Blog posts on medieval bras


The bra from Schloss Lengberg, Austria

Our good friend Isis Sturtewagen has posted a couple of blog posts on her company blog. The first of them discuss the occurence of medieval bras such as the one discovered in Schloss Lengberg in Austria in 2008 (it’s the same one that everyone keeps re-posting). Have a look at it here.

The second one regards Isis’ reconstruction of a garment of that type; I suspect we will be seeing a lot of the ladies in the company wearing their own in the future.

Also, she has written this post about written sources on supportive underwear.

Update: a couple of really cool new photos!

A 14th century political history of Sweden, part 4 – Defeat and union

Winds of war

After the meeting at Dalaborg, Margareta starts to gather an army to fight the king, But Albrecht is not sitting idle. He makes the burghers of Stockholm renew their oath of fealty to him and departs for Germany to muster troops. Margareta is ahead of him, and with an army of Swedes her supporters besiege the stronghold of Axvalla. It is too strong to take by storm, and a long siege lead by Nils Svarte Skåning begins. The main part of the army marches on, under the command of Erik Kettilsson Puke (whose name has got nothing to do with throwing up).

Around new year 1389 Albrecht returns to Sweden with a host of men. He disembarks at Kalmar and march on Axvall. On the way there, he passes the south peak of lake Vättern, and manage to liberate the besieged Rumlaborg. When he reaches Axvall he also receives word that a Danish army, under the command of his old retainer Henrik Parow has been marching from Halland and is about to join the army of Erik Kettilsson Puke. Albrecht turn south to face the two armys, and the 24th of february they meet outside the village of Åsle, in the vicinity of Falköping.

The chronicler Detmar describes it like this:

In deme jare Cristi 1389, in sunte Mathias dage, was grot strid in Sweden bi Axewalde. De koninghinne van Norwegen hade dar sand wol vifteynhundert gewapent. Der hovetman was en riddere, de heet her Hinrik Parowe.

On this day of Christ 1389, in saint Matthew’s day, it was a great battle in Sweden by Axvall. The queen of Norway had sent a good fifteenhundred armed. The commander was a knight that was called Henrik Parow.

Henrik Parow’s troops take a defensive position flanked by a mountain and a marshland, which also stretches in front of his lines. Albrecht is eager to engage, and he is certain of victory; his host consists of glorious German knights and trained mercenaries. But everyone is not as sure as he is. Tradition tells us that an old knight called Tyke Olofsson asked the king to refrain from attacking, or at least try to negotiate the marshland before charging. ”We do not want to fight the Dane this day – it won’t do us any good.” he concluded, but the king wouldn’t listen. Even though some of his men weren’t ready, he lead his knights, including the bishop of Skara, his cousins and the counts of Ruppin and Holstein, on a charge across the frozen land and at first he was very successful: he ”conquered two banners”. But the battle would not go his way. One of his commanders, Gerhard Snakenborg, turned and fled the battlefield with 60 riders, and others is said to have stuck in the boggy ground.


In less than two months, through snow and during very harsh conditions, king Albrecht’s army marched over 300 kilometers – and had time to stop and liberate Rumlaborg before fighting at Åsle

The king was taken captive along with his son, prince Erich, and as they were taken from the field of battle by their captors, they passed Tyke Olofsson. The king cried out to him: ”Old man! Old man! Why didn’t I listen?” The battle of Åsle is a decisive victory for the rebels, but their commander, Henrik Parow, is killed. When the queen learns of the victory she rides to Bohus where she and her supporters celebrate their victory. The king and his son are eventually taken to Skåne and the castle of Lindholmen, where they are being held captive.

German resistance

Even though Margareta managed to beat her enemy at the battlefield, her fight for dominion of Sweden was far from over. Although she conquers Kalmar, Rumlaborg and Axvall, Stockholm is still in German hands, and the burghers of the city refuse to give up the fight. They are being supported by the Hansa, which send warships to commandeer ships belonging to the supporters of Margareta. They also bring food and soldiers to the besieged Stockholm. On a different note, these ships, crewed by knights, burghers, soldiers and peasants, according to Detmar, later cause much trouble on the Baltic sea as pirates (so called Vitalianer). As they are allowed to enter the harbours of the Mecklenburgish Wismar and Rostock, other Hansa cities, which suffered economic losses due to pirate attacks,  started to lose interest in the conflict between the Mecklenburgish dukes that supported Albrechts and the queen Margareta. Nevertheless, some of the Hanseatic towns, Rostock among some others, make alliances with noblemen and other cities to try to force Margareta into releasing Albrecht; among other things they try to enforce a trade embargo against Margareta. But their efforts are of little use. Some, like the old Albrecht-loyal knight Vicke van Vitzen even sells his estates to Margareta and swear loyalty to her. He was not the only one to do so.


