ERIC XIV. succeeded his father in 1560, commencing his reign under the most brilliant of auspices. But the old King Gustavus had foreseen that his sons would cause danger to the realm which he with infinite care had built up. After his forty years’ work of construction followed forty years of destruction which his elder sons brought to bear upon it. Fortunately, that work was so solid that it withstood this bravely, to rise rejuvenated when loving hands anew were laid to it.
King Eric was one of the most gifted monarchs of his time, handsome, eloquent, learned, a fine linguist, a musician and artist. But his sharp reason carried him to the excess of suspicion, his artistic temperament into hysterics, and he was vain, overbearing, quick-tempered, licentious and cruel. His leaning toward mysticism made him de-voted to astrology.
Eric’s first ambition was to reduce the power of the dukes, convoking a Riksdag at Arboga, in 1561, where the “Arboga Articles” were formulated for such purpose, the dukes being forced to acquiesce. In order to reduce the distance between the dukes and the nobility, King Eric, at his coronationcelebrated with a lavish display of pomp at Upsala in June of the same yearinstituted hereditary dignities of counts and barons. Svante Sture, Peter Brahe the Elder and Gustavus Johnsson Tre Rosor were created counts, the first and third one the sons of Christine Gyllenstierna, Peter Brahe being a cousin of Gustavus Vasa. Among the barons were Sten Leijonhufvud, Gustavus Stenbock, relatives of the dukes, and Clas Kristersson Horn (of Aminne). Only small fiefs were given with the new dignities, which were nothing but an outward sign of the distinction existing between a higher aristocracy already extant and the lower nobility. In order to strengthen his connection with the nobles, Eric made the estate on which a noble fixed his domicile exempt from russtjenst. He was jealous of his power and dignity, for which reasons he held sharp supervision over his officials. He instituted a supreme court, consisting of twelve men of low birth, who every three years made a tour of the country to hold court in the name of the king. These justices were the creatures of Eric, and soon brought on themselves discredit and hatred through their servile and cruel acts. Among these justices was Gran Persson, an able and powerful man, revengeful and cruel, who soon rose to be the favorite and influential adviser of his master.
Eric was intent upon making a great match, wooing Elizabeth of England, Mary Stuart of Scotland, Renata of Lothringia and Christine of Hesse, with more or less success, overlooking Margaret of Valois, who was anxious to marry him. His mistress, Carin Monsdotter, a child of the people, but beautiful and of a noble character, for whom he had formed a secret attachment, finally was made his queen.
The German Order which held Esthonia and Livonia suffered during this period considerably through Russian invasions. The town of Reval, with a large part of Esthonia, was ceded to Sweden in 1562, upon the receipt of a loan, Eric immediately giving his attention to the depressed and enslaved peasants of that section. Later the grandmaster of the Order turned Livonia over to the king of Poland, who, in need of money, placed seven castles of this province at the disposal of John, duke of Finland. John had tendered a loan to the Polish king and married his sister Catherine. Eric considered these negotiations as harmful to his royal authority, and he asked his brother to give account of them in person. John refused, making the royal emissaries his prisoners. The Swedish Riksdag condemned John to death for high treason, and an army was despatched to Fin-land, which carried back Duke John and his consort as prisoners. John’s sentence was commuted to imprisonment at Gripsholm, proud Catherine choosing to share the fate of her husband (1563). The prison life of the ducal couple at Gripsholm was not an unpleasant one. They enjoyed a great deal of liberty and luxury at the splendid castle in Lake Maelar, King Eric sending his brother a copy of Boccaccio’s “Decamerone” in German, to read for a pastime. The duke read the work and translated it into Swedish. The room called “king John’s prison,” which is still pre-served with the artistic decoration which Duke Charles later bestowed on it, served as sleeping apartment for the prisoners, and there Catherine gave life to two children, one of whom was to become the founder of the Polish line of Vasa kings. It is said that Duke Magnus became a prey to the disposition of insanity latent in his family, by being forced to sign the death sentence of his brother John, King Eric being anxious of having him share the responsibility. Magnus lived until quite an advanced age, but was never cured of his mental ailment. Even in his best hours he was not of very bright intellect. While sojourning at the castle of Vadstena, by the Lake Vetter, he had the vision of a mermaid, who coaxed him to follow her. The duke jumped from the window of his apartment into the moat below. He did not sustain any serious injury, but the incident made the unhappy prince famous in tradition and song.
In May, 1560, a war commenced with Denmark which, with several intermissions, lasted for seven years. It has been called The Seven Years’ War of the North. About the same time that Eric became king of Sweden, the young ambitious Frederic II. ascended the throne of Denmark. In the days of Gustavus I., Christian III. had appropriated the Swedish emblem of three crowns for the Danish seal of state, as if by this proclaiming that the Union was considered still extant or that it could be re-established at the opportune moment. King Gustavus had protested, but with no result. When King Frederic kept up the irritating fact of preserving the Swedish emblem, King Eric answered by placing the emblems of Denmark and Norway in the Swedish seal of state. This made things worse and served as a nominal cause for war. The principal interest at stake was the supremacy in the Baltic provinces. The diocese of (sel, which had accepted a Danish protectorate, was governed by a brother of the Danish king, who had entered into an alliance with Poland against Sweden, Denmark also joining it.
