GUSTAVUS ERICSSON VASA, the man whom Providence had selected to save his country from anarchy and ruin, belonged to a noble family of Unionist sympathies, his great-grandfather being Drotsete Krister Nilsson Vasa. But the Vasa family had joined the cause of the patriots during the reigns of the Stures, simultaneously losing some of its earlier importance. The Vasas prided themselves on being the descendants of St. Eric and his line, and of St. Birgitta and the Folkungs. Its coat-of-arms consisted of a simple vase, or bundle of sticks. Gustavus Vasa was born May 12, 1496, at Lindholmen in Upland, at the mansion of his parents, Eric Johansson Vasa, state councillor, and Cecilia of Eka, a sister of Christine Gyllenstierna. His earliest years were spent with his mother at Rydboholm, another estate of his father’s, beautifully situated on an arm of the Baltic, only ten miles north of Stockholm. When a mere boy he was sent to the court of his granduncle, Sten Sture the Elder, who was childless. King John of Denmark noticed the bright little boy during a visit paid to Lord Sten. Young Gustavus took the command of all the other children at play and appeared to be a born leader. The king called the boy to him and asked him what his name was Gustavus answered frankly. King John smilingly placed his hand on the boy’s head, saying : “Certainly thou shalt become a man in thy day if preserved in life.” The king intimated that he wanted to take him along to Copenhagen to supervise his education. But Lord Sten, who did not like this idea, hurriedly had Gustavus sent away, so that he could tell the king upon a second inquiry that the boy had returned to his parents. The young Gustavus was de-scribed as “attractive and welcome with everybody.” Gustavus was sent to Upsala to study at the age of thirteen. The University of Upsala was at that period in a state of stagnation. The first teacher who came in contact with Gustavus was a Dane named Master Ivar. According to the Prose Chronicle, he was a man who “was mean to everybody and who gave Gustavo drubbings.” It seems that the patriotic spirit early woke in the breast of this youth, who already in these days foreshadowed his own mission in the following words : “I will betake myself to Dalecarlia, rouse the Dalecarlians and batter the nose of the Jute.” When eighteen years of age, he was accepted as a squire at the court- of Sten Sture the Younger, and Chris-tine Gyllenstierna, his own aunt. He followed the younger Lord Sten in all his expeditions of war, taking part in the siege of Staeket and a battle of Dufnaes, and carrying the banner of state at Brennkyrka.
A second time in his life it came to pass that Gustavus Vasa was considered a person whom the Danish king was desirious of carrying away. This time the king was Christian II., who gained his object by treachery and violence. Gustavus was one of the Swedish hostages who were offered to King Christian and by him carried away to Denmark.
Gustavus was handed over to Eric Banér, a relative of his, who held in fief the castle of Kall in Jutland. The latter was placed under a heavy fine in case he allowed his prisoner to escape. Gustavus received a kind and generous treatment. He ate at the table of the lord and was allowed to wander at liberty in the close neighborhood of the castle. But the danger that menaced his country never left him in peace. He heard repeatedly of the great preparations made by Christian II. to crush the resistance of Sweden, and of the acts of violence to be perpetrated. Gustavus remained at Kall for a year, when he resolved to flee from a captivity which had become insupportable. One morning at sunrise, Gustavus Vasa pat on the garb of a peasant and disappeared from the castle. He made good speed, reaching a seaport and escaping to Lubeck with a merchant vessel. In this friendly Hanseatic centre Gustavus expected armed support. Such was not granted, but he was shielded against Danish pursuit. Eric Banér arrived, having followed up his tracks, but his demands to have Gustavus surrendered were refused. After eight months of delay in Lubeck, Gustavus obtained leave and arrived in Sweden on board a German ship. He landed at Stens, a promontory outside of the town of Kalmar, while Christian II. was laying siege to Stockholm. Gustavus was resolved to do his utmost to rouse the people to active resistance against the invaders. The castle of Kalmar, next to that of Stockholm the firmest stronghold of Sweden, was in charge of Anna Bielke, the widow of the last commander. Gustavus strengthened the courage of the inhabitants of town and castle, but finding it impossible to accomplish anything for the defence himself, and unsuccessful in his attempts to bring the hired German troops up to a point of enthusiasm for the Swedish cause, he left Kalmar and continued his way through Smaland. But the population of this province had no patience to listen to his appeals for a revolt. The peasants answered him that if they remained faithful to the Danish king they were never to be in want of herring and salt. Some of them in their indignation sent arrows flying after the young patriot. In September he reached the Terna estate in Sdermanland, where his sister and her husband, Joachim Brahe, resided. Lord Joachim had just received an invitation to be present at the coronation of King Christian in Stock-holm. The attempts made by Gustavus to persuade the couple to abandon their intended journey to Stockholm were futile. Reaching his paternal estate of Raefsnæs in Sdermanland, he remained there in concealment for some time. He visited the old archbishop Jacob Ulfsson, who, after his retirement, lived in the neighboring monastery of Mariefred. The old prelate tried his best to persuade him to seek mercy and grace of King Christian, but the resolution of the young squire to free his country was only strengthened into an iron-cast determination. One of the servants who had followed Lord Joachim to the capital managed to make a safe return to tell Gustavus the terrible news of the Carnage of Stockholm. He was also told that a high price had been placed on his own head.