The aggressive Vitalianer pirates put a hamper on trade in the Baltic sea. Many ships were just anchored as the risk of sailing was too great

In 1393 the conflict is putting a big hamper on trade in the Baltic sea, not least because of the Vitalianer. Margareta met with representatives from the Hansa and king Albrecht’s nephew Johann in Falsterbo at the end of September. At this meeting it was agreed that Albrecht and his son should be let free from captivity for a couple of years, until the parties had reached an acceptable agreement. As security, the city of Stockholm was to be handed over to four honest men, which should let Margareta occupy it if the king refused to go back to captivity after the said time.

The war goes on – but so does the negotiations

In July 1394 everyone finally seemed to agree. The king and his son had been imprisoned for more than five years, and the king himself probably knew that his days as king of Sweden were numbered. He was to be released against a huge ransom of 60 000 marks of silver (the old king Magnus bought the entire province of Skåne for about half as much in the 1330’s), and if that sum wasn’t paid back in six months, the king and his son should return into captivity, or the queen would be entitled to occupy Stockholm. At the same meeting, Margareta and the Hansa also agreed on taking actions against the Vitalianer, as they were still a serious problem for great parts of northern Europe. During the 1390’s tremendous efforts were put on ridding the Baltic sea from pirates. Several fleets with several thousand men hunted the Vitalianer and drove them from whatever harbors the controlled.

The final negotiations for the king’s release took place at Lindholmen were king Albrecht and his son had been spending their time since the defeat at Åsle. The 26th of September 1395 it is decided that Albrecht and his son should be released for a period of three years (until the 29th of September 1398), during which time they should try to raise the enormous ransom. If he succeeded, he wasn’t allowed to wage war on Margareta for at least a year. If he didn’t succeed, he could go back to prison but break the peace in nine weeks, or he could simply let Margareta have Stockholm and the peace should be everlasting. Albrecht was released in Helsingborg at the end of September 1395, about a month after Stockholm was entrusted to the Hanseatic cities (read more here) of Königsberg, Elbing, Thorn, Danzig, Reval, Greifswald, Lübeck and Stralsund, as a kind of peace keeping force, while Albrecht and Erich started to round up the money needed for the ransom. Their efforts was however in vain, and in 1398 the cities’ representatives leave Stockholm, allowing Margareta to occupy the city. The conflict between king Albrecht and Margareta is definetely over.


Today the castle of Lindholmen is nothing more than a grassy mound, but in the 14th century it was one of the most important castles in the entire Danish realm

A free man

Albrecht returned to his Mecklenburg of old and ruled the land for years. In a letter dated 25th of November 1405, in the end, he was able to forgive the peoples of Sweden, Norway and Denmark for what evil they had bestowed upon him. The same date he also writes other letters, in which he states that he will no longer claim Swedish regions, but rather support his son, duke Erich. Albrecht dies 1412, and with him dies the Mecklenburg dynasty’s hopes for the Swedish throne.

Margareta, Bogislav and the Kalmar union

Margareta, her adoptive son Bogislav, the Swedish council and many other Swedish nobles were gathered in 1396 to the recess of Nyköping, which in short meant that the crown reclaims all estates and all land that has been given or claimed since 1363, when king Albrecht came to power. All strongholds an castles that was built during those years should be torn down if the queen so wished. But that wasn’t all that was discussed. The most important thing at the meeting was that the congregated potentates agreed that none of the three Nordic realms should wage war on oneanother. They had ”in all these kingdoms one lord and king”. The young Bogislav of Pomerania could look forward to a splendid position as king over a great realm.

He was crowned in 1397, and at the same time the Kalmar union was signed between the three kingdoms. The statutes of the union stipulated, among other things, that the descendants of the king should inherit the crown – a direct dichotomy to the Landslag, accepted in the middle of the 14th century. Also, each country should have right to their own laws, but at the same time they should henceforth be seen as one kingdom – under ine king. Margareta was still holding the reins until 1400 when Bogislav came of age and at least formally took over power from his mother. He reigned the new union between 1400-1439 with two interludes. He was however forced to change his name into the more proper Swedish name Erik – Bogislav was too strange a name for the Scandinavians.

1400 Erik came of age, and rode his Eriksgata the following year, but his mother was still holding most of the power; she was in no way willing to let go of her influence.

In 1402 Margareta negotiated with Henry IV of England to be able to marry Erik with Henry’s daughter Philippa. The negotiations went well, and Erik and Philippa was married in Lund 1406.

He, his young queen and his mother worked hard to strengthen the three kingdoms against first and foremost the Germans, in the form of the Hansa and the Teutonic order. Their measures included instating foreign vasalls to control Sweden, which eventually lead to unrest amongst the population.

Before that, however, they declared war in the Hansa, as they considered the trade confederation too powerful. On the side of the Hansa, the Holsteiners joined, and the Baltic region was thrown into a war that lasted until 1435, with some armistices.

Margareta died the 28th of October 1412, when negotiating for the city of Flensburg, which had been seized by the Holsteiners. She is buried in a magnificent sarcophagus in Roskilde cathedral in Denmark. Curiously enough, king Albrecht died the same year, the 31st of March or 1st of April. He was laid to rest alongside Richardis in the Doberaner Münster in Bad Doberan of the Mecklenburg area.

This article was written by Peter Ahlqvist.

This article is the final part of four. Read more in the same series here:
A 14th century political history of Sweden, part 1 – The beginning
A 14th century political history of Sweden, part 2 – The struggle of the lawmaker
A 14th century political history of Sweden, part 3 – The age of the king 

These pages might also prove useful:
Timeline of Swedish politics 1306-1412
Family tree of Swedish royals during the 14th century
Would you like to read more about Albrecht of Mecklenburg? Click here.

A 14th century political history of Sweden, part 3 – The age of the king

Long live the king

The war against Magnus Eriksson had been an expensive one. Magnus had acted decisively when Albrecht went to Åbo to continue the siege after his marsk (marshal/military commander) Nils Turesson was killed in 1364. As mentioned, Magnus’ actions culminated in the battle of Gataskogen, where he was captured. At the opposing side were German knights, for example the mentioned Henrik van Ouwen, Rawen van Barnekow and Vicke van Vitzen. They expected compensation and rewards for their loyalty, but the Swedish coffers were appallingly empty and Albrecht had to find another way to pay off his countrymen. His solution was to grant the foreging knights land. During his first year as a king the young king was forced to pawn more than half of his kingdom. The Swedish nobles were outraged, which is easy to understand; if the king pawned land to Germans, there wasn’t much land left for them.

Furthermore, the Germans tended to see the Swedish commoners as little more than resources to be exploited. The Swedish model with a free, armed peasant class with extensive rights wasn’t at all what the Germans were used to, so they merely scoffed at the commoners’ claims. A chronicler described them as ”birds of prey” and it was generally agreed that the new masters ruled against tradition and law. In Sweden it was formally peace, as the old king Magnus had recognized Albrecht as king. This meant that nobody needed German and Danish mercenaries, which as a result became unemployed. In the following years the unemployed soldiers drifted through the lands, pillaging and stealing.


These German mercenaries take what they want – from who they want

An old verse tells the tale of the relentless robbers

Jak wil idher tydha aff then rääff 
som wäl weet badhe hool oc grääff
ther menar iak mz then legodräng
som haffuer fordarffuat badhe aker oc äng
the wilia alla til hoffua rijda 
widh bondans kornladu at strijda
fik han eena kogerbysso oc pijla vti
tha skulle iw bonden til skogen fly
spangat bälte oc krusat haar
rostad swärd oc staalhandske widh hans laar
rijdher i gardh oc gar i stuffua
sidhan wil han fatiga bondan truffua
hustru huar är tin vnga höna
then skal tu ey länger for mik löna
ligger hon sik i bänk eller pall
bär henne fram oc äggen all
hon sitter ey sa högt a rang
iak slar henne nider mz min spiwtz stang
haffuer tu ey meer än ena gaas
then skulom wij i apton haffua til kraas
han beder uptända fempton lius
han drykker oc skrölar i fullan duus
thz monde the edela bönder söria
at legodrängar skola tolkin leek vpböria

I would like to tell you about the fox
That well know both hole and ditch
I mean by this the mercenary
Who has destroyed both field and meadow
They will all happily ride
By the farmer’s larder to fight
If he had a quivergun with arrows
The farmer would flee to the forests
Belt with metal plaques and curled hair
Rusty sword and a steel gauntlet by his thigh
He rides to the farms and goes in the house
Then he likes to force the poor peasant
Wife, where is your young hen
You should not hide it from me anymore
If she lies under bench or stool
Bring her to me along with her eggs
If she sits high on her perch
I will strike her down with my spear
Have you not more than a single goose
Tonight we’ll have it for a meal
He says to light fifteen candles
He drinks a shouts and feasts
That the noble peasants may mourn
That mercenaries should start such a game

This was, of course, a rebellion waiting to happen. But Albrecht was in no way out of the game. 1375 the old Danish king Valdemar Atterdag died, which meant that king Albrecht’s family could have a real shot at the Danish throne. Atterdag’s son Kristoffer was killed in 1363, which meant that the son of his oldest daughter Ingeborg was next in line. The good thing about this was that Ingeborg was married to duke Heinrich of Mecklenburg, king Albrecht’s older brother. Furthermore, Valdemar had signed a treaty with the Mecklenburgers in 1371, where he promised that the grandson in question should inherit the crown. Everything seemed to go Albrecht’s way – if his nephew, also an Albrecht, could be put on the throne of Denmark he would not only be rid of an enemy – he would also gain a powerful and rich ally.

There was only one problem. The treaty with the Mecklenburgers was never ratified by the Danish council. Instead the Danish nobles referred to an earlier, and ratified, agreement with the Hansa, where it was stated that the Hanseatic cities had a say when it came to which king that would rule Denmark if Valdemar should perish.

Enter Margareta

The Danish nobles turned to Margareta, the younger sister of Ingeborg. She had a son with Håkan of Norway, and because of Norwegian law he had already inherited the throne after his father. His name was Olof, and it was on him that the Danish highborns put their money. The conflict was a fact. The Mecklenburgers and the Holsteiners make an alliance to put young Albrecht on the Danish throne. They are lead by the old duke Albrecht of Mecklenburg – king Albrecht’s father, and invade Skåne in the end of the 1370’s. However, they achieve very little, and old Albrecht dies in the beginning of 1379. At this point king Albrecht of Sweden join the war to support young Albrecht (confused yet? It’s Albrecht VI von Mecklenburg who is in question here) in his struggle for the throne and to try and reclaim Halland and Skåne. He too achieves little, and in 1380 Danes and Norwegians burn the cities of Jönköping, Skara, Örebro and Västerås. In 1381, the war comes to a standstill and eventually it is discontinued. This, in effect, meant that the young Olof was elected king even in Denmark. As he was a minor, his mother ruled in his place, something that probably suited her quite well.

The mightiest man in Sweden


Albrecht may have been king, but in fact, he ruled very little of Sweden. Bo Jonsson Grip, the king’s drots (which meant he was the second in charge and also the supreme judge of Sweden) owned most parts of Sweden, including all of Finnland and the vast region of what was then called Hälsingland (now Norrland). More specifically, he owned or administered Stockholm, Nyköping, Kalmar, Viborg, Raseborg, Tavastehus, Korsholm, Öresten, Oppensten and Rumlaborg counties. But all good things must come to an end, and Bo Jonsson died in 1386. If king Albrecht could get his hands on even half of those estates, farms and castles, his fiscal problems would be over in a glimpse. He thought up a plan, and summoned the ten executors that were appointed to administer the deceased drots’ assets. None of them showed up, which was probably a wise move, but at the same time they took a stand by disobeying a direct order from the king.

But the king had another plan. He tried to force the widow of the drots, Margareta Dume, to choose him as her guardian. At the same time he wanted to reclaim lands and estates that the nobles ”unlawfully” claimed after the uprising in 1371. Last but not least he wanted to impose a special tax which would include otherwise tax-exempted lands. This was too much for the nobles, and as usual they tried to replace one master with another. They turned to Margareta and her young son Olof, king of Denmark and Norway. As Olof was a nephew of the late Magnus Eriksson (the ex-king who drowned), he was in fact entitled to compete for the Swedish throne. Ironically, it was just what the nobles feared in 1363, only now they saw it as their only chance to get rid of a hated garp (a medieval Swedish word for both a German and for someone who is a pain in the ass).

Allmighty mistress and proper master

Everything seemed to be set, and the Swedish nobility turned their hopes to the daughter of their old arch enemy, but the 3rd of Augusti 1387 Olof suddenly died from disease. It is easy to imagine that king Albrecht said his evening prayers with unusual enthusiasm when he heard the news. In theory, nothing could stop him now. Margareta was in an extremely precarious situation; her position, her power – her whole life – depended on her status as the queen mother of Olof. Now that he was dead she would quickly be swept aside. Only, she weren’t. A week after the death of her son she was elected protector of Denmark and ”allmighty mistress and proper master”. It is equally easy to imagine how king Albrecht just skipped his evening prayers when he heard those news. In february 1388 she was also elected sovereign of Norway. Her sister Ingeborg’s grandchild Bogislav of Pomerania, whom she adopted, was elected her successor.


Margareta Valdemarsdotter. Powerful. Clever. Scheming.

In March 1388, one month after the election in Norway, she met the leaders of the opposition against the king at the Swedish castle Dalaborg, deep into territories that the king never really was able to master, at the western beach of lake Vänern. Most of them were part of the council; nine of the 12 members of the council were the above mentioned executors appointed by Bo Jonsson Grip. It is no exaggeration to state that those that congregated at Dalaborg were enemies of the king. They elected Margareta as allmighty mistress and proper master of Sweden, on behalf of the people and the realm.

This article was written by Peter Ahlqvist.

Read the fourth and final part here.


This article is the third part of four. Read more in the same series here:
A 14th century political history of Sweden, part 1 – The beginning
A 14th century political history of Sweden, part 2 – The struggle of the lawmaker
A 14th century political history of Sweden, part 4 – Defeat and union

These pages might also prove useful:
Timeline of Swedish politics 1306-1412
Family tree of Swedish royals during the 14th century

Who was Albrecht of Mecklenburg?


Albrecht with his first wife Richardis of Schwerin. Rest in peace

Would you like to know more about Albrecht of Mecklenburg? Read more about his life here.

King Albrecht I of Sweden has already been presented by name in a number of articles, but until now we haven’t really had the opportunity to get to know him. The man that was to be Albrecht I of Sweden, was born around 1339 (the sources state everything between 1338 to 1340) as the second son of duke Albrecht II of Mecklenburg (1318-1379), and Eufemia Eriksdotter (1317-1370), sister of the Swedish Magnus Eriksson – a man that was to be contesting with Albrecht of the throne. In other words – these relationships made our Albrecht next in turn to the Swedish crown, after king Magnus Eriksson and his son Håkan. Albrecht’s father ruled the Mecklenburg area at the north coast of Germany between 1329 and 1379, and that was a task that would later pass on to our Albrecht after his elder brother Heinrich (III von Mecklenburg) had died in 1384.

Speaking of Heinrich – he married Ingeborg Valdemarsdotter, daughter of the Danish king Valdemar. Heinrich’s son, Albrecht IV of Mecklenburg, would later take part in the struggle for both the Danish and the Swedish thrones, as he was Valdemar’s grandson.

Apart from Heinrich, Albrecht had three siblings: Ingeborg, Magnus and Anna, but none of them played any significant role in Swedish politics.

When Albrecht got the opportunity to be the king of Sweden, he was in his early twenties. He came from a relatively small area in northern Germany, but what his country lacked in size it regained in diplomacy and ruthlessness. Still, it must have been hard stepping onto a throne in a country where everybody behaved differently and, for the most part, saw you as either a tyrant or a puppet – even with your experienced father backing you up. Albrecht went through a number of difficult situations, which he handled with various amount of success, before he retired to Mecklenburg to rule the area until his death.

Albrecht married Richardis von Schwerin, the daughter of Otto von Schwerin, the year 1359. A contract of marriage had been set up in Wismar seven years earlier. The couple had at least three children; the sources indicate another daughter, but this is not confirmed. The three children were Erik (1359/1365-1397), which was to be Albrecht’s successor for the throne of Sweden, Richardis Katarina (born 1370/1372-1400) and Johann.

Richardis died in 1377, and Albrecht married Agnes von Braunschweig, the daughter of Magnus von Braunschweig, the 12th-13th of February 1396. They had a son in 1397, known as Albrecht V. He didn’t get any children of his own, and died in 1423, only 26 years old.

Albrecht himself died the 31st of March or 1st of April 1412, the same year as his nemesis Margareta, and was laid to rest in the Doberaner Münster church, close to Rostock.


A 14th century political history of Sweden, part 2 – The struggle of the lawmaker

Skåne is lost

The Hanseatic/Swedish attack on Valdemar and Helsingborg is a fiasco. The joint effort is disorganized and lacking in communication. The Hanseatic fleet lose 12 cogs (for which Johan Wittenborg, the mayor of Lübeck and also the commander of the fleet, is executed on his return to Lübeck). Evenso, the battle is a huge loss also for king Valdemar; his son, prince Kristoffer, is hit by a stone (probably from some kind of siege engine – the sources doesn’t mention any kind of firearms. Even so, a 16th century source states that he was shot by some kind of gun) and dies a year after the attack. Soon after the battle, the Hanseatic league and Valdemar agree to a truce – against the will of king Magnus. Skåne was irrevokably lost.


Duke Kristoffer, son of Valdemar Atterdag. He was mortally wounded at the battle of Helsingborg 1362, but didn’t die until 1363

A troublesome king

But the troubles began even before Magnus lost Skåne. Let’s look at the time before Magnus lost the wealthy province. When Magnus came of age he didn’t seem to share the Swedish nobles’ point of view of what is good for the country. He started to restrict the power of the nobles, and tried to make Sweden a country where the crown is passed down from father to son, as in Norway, where he also is king. Not surprisingly, this was bad news for the nobles – they wanted to put a weak king of their choice on the throne, not the son of an independent, mighty ruler. In the so called Magnus Eriksson’s Landslag (”The Magnus Eriksson law of the land”) of 1349 it is therefore stated:

Nu ær til kunungx rikit i Suerike kununger væliande ok ey ærvande
Now is to the kingdom of Sweden king elected and not inherited

Furthermore, it states that a man that is to be elected king is someone:

Huilkin en af inrikis føddum – ok hælzt af kununge sunum
Who is born in the kingdom and preferably son of a king.

Landslagen was composed by a council of lawmen, headed by the father of Birgitta Birgersdotter (internationally known as saint Bridget/saint Birgitta), and based on earlier county laws. This is the first law to pertain to the country as a whole, hence its name, and therefore an important milestone in the forging of a state. Even though Landslagen bears his name, Magnus never officially sanctioned it, quite possibly because he did not agree on above cited paragraphs…

Noble malcontent and a jealous son

King Magnus had two sons with his queen, Blanka of Namur. They were called Erik and Håkan and their father managed to get them both elected as king. Håkan, the younger, was to become king of Norway when he was old enough. He acceeded the Norwegian throne in 1355. Erik was to succeed his father at the throne of Sweden, and as his father was still decently young, it looked like a long wait for Erik. At this time the young nobleman Bengt Algotsson enters the arena. He is hardly mentioned in the sources before the king’s second crusade against the russians in 1350, but only five years later he had become dubbed a knight, gained a seat in the king’s council and was appointed duke of both Finnland and Halland. No doubt he was important to the king, but noone knows exactly why. Rumours of a homosexual relationship between the king and Bengt circulated. The gossip worsened after the Black Death hit Sweden in 1349-1350; Birgitta Birgersdotter, which had become very powerful due to her status as soon-to-be-saint, declared that the plague was caused by the wearing of immoral clothing and, worse, the king’s scandalous relation to another man. She dubs him Kung Smek (”King Fondle”), a derogative that sadly has survived through the ages and stuck to this otherwise quite able king. It is hard to tell if there is any truth in the claims, but frankly, it is not really important.


A 15th century painting of Saint Birgitta of Sweden

Erik rushed into action. He knew that many of the nobles hated Algotsson and his sudden rise to power. Most of them were also outraged by the king’s will to restrict the power of both the clergy and the nobles. It was very clear that Magnus wasn’t as weak as they had hoped, and now he was a direct threat to their way of life. Another part of the parcel concerned Magnus’ debts. Some of the nobles stood as guarantee and had to pay his creditors. On top of it all, Magnus faced excommunication for his disability to pay his debts to the pope. He and a band of nobles, as well as five of Sweden’s seven bishops, declare war on Bengt Algotsson in october 1356. This is in part a covert war on Magnus, who doesn’t take any particular action against his son. In 1357 a treaty is signed. Magnus agrees on giving his son great parts of the kingdom to his son. Erik takes on the title of king of Sweden, and banishes Bengt Algotsson from his new kingdom. Bengt Algotsson flees to Scania, where he is killed some years later (mentioned in this article). The new king of Sweden rules the country along with his father for two years, and constantly takes the liberty of ignoring the statutes of the treaty from 1357. His reign, though, doesn’t last very long. He dies in 1359 and Magnus becomes sole king again.

Even more trouble

In 1363 Magnus’ remaining son, Håkan, king of Norway, is forced to honor an agreement with his father’s nemesis king Valdemar. Before the troubles began, he was betrothed to Valdemar’s daughter Margareta. When her father waged war on Sweden, Håkan broke the agreement and made a new one: he betrothed Elisabet of Holstein, sister of count Henrik of Holstein, in 1361. In late winter 1362 she was sailing to Sweden with her escort to marry Håkan, but a storm drove the ship to Bornholm, which was controlled by the archbishop of Lund – loyal to king Valdemar. The archbishop declared that no marriage could take place between Håkan and Elisabet, as this was against canonic law; from the archbishop’s point of view Håkan was still to marry Margareta. They tied the knot in 1363.


Hammershus at the island of Bornholm, south of Skåne. This must have been a formidable fortress in its day

The Swedish nobles seethed with fury. Their arch enemy Valdemar was now bound to Sweden, which could well mean that a son born by his daughter could be king of Sweden – and run his grandfather’s errands. Meanwhile, the counts of Holstein were disappointed as their possibility of an important alliance was made impossible. The Hanseatic league worried about which consequences this new alliance could have when it came to their influence in Sweden and at the market of Skanör and Falsterbo.

Even more noble malcontent

The Swedish nobles acted first. Some of them, including the powerful Bo Jonsson Grip, went to Mecklenburg to offer duke Albrecht the crown of Sweden. His son, Albrecht the younger, was appointed the task. But what about that Landslag, which stated that a Swedish king must be born in Sweden? No problem. In this article you will learn the background of why Albrecht was actually related to king Magnus. In fact, he was his nephew, as Magnus’ sister Eufemia was married to Albrecht the elder. This was part of the politics of Magnus’ and Eufemia’s mother duchess Ingeborg before her campaign against Skåne in 1322.

Enter the Germans

Many of the burghers in the Swedish cities were actually Germans, which meant that the cities joined the two Albrechts when they and the Swedish nobles arrived in Stockholm with a fleet and about 1 500 soldiers the 29th of November 1363. The same day the burghers of Stockholm swear allegiance to Albrecht the younger and promise to ”live and die” with him. This marks the beginning of a time of strife; Magnus and his son Håkan of course had one or two things to say about the new ”king”, and mustered troops to face the invaders. In february 1364 Albrecht the younger was really elected king, and by july Håkan and Magnus are forced to negitiations after losing the castle at Örebro and the newly erected Svaneholm. A truce is signed by both parts but in the autumn the hostilities continues, and Albrecht himself lead the siege of Åbo castle in Finnland.


The 3rd of March 1365 Magnus and Håkan march from Arboga to Västerås, determined to capture Stockholm. Just before they reach Enköping they encounter an army of Albrecht loyalists at Gataskog under the command of Henrik van Ouwen. Father and son suffer a bitter defeat. Håkan is badly wounded but manage to flee the battlefield, while Magnus is captured and taken to Stockholm. The remaining forces of Håkan and Magnus withdraw to Västerås and Arboga. During the summer they negotiate for terms with king Albrecht’s vassal Raven van Barnekow, bailiff of Nyköpingshus. After this victory, most of the Swedish nobles join Albrecht’s side.


Håkan and his father lost the battle of Gataskog, 1365

Håkan continues the fight

In 1366 Håkan has recovered from his wounds and feel fit enough to reengage king Albrecht. He summons his troops and attack Öland, where the stronghold Borgholm is taken. Soon after, the duke of Sachsen, Erik – one of Valdemar Atterdag’s men occupy the northern parts of the province Halland, and meanwhile king Valdemar himself lays siege to Kalmar to help his son-in-law. This of course puts king Albrecht in an even tighter spot; now he is fighting a war on two fronts. His father, Albrecht the elder, is a sly old politician however, and starts dealing with Valdemar directly. He promises Valdemar big chunks of Sweden, and the Danish king withdraws his troops. This however, is nothing but a ruse; old Albrecht knows that the Swedish council won’t ever agree to such terms, and he is right. They refuse, but the old tactician has bought his son a great opportunity to finish the fight with Håkan before he has to attend to the Danish problem.