In May, 1563, a Swedish fleet, commanded by Jacob Bagge, left Sweden to bring Princess Christine of Hesse, the promised bride of King Eric. A Danish fleet met them, at the island of Bornholm, and greeted the Swedish ships with some shots from their sharply loaded cannon. The Swedes returned the fire and a naval battle followed, which ended in a defeat for the Danes, who lost their flagship. When Jacob Bagge arrived in Rostock, where he was to meet the princess, her father was found unwilling to let her sail on account of the insecurity brought about by the commencing naval hostilities. This would under ordinary circumstances have enraged the vain and sensitive king, but Eric forgot his rage in his delight at the naval victory. Jacob Bagge was rewarded with a triumphal entry into Stockholm upon his return. He entered the city on foot with a golden chain round his neck, followed by his sub-commanders and surrounded by the banners taken during the battle. The prisoners followed, in chains and with shaved heads. The king’s fool was dancing in front of them, playing on his fiddle. A Danish herald soon after-ward reached Stockholm, declaring war with great pomp and ceremony on behalf of his royal master. The city of Lubeck sent a messenger to Stockholm on a similar errand, but was not received by the king. “Since he is sent by the mayor and council of his town and other similar lard-mongers, let him be heard and answered by the mayor and council of Stockholm,” was the royal order.
Jacob Bagge was ordered to sea with the Swedish fleet later in the summer of the same year. He met the united fleets of Denmark and Lubeck at the island of C Eland, in the Baltic. A terrible battle ensued, which lasted until the fleets were separated by the darkness of the night, without victory being won by either side. Jacob Bagge started out with his fleet again in the spring of the following year, commanding a new flagship, “The Matchless,” which carried two hundred cannon, most of them made out of church bells confiscated by Gustavus Vasa. A new battle was delivered between the islands of Gothland and OEland. The majority of the Swedish ships had by a gale been separated from the admiral and his flagship, but Jacob Bagge fought valiantly for a whole day, continuing the battle the next morning. A catastrophe brought it to a close. “The Matchless” caught fire through some act of negligence, a barrel of powder exploding between the decks. Jacob Bagge then surrendered, and was taken on board one of the ships of Lubeck. The enemies took possession of the “The Matchless” in order to plunder it, but the immense ship exploded with a tremendous roar, sinking with everybody who was on board. Jacob Bagge did not long remain in Danish captivity. He re-turned, to be greeted with the greatest distinction, and died as governor-general of Stockholm.
The war on land was at the beginning carried on only through mutual invasions, both sides giving proofs of cruelty and vandalism. Elfsborg surrendered to the Danes. A Swedish army, commanded by King Eric in person, entered the province of Halland, pillaging and plundering and laying siege to the town of Halmstad. King Eric suddenly raised the siege, when news came that King Frederic was approaching with an army. The Swedish troops scattered in various directions, one division being met and defeated by the Danes. The whole of Northern Norway was invaded by Swedish troops and temporarily subjugated. The entire kingdom of Norway was very near being altogether absorbed by Sweden. This would have been a happy solution of the Scandinavian question. Norway would have become one in language with Sweden and would have shared her glorious epoch of political grandeur which was to follow. The best families of Norway would have been entered side by side with the Swedish nobility at the knightly chapter-house of Stockholm, and the countries would have had their later democratic and cultural development in common. But King Eric was too restless and undecided to make any lasting conquest, or union, possible. When Claude Collard, a young French nobleman, who was the conqueror of North-ern Norway, was taken by surprise and captured, King Eric, to avenge this, devastated forty church parishes in Norway. The Danes invaded and plundered the provinces of West Gothland and Smaland, while the Swedes pillaged Bleking and Scania. The king had given orders that the population of a whole district should be killed. He wrote later about the fulfilment of this cruel command: “God granted luck, so that thousands of men were killed on the road and in the woods.” The province of Scania was devastated to a distance of one hundred miles from the Swedish frontier. A new invasion into Halland was made, in 1565, when Duke Charles, then fifteen years of age, commanded the artillery. The town of Varberg was attacked, but valiantly defended by the Danes. The young duke upon this occasion gave the first proof of his indomitable energy. He led the attack and persuaded the Swedes, by word and action, not to give it up. At last the walls were taken, the town being pillaged and burned. All men who could carry arms were killed, except a force of one hundred and fifty men of hired troops who entered Swedish service. A young French captain, Pontus de la Gardie, of a noble family of Languedoc, was among the latter. This man and his descendants were destined to play an important part in Swedish history.
Clas Kristersson Horn was made commander of the Swedish navy after Jacob Bagge, in which position he covered his name with glory. He won a naval battle at (land (in 1564) which lasted for two days. In the next year he added several victorious battles to his record, among which the principal ones were fought at Buchow, by the coast of Mecklenburg, and at the island of Bornholm. When he went to sea in the spring of 1566 no enemy dared appear. The united fleets of Denmark and Lubeck at last started out, but were defeated by Clas Horn at the island of (Eland after a vehement battle. The vanquished fleets were caught in a gale in which sixteen ships perished with seven thousand men. Clas Horn with his Swedish fleet was master of the sea. In the following year no fleet appeared to meet his. The efforts of Gustavus I. to set the Swedish fleet in good order thus proved to be of the greatest con-sequence.
The Danes were superior in the hostilities on land during the latter part of the war, thanks principally to their eminent commander, Daniel Rantzau. He made an unsuccessful attempt to recapture the town of Varberg, but gained, at Axtorna, a battle over a superior Swedish army (in 1565). When Rantzau saw the Swedes approaching for an attack, he held prayer with his troops, whereupon he arranged them for resistance. The Swedish infantry captured the Danish stronghold and artillery, but the hired German troops of the Swedish wings turned into flight. Rantzau made an attack upon the deserted infantry, and was victorious when nightfall ended the battle. The Swedes lost thirty cannon, and Nils Sture, the son of Count Svante Sture, was able to save the banner of state only by severing it from the pole and hiding it on his person. In the following year, Rantzau pillaged Smaland and West Gothland, and in 1567 he penetrated as far as East Gothland, where he was very near being caught in a trap by the Swedish troops. The interior struggle of Sweden caused hostilities to cease for some time.