Gustavus at once prepared for flight. Accompanied by a single servant he secretly left Raefsnaes one day toward the end of November, travelling on horseback northward to Dalecarlia. He arrived at Kopparberg in Dalecarlia, where he had his hair close cropped and put on peasant’s clothes. Putting an axe over his shoulder, he went about looking for employment. The first man whom he tried was Andrew Persson, a wealthy mine owner at Rankhytta. Gustavus found employment with him, taking part in the threshing. But the other servants soon detected that the new man had a carriage and habits different from their own, and they commenced to watch him closely. They noticed that he was not accustomed to the work, and one of the servant girls saw a collar of silk above the coarse blouse. Andrew. Persson called before him the suspect, and was highly surprised when recognizing in him a comrade from the time of his student days at Upsala. He was favorably disposed, but was afraid of sheltering Gustavus, advising him to flee to the less thickly settled parts of the province, and to change often from one place to another. Gustavus continued his way in a westerly direction, following the shore of a lake named Bunn, and arrived at Ornas the following day. He knew he had an old comrade and friend in the owner of the place. This man, Arendt Persson, received him in the most hospitable manner, but was in his heart desirous of obtaining the price placed upon the head of the young squire. Gustavus went to bed in the attic, not suspecting treachery. The host himself accompanied him to his resting place, according to the medieval custom. This done, Arendt travelled in great haste to one of his neighbors, the much-respected Mons Nilsson of Aspeboda. Arendt asked him to assist in capturing Gustavus Vasa; but Mons Nilsson flatly refused, taking no pains to hide his indignation. Arendt left and went past his own home to Setra, which was the residence of the Danish bailiff. He started for Ornas the following morning, accompanied by the bailiff and twenty men ready to capture the fugitive. But Arendt’s wife, Lady Barbro Stigsdotter (Swinhufwud), had not been inactive. Her suspicion was aroused when she noticed her husband travelling back and forth to disappear in the direction where the bailiff resided. She divined that the safety of ber guest was threatened and decided to take action. Lady Barbro went to the attic, roused her sleeping guest and told him of the impending danger. Gustavus let himself down to the ground by means of towels fastened to the window-sill, assisted by Lady Barbro, who had a horse and sleigh in readiness for him, in charge of a faithful servant. He reached the residence of John, the priest of Sværdsj. Arendt was enraged when he found that Gustavus had made his escape. It is said that he from that day refused to ever see Lady Barbro again.
The priest of Sværdsj held Gustavus in concealment for three days, but advised him to seek a more secure hiding place. He sent Gustavus to Swan Elfsson, a hunter to the king, who dwelt in Isala, a short distance from the church of Sværdsj. Gustavus had hardly reached this place before the men sent after him by the bailiff arrived. Gustavus stood by the oven warming himself after the ride. The wife of Swan Elfsson was busy baking bread. The men entered, asking if any stranger had been noticed in the neighborhood. The woman of the house saved the situation by resolutely dealing a blow with the bread spade to Gustavus, who was turning his back to her. In an irritated voice she said: “Why dost thou stand here gaping at the strangers? Hast thou never seen people before? Get thee at once out to the barn and do some threshing.” The men did not suspect in the snubbed servant the noble fugitive for whom they were looking. But Swan Elfsson was not sure of the safety of his guest if he remained in Isala. So he concealed Gustavus in a load of hay and left his house with the great unsettled districts as his destination. He met some Danish spies on the way. These suspected the peasant and pierced the load of hay with their lances repeatedly. Gustavus was wounded in the leg, but kept his breath and lay perfectly still. The spies were satisfied that everything was right and told Swan Elfsson to move on. But the peasant noticed that blood was dripping from his load, leaving scarlet tracks on the snow. He quickly drew his knife and cut his horse a deep wound in one foot. After a while the spies noticed the bloody tracks. They returned and commanded Swan Elfsson to halt, inquiring about the blood. Swan Elfsson pointed to the injured foot of his horse and succeeded in making them believe that the horse had met with an accident.
Swan Elfsson left Gustavus at the village of Marnaes, situated in the Finn woods, where he was received by other hunters. These escorted the noble outlaw to a place further away in the woods, where he for three days remained in concealment under a big fallen fir tree. The peasants in the neighborhood brought food to him. The still hunt seemed to be at an end, and so Gustavus risked a visit to the church of Rettvik, situated on the eastern shore of Lake Siljan. He spoke to the yeomanry collected around the church after divine service, reminding them of the stanch patriotism and manliness of their ancestors, and imploring them to save their country from destruction. The yeomen of Rettvik gave a satisfactory answer, telling him that they were ready to resist the Danes. But as they had not heard the opinion of the people of the other parishes, there was nothing to be done for the moment.
Gustavus continued his way to Mora, one of the most densely populated parishes of Dalecarlia and situated on the northern shore of Lake Siljan. The priest of the parish was afraid to hide the outlaw, but confided him to a peasant, Tomte Mats, in the village of Utmeland. Gustavus remained for several days concealed in a vaulted cellar, which was reached only through a hole in the floor of the cottage above. One day the bailiff’s men entered to search for Gustavus. The woman of the house was busy brewing the Christmas ale. She saved Gustavus by quickly placing a big barrel over the hinged door, which covered the opening to the cellar. One of the holidays during Christmas Gustavus addressed the peasants of Mora when coming from church. He stood on a small hill near the church-yard. The noonday sun was shining brightly over the snowy landscape and a fresh northerly wind was blowing. Gustavus spoke in a loud voice and with great eloquence. He asked the men to reflect on what kind of government foreigners always had given Sweden, and to remember what they had themselves suffered and risked for the liberty of their country. He thought that the memory had not died either of the deeds of violence perpetrated by Jsse Ericsson or of the deeds of heroism done by Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson. He then told them of the treacherous villany of King Christian and of the Carnage of Stockholm. “My own father,” he said, with tears in his eyes, “rather wished to die with his brethren, the honest lords, in the name of God, than to be spared and live in dishonor after them.” If the Dalecarlians wanted to save Sweden from thraldom, he was ready to offer himself as their leader in the name of the Almighty. The speech of Gustavus made a deep impression upon the men of Mora, and some of them were anxious to rise at once. The majority ruled, deciding that no action should be taken before the other parishes of Dalecarlia had been heard from. They advised Gustavus to seek a safer hiding-place further up in the woods. Gustavus left Mora utterly discouraged, seeking the paths that led along the Dal River into desert wilds.
At New Year of 1521 Lars Olsson, a soldier who had done good service in the times of the Stures, arrived at Mora, bringing particulars of the doings of King Christian. He told the peasants that the king had ordered gallows to be erected at every sheriff’s residence to mark the way of his Eriksgata. The peasants were touched to the quick and regretted having sent away the young nobleman. Lars Olsson advised them to call him back. Two expert ski runners were sent after Gustavus Ericsson, and after a ride of a night and a day through the woods, they overtook him close by the Norwegian frontier, which he was ready to cross in despair.
Gustavus returned to Mora and was made the leader of the peasants in that locality. With these men he started his work of liberation, which was the commencement of one of the most remarkable of revolutions that the world ever saw. In the beginning of February, 1521, Gustavus marched southward with a few hundred men. At Falun he captured the bailiff of the mines, confiscating the royal taxes. Returning to the starting point, he left it again, with an army of 1,500 men. Entering Norrland, where he was joined by the peasants of Gestrikland, and the burghers of Gefle, while the people of Helsingland asked for time to consider the matter, he learned upon his return how one of his commanders, Peder Swensson, had won a glorious victory over a Danish army 6,000 strong at the ferry of Brunnbasck, by the Dal River. Gustavus began training his troops, enforcing severe discipline and providing them with better arrows and longer lances. He declared war upon Christian in a formal way and marched on Westeros, where the Danish troops had centred. The town and castle were captured in spite of a force of superior Danish cavalry.
Gustavus shifted his army into divisions which marched in various directions to capture the castles of surrounding provinces. The people of Upland reinforced the Dalecarlians, who were sent home to tend to their sowing. The Upland forces captured the archbishop’s seat during his absence, and were joined by Gustavus at Upsala, who made an exceedingly severe speech to the ecclesiastics, asking them to decide their nationality, whether they were Swedes or not. They asked permission to consult Archbishop Trolle, which was granted. “I will bring the reply myself,” said Trolle, starting from Stockholm with a splendid body of German troops.. Gustavus was near being taken by surprise, but gathering troops he fought the archbishop, whose force met with a crushing defeat, and he escaped with difficulty to Stockholm.
At midsummer, 1521, Gustavus arrived at Brunkeberg, laying siege to Stockholm. The capital was strongly fortified, and Norrby with a Danish fleet supported and relieved it. Twice the Danes routed the Swedish troops with the intermission of one year, but Gustavus provided reinforcements. He travelled through the country, visiting the forces who laid siege to the various Danish strongholds, these surrendering one by one. It was not a chain of glorious exploits, this work which Gustavus carried to a successful end, but one of infinite patience and sagacity, saddened by the news that the revengeful Christian had ended the lives of his captive mother and sister in the miserable Danish dungeon. Bishop Brask was scared into submission, turning his castle Stegeborg and part of his troops over to Gustavus, who at a Riksdag at Vadstena was elected regent in August, 1521.
Gustavus entered into an alliance with Lubeck, and it sent a fleet to Stockholm, thus encircling it also from the sea. Norrby left with his ships and was nearly caught in the ice in the following spring. In Denmark, Christian’s reign came to an end. With his usual violence he attacked the nobles and the ecclesiastics in order to better the conditions of the peasants, for whom he had a tender sympathy. In so doing, he brought the nobles to open revolt against his rule. He left his throne in April, 1523. Now Gustavus found the opportune moment to accept the Swedish crown offered him. He called a Riksdag at Strengnæs, in June, 1523, where Gustavus was chosen king of Sweden “by the councillors of state with the consent of the common people.” At this occasion a tax was agreed on to pay the German troops engaged in the siege of Stockholm, and to Lubeck for its timely support. In that very month Stockholm surrendered, and Gustavus held his proud entry into the capital on the eve of Midsummer day.
The position of the king was a most difficult one. The crown was ruined through the previous state of anarchy and the expense of war. The Church was in undisturbed possession of its wealth, but not willing to yield any of its power or income. Christian was preparing a plan by which to recapture his lost crowns. Norrby, who had aspirations of becoming Christian’s regent in Sweden, tried to persuade Christine Gyllenstierna, lately set free from her prison, to marry him in order to obtain the prestige of the Stures. The common people, whom Gustavus so recently used to free the country, grew restive and rebellious when he could not at once grant them guarantees of comfort and prosperity in return. In a marvellous manner Gustavus understood how to face the situation and how to use to the utmost the resources within reach.
When the outlawed youth of twenty-four spoke of revolt to the peasants at Mora, Martin Luther was burning the ban placed on him by the pope. There were several warm friends of Luther in Sweden, principally Olaus Petri, him-self a pupil and friend of the German reformer, his brother, Laurentius Petri, and Laurentius Andreae. Olaus was a soul of fire and enthusiasm. He was lacking in self-control, but possessed a power which if not restrained would have led him and his work of reform further than the goal set by Luther. The two Laurentii were, like him, men of learning and, in addition, of greater sagacity. The king took interest in these men. He was contemplating a reduction of the ecclesiastical power, and they were to prepare the soil by freeing the people from undue respect for the Roman Church and its worldly power. Laurentius Andreae was made the king’s chancellor, and Olaus Petri secretary to the town council of Stockholm, later pastor of the Cathedral Church. Olaus preached in the Stockholm Cathedral fiery sermons against Rome and the pope, responded to sometimes by irate monks, sometimes by various projectiles from the audience. Gustavus took pains to fill the vacancies of the Church, which were many, by appointing able men. But he made two serious mistakes in making Master Knut, dean of Westeros, archbishop, and Peder Sunnanvader, formerly secretary to Svante Sture, bishop of Westeros. He came in possession of a correspondence, which proved that Bishop Peder tried to bring the Dalecarlians to revolt, and when accusing him and finding Master Knut on the side of the defence, Gustavus deprived them of their new dignities. The king commanded that a new bishop should be appointed and himself selected Johannes Magni as archbishop. This prelate, a very learned man, was the representative of Sten Sture in Rome, returning to his native land as a papal legate. Gustavus had a rupture with him when, according to his instructions, he demanded that Trolle should be reinstated as archbishop. Archbishop Johannes was lacking in moral courage; brushed aside by the tide of Reformation, he re-tired to Rome, where he died after writing the history of Sweden in Latin, Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus. Master Knut and Peder Sunnanvaeder turned their steps to Dalecarlia, fanning the brewing malcontent and opening connections with Norrby, who styled himself the betrothed of Christine Gyllenstierna and made ready to attack Gustavus from the sea. Berndt von Melen, a German commander, in whom Gustavus placed much confidence, was to chase Norrby away from his stronghold, the island of Gothland, but turned a traitor, joining Norrby instead, in 1524. Gustavus called a Riksdag at Westeros, in 1525, resolved to use his diplomacy to the utmost. Upon receiving a letter from the Dalecarlians, in which they stoutly swore off their allegiance to him on account of heavy taxes, foreign influence and disregard for the Church, the king offered to abdicate. The representatives at the Riksdag persuaded him to remain, whereupon the king sent the Dalecarlians a sagacious letter, promising to improve the state of things as much as possible, but pointing out the two prelates as traitors in conspiracy with the Danes. The Dalecarlians were pacified, Knut and Peder finding it safest to leave for Norway. In the following year the king met the revolting peasants of Upland at Old Upsala, where he in a fiery speech unfolded his policy toward the Church. The peas-ants resented; they wanted to keep their monks and their masses. The king commanded one of his followers to make a speech in Latin, the peasants shouting that they did not understand. “Why do you, then, love so dearly your Latin mass?” the king asked them smiling. A few days later Gustavus made a crushing speech against lazy and worth-less ecclesiastics before the chapter of Upsala. The archbishop was sent away on diplomatic errands to Poland and Russia never to return. After his departure Bishop Brask became the chief representative of papal interests. He was patriotic, but never yielded an inch of the worldly power of the Church except to force, opposing the Reformation with his whole strength.
The king followed up his policy by demanding for the crown two-thirds of the ecclesiastic tithe and by placing the ecclesiastics under the duties of russtienst, in 1526. The ex-prelates, Knut and Peder, were, upon the king’s request of an extradition, given up and sentenced to death for high treason. The king arranged for their triumphal entry of mockery into Stockholm in a most humiliating fashion, for which he has been criticised; also for the con-summate manner in which the judges were appointed and judgment passed. But he set an example of warning to obnoxious and intriguing prelates that was appreciated by his contemporaries.
Gustavus gained the triumph of his policy by the famous Riksdag of Westeros in 1527. It was nothing else than a coup d’état, a revolution, which, with the establishment of the Reformation, gave his throne solidity and resources. The Diet was called under the pretext of taking measures against a new revolt in Dalecarlia and for the regulation of dogmatic questions. There were present sixteen state councillors, four bishops, one hundred and twenty-nine knights and nobles, one hundred and five peasants, besides various priests, burghers and miners, but no representatives from Finland or Dalecarlia. In the great hall of the monastery the meeting was held, opening with a written address by the king, read by his chancellor, in which the situation of the country was set forth. The king refused to continue at the government, asking to be remunerated for personal losses and expense, and given a fief like any ordinary bailiff responsible to the crown. Only if fundamental re-forms were made would he remain, not being able otherwise to cover the inevitable deficit of the treasury. Bishop Brask responded with the statement that he for his part was in duty bound to the king, but that Rome and its demands must, in the first place, be obeyed ; showing by his remarks that he understood that the question was one of reducing the ecclesiastical power. The king rose and said in a burst of passion : “We have no further desire, then, to be your king. Verily, we had counted on quite another treatment at your hands. We now no longer wonder at the perversity of the people, since they have such advisers. Have they no rain, they blame us for it. Have they no sun, likewise. For dearth, hunger and plague we are responsible, as if we were not a man, but God. Yea, though we labor for you with our utmost power, both in spiritual and in temporal affairs, you would gladly see the axe upon our neck, but no one dares to grasp the handle. Monks and priests and all the creatures of the pope are to be placed above us, though we have little need of them. In a word, you all would lord it over us. Who under such circumstances would desire to govern you? Not the worst wretch in hell would wish the post, far less any man. Therefore we, too, refuse to be your king. We cast the honor from us, and leave you free to choose him whom you will. But be so kind as to let us leave the land. Pay us for our property in the kingdom, and return to us what we have expended in your service. Then we declare to you that we will Withdraw never to return.” With tears of anger and emotion the king left the hall, leaving the assembly in consternation.
After four days of pandemonium and deadlock, the representatives decided to give in and ask forgiveness of the king, who long disregarded the appeals made for his return. When re-entering he was greeted by commotion and the humblest demonstrations of respect and repentance. The next day, Midsummer day, votes were taken upon his propositions, each Estate of representatives sending up their vote with a written construction of the propositions. These were then revised by the state councillors in their final form, called “Westeros Recess,” with amendments called “Westeros Ordinantia.” The startling revolutionary stipulations of the “Recess” were chiefly these : Authority for the king (1) to take in possession the castles and forts of the bishops, whose retinues he was to fix as to numbers; (2) to dispose of the superfluous income of the clergy and to superintend the administration of the monasteries; authority for the nobility to resume title to all their property which had come in the possession of the Church since 1454; authority to have the Gospel preached all over the country in undefiled purity. Among the “Ordinantia” the most important were: (1) Vacancies in the parish churches were to be filled by the bishop under the supervision and right of suspension of the king; (2) the king was to fix the amount of revenue due the bishops, chapters and clerks, and be entitled to use the surplus for the crown; (3) the priests were in secular suits to be responsible to secular courts; (4) the Gospel should be read in the schools. The king asked the bishops in person to surrender their castles, to which demand they all agreed.
We may feel inclined to smile upon the drastic manner in which Gustavus enacted this important drama of Revolution, but must bear in mind his solitary position. He had no statesmen of ability at his side, nor men of great intellect and power to sustain him. He stood alone, and few knew as yet his superior qualities as a statesman and an organizer. The tame opposition, soon yielding to the appeals of the burghers and peasants, can only be explained through lack of leaders. Ture Joensson (Tre Rosor), the aristocratic chief of the opposition, was a vain and cowardly man. Bishop Brask, the head of the clergy, was old and more of a diplomatist than a man of action. The latest stanch Romanist, he gave up his cause, finding a pretext to leave the country and dying in his self-imposed exile. The ecclesiastical reforms were definitively arranged at a church. meeting at rebro in the following year.
It was one of the evils which beset the reign of Gustavus that revolts constantly occurred in various provinces and for various reasons. Dalecarlia took the lead. The inhabitants were not able to bear the distinction won by their great patriotic services in the times of Engelbrekt, the Stures, and Gustavus. Their complaints were mostly unreason-able, sometimes ridiculous, as when they tried to prescribe the kind of cloth and colors to be used at court, and so forth. There was no fable, however stupid, which was not readily believed by them and the responsibility placed on the king. Particularly was everything eagerly swallowed which spoke of injustice committed against the descendants of the Stures. A daring pretender took advantage of this fact. He was born of the lowest peasant class, serving on an estate in Westmanland, where he had stolen a sum of money from his master. Appearing in Dalecarlia, where he claimed that he was a son of Lord Sten and Christine Gyllenstierna, he gained a great deal of support among the yeomen, who cried with him like children when he spoke of his noble father and asked them to pray for his soul. The false pretender had his instructions from Peder Sunnanveeder; he married in Norway a woman of noble birth, and, upon his return to Dalecarlia, surrounded himself with a regular court. An end was put to his career by a letter from Christine Gyllenstierna, written at the request of the king, in which she told the Dalecarlians that her son Nils, whom the pretender impersonated, had recently died, and that an impostor was misleading them. The false Nils Sture answered by claiming that he was born before marriage, the would-be-reason why his mother did not acknowledge him. This even the Dalecarlians found was a stretching of truth. The pretender, who had been stamping coins with his image and held the demeanor of a ruling prince; fled to Norway and thence to Rostock, where he was captured and beheaded. No blood was shed during this period of revolt; but the king, who was crowned at Upsala in 1528, proceeded from his coronation to Dalecarlia with an army of 14,000 men. He commanded the Dalecarlians to meet him, and forgave them after a severe sermon of reproach, making them surrender the chief supporters of the “Dal-junker,” who were executed on the spot.
No better was the outcome of a revolt prepared by some nobles of West Gothland in the following year. They tried in vain to make the population join with them. The king managed to obtain their secret correspondence, and had the guilty ones arraigned before a meeting at which he scrutinized and repudiated the false charges made against him. The nobles asked forgiveness and were pardoned, with the exception of two, who were beheaded. But the originators of the revolt had fled. They were Ture Jnsson and Bishop Magnus of Skara. The former joined the deposed King Christian, who, in 1532, prepared an attack on Sweden in his attempts to recapture his crowns. With him were other such distinguished traitors as Gustavus Trolle and Berndt von Melen. Gustavus I. sent a splendid army to meet Christian near Kongelf. Christian withdrew in disappointment, leaving Ture Jnsson behind in the streets of Kongelf, minus a head. Christian was imprisoned by his uncle, Frederic of Denmark, and died in captivity.
In order to pay the debt to Lubeck it was decided at a meeting at Upsala, in 1530, that the bells of the churches should be taken to be melted down. Concessions to do so were asked and obtained from the various communities. But upon the surrender of the bells discontent grew up. In Dalecarlia it came to revolt and open violence. The people refused to give up their bells or took the surrendered ones back with force. Threatening letters were sent to the king, who at first pretended to ignore the whole matter. Christian was preparing his last attack, and prudence seemed advisable. The inducements made by the Swedish traitors to support Christian’s claims were scornfully re-pulsed by the Dalecarlians, who still continued with their insulting letters to the king. Gustavus answered them in a peaceful way. In 1533, at New Year, he suddenly appeared with an army in Dalecarlia, where the revolters also this time received a severe reproach and were forced to give up their leaders. These were executed, and that ended the last revolt of Dalecarlia.
In the following year Sweden was forced into a war which lasted up to 1536, the so-called “Feud of the Counts,” the chief participants being the counts of Holstein, Olden-burg and Hoya. Sweden sided with Christian of Holstein, who fought for his rights to the throne of Denmark after his father Frederic, being opposed by the other counts and by Lubeck. Hard and repeated pressure was brought to bear on Svante Sture, a son of Lord Sten and Christine Gyllenstierna, to appear as a pretender against Gustavus; but the noble youth, who was sojourning in Germany, firmly withstood these temptations. His mother had married John Turesson, a son of the traitor Ture. Joensson, who was as able a man as his father was a bad one, being the successful commander of a Swedish army which invaded the Danish provinces held by the count of Oldenburg. A Swedish fleet, created through sacrifices of nobles and peasants, distinguished itself repeatedly. The war ended in the defeat of Lubeck.
Gustavus had, since the end of the work of liberation, crushed the power of the Church, punished the revolting peasants, kept the aristocracy within bounds, and put an end to the supremacy of Lubeck. But he went still further, trying to deprive the Church of its last vestige of authority, to introduce a minute administration of the provinces and to enforce the absolute power of the crown. To these plans he was led by two foreign advisers, Georg Norman and Konrad Pentinger. But it must be said to the credit of the king that their influence vanished when he saw that their “reforms” were not acceptable to the people. From this period of his reign, one noteworthy and wholesome measure remains, the reintroduction of the former hereditary order of succession to the throne. It was formulated and accepted at the Riksdag of OErebro (Jan. 4, 1540), memorable also through death sentences pronounced upon two of the apostles of the Swedish Reformation. The king had long regarded his chancellor and the two brothers, Olaus and Laurentius Petri, the latter archbishop of Upsala, with suspicion. The climax was reached when a conspiracy by German burghers of Stockholm against the king’s life was discovered, and it was proved that Olaus Petri and Laurentius Andreæ were conscious of its purport, without making it known to the king. They were condemned to death, Archbishop Laurentius being forced to take a seat as one of the judges, but pardoned at the request of the burghers of Stockholm, on the grounds that the ministers had received their knowledge on the pledge of secrecy through confession. Laurentius Andreae lost his position as the king’s chancellor. In the following year each church in the country was presented with a copy of the complete translation of the Bible, the work of the two reformers.
The greatest, most serious and most expensive of peas-ants’ revolts was that called the Dacke Feud (1542 and 1543), after its leader Nils Dacke, a peasant born in Bleking, emigrated to Smaland, which became the scene of his revolt. The peasants were resolved to make war on the royal bailiffs, the nobles and the new religion, and found in Dacke an excellent leader, ferocious, daring and of some military ability. The forces sent by the king to meet him were repeatedly routed. The king was seriously alarmed, particularly since the revolt attracted attention abroad and was encouraged by Emperor Charles V., in the interests of the deposed Christian, his brother-in-law, and by several German princes. The emperor wrote to Nils Dacke a letter, preserved to this day, although it never reached its destination, in which Charles, with pride, recalls his Gothic (that is, according to the views of his time, Swedish) origin: “Sumus et nos de gente Gothorum.” Nils Dacke’s plan was to place Svante Sture on the throne. He wrote him a letter to this effect, which the noble Sture handed over to the king, together with the messenger who brought it. After much effort the king gathered an army of considerable strength, which was ordered against Dacke, who was defeated at Lake Asund. He fled and was pursued by the troops into Bleking, where he was captured and shot. This revolt cost Gustavus dearly, but was a good lesson in regard to the more immature of his reforms, against which it, to a great extent, was directed.
Now the storms and trials of his reign were at an end, and Gustavus allowed to gather the fruit of his wise management, which itself grew wiser with his old age. In 1544 the Union of Succession of 1540 was confirmed at Westeros. In matters of finance Gustavus laid the foundations of the modern state. The bailiffs were multiplied and made to give close accounts of the revenues. Fiefs granted to nobles before were now kept by the crown. The great nobles who held fiefs were placed under stricter control. The bloody Christian did useful work for the crown by ridding it of many unruly heads. The privileges granted by Westeros Recess were enforced, but the king saw to it that the nobility received back only what was properly due. But when the crown was concerned, property was taken from the Church to the greatest tension of these privileges, and like-wise for the king’s private rights, by means of which less scrupulous tactics both the state and the king were enriched. The former came in possession of 12,000 farms, the latter of 4,000, in his case called “inherited estates.” As Gustavus was a great economizer, he left a treasury replete with money and uncoined silver, in spite of elaborate pomp on state occasions, expensive royal marriages and wooings, and a feud with Russia. From which of the two treasuries in his care expenses were paid, Gustavus was not overparticular. He set a good example as a practical farmer and agriculturist, the dairy at Gripsholm standing under the personal supervision of the queen, with twenty-two less ladylike assistants.
Gustavus created the nucleus to a standing army of hired troops, of natives and foreigners, about 15,000 in numbers, and provided Sweden with a considerable and well-equipped fleet. He encouraged the mining industry by supporting the silver mines of Sala and the copper mines of Falun. He introduced the working of iron, according to new methods, calling in German experts whose work he superintended in person. Putting an end to the supremacy of the Hanseatic commerce, he made treaties of commerce with the Netherlands and France, making Helsingfors in Finland the centre of the trade with Russia. On the western coast he founded the new town of Elfsborg, and ordered the in-habitants of New Ldse to move thither. To the common people Gustavus held an attitude which shows evidence of love and confidence. Many of his letters and messages to them abound in hints at practical methods in farming. The schools were improved and partly reorganized through the spirit of Reformation, while the University of Upsala lost in importance and prestige, the students again going abroad.
The war with Russia, commencing in 15M, and marked by mutual invasions, offered no aspect of importance, and was ended by a treaty of peace in 1557.
The founder of the famous royal line of Vasa was, personally, a man of prepossessing appearance, tall, and of commanding presence, having blond hair and beard, sharp blue eyes, full lips, rosy cheeks and a fine frame. He was fond of costly garments, and the styles of his day were becoming to him. Gustavus was of an amiable and cheerful disposition, although of a quick temper. He had a rare gift of winning the goodwill and confidence of all classes by addressing everybody according to their compass of intellect and conversation. He was fond of music, and played and sang. The lute was his favorite instrument, which he liked to play in his evenings of solitude. Gustavus possessed a rare intellect and a remarkable memory. Well aware of his own weakness to give way to his quick temper, he generally postponed all decisive action in matters of importance until sure of his full power of discernment. He was not a brilliant genius, but a typical prince of the Renaissance epoch, never afraid of taking action in instances without a precedence, or of the consequences of his actions. His letters and addresses evince an unusual degree of common sense, clothed in a language of manly vigor, terseness and humor, and are fine specimens of the mod-ern Swedish, such as it meets us in this its period of rejuvenation, brought about by the spirit of the Reformation. There is something in the oral and literary eloquence of Gustavus Vasa which makes it easy to believe that he was a descendant of Birgitta. Gustavus did not possess the fine erudition of his sons, who were considered to be men of learning in their time, for he early left his university studies for the court and the war; but he was able to pass such good opinions upon subjects of art and science that he astonished many who had made these a special study. He had the power of recognizing people whose faces he once had noticed after ten to twenty years of absence, and was also skilled in divining what character dwelt behind every face. What he once heard he never forgot. Where he had travelled once he could never mistake the road, and knew not only the names of the villages but also the names of the peasants whom he had met. His life was led by the unswaying principles of an earnest piety and high morals. His nephew, Peter Brahe the Elder; who in a chronicle has given the above picture of Gustavus Vasa, adds : “In summa, God had bequeathed him, above others, with great ability, high intellect and many princely virtues, so that he was well worthy of carrying sceptre and crown. For he was not only sagacious and kind above others, but also manly and able. He was sharp and just in passing sentences, in many cases being charitable and merciful.
The royal court was characterized by a joyous and elevated spirit. Every day after dinner all the courtiers collected in the dancing hall. The lady of ceremonies then entered with the ladies of the court, and the royal musicians dispensed music for dancing. Every other or third day the king went out hunting or horseback riding with the gentlemen and ladies of his court. The youths of the nobility once a week held exhibitions of fencing and other knightly sport, the king taking an interested and active part. Those who excelled received prizes in the form of rings of gold or chaplets of pearls and led the dance of the evening.
Gustavus I. was three times married. His first consort was young neurotic Catherine, princess of Saxony-Lauenburg, whom he married while the “Revolt of the Bells” was going on in Dalecarlia, and who died four years later, leaving him a son, Eric, of her own hysteric temperament. Shortly after the death of Catherine, the king married a young lady of the highest Swedish nobility, Margaret Leijonhufvud, with whom he lived in a long and happy union, ended by her death in 1551, and blessed by ten children, among whom the sons John, Magnus and Charles. Lady Margaret had been in love with the oldest son of Christine Gyllenstierna, Svante Sture, whom she renounced, and who married her younger sister Martha. Queen Margaret was a tender and high-minded woman, who won the love and absolute confidence of her royal consort, on whose quick temper she exerted a quieting influence, comforting him in hours of trouble and distress. She preserved as queen the plain and severe habits of her youth, having a personal superintendence over the dairies of the royal castles, especially those of Gripsholm and Svartsj. She was interested in brewing, baking and other household affairs, often making with her own hands the clothes of her children. When the king referred to Queen Margaret, he always called her “our dear mistress of the house.” The king remained a nobleman of his day in the purple. Royal splendor was displayed on great occasions only. Simplicity was the principle of everyday life. When entertaining his friends, the king took great pains to please and arranged many details himself. Upon one occasion of this kind at Gripsholm, Queen Margaret carried in the sweetmeats and cookies, while the king served the wine and asked his guests to be glad and make merry.
