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The uprising starts.

After the Stockholm bloodbath 1520 king Kristian II left for Denmark. The majority of the nobility left (literally) head- and leaderless. But one young man had not been present at the kings coronationparty that preceeded the bloodbath.  It was Gustaf Eriksson Vasa. He had good reason not to trust the king having been taken hostage and imprisoned in Denmark when serving Sten Sture the younger. His father had been decapitated at Stockholm while Gustav found his way from Kalmar in Småland up to Dalarna were the Stures had started raising their peasant armies. The men of Dalarna were freedomloving and had never been to keen on the danish taxcollectors that the (actually by most of the nobility volontary) union with Denmark and Norway had brought. When Gustaf after many legendary adventures arrived at Mora he held a speech to the men, calling to their patriotism and telling them of the hideous crime at Stockholm. He was not widely believed and the response he recieved was tepid at best. Hadnt Kristian done many good things for the peasants in Denmark? Dissappointed he took his skis and started to ski for Norway. But now messangers from Stockholm and Småland were a rebellion had been brutally crushed arrived at Mora and confirmed the young Gustavs story of blodshed and violent murder al over Sweden. Skiers were sent to catch up to him and offer him the leadership in a peasant uprising. They caught up at Sälen. This ski-race was the first Vasa-race that is still repeated as the worlds largest skirace with over 20000 skiers each year. Perhaps Kristains plans to turn all of Scandinavia into a trading company with himself and Denmark as centralfigures had something to do with the decision to back Gustav as well as patriotism. The mine industry would be radically changed when danish men took over. Any man opposing Kristian would be worth enouraging.

At the age of 24 Gustaf Eriksson Vasa had become the chosen leader of Dalarna. He had a few noblemen of the lower nobility to act as officers and some hundred peasants armed with morning stars, crossbows, axes, bows and spears. He had no muskets, castles, trained mercenaries or artillery and certainly no navy. And no funds to aquire either of them. What to do? He attacks the most powerful man in northern Europe. King Kristian II and his entire army.

Gustav Vasa becomes chansellor.

In a series of asaults and sieges the peasant rebellion closes to Stockholm seizing the strongholds and castles in its way. More men rally to the banners, but as in modern days the so called liberation army is a mixed blessing to those liberated. County after county joins the rebellion. At Brunnbäcks ferry a small danish cavalty force was defeated in the first set piece battle. Another battle was fought at Västerås. A confuced affair that ended with a Swedish victory. More noblemen sided with Gustav, but he was still the only from  the high nobility. Sofar the rebellion had been limited to the parts of Seden north of Stockholm, but now the banner of rebellion was raised in western and southern Sweden as well. Kristians response was the classical in Swedish history to counter a rebellion. He sought negotiations while secretly raising an army. Gustav was promised amnesty if he would come to Stockholm to become a counsellor. His imprisoned mother and sister wrote him and erged him to surrender. Gustav did not rise to the bait. Now the rebelarmy had reached Brunkeberg at the gates of Stockholm. But it was not possible to assault the city with the present force even if some pirates had joined the rebels. It was still possible for Kristian to turn things around. He had the most important castles and fortresses. He had the economical power. What did he do? He sailed home to Denmark to deal with european politics and accociate with the artist Albrecht Duerer. It was a mistake that would cost him and Denmark dearly.

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Kristian II

The counsil appointed Gustav as chansellor, while they and the high nobility probably calculated in using him for their own purposes and then getting rid of him by giving him an out of the way county somewhere. This had been done hundred years earlier with the rebelleader Engelbrekt. But Gustav was no fool. Two of his ancestors had come nearly as far but had failed in the finish. By now a papal emissary arrived in Denmark. Was it true that two bishops had been beheaded at Stockholm? Kristian blaimed Didrik Slagheck who was condemned  and burned at the stake. 

In february 1522 Stockholm still hadnt fallen into the rebels hands. Gustav contacted his old friends in Lubeck. They granted him large credits since Kristians plans for trade in Scandinavia threatened their own position. In this way Gustav Vasa got his navy and could hire german mercenaries. Lubeck also contacted the duke Fredrik of Holstein south of Denmark. He was Kristians uncle but their ralation was all but amiable. Lubeck knew that if Gustav achieved total victory with their help they could dictate any conditions after their choosing. By a counsilmeeting Gustav was proclaimed the official leader of the rebellion and this was distributed in writing all over Europe.

Gustav Vasa is elected king of Sweden.

Lubeck also sent a fleet of their own to aid the Swedish. It arrived just in time to defeat a danish rescuefleet on its way to Stockholm. Gustav Vasa now ordered a force into the Denmark. It entered Blekinge, Skåne and Halland as well as Jämtland and Bohuslän on the Norwegian border.

Kristians failures in Sweden had brought forward heavy opposition in Denmark. His opponents turned to his uncle, Fredrik of Holstein. Since Fredrik had protected lutheran heretics and surrounded himselves with witches (the infamous mother of his mistress) they offered the crown of Denmark to Fredrik who had Kristians laws burned publically. Kristian II suffered a breakdown on these news. Kristian still had control over the parts of Denmark that today is southern Sweden and Gotland but he did not resist. Instead he packed his belongings and family on a boat and escaped to Holland.

By now all of Sweden was in Gustavs hands except Stockholm, Kalmar and Älvsborg. These were however the most important fortresses in Sweden as they were entrancepoints for danish navies and armies. When Gustav found out about Kristians departure and Fredriks coup he recieved a letter from Fredrik adressed to "the present master in Sweden" and "his loyal subjects". In the letter Fredrik points out that the union is still valid and as king of Denmark he has the right to the crown of Sweden as well. This was not appreciated.