The sad fate of his brother Magnus also befell King Eric. Evidences of approaching insanity were frequent and brought on horrible consequences. By licentiousness, mysticism and astrological speculations his mind became unsettled. It had been predicted that a blond man would dethrone him. Eric at first made his brother John the subject of his suspicions. After the duke’s imprisonment he suspected a rival in Nils Sture, who also was a blond. Eric accused him of ill behavior in the battle of Axtorna. The king’s court sentenced him to death, but Lord Nils escaped with a contumelious entry of mockery into Stockholm, on a miserable horse, and a crown of straw on his head. But frightened at the indignation aroused by his shameful act the king tried to undo it, and sent Lord Nils on an embassy to Lothringia, to bring the king’s proposal to Princess Renata.
In the commencement of 1567, the king had several of the nobles arrested, on the suspicion of conspiracy, and carried to the castle, of Upsala, where a Riksdag was convoked. Nils Sture arrived with the consent and betrothal ring of Princess Renata, but was thrown into prison. The king asked the Riksdag to pass a sentence of death upon tho accused nobles. When this was refused, he was seized by fear and rage. Rushing into the prison of Nils Sture, he wounded him in the arm. Lord Nils drew out the weapon, a dagger, kissing its handle and returning it to the king, with a prayer for mercy, but was killed by the soldiers at the command of the king. Eric’s disposition immediately was changed, and he darted into Count Svante’s prison, begging forgiveness at his feet. The aged Sture’s answer was that he would forgive all, granted that no harm was done to his son. The king fled in despair from the castle and town, followed by some of his soldiers, one of whom he sent back with an order to kill all the nobles, “except Lord Sten.” As there were two by that name, these were spared, but Count Svante and his son Eric Sture, Abraham Stenbock and Ivar Ivarsson were killed. The Riksdag was forced to pass sentence for high treason upon the murdered men, at the instigation of Gran Persson, whose perfidious ads-ice had continually inflamed the sickened brain of his master. King Eric was for several days missing, and at last found wandering about in a peasant’s garb. Cared for by Carin Monsdotter, he slowly regained his reason, showing evidence of repentance by declaring the murdered nobles innocent and promising to compensate their families. During this spell he set free his brother John and dismissed Gran Persson. But soon his evil disposition returned, and the resolution of his brothers to free the country from his rule must be acknowledged as a beneficent one. The nobles were brought to revolt, when Eric, in July, 1568, proclaimed Carin as his consort, and had her solemnly crowned Queen of Sweden. The dukes John and Charles were at first unsuccessful in their efforts, the king defeating their troops repeatedly. But in 1569 Stockholm was captured, Gran Persson killed and the king forced to abdicate. The sentence passed upon Eric, by the Estates of the Riksdag, stipulated that he should be “imprisoned, but sustained in a princely manner, for the rest of his days.”
Eric was at first held imprisoned in his own apartments at the royal castle, but was transferred to two of the vaults, called the “apartments of Lord Eskil.” They had served as a treasury during the reign of Gustavus I., but now stood empty. Queen Carin and her children were his company. After an unsuccessful attempt at flight, one room was taken away from him and the windows in the remaining one reduced in size. The table of the royal prisoner was well provided for, but he was unmercifully treated by his warders. The cruel Olof Stenbock once deprived him of all his clothes. In a struggle which followed, he shot Eric in the arm and let him remain senseless in his blood for several hours. Some of the members of the former body-guard of Eric once attempted, but in vain, to set free the unhappy prisoner. In 1569 Eric was removed to Abo in Finland, where he was locked up in a secure prison. Two years later he was taken to Castellholm, in the archipelago of Aland, for fear that the Russian czar would liberate him by violence. Shortly afterward he was removed to the lovely castle of Gripsholm, where he had spent some of the happiest days of his youth, and where he once upon a time held his brother John imprisoned. At Gripsholm there is a gloomy dungeon which is said to have served as the prison of King Eric, but this is not authentic. Eric was treated comparatively well while at Gripsholm, enjoying the company of his family, a good table and plenty of servants. The recording books of the castle from this period speak of “the court of King Eric.” King John was, in the meantime, irritated by Russian hostilities and intrigues, the old supporters of Eric joining in the latter. The appeals of Duke Charles for the improvement of the condition of his poor imprisoned brother roused the suspicion of the king, who fostered dark plots against the prisoner. Eric was removed from Grips-holm and its pleasant associations, separated from his family and put in hard prison at Westeros. The warders received instructions to take his life if necessary. The state council and the archbishop sanctioned this order of the king. The last prison of the unhappy King Eric was OErbyhus, where he suddenly died, exactly at a time when King John’s fears of a revolt had reached a climax. Rumors that Eric had been poisoned were current, and Duke Charles also gave utterance of his belief that such was the case. In spite of the wars, cruelty and evil deeds of King Eric XIV., the Swedish people of his time had a good deal of devotion for him and his faithful consort. The country enjoyed good years during his reign and profited by the wise measures of his father.
Gustavus, the son of Eric XIV. and Carin Monsdotter, was born, in 1568, at Nykping. W hen Queen Carin was separated from her imprisoned consort, her children, Gustavus and Sigrid, followed her to Finland, where she re-sided at Abo. In 1575 the young prince was harshly taken away from his mother, at the command of the state council, and sent to Prussia. The jealous and uneasy King John made him the subject of cruel persecutions. In spite of these he received a fine education, and is known to have embraced the Catholic religion. He was kindly received by King Sigismund of Poland, his cousin, at whose coronation in Cracow he is said to have been present, in the disguise of a beggar. A relation of intimate friendship existed between the outlawed prince and Emperor Rudolph of Austria, both of whom were devoted to the study of alchemy. King John refused to listen to the appeals for grace and support which Gustavus repeatedly made to him. Gustavus was not al-lowed to see his mother until the year of 1596, when the two had a touching meeting at Reval. He later made his home in Thorn, but left for Russia, in 1600, upon an invitation from Czar Boris. He was received in Moscow as a reigning prince; but when he refused to appear as a pre-tender to the Swedish throne, he was imprisoned. At the fall of Boris, Gustavus was set free, but again put in prison by Dimitri. At the fall of the latter, in 1607, Gustavus once more regained his liberty, but died in Casijn, in the same year. This unhappy Gustavus Ericsson Vasa was a man of fine erudition and pure morals. He was a dreamer and of a sensitive disposition, being an ardent Catholic and fondly devoted to the country which had outlawed him.
Sigrid Vasa, the daughter of Eric XIV., was twice married to members of the Swedish nobility. Ake Henricsson Tott, her son of the first marriage, was a distinguished warrior in the times of Gustavus II. Adolphus. Queen Carin died, in 1612, beloved and highly respected, at the beautiful estate of Liuksiala in Finland, given her in fief by King John.
John III. succeeded Eric, without sharing his power with his younger brother Charles, as he had promised. John was as learned and highly talented as Eric, and as vain, restless and unreliable. But while Eric was a mystic and a sceptic by turns, John was a Catholic, or leaning to-ward Catholicism, and a hypocrite who, under the pretence of meekness and piety, tried to hide his vanity, bad temper and utter selfishness. Like Gustavus I. and all his other sons, John was devoted to the fine arts, particularly to architecture, with an ardor that reached the vehemence of a passion. He planned a vast number of churches and castles, which he completed, utterly regardless of cost. The Swedish Castle Renaissance which was established by John and his brothers is influenced by contemporary Flemish art, severe and majestic in outline, graceful and profuse in interior decoration. Good specimens of it were the earlier castles of Stockholm and Svartsj, the castle of Vadstena remains so and, to a great extent, the beautiful and memorable castle of Gripsholm.
At his coronation, John issued hereditary privileges to the nobility. Russtjenst became no longer essential. Legal offices were preserved for the nobles, the king’s supreme court being abandoned. John’s policy was to win the sup-port of the aristocracy against Charles, who, indignant and sulky, kept within his duchy, consisting of the provinces of Sdermanland and Vermland, with the town of C rebro in addition.
In 1570, an unsatisfactory peace was made with Denmark, Sweden ceding all the Norwegian and Danish territory in her possession, together with the island of Gothland, and agreeing to pay something like one hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the return of Elfsborg, held by the Danes. A friendly relation to hostile Poland commenced with John’s reign, but a long and bloody war with Russia began in 1570. The Russians tried repeatedly, but in vain, to capture Reval, plundering and killing the population of Esthonia, who remained faithful to Swedish rule. Henric Horn and Clas Tott won laurels for their heroic deeds, while the war was changed into more modern methods and to a successful issue by the Swedish general Pontus de la Gardie, who captured the provinces Keksholm and Ingermanland and the town of Narva.
John III. had set two goals for his ambition : to return the Swedish church to Catholicism and to make his son Sigismund king of Poland. The latter he reached at the death of King Stephan in 1589, Sigismund succeeding him upon the throne. The former ambition John never attained, after years of stubborn and unreasonable perseverance giving up this pet idea. John made some attempts to bring order in the confused conditions of the church, but left it in a worse state of confusion than he found it. The crown and the aristocracy had deprived the church of nearly all its property and withheld its income from it. Archbishop Laurentius Petri complained of the miserable state of things, the ministers often being useless wretches and the service in some churches impossible to uphold for sheer lack of money. In 1572 the ecclesiastical matters were arranged at a meeting in Upsala, when a new church law was introduced, demanding higher qualifications for the ministers, who were to be elected by their congregations, and enforcing a school law. Laurentius Petri died in 1573 and was succeeded by Laurentius Petri Gothus. The new archbishop willingly subscribed to a set of rules, laid before him by the king, which reintroduced monasteries, worship of saints and the ceremonies of the Roman church. Jesuits were invited to the country, but met with little encouragement from the people. The very climax of John’s reactionary movements was formed by the introduction of his ritual, Liturgia, which was nothing else than an adaptation of the Catholic ritual. It was accepted by the Riksdag of 1577, but Charles refused to accept it for his duchy. The king had many conflicts with his brother, the latter always giving in to his wishes, except on this point. Ministers and university professors who refused to conform to the new ritual, or attacked it, were sheltered by the duke and, in many instances, given high offices. The king grew angry, but the duke remained firm and unyielding. When Queen Catherine died, in 1583, John’s Catholic fervor suffered a relapse, and ceased altogether after his marriage to young Protestant Gunilla Bielke, in the following year. He stubbornly stuck to his Liturgia for some time yet, but exiled the Jesuits, and dismissed with contumely ministers who had joined the Roman Church. During the last years of his reign, he said it was best to leave everybody a free choice in religious matters, regretting his Liturgiawhich he once considered the gem of his own theological system because it had caused so much trouble and confusion.
Sweden suffered a great deal through the slack and unsteady government of King John. He spent unreason-able sums on his court and his craze for architectural marvels, while always short of funds for the necessities of war and internal improvements. Commerce and industries suffered and were brought to a standstill by dearth, hunger and pest. The population decreased; the towns were made bankrupt and many farms abandoned. Bad and greedy officials and the recommencing war with Russia increased the evils. After unsuccessful attempts to have his son leave Poland, where he had met with many difficulties, John entered into more intimate relations with his brother, who came to wield a beneficial influence on the government. John III. died 1592, malcontent and tired of life, his death being little regretted by the people.
One of the most famous love episodes of Sweden dates from the reign of John III. It has no bearing upon the affairs of state, but is not devoid of value as an illustration of the history of civilization, giving us a glimpse of the private life of the nobles of that period and the standard of morals of their lives. The episode is told by Countess Anne Banér in a manuscript by her hand with the title : “In the following manner my blessed mother’s sister, Lady Sigrid Sture, lady of Salestad and Geddeholm, related what took place when Lord Eric Gustafson Stenbock carried away our blessed mother’s sister, Magdalen Sture, from Hrningsholm. ”
The dowager-countess, Martha Sture, resided at the castle of Hrningsholm, enlarged to a four-story structure and fortified with four corner towers by her consort. She was a sister of Queen Margaret, the second queen of Gustavus I., and was married to the renounced lover of that sister, Count Svante Sture. The countess was called “King Martha,” partly because of her stern power and great authority, partly because it was known to have been her ambition to see her husband’s family grace the throne of a country which their forefathers had ruled as uncrowned kings. She had lived to see her husband and two sons killed by the insane Eric XIV., but she had yet two sons who would carry high the glorious name, on which there was not a stain of any kind. There were five daughters, Sigrid and Aune, married to members of the influential Bielke family, and Magdalen, Margaret and Christine, as yet unmarried. There was another young lady at Hrningsholm, besides the daughters, the little Princess Sigrid Vasa, the daughter of King Eric XIV. and Carin Monsdotter, who had received a home with the stern “King Martha” while her mother was following the tracks of the deposed monarch from prison to prison.
Between Magdalen Sture and Lord Eric Stenbock a passionate love sprang up. Lord Eric was a very fine young man, of an influential family and the brother of the queen-dowager, Catherine, third consort of Gustavus I. But, unfortunately, he was the nephew of Countess Martha, and, as a cousin of Magdalen, considered to be too closely related to her to make a marriage possible. Countess Martha was unwilling to listen to any appeals, and she was strengthened in her resolution by the old Archbishop Laurentius Petri, who still held the same opinions as when he, once upon a time, refused to grant his consent to a marriage between King Gustavus I. and young Lord Eric’s sister, because she was a niece of Queen Margaret. The years passed by, but no change came in the stubborn resistance of “King Martha.” Christmas eve of 1573, Lord Eric visited Hrningsholm to remain until New Year. He brought with him costly presents which he offered as New Year’s gifts to Countess Martha, her daughters, chaplain and servants. He left to return on Palm Sunday with his sister Cecilia, the wife of Count Gustavus Tre Rosor. One morning a few days later, Lady Sigrid Bielke, who was visiting her mother, entered the so-called rotunda, a large room in one of the towers which Countess Martha and her daughters used as sleeping apartment. She was surprised to find her sister Magdalen kneeling and in tears. Lady Sigrid greeted her : “God bless you, you have a good deed in mind!” “God grant it were good,” answered Magdalen, rising. “Certainly it is good to make one’s prayers amid tears,” Sigrid said. Magdalen caught the hands of her sister and said : “My darling sister, if all the rest forsake me, you will not turn away your faithful heart from me.” Sigrid found the words and emotion of her sister strange, but did not suspect anything. “Why do you use such words to me?” she answered. “I do not believe that you are going to make an evil-doer out of yourself; there are none in the Sture family who have carried themselves in a way to make us turn our hearts away from them.” Tears came again to the eyes of Magdalen, but Sigrid was called into an interior room by her mother. Magdalen went to play with one of her little nieces, when Lord Eric entered. “Dear lady,” he said, “would you like to see the horse that I have given you? It is now waiting in the court.” Magdalen rose and left, escorted by her cousin. They met two of the women of the household, whom Eric commanded to follow them. A horse and sleigh stood in the vaulted entrance. Magdalen was placed between the two servants, while Eric took his position back of them on the runners, holding the reins. In the castle court they met the chaplain and several of the servants, who thought it a pleasure ride and let them pass. When they rode down on the frozen lake, the two servants in the sleigh grasped the importance of the situation for the first time, and commenced praying Lady Magdalen to return. Lord Eric silenced them by displaying his short musket. A few moments later they were surrounded by a force of one hundred men on horseback, who formed an escort. They were a loan to Lord Eric by Duke Charles.
The excitement at Hrningsholm was great when the elopement was discovered. Margaret Sture happened to look through the window at the moment when the sleigh reached the lake. At her outcry Countess Martha and Sigrid joined her. The old countess fainted on the stairs when making for the court, and Sigrid was ordered to follow up the eloping couple. Countess Cecilia found her aunt on the stairs and hastened to assure her of the mortification that she felt at the daring and unsuspected deed of her brother, also expressing some surprise at the bad manner in which it was accepted. But then the old countess be-came wroth, exclaiming : “Go to the devil, and may God punish both you and your brother! And if you have any part in his scheme of robbing me of my dear child, be-take yourself after him, so that no shame or dishonor may happen.” Countess Cecilia hastened to her sleigh and reached Svaardsbro, where her brother was stopping, ahead of Sigrid.
When Lady Sigrid arrived at Svaerdsbro, she was admitted through the lines of soldiers only after some difficulty, finding tailors and seamsters busy cutting and sewing precious stuffs for clothing for Lady Magdalen and her servants, “for she left with uncovered head such as she went and stood in her mother’s house.” Sigrid tried to persuade her sister to return to her mother, who in her great sorrow was willing to forgive all if she only came back. Magdalen sat silent for a long time. Finally she said: “If you can vouchsafe me, that the lady, my mother, will grant that we shall belong to each other, since I have so dearly pledged myself to him, I shall return.” This Sigrid could not do, and Magdalen added, weeping sorely: “The last complication is then as bad as the first.” Lord Eric entered with his sister Cecilia. When Sigrid asked where he intended to bring Magdalen, he answered: “To Visings, to the Countess Beatrix, my sister, where she shall remain until we obtain the consent to marry of the lady, her mother.” It was arranged that Cecilia should accompany Magdalen, and Sigrid try her best to win her mother’s consent. Magdalen sent home to her mother a piece of horn of the fabulous unicorn; “the only thing I have carried with me from my father’s house,” she added. This horn, which really was taken from the incisor of the narwhal, was in those days generally thought to be authentic and of miraculous power.
Countess Martha was, in her grief and dismay, taken ill. She soon gathered strength enough to write to King John, her nephew, pleading her cause. King John at once took action in the matter, calling Lord Eric to account, and issuing a command to all ministers of the kingdom, prohibiting them to unite in marriage the two cousins. Eric Stenbock was on his way to Stockholm when he received the order of the king. Upon his arrival at the capital, he was imprisoned and deprived of all his offices. But Lord Eric had powerful friends in Duke Charles and the Stenbock family. As the king himself did not wish to be without his service, he was soon set free and reinstalled in his offices. He succeeded in obtaining the goodwill of the whole Sture family, but “King Martha” remained irreconcilable. More than a year had passed since the elopement. One day Lord Eric suddenly appeared at the castle of Visingsoe. He made, with Magdalen and his aunt, Lady Anne, a journey into the province of Halland, where a Danish minister joined the two cousins in marriage. The wedding was celebrated at the home of Eric’s father, Baron Gustavus Stenbock of Torpa. But Lady Magdalen was not happy. She grieved because of her mother’s hostile attitude, and continued to dress in black colors, as she had done ever since she left her mother. Duke Charles, the queen-dowager, the royal princesses, and all the members of the state council, yea, the king himself, wrote letters to the indignant countess, whose ire was rather increased than diminished thereby.
Finally, after another year and a half, “King Martha” gave in to the tears and prayers of her daughters. Lady Magdalen returned to Hrningsholm after three years of absence. She was not allowed to come up to the castle at first, but had to dwell in the building occupied by the baths. As the winter was approaching, and Lady Magdalen was soon to give life to a child, her brothers and sisters prevailed upon their mother to receive Lord Eric and his wife at the castle. The event was arranged in a conspicuous way. Countess Martha was seated in the place of honor in the great hall of the castle, surrounded by her daughters and sons-in-law, when Lord Eric entered with Magdalen. When the mother saw her pale and thin features, she was moved to tears, exclaiming : “Thou unhappy child!” Magdalen approached her on her knees, and the countess embraced her, stammering her forgiveness between tears. Magdalen remained at the castle, where she bore her husband a son, who was called Gustavus. Lady Martha invited the king, the duke and the princesses to be present at the baptism, at the same time granting Magdalen an equal share of inheritance with the other daughters. Lady Magdalen continued to dress in mourning as a self-imposed punishment for her disobedience to her mother. One day she was preparing to leave for a wedding, when her mother asked her the reason why she dressed thus. When “King Martha” learned why, she took a costly cross of diamonds intended for the bride and placed it on her daughter’s breast, telling her to put aside her black dresses. From that day joy and happiness seemed to return to Lady Magdalen, who commenced to put on lighter colors and to wear diamonds. Of Magdalen Stenbocka child of these Stures, who so often had protected and preserved Sweden-Count Magnus Stenbock was a lineal descendant, he who during the reign of Charles XII. saved his country in the hour of its greatest peril and distress.
Sigismund, the son and successor of John III., was not apt to become more popular than his father. Born at the pleasant prison of Gripsholm, which yet was a prison, he was of a cold, unsympathetic disposition, a king of few words and hard to approach. At John’s death, Sigismund was twenty-six years of age and had reigned several years in Poland. Charles stepped to the front as the head of the government until Sigismund’s arrival.
The Protestants, fearing the worst from their new Catholic king, decided to take firm and early action. The duke ordered a Riksdag at Upsala in February, 1593, the deliberations being held by the clergy alone. The Liturgia was abolished with the majority of Catholic church ceremonies, Luther’s catechisms, L. Petri’s ritual, church visitations, etc., being reintroduced. Abraham Angermannus was elected archbishop, and decision made for the reestablishment of the Upsala University. The duke had not been present at the deliberations, and appeared displeased because not consulted. He, who was secretly accused of being a Calvinist, pointed out more Catholic ceremonies to be abolished, whereupon the decisions won the sanction of the duke, the state council and the bishops. By this act the Lutheran Church was re-established, the Augsburgian Confession being laid down by the meeting as its corner-stone. When this action had been taken, the chairman, Nicolaus Bothniensis, a young Upsala professor, exclaimed : “Now Sweden has become one man, and we all have one God.”
In August, 1593, King Sigismund arrived in Sweden, surrounded by Jesuits and Polish nobles, and with a sum of money wherewith to pay the expenses of a Catholic revival. To the demands made to sign the decisions of the Upsala meeting he gave a fiat refusal. The conditions in Stockholm grew perilous, Jesuits and Lutheran ministers preaching denouncements upon each other in the churches and conflicts between the Polish troops and the populace taking place. In January, 1594, Sigismund, accompanied by the state councillors and the members of the Riksdag, came to Upsala for his father’s funeral and his own coronation. Duke Charles arrived with 3,000 men, whom he quartered in the neighborhood. He dismissed the papal legate, Malaspina, and his Jesuits from the funeral procession, before it entered the cathedral, and told the king, in behalf of all, that no coronation would take place before the confessional liberty of the Lutheran Church was confirmed. The Estates declared themselves ready to sacrifice their lives for the pure faith. The king still refused his sanction, whereupon the duke replied that the Riksdag would be dismissed within twenty-four hours if he insisted. Sigismund gave in, upon the advice of the Jesuits, who told him that pledges to Lutherans were not binding. Sigismund was crowned and returned suddenly to Poland.
The king had left matters in an unsatisfactory condition, placing six governors with great authority in various districts, but leaving the government to be conducted by the duke and the state council in common. This little pleased the energetic Charles, who soon called a Riksdag at Sder-kping, in 1595, forcing the councillors to sanction this act and follow him to the Riksdag. In Finland, the governor, Clas Fleming, had tried to have a peace agreement with Russia postponed as an excuse to keep the navy and army at his disposal in the interest of the king. At Sderkping, Charles had himself chosen regent, the last vestige of Catholicism abolished, and the punishment of Fleming decided on. In consequence, the Catholics were dealt with in a merciless way through the instigation of the arch-bishop, whom the duke called an executioner on account of his recklessness. The convent of Vadstena was closed, its eleven nuns scattered and its property confiscated. In Finland a bloody revolt against the oppression of Fleming cost 11,000 people their lives. It was called the “War of Clubs,” on account of the rude weapons used by the peasants. The state council refused to consent to Fleming’s punishment, whereupon the duke suddenly resigned. But he convoked a Riksdag at Arboga, in 1597, at which the councillors and nobles were absent, also the burghers. The peasants and clergy were abundantly represented and cheered the propositions of the duke to the echo. It was then decided that the king should be asked to return, until which event the duke was to remain regent, and that peace should be restored in Finland. Fleming died in the mean-time and was succeeded by Arvid Stolarm, who also was one of the duke’s enemies. The Riksdag at Arboga was the first in the deliberations of which the state council had not taken a part. The councillors were disposed to punish the duke; but, not agreeing as to means, they left the country to seek the king.
King Sigismund arrived in the summer of 1598 with an army of 5,000 Poles, gathering a good deal of strength by reinforcements from Gothaland. The duke had his strong-hold in Svealand, the Dalecarlians rising to join him. The Uplanders warded off an attempt made by Stolarm to land with his army; they were led by Nicolaus Bothniensis, the Upsala professor, who called his exploit “a crusade.” The two princes met in East Gothland, near Stegeborg. The duke and his peasant army were surrounded by the king’s cavalry, and would have been doomed if not for the out-cry of one of the king’s followers that his subjects would be killed on either side. The king gave order to stop the attack, feeling pity at the sight. The duke was deeply moved by this act and offered to leave the land with his family. But the deliberations which followed were with-out result.
On the 25th of September a battle was fought at Stongebro, near Linkping, ending in the defeat of the royal army. An armistice followed. The conditions of peace were that the king should remain in Sweden, dismissing his foreign troops, and take charge of the government. No one should be punished except five of the nobles, to be placed before a jury of ambassadors. The king agreed to the conditions, but soon left Sweden never to return. A meeting of nobles and clergymen, in 1599, accepted him as reigning king if willing to return within four months. In July, a Riksdag was called at Stockholm, which declared Sigisinund dethroned and his son Vladislav king if sent to Sweden to be educated in the Lutheran faith. Sigismund took no heed of these stipulations, planning to regain his throne by force.
Charles followed up the punishment with such unprecedented severity that it has left a stain upon his memory. Three nobles were beheaded after Kalmar was taken, and proceeding to Finland, the duke applied capital punishment to a wide extent, in more than twenty cases at Abo alone. At a Riksdag in Linkping, in 1600, the duke appeared as an accuser against the five imprisoned nobles and several others, eight state councillors being among them. The accused, thirteen in number, were sentenced to death for high treason, but the majority were pardoned upon confession of guilt. The councillors Gustavus Banér, Eric Sparre, Sten Banér and Ture Bielke were beheaded. They were all men of learning and great ability, who had faithfully served their king. During John’s reign they had already suffered years of imprisonment for intrigues against a hereditary kingdom and a strong government.
Charles IX. was chosen king at the bloody Riksdag of Linkping, and his son Gustavus Adolphus heir-apparent. The hereditary rights of Duke John, second son of John III., were acknowledged, and a duchy, consisting of East Gothland and Leckoe Castle, granted him; but he was passed over as too young and too closely related to Sigismund. Measures to strengthen the financial administration and the army were passed.
Sigismund prepared, by alliances with Catholic powers, to gather support, Charles turning to England and France for the same purpose. A conflict was unavoidable, and Charles decided to invade the disputed province of Livonia, which he captured, only to be ousted by the Polish general, Zamoisky. The castle of Volmar was long and heroically defended by the Swedes under Jacob de la Gardie, a son of General Pontus, and Charles Gyllenhielm, an illegitimate son of Charles IX. After their surrender the former received for five years a tolerable treatment, the latter a most severe one for twelve years. After attempts to place conditions on a better footing in Finland, where the peasants had long suffered through aristocratic oppression, Charles increased the army still further and invaded Livonia once more, in 1604. He met with a crushing defeat at Kerkholm, close by Riga, at the hands of the Pole, Chodkiewitz, losing 9,000 men. But the Poles did not understand how to use their victory, and the centre of the conflict changed to Russia.
On Russian territory, the troops of Sigismund and Charles were to meet. The line of Rurik became extinct in 1598, its last descendant, Dimitri, being murdered. Great complications ensued with usurpers and two “false Dimitris” in succession. Sigismund supported the false Dimitris in order to gain ground and place the royal line of Vasa upon the throne of Russia after that of Rurik. Charles sided with Vassili Schuisky against the second false Dimitri. In 1607 an agreement was made that Sweden, upon the receipt of the province of Kexholm, should send an army to Russia to support Czar Vassili. In 1609, a small Swedish army, consisting of Swedes, Finns and some hired troops, entered Russia, under command of Jacob de la Gardie. It was received at Novgorod with the blaze of cannon and tolling of church bells. A victory was won at Tver over the pretender, but further progress was impeded by mutiny among the hired troops, the stubborn Finns returning home. With his 1,200 faithful Swedes, reinforced by hired troops to 5,000, De la Gardie made a daring march eastward to Moscow, scaring away the Polish army, attacking it and making a triumphant entry into the Russian capital. Sigismund was at Smolensk, and met De la Gardie at Klusina, winning the battle on account of renewed mutiny of the hired troops in the Swedish army. De la Gardie was given free leave with 400 men, upon pledge not to support Czar Vassili, and later captured the promised Kexholm, while Sigismund’s son Vladislav for a short time became czar of Russia.
Although the short reign of Charles IX. was filled with continual warfare, the king never for a moment lost interest in the peaceful development of the country. He continued his father’s work in furthering the mining industry, and tried to build up the commerce and trade relations. He founded the city of Gothenburg, on the western coast, in the island of Hising, opposite Elfsborg, also founding the towns of Karlstad, Christinehamn, Mariestad and Philipstad. The aristocracy looked upon his administration with coldness. It received sanction of the privileges granted by John III., but nothing more, except in return for additional russtjenst. The peasants were his favorites and he was surnamed the “Peasant King.” To the Church, Charles stood in a good relation, supporting its re-established Reformation with his whole authority. Also the University had in him a patron, although he severely criticised the too conservative spirit in both, exchanging a series of pamphlets with the archbishop on theological questions, firm in his Calvinistic tendencies. To make the government stronger it was stipulated that four members of the state council were always to hold the four principal offices, with the titles of drotsete, kansler (chancellor), admiral and treasurer. The greatest economy was enforced at court and throughout the whole system of government, various minor country offices being established for the enforcement of order, justice and economy. The king was liberal only with severe orders and harsh words, the artistic tendencies of his youth succumbing to the cruel necessities of his reign.
In private he was as severe as in public life. His first consort, Maria of the Palatinate-Zweibrucken, had a quieting influence upon him, but the second, Christine of Holstein, stern and sharp like the king, strengthened the harshness and violence of his disposition. During the last years of his reign, Charles gave his attention to the critical European situation, desiring to join the Netherlands, England, France and the Protestant German princes into an alliance against the forming Catholic league. This man, so assured of his power to reign and so unscrupulous as to his means, was very careful not to do any act of importance without the sanction of his people, and for a long time refused to be called king. In 1604 he agreed to accept that name, but was in 1606 ready to cede it to Duke John. Still, after his coronation he admitted the hereditary right of his nephew, who was a good-natured man without the qualifications of a ruler. At the Riksdag of Norrkping, in 1604, the crown was made hereditary among the descendants of Charles, also in the female line, provided that the monarch confessed the Lutheran faith and had not accepted the government of, or residence in, any other country.
The stress placed upon Charles was greater than his originally strong health could carry. , In 1609 he suffered a stroke of paralysis, which deprived him of his full power of speech. He still stood firm at the head of the government, with Prince Gustavus Adolphus, now sixteen years of age, at his side, who took part in the affairs of State and spoke for the paralytic king. The young and ambitious Christian IV. of Denmark thought that the opportune moment was come to turn down the rising power of Sweden. He declared war, in April, 1611, in spite of the efforts made by King Charles to avoid the conflict, pointing to Germany, where their joined forces would be needed. Christian captured the town of Kalmar, while its castle withstood his attacks, being handed over to him by treason. In his wrath and disgust, Charles sent word to Christian to meet him in a duel face to face, which the latter refused to do in a letter of abusive contempt. Gustavus Adolphus had made a dash into Bleking, capturing the store of provisions at Christianopel. In the autumn, the war came to a temporary standstill.
Charles started for Stockholm from Kalmar, but was taken ill during the journey and died at Nykping, October 11, 1611, surrounded by his sons and councillors. To his death-bed came the news that Jacob de la Gardie had captured the important city of Novgorod, and that the Russians offered the crown to either of his sons, Gustavus Adolphus or Charles Philip. With Charles died the only worthy son of Gustavus I. Vasa. In strength of intellect and stern power, he stands first among Swedish rulers. Devoted to the work of his great father, he educated the Swedish people, through hardships and sacrifices, to its political grandeur.