The Hanseatic League in Stockholm

Background

After the war between Albrecht of Mecklenburg and Margareta (read more here), Albrecht and his son was imprisoned at castle Lindholmen in the region of Skåne in southern Sweden. In July 1394, after lengthy negotiations, it was agreed that the two Mecklenburgers should be set free for a ransom of an immense sum of money, equivalent to about 8 000 kilos (more than 17 600 lbs) of pure silver. In short, they were to be released for three years, in which they had to come up with the money, and the city Stockholm was to act as a kind of deposit. Stockholm was the only city in Sweden still controlled by the Germans and hence a thorn in Margareta’s side. During those three years, Stockholm was to be superintended by a group of Hanseatic cities (Königsberg, Elbing, Thorn, Danzig, Reval, Greifswald, Lübeck and Stralsund), as the cities had agreed to act as guarantors for Albrecht. For their troubles, Margareta should pay them an annual sum of 2 000 mark for the three years they administered Stockholm. Also, the cities Rostock and Wismar (the heartland of the Mecklenburg dynasty) should help out with considerable sums of money – 1 000 mark per year.

The mission

Preparations

The 20th of May 1395 the cities met in the neighboring fishing towns Skanör and Falsterbo, at the southwesternmost tip of Sweden and they agreed about their respective contributions to the mission, in wider terms. Here, they also came to terms with Margareta that the king and his son Erich were to be set free the 29th of September. It was agreed that Greