When one learns about the history of Scandinavia there are many names, dates, kings and politicians that one learn about, just like in all other histories, but today I am writing to you about a man who was a king. In fact he was the King in Scandinavia, ruling areas stretching from Finland in the East to Iceland in the west, from the Barents Sea in the north to North Germany. He was the last king to unify these areas under one rule, but also the one man to cause its breaking apart.
So who was he? Well as you who have read out blog for a while know that we this month are doing a: Monarch’s you don’t often hear about month. And I’ve already written to you about Kristina of Sweden. As the Scandinavian history so rarely are brought to the attention of the World, well with the exception of the Vikings, and a few battles and kings from the 15thcentury onwards, then I feel it should be right to outline to you what happened to the once Unified Kingdoms of Sweden, Denmark and Norway that caused it to break apart.
The answer is simple, well it’s not simple at all like in all history, for there are many factors taking part in these events, but in this article I’ll do the one thing that I hate, I’ll follow the bigger lines… I apologize in advance.
The key to the end of the Scandinavian commonwealth is the son of King Hans (John in English) and Queen Christine of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, namely Christian II. Christian were born in 1481 as a Prince of the three Kingdoms which formed the Kalmar Union (Denmark, Sweden and Norway). And he died in 1559 imprisoned at Kalundborg Castle; his crime was attempting to re-establish himself as King of Norway in 1531-2, after years in exile at his sister in law’s court in the Netherlands. But why exile? What had Christian done? And what were the consequences of his actions. Well we have already swiftly mentioned the consequences; for his actions and policies during his short reign and prior to his coronation, especially the act that followed his Swedish coronation caused his kingdom to fall apart, and the individual countries to reestablish themselves independently.
Christian’s actions were his policies towards the governing powers in the three countries, for instance he favored Danes in the most important political and administration positions in Norway, contradictory to his promise when he were elected King, a policy that lead to tension between him and the Local nobility. He inherited from his ancestors a political problem in Sweden, with the country’s nobility not being easily pleased, and as all the three countries were de facto electoral kingdoms the nobility and the estate assemblies of the three countries had to elect the king separately. This allowed each of the three countries to separately establish its own relation to the King, and negotiate the basis for his reign in that specific country. Christian inherited the Crown to the Kalmar union after his dad in 1513, yet Sweden which his dad had lost in 1501 were outside his reach until 1520. It is Christian’s actions to regain control over Sweden that gives him his most significant mark upon history. His policies in Norway and Denmark were all financial preparations for the big campaign to become king of Sweden, but his actions against the Norwegian nobles in the late years of his father’s reign had given him a reputation of being ruthless.
It is not his champagne that’s vital, it was a normal late medieval campaign, but when the widow of his opponent, the steward of Sweden, surrendered Stockholm in 1520, he was finally made king of Sweden. Although his revenge sparked another uprising, not only in Sweden, but it also sparked what is later known as the Count’s feud. A war about the Kalmar crown and Swedish independence, and all this due to Christian breaking his promise to hold an Estate assembly, but rather to hold the ‘Bloodbath of Stockholm’, which was a series of executions of about a hundred leading Swedish nobles and clergymen between the 7th and the 9th of November 1520 as a punishment for their revolts against his dad many years earlier. This sparked as mentioned above a new conflict, one that ended in Christian II going into exile and all the three counties converting from Catholicism to Lutheran Protestantism.
Although Christian’s legacy in history is mostly bound to ordering the Bloodbath in Stockholm, but we should remember that he like so many other monarchs ruled according to their geopolitical surroundings. I am by no means defending his attacks on the Swedish leaders, but I am saying that his actions were not that different from those by the Spanish during the Dutch revolts. And just think about it; what would the world have looked like if he had not done it? Well that is something I’ll leave for your imagination. Take care and keep on reading! 🙂