposed him, and their sympathizers. A hundred or more were executed in what is now referred to as the Stockholm bloodbath. Kristan topped it off by raising taxes, and passed a law prohibiting the carrying of weapons. He was soon referred to as, Kristan the Tyrant.

He had gone too far. Gustav Eriksson, a Dane, had not attended the deadly coronation, and tried to form a peasant army in Darlarna, but the peasants had no interest. Disappointed, he passed through the town and headed north. When people heard about the bloodbath they changed their minds and sent three skiers bring him back. They caught up with Gustav easily because he was not on skis. They still celebrate this event in Darlarna, with the largest ski race in the world, The Vasa Marathon. Thousands of Swedes compete over a 90 kilometer course  (56 miles). The race takes forever. I tried to watch it on TV last year, but fell asleep.

Gusav Vasa

Gustav Eriksson Vasa

Where was I? Gustav, known as Gustav Vasa, came back and defeated Kristan he Tyrant. He had it pretty easy for a while, as most of his competitors had been killed off. Gustav also became a tyrant in the years that followed, but centuries later historians would decide to make him a hero. It was now near the end of the middle ages. A new era had begun, but Sweden didn’t have an army or a navy, and the Danes had both. They would remain a threat.

Most Swedes farmed, and lived in houses with sod roofs. Goats and pigs were running around all over the place, but nothing is written about dogs because they weren’t important. Five thousand people lived in Stockholm. They were mostly Swedish, but some Germans, Scots and Dutch were there as well.

The king raised taxes again, and decided his people, who were Catholics, would be better off as Protestants. This move gave him control over the property of the church and its money. He became the richest man in Sweden, owned five thousand farms, and a fleet of ships. A New Testament was printed during his reign. It was the first major book published in Sweden, and began with a forward by Martin Luther, another German.

Gustav wrote critical letters of advice to common farmers, which have helped historians romanticize him as a beloved monarch, but they terrified the farmers at the time.

“Oh, shit! Another letter from the king.” You can imagine.

Gustav’s picture was on Swedish money for a while.

Gustav KronerHe ruled successfully, but there were problems. Sweden’s economy tanked, and the university at Uppsala was barely functioning. There were uprisings by the peasants who were angry about the new taxes, and changes to the church. Six revolts were put down. Their leaders were executed in public.

There were attempts to poison Gustav. He was also stabbed, and there was a plan to blow him up by putting gunpowder under his seat at the cathedral in Stockholm on Palm Sunday. It would have been a memorable ascent to heaven, but one of the conspirators got drunk on aquavit and spilled the beans. Eight people were arrested, and beheaded . . . seven of them Germans. Kristan II thought it was a good time to return with an army of mercenaries, but he was defeated and spent the rest of his life in prison.

The peasants were now doing fairly well by now, except for the king’s letters. There were no serfs in Sweden. Farmers lived a simple life and owned fifty percent of the land. They were described as crude by Germans who said they wore old-fashioned clothing, belched at the dining table, and slept on the floor with their animals. Sounds okay to me, but there were rats, as they could not afford to import cats in those days.

Coming Next – Duke Karl and Crime & Punishment in Sweden

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Interesting Stats of Interest to Writers

Thought this might be of interest to those of you who write. I came across it by chance today. It is from:

This DRM thing – News to me. DRM

Sounds like DRM might be a good thing to get rid of – no idea how to do that.

On Earnings:



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Catcher in the Rye


Catcher PhotoThe Catcher in the Rye. Published this day, 1951. About a 16-year-old prep school boy, Holden Caulfield, who is fed up with all the “phonies” and wants to go live in a cabin in California. The book took Salinger 10 years to write, and it was at one time the most banned book and the most frequently taught book in the country.
The book begins: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
And later, Holden says: “I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around — nobody big, I mean — except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”

Despite Salinger’s hesitations about publicity, The Catcher in the Rye was a sensation. It became a best-seller almost immediately, reaching No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list after two weeks. It has sold more than 65 million copies.


Interesting. I watched a documentary about Salinger last night. He was complaining about how people were driving him nuts, seeking him out and asking him for answers about life. “I’m not a psychologist!” he complained. “I write fiction!”

I remember reading Catcher ages ago and thinking Salinger had the answer to something – I can’t remember what. I don’t remember anything about it being banned. Hard to imagine why. I need to read it again.

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Tic Toc – Kind of a Hurricane Press


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