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.
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.
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.
He 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