Queen Margaret was suddenly taken ill while partaking in a pleasure trip on Lake Mælar, and died in 1551, after a touching farewell to her consort. In the following year the king married the young Catherine Stenbock, a daughter of Gustavus Stenbock, an intimate friend to the king, and Lady Brita Leijonhufvud, a sister of Queen Margaret. In the lives and fate of Catherine and Margaret there are several remarkable coincidences. Like Queen Margaret, Catherine was secretly in love with some one else when the royal proposal was made. Strange enough the object of Catherine’s secret affection was, like Margaret’s, a son of Christine Gyllenstierna, Gustavus Johnsson Tre Rosor. This young man was the grandson of conceited Ture Jnsson and the son of able John Turesson, the second consort of Christine Gyllenstierna. The family name was Tre Rosor, after the coat-of-arms, which consisted of three roses. As her aunt Margaret must renounce the hero of her dreams, so also Catherine. Like his half-brother, Svante Sture, Gustavus Tre Rosor married the sister of his first love, and this marriage, like that of Svante, turned out a happy one. There was a last coincidence in the life of the two queens. When Margaret heard that the royal sponsor was coming, she knew his errand and concealed herself in an oak chest in a distant part of the castle of Ekeberg. Catherine, upon a similar occasion, ran down in the gardens of Torpa and hid herself behind a bush. The third marriage of the king was a happy one, in spite of the great difference in years between the consorts. The clergy tried to raise objections, holding that Gustavus and Catherine were too nearly related to make the marriage a legal one. After some severe pressure these objections were finally dropped.
Queen Catherine thus expressed the state of her feelings after her marriage : “Gustavus is dear to me, but I shall never forget the Rose.”
The king gave scrupulous attention to the education of his children. They were brought up in simplicity and sternness, but received a manifold training and a great amount of instruction. While they were studying at Upsala, hams and butter were sent them from the royal estates to make part of their breakfasts and suppers. In spite of these patriarchal endeavors, Eric and John grew up to be typical Renaissance princes, fond of extravagance and luxury. The king wrote once to Duke Magnus: “Our dear Lady Catherine sends thee five shirts which thou must bear in mind to take good care of ; item, to keep thy head clean and not ride or run too much.” When his sons grew older, King Gustavus used to admonish them orally before the hearth or at the table, or by letters. His wise counsel recalls the terse and sharp advice of Havamal in the Edda : “Ye shall weigh all matters carefully, perform them quickly and stand by it, putting nothing off to the morrow; counsel not, followed up in due time is like clouds without rain in times of dearth.” “To speak once and stand by it, is better than to talk one hundred times.” “Sur-round ye ever with able men of pure living; one shall believe of ye what one knows about them.” Duke Eric early caused him trouble by stubbornness, defiance and vanity. Duke John, the oldest child of Queen Margaret, long remained his favorite, but ended by causing him grief through disobedience and secret conspiracy. with Eric.
In his old age, King Gustavus suffered through failing health and melancholy. He complained because the fate of his country seemed uncertain on account of the unstability of his sons, and because his old friends, like John Turesson and Christine Gyllenstierna, passed away before him, leaving him alone in the world.
When King Gustavus felt that the end was drawing near, he sent word to the four Estates or representative classes of the country, the nobles, clergymen, burghers and yeomen, to meet him at Stockholm around the Midsummer of 1560. He made known to the Estates his will, which his sons pledged themselves by oath to fulfil. Eric should inherit the crown, according to the will, but the three other sons were to receive duchies which they should govern with a good deal of authority. It became evident that the king had taken pains to provide liberally for his sons. But it appears as if he intended to make them all responsible in the maintenance of the work of their father, by distributing the power between them.
When the Estates had collected in the hall of state the old monarch entered with his sons. After greeting those present he delivered his farewell address :
“I respect the power of God, which with me has rein_ stalled the ancient royal line on the throne of Sweden. Ye have without doubt learned, and those of you who are some-what advanced in years have seen for yourselves, how our dear fatherland, already for ages in distress and misery through foreign lordship, at last suffered the same through the grim despot King Christian, and how it pleased God to liberate us from this tyranny through me. For this it behooves us, high and low, master and servant, old and young, never to forget that same divine help. For what of a man was I to set myself against a mighty king, who not only ruled three kingdoms, but who also was related to the powerful emperor Charles V. and the noble princes of Germany. But God has performed the work, made me the worker of his miracle, and been my help and comfort during a reign of forty years, the cares of which have hastened me on with gray hairs to the grave. Forsooth, I could liken myself to King David,” and the tears came to his eyes, “whom God from a shepherd made to a reigning king over his people. I could not divine that glory, when I in woods and desert fells must needs conceal myself from the bloodthirsty swords of my enemies. Grace and blessing have in a wide measure been granted both me and you through the knowledge of God’s true Gospel, also in the shape of material abundance, which is evident all through the land, thank the Lord. If during my reign anything good has been accomplished, give ye God the glory of it. But for what there has been of failure and fault, I beg you, as faithful subjects, to forbear and forgive. God is my witness that it has not been by meanness, but by human weakness, that I have not been able to do better. My ambition has always been the improvement and welfare of the people of my country. I know full well that I have been a severe king in the eyes of many. Yet that day shall come when the children of Sweden willingly would dig me up from under the sod if that they could. My time soon is at an end. I need not in the stars or other signs search for my last moment; my body is to me the trustworthy messenger that I soon shall stand before the severe King of kings, to give account for the glorious but earthly crown of Sweden which I have worn.”
The Estates listened with great emotion to the words of the old monarch. After the king had ceased speaking and his will had been sanctioned, Gustavus left the assembly supported by his sons and nodding his farewell to those standing near. Three months later he was taken ill, and September 29, 1560, the great liberator, revolutionist and organizer of his country expired.