Sweden History – From Antiquity to Union with Denmark and Norway

1.1 ANCIENT PEOPLES. The Sweden has already been mentioned by the Latin authors: Tacitus recalls the lineages of the Svioni (Suiones), later Giordane and Procopio name other peoples of that land: the Svioni (Svear) in the province of Uppsala; the Gauti south of Lake Vänern; the Skridfinni in the northern Sweden Populated by different lineages in the period of the Germanic migrations and divided into various small independent kingdoms, the Sweden acquired a certain unity in the following centuries, when the kings of the Svear gradually extended their dominion over the whole Sweden, on the banks of the Baltic Sea and the Baltic Islands. Religious and economic factors contributed to this work of unification. In fact, in Uppsala there was a large pagan temple and on an island in Lake Mälaren the city of Birka was built, an important commercial transit center to modern-day Russia and the Arab East. This commercial flourishing declined around 1000, with the end of the Viking expeditions. More and more intense ties were therefore close with Europe, and Christianity began to spread in the country, where it definitively established itself only in 1089, triumphing over an extreme attempt at pagan reaction.

The rise of the jarls

In the 12th century. the power of the kings, already in itself very disorganized due to the extended autonomy of the popular assemblies (ting) of the individual provinces, was reduced even more by the continuous struggles between the pretenders to the succession to the throne: from the mid-12th century. in fact, the descendants of King Sverker and those of Erik IX the Saint contended for the crown. This state of affairs gave an increasingly important position to the dignity of the jarl, who, from commander of the fleet as he was originally, assumed ever more extensive prerogatives until he became the real person in charge of the kingdom’s policy. For the most part the jarls belonged to the so-called Folkungar family and the exercise of royal power made it easy for them to ascend the throne in 1250 with Valdemaro (1250-75), whose father, Birger jarl, effectively ruled the government until his death. (1266).

The Folkungars

The Folkungar dynasty kept the crown for a century. Valdemaro was deposed by his brother, Magnus Ladulås (1275-90), who, relying on the Church which he had endowed with many privileges, fought fiercely against the aristocrats, who, moreover, conferred a more active participation in the action of government through herredag ​​(aristocratic assemblies) and the institution of the Council of the kingdom. When Magnus died, his son Birger being still a minor, the government was ruled by one of the nobles, Torgils Knutsson. The newly influential aristocrats supported a policy of territorial expansion, especially towards Finland. When Birger came of age, Torgils Knutsson did not want to give up power and was therefore overthrown by a conspiracy, hatched in 1305 by the brothers of the legitimate king, who subsequently excluded Birger from the succession. The two brothers, Erik and Valdemaro, shared the town, but in 1317 Birger regained the upper hand. The supporters of the two brothers, rebelled, forced Birger to leave the Sweden and the younger son of Duke Erik, Magnus Eriksson, was elected king in 1319. His anti-aristocratic policy alienated him from the sympathies of those who had elected him. An early rebellion by his son, Erik Magnusson, led to the dismemberment of the kingdom into two parts, and subsequently, Erik’s death, at the call of Albert of Mecklenburg, proclaimed king in 1363.

Union with Denmark and Norway

Following the breakdown of relations between Albert and the aristocracy, the nobles turned to Margaret, regent of Denmark and Norway, widow of King Haakon VI, the youngest son of Magnus Eriksson. She, victorious in battle at Falköping (1389), became mistress of the Sweden and united the three Nordic kingdoms in the union of Kalmar, of which Erik VII of Pomerania, grandson of Margaret, was elected king. The union, from the beginning, was not particularly pleasing to the Swedes, because Erik of Pomerania, in constant war against the Hanseatic cities and the princes of northern Germany, oppressed the kingdom fiscally and economically. The personal interest of the sovereign was incompatible with that of the Swedes who, in 1434, under the leadership of Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson, they rebelled. In 1435 Engelbrekt convened the first Riks; dag, a sort of national assembly in which the various orders of Swedish society were represented, and which proclaimed him regent. After the assassination of Engelbrekt (1436), the revolt was exhausted and it was transformed from a popular movement into a struggle of the Swedish and Danish aristocracies against Erik. For Sweden history, please check ehistorylib.com.

● The union party still had the upper hand when, after Erik was overthrown, Christopher of Bavaria was elected king in all three Nordic countries (1440). At his death (1448) the leader of the party opposed to the union, Charles Knutsson, who had to endure long struggles with the aristocratic supporters of the union, became king of Sweden In 1457, they ousted him from the throne and elected Christian I of Denmark as king. The union, however, was short-lived. Disagreements arose between the aristocrats and the new king and Knutsson took advantage of this to return to power. Upon his death (1470), Christian I tried to take back the crown, but his efforts were in vain due to the severe defeat suffered at Brunkeberg (1471) by the Swedes led by Sten Sture the Elder, regent of the kingdom until 1503, with an interruption from 1497 to 1501, when John, king of Denmark and successor of Christian I, received the Swedish crown, under the illusion of having managed to reconstitute the Union.

● Not even the death of Sten Sture favored the return of John, because the Riksdag immediately proceeded to the election of a new regent in the person of Svante Nilsson (1503-12) and, subsequently, of Sten Sture the Younger (1512-20). Between the latter and Archbishop Gustav Trolle, deployed as much of thelocal clergy on the side of the union and the Danes, a very hard conflict broke out. The struggle ended with the defeat and death of Sten Sture in 1520. Christian II of Denmark, conquered Stockholm, celebrated his victory by sending to death more than 80 people, who had opposed the archbishop (the “bloodbath” of Stockholm, Stockholms blodbad).

Sweden History Denmark and Norway