Im may of 1523 Kalmar was taken by Gustavs forces. About the same time the danish abandoned Älvsborg that burned down in the process. Only the besieged Stockholm remained in danish hands. By now a meeting of the counsil was called for at Strängnäs.  the meeting was called to appoint new members of the counsil since many had lost their heads three years earlier, some had been exiled and some had died of natural causes. Nine new members were appointed. A bad omen to the church was that the chansellor would be ranked higher than the bishops from now on. But most surprising was that at the end of the meeting Sweden had a new king.

For some reason a proposition to elect a king was brought forward. Gustav was suggested but he declined. The papal emissary asked the people to beg of Gustav to accept which he did after having had contact with the emissarys from Lubeck. This was probably carefully orchestrated by Gustav and after much intrigue he had reached this position. There are some doubt as to the meeting legality since so few of the counsilmembers were there. Gustav only spoke of his election once afterwards despite that it must have been the greatest day of his life. Perhaps it was not all legal?

Gustav and all present praised Lubeck. Politics to ensure that Lubeck would stand by him and not Fredrik of Denmark and Holstein who they also supported (and had promised to help restore the union). That is probably why he conferred with the emissarys from Lubeck prior to accepting the crown. He was also presented the bill from Lubeck. 68 891 marks. An unbelievable amount in those days. And it was still ticking. The meeting made the decision that the crown would borrow money from the chuch to pay back to Lubeck what was owed. This was nothing new. But many smelled a new scent. There would never be any question about paying to the church what the crown owed. It was not a loan. Not only cash was requisitioned but silver and decorations. For the first time in 53 years Sweden had a Swedish king.

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Gustaf Vasa

But he was in debt. He had become king on credit. German mercenaries and german money had put him where he were. Stockholm was not his. And behind him were the emissaries from Lubeck. Always ready to present new bills.

The besieged Stockhom surrendered and on the 24th of June 1524 Gutsav Vasa entered his capitol. By now most of the army consisted of mercenaries. The peasants had returned home to work the land. Gustavs relations with his people was never to be as before again. He was a man of power with will of iron who took what he wanted and rarely showed gratitude. Finland was soon in his hands as well. Sweden would soon change forever.

The foundation of modern Sweden is laid.

Gustav Eriksson Vasa was born to be king. He was practical, intellegent and had a tremendous memory and an equally impressive capacity for hard work and an emormous energy. He had humour but was shorttempered. Despite his youth he aquired a firm grasp of the realm. He loved interfering and ruling. The taxes were raised to pay the debts and caused minor rebellions as well a a larger one when the churchbells were confiscated. All were handled with the customary mix of ruthless voilence and brutality and mild persuasion and promises. A small beuarocracy started to emerge to effectivly collect taxes and supervise the taxcollectors themselves. It was this institution that would lead Sweden to a leading position in Scandinavia against Denmark that was richer and had a larger population.

To gain a better control over the churches wealth Gustav Vasa managed to introduce and step by step replace catholicism with the new Lutheran beliefs.  This was done by clever propaganda and threats to abdicate if the kings will wouldnt be adhered to. The tie between state and church would end over 500 years later. This however was a fatal blow to cultural life in Sweden since the monstarys were education and arts had flourished were closed. Only some years later Gustaf Vasas administration would suffer from a severe lack of litarate clercs to the extent that Gustaf himself had to write the threatening and demanding letters to his beuarocrats.

Kristain II made an attempt to make a comeback via Norway but failed and then tried to regain power in Denmark. He was imprisoned and died 27 years later in melancholy and periods of alcoholism.

The most serious threat to Gustav Vasa was the dackerebellion in 1542 when Nils Dacke in Småland rebelled with his followers. The uprising went on for a year until Gustafs army could trick Dacke to accept a battle in the open where his otherwise succesful guerilla fighters were easily beaten by the german mercenaries. Dacke was killed escaping from the lost battle and the kings propaganda has made him one of the worst villains in Swedens history until our time. He was nevertheless the first man of common heritage to step out from the grey anonymity of the people to become a man of political and social importance.

A network of new castles and fortresses is built for military purposes and to enforce the tax collecting. Together with Denmarks king Fredrik Lubeck is beaten in war and the debt written off. By will and power Gustaf forces the counsil to accept that Sweden crown is to be inherited instead of won by election. He became enourmosly wealthy himself since he evidently had a hard time differing between Swedens and his.

In 1555 the borderskirmishes with the moscovites under czar Ivan the terrible escalate into war. It was a slow and not very glorious war. The swedes under Jakob Bagge failed to take Nöteborg and the russians failed to take Viborg.  A peace that  reminds of a draw was negotiated in 1557.

When he died in 1560 he had succeeded in everything. Swedens crown was his oldest sons crown and the country was far better off than when Gustaf became king in 1523. He had been devious, greedy and ruthless. He was violent and rash as well as cunning and clever. Skillfully and with luck he had ruled, with a keen sense for buisiness he had built his own and Swedens fortune. Always being right in his own mind and forcing his will upon others he finished what the Stures had begun. Maybe the most succesful king in Swedens history.

Gustaf Eriksson Vasa was the last of the coarse, simple, uneducated medieval kings in Sweden. His sons were educated, well manored products of the renaissance. They were no less ambitious, cunning or even  devious than their father however. In good Swedish royal medieval tradition the brothers would soon be at each others throats.