Old Albrecht’s plan is successful. The war starts going badly for Håkan. Some time in 1367, Albrecht’s troops manage to re-capture Borgholm and in 1368 Albrecht joins a federation of Hanseatic cities, which in the beginning of the year occupied Köpenhamn/Copenhagen, Skåne and Gotland, and at the same time managed to pillage the Norwegian coasts, which forces Håkan and Norway into a truce. In 1369 The war against Denmark ends, and both the Hanseatic league and king Albrecht withdraws after forcing Valdemar Atterdag to accept their terms.


The seal of Copenhagen

However. Already in 1370 the Swedes are growing weary of their new masters the Germans. King Albrecht is now without the support of the Hansa, and Håkan seizes the moment. In the beginning of 1371 an uprising against king Albrecht starts in the province of Svealand. Commoners urged their likes in other parts of the realm to rise against the Germans, and wanted the council to lead the uprising. They hade grown weary of

wold och orätt, träldom och omilde som I och wij och aller Suerikes almoge tolt haffuom aff tyskom mannom

violence and unjustice, serfdom and unkindness that we and you and all Swedish commoners have endured from German men

They wanted to rid Sweden of

herra Albrect som wor konunger skulle wara, huilkin som är en retter meenedhare och hans fadher, rikesens i Swerige rätta förrådhare

lord Albrecht who should be our king, but is a real liar and his father, a true traitor to the kingdom of Sweden

Actually, they declared that they didn’t feel any loyalty to the king or any German at all. Instead, they wanted to live

vnder then erliga och godha herran konung Magnus, ey tess sidher at han fongen är, huilken wij vthaff then wånda hielpa wiliom med allo wåro macht, och hopp till Gudh haffua vnder honom, at wij med honom vnder rett och lagh bliffua skolom, och med allom them som med oss bliffua wilia, wiliom wij gladheliga liffua och döö, och the oss emoot stonda och oss ey hielpa wilia, them wiliom wij nidhra och förderffua och lijka holda widher the tydzska

under the honest and good lord king Magnus, even though he is a captive, who we out of pity want to help with all our power, and hope to God under him, that we will obey justice and law under him, and all who is with us we will gladly live and die alongside, and those against us and those who would not help us, we want to bring down and destroy and treat as a German

Some knights and squires seems to have joined the rebel army, but mostly it consisted of burghers and peasants. The king was abroad at the time and had no time to muster his troops. The rebels lay siege to Stockholm and Bo Jonsson Grip, king Albrecht’s second in command, was forced to negotiate. Magnus is freed from captivity and is granted the provinces of Västergötland, Värmland and Dalsland to be able to provide for himself, although he is obliged to recognize Albrecht as king and to pay the huge sum of 12 000 mark to Albrecht. Albrechts himself  is forced to sign a document that in practice makes him powerless. Lands and titles he had given to his supporters were withdrawn and the king himself had to deed his personal domains to the state. He also have to admit that his knights and servants have been a bit too rough on the Swedes, but claims this was going on behind his back, and that the people responsible for the heinous deeds is being harshly punished.

The Swedish nobles were happy. They were now able to claim land for themselves, which made the balance of power completely different. The real power now lay with Bo Jonsson Grip – the greatest landowner of all times in Sweden.

A new era

But at the Swedish throne, there was a German. The nobles imagined that they would be able to control a 26-year old newbie of a king better than they could an old experienced one like Magnus. But their hopes crumbled fast enough; Albrecht was no puppet, and he had a completely different view on how to rule than the Swedish nobles, indeed most Swedes, had. He didn’t recognize the peasants as a free class; he looked upon them as serfs, just like in his old country. Albrecht ruled with his experienced and ruthless father as support. Both his father and his grandfather were known to break oaths and to excercise a very practical type of politics. Once again, malcontent started to brew.

At this time, the old ex king Magnus resided with his son in Norway. During a boat trip across Bømmelfjorden in the end of 1374 he drowned, and until this day it is not certain where he rests.


An image from the Mecklenburgischer Reimchronik, 1379. It shows Albrecht the older handing his son the royal banner of Sweden. The three crowns are still used as a symbol in moden day Sweden

This article, written by Johan Käll and Peter Ahlqvist, was in part previously posted on our old webpage under the name 14thc Political climate

What happened next? Read more in the next article.

This article is the second of four. Read more in the same series here:
A 14th century political history of Sweden, part 1 – The beginning
A 14th century political history of Sweden, part 3 – The age of the king
A 14th century political history of Sweden, part 4 – Defeat and union
These pages might also prove useful:
Timeline of Swedish politics 1306-1412
Family tree of Swedish royals during the 14th century