Erik XIV, Johan III, Sigismund, Karl IX

The first ambitions into the east and the nordic seven year war

Civil war and the battle of Stångebro 1598.

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ERIK XIV: The first ambitions into the baltic states.

Being the oldest son Erik became king when Gustaf Vasa died in 1560. He was well educated with a talent for langauges and sports. In a magnificent crowning he included not only the fasces of the Vasas, the three crowns and the lion of the folkungafamily in his royal coat of arms, but Norways lion and the danish leopards as well. A clear insult to the danish who still had the three crown in their coat of arms. His brothers became dukes and had a large portion of autonomy in their lands. Johan became duke of Finland, Karl of Södermanland and Magnus of Östergötland. Erik courted the british queen Elisabth I and enjoyed considareble success in this. Gustaf Vasa had become immensly wealthy and England was still a second rate power. There was never any marriege however. After having had several mistresses Erik married a common girl, Karin Månsdotter.

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Erik XIV

After some time of political fighting about the right to have crowns and leopards in the coat of arms a seabattle was fought between a danish navy and a Swedish force under Jacob Bagge. In the end the Swedish had captured the danish flagship as well as two other ships. The danish admiral, Jakob Brockenhus, was brought to Stockholm in disgrace with shaven head.

In the mean time Erik had developed an interest in the baltic question. Representatives from the town Reval had met the king to negotiate for protection from the Swedes since czar Ivan the terrible had conquered Narva. Thus the first Swedish step into the baltic region is taken. Since Russia, Poland and Denmark all had ambitions in this area constant confronation was inevitable. It begins well. Klas Kristersson Horn defeats all oppostion around Reval and the estonian nobility allies with the Swedish. Estonia becomes swedish in 1561.

But in doing this Erik has offended not only foreign kings but his brother Johan, duke of Finland, as well. Johan had ambitions to enlarge his land into Estonia. In an attempt to ally himself with the poles he married the polish princess Katarina Jagelonica. Poland being larger, wealthier and more powerful than Sweden was a good ally. Erik reacted by accusing Johan of treason, having given his land to the poles as a morning gift. Johan was convicted and sentenced to death but was pardoned. He was imprisoned in 1563 while most of his accociates were executed.


The nordic seven-year war with Denmark

In August 1562 the nordic seven-year war starts. Denmark declares war over the issue of the coat of arms and the treatment of Jakob Brockenhus. The danish king Fredrik II is as ambitious as Erik and equally young, wanting to reestablish the Kalmarunion. The war becomes one of the bloodiest in our history and a fierce hatred for the danish develops. The danish capture Älvsborg after fourteen days of siege and Sweden is thus left without a port in the west. All attempt to recapture Älvsborg fail. Erik advances into tha danish Halland without being able to capture Halmstad. During the withdrawal a horrible looting and destruction is brought on the population. In teh danish army many german mercenaries are said to have been equally cruel, cutting the breasts and tounges of women captured. The swedish capture the norwegian Härjedalen in 1564 but loses it again. In turn the armies destroy the borderareas in raids.  Seabattles are constantly fouhgt. In the early years of the war the danish have the upper hand. Otte Krumpen, now 90 years old, commanded the danish army while the frenchman Charles de Mornay commanded the Swedes. Klas Kristersson Horn commands a fleet and threatens Copenhagen but the blockade of Sweden in unbroken. Daniel Rantzau assumes command of the danish army and now the danish achieve great success. The Swedes capture the fortress Varberg but soon it is lost to the danish. At Axtorna in Halland 12000 swedes are deated by 8000 danes and germans in the largest battle of the war.Rantzau now raids Västergötland and puts Skara, Falköping and Bogesund to the torch.

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Klas Kristersson Horn

At sea Klas Kristersson Horn has success. After a battle in july 1566 with the Swedish the danish navy withdraws into Visby harbour on Gotland. At night a storm hits the baltic sea and the danish navy in the harbour is destroyes when the ships are blown into each other. Bteween 4000-7000 danish sailors drown when 15 ships go down. The swedish fleet manage to ride the storm out without loss on the open sea. Klas Kristersson Horn died of the plague two months later.

Under the command of the frenchman Claude Collart the Swedes attack Norway in 1566. Akershus is besieged but not conquered. In 1567 Daniel Rantzau returns with an army of 8500 and twelve guns and marches through Småland into Östergötland. Jönköping is looted as is Vadstena that is burned in the process. Rantzau continue and plunders Alvastra, Linköping, Norrköping and Söderköping. The people of Söderköpng were ready to pay much for escaping destruction of their town. But a Swedish cavalry force appears and burns it themselves. Had the danish king had any order in his affairs and sent reinforcements to Rantzau it is possible that Stockholm would have fallen. But in the spring of 1568  Rantzau retreats through Småland in the same manner as he marsched up north burning Skänninge and Eksjö.

Eriks insanity and Johans coup.

Eriks brother Magnus had alreday developed insanity when Erik started to show signs of illness. He grew paranoid, sensing conspirace everywhere. As the war progressed badly he grew worse. In a spell of confusion he himself murdered the nobleman Nils Sture who he had imprisoned suspected for treason. A number of high ranking noblemen are executed, among them Svante Sture. The king becomes more and more confused. He attempts to negotiate a continued peace with Russia to keep from fighting on two fronts. The czar agrees but he wants Katarina Jagelonica, the imprisoned Johans wife. Erik agrees and a party arrives in Stockholm to collect the polish woman. But they arrive when Erik has his mental breakdown and the murder of Sture. The russians decide to stay and wait.

The fact that Rantzau is in retreat and that the newly wed Erik becomes a father helps him to recover. But his brothers have had enough. Civil war erupts. The competent Pontus de la Gardie leads the brothers army against the king and town after town falls into their hands. Stockholm is besieged and in the end the lonely Erik surrenders. He is imprisoned for the duration of his life. In 1577 he is poisoned on order from his brother Johan.

Johan is declared king. Johan III. The russian embassy in Stockholm to collect his wife to the czar is plundered to their bones which will be standard treatment for Swedish-Russian diplomatic relations. The czar evades saying that he thought Johan to be dead and Katarina in prison. He had only wanted to help. Johan, still being at war with Denmark, lets the issue rest. He rejects Denmarks offer for peace.

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Johan III

Johan, being 31 years old, was an intellectual and highly educated. He knew german, latin, polish, italian, french, english and finnish. On the contrary to Erik he took his marital vows seriously and was faithful. Johan was as his father, Gustaf Vasa, suspiciuos and choleric. It was a hard days work ahead. War with Denmark, problems with the czar, problems in Estonia.

Daniel Rantzau returned with another army and besieged Varberg. Though they captured the fortress it was with heavy casualties. Rantzau himself being struck to the ground by a cannonball in the head, never to rise again. France and the emperor intervened and managed to settle a peace in Stettin 1570. It was no fun reading for Johan. Gotland, Jämtland were to remain danish and Sweden promised never to have any interest in Norway or Skåne. Sweden could keep Estonia but had to pay 150000 daler silver as ransom for Älvsborg. Denmark could keep the three crowns in the danish coat of arms but promised never to claim Sweden as danish again, finally killing the kalmarunion completely. The peace would be eternal, but in practice meant that Sweden would be more or less at war for over 100 years.


New wars in the east and a royal union with Poland.

An exchange of letters between Johan and czar Ivan IV "the terrible" that lacks counterparts in history as to the verbal abuse between the monarchs finally developed into war. Estonia was badly looted and Reval besieged twice by the russians but never captured. The russians raided eastern Finland while the Swedish-finnish troops raided as far as to the arctic sea. Pontus de la Gardie captured Narva in 1581 in a glorious victory, cutting the russians off from the baltic sea. Ladoga- Karelen and Kexholm fell into Swedish hands.

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czar Ivan IV the terrible

Being married to a polish catholic Johan attempted to overbridge the differences between the two religions. He ordered a new lithurgy that made the swedish churches and priests more catholic. Some of this still remains. The Swedish bishops are the only ones in the lutheran community today to wear staffs, hats and robes in a catholic style. It was not done uncontested however.

A new polish king was to be elected and Johan entered his son Sigismund as a candidate. Being born by a polish princess and raised as a catholic he stood as good a chance as any other candidate. Negotiations started and were skillfully performed by the swedes. A document on how the royal union would be ruled was produced and Poland was to get Estonia in the deal as well. Sigismund was elected king of Poland. When Johan died he was to be king of Sweden as well. He was not an immidiate success. Despite being a catholic he was swedish and longed for home. Johan missed his son as well and they met in 1589. The councils in both Sweden and Poland managed to prevent Sigismund from abdicating while in the process preventing a war between the countries. Sigismund went back to Krakow and accepted his fate. He was soon to be more appreciated in Poland. Johan died in 1592.

A common king in Sweden and Poland. Duke Karls rebellion. Civil war.

Duke Karl who was the one of the sons who was most like his father immidietly seized the initiative. He was an active ruler in his lands and nothing like the bookloving brooder that was Johan. He was a veteran of the nordic seven year war. He summoned the counsil to be able to unite a strong lutheran front before the catholic Sigismund. They decided to abolish Johans lithurgy and all catholic deceptions. The swedishborn Sigismund came from Poland to be crowned king of Sweden as was his birthright and after months of difficult negotiations signed a document stating that he would never employ catholics in Sweden and that he accepted the lutheran church in Sweden. A letter from Sigismund to the pope has been found in the vatican were Sigismund tells that he did it only because he was threataned however. He was crowned king in 1594.

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Duke Karl was to rule with the counsil when Sigismund was in Poland but he did not have the right to summon the council. He did not accept this. He summoned the council in Söderköping anyway in 1595 and made them appoint him chansellor of the realm. They also decided that catholic services were illegal and all catholic priests were to leave the country in six weeks. But Finland was ruled by the to Sigismund loyal Claes Fleming and there the dukes orders had no effect. The duke instigated a revolt in Finland called the war of clubs. It was a bloody affair where real battles were fought between Flemings troops and peasant armies. Just as Fleming was victorious he fell ill and died.

Sigismund let the council know that he did not accept what had been decided in Söderköping. Karl resigned. Sigismund reacted quickly and accepted the resignation and gave the council all of the responsibility for ruling in his abcense. The duke was not to be outmaneuvered so easily however. He summoned the council again. But only one member showed up. The others claimed illness of various sorts. It was beginning to smell like a full rebellion against the legal king. Karl did as his father had done and with equal skill. He adressed the people. The peasants representatives stated that what had been decided at Söderköping was valid and that the duke was chansellor. Those who did not appear within six weeks were to be punished severly. Those loyal to the king, Arvid and Erik Stenbock, Erik Sparre, Erik Brahe and Erik Banér started to leave for Poland.



The battle of Stångebro 1598

The powerstruggle can only be solved by the force of arms. On the 30th of July Sigismunds fleet lands at Kalmar. His army is mainly polish but is reinforced by troops and nobility from southern Sweden. Stockholm is occupied by troops loyal to the king. More reinforcements from Estonia and Finland are expected. The duke considers fleeing with his family including his newly born son Gustav Adolf, who will be known to the world as Gustavus Adolphus. The duke decides not to run. The king marches for Linköping and the duke follows with his army.

Sigismund deployed his army at Mörtlösa on the only high ground. They waited for two days but the duke didnt attack. Sigismund decided to abandon the high ground. Karl proposed a meeting that Sigismund accepted. It never happened howver. A dawn on the 25th of september a skirmish was fought and Sigismund decided to reoccupy the high ground. The duke decided to act and ordered his army forward to Linköping. The king now again abandoned the high ground. He motive was that he had agred to meet the duke for negotiations. This was fatal. The duke divided his forces and marched on both the larger and the smaller bridges at Stångebro. When Sigismund heard of this he deployed his troops for battle east of Stångebro. It took some time since the camp was on the west side and all men and horses had to pass on the bridges. The swedish cavalty under Arvid Drake and infantry under Vladislav Beke went towards the larger bridge while Hildebrandt Creutz and Petter Gottberg with Kaspar Howarth and the men from Småland and most foreign troops went for the smaller bridge. At the larger bridge the dukes forces clashed with the bridgeguard that was driven back after three attacks. The dukes men seized the bridge and the guns that Sigismund had deployed there. At the juniper bush covered Gumpekulla hill the duke had deployed guns and together with those captured at the bridge they were able to put a murderous fire on the kings men trying to cross the bridge. The bridge was destroyed and the dukes men defended the eatern bank.

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Those of Sigismunds troops that had crossed at the smaller bridge had taken good ground behind a fence at Ladugårds hill. There were germans, scots and hungarians. These could with their guns stop the southern group of the dukes forces. Overconfident the king ordered the troops to advance from this good ground and pursue the retreating enemy. From the dukes right wing Nils Germundssons and Anders Lennartssons soldiers attacked the kings left flank and stopped the advance. On the western sida of the river the king had a large cavalry reserve that now was ordered to attack. They refused. The men from Västergötland had no will to fight their countrymen. The kings men were pressed back into the river and over the bridge. Many drowned.

Sigismund had been decicivly beaten.  He met the duke and agreed to deliver those of the swedish nobility that sided with him. On the 12th of october he fled Sweden. The duke made a clean house with his opponents imprisoning and executing several of them. The counsil declared that if Sigismund wanted his son Vladislav to be king of Sweden he must send him to Sweden to be raised as a lutheran. An answer aws required within six months. After another six months the four-year old must be in Sweden. If neither answer or prince arrived Sweden would find another king. The duke was reappointed chansellor. He went to Finland and subdued those still loyal to Sigismund with force.

Since neither answer or prince had appeared Sigismund lost his swedish crown. A new king was appointed. Guess who?

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Karl IX

Karl IX went to work by having his opponents stand trial in Linköping. He acted as procecutor himself and was at his best. "Seven thousand devils I have promised them and I will be true to my word!" Göran posse claimed guilty as charged and was pardoned while all others claimed to have obeyed the legal king. They defended themselves skillfully and for a while it appeared as if they would win. By manipulating the audience the opinion was swayed and all declared guilty. They were decapitated in 1600 and the affair is known as Linköpings bloodbath. The king never showed any remorse about this violation of justice. "Strong illness requires strong medication" as he said to his son Gustaf Adolf.


New wars waited with Poland, Russia and Denmark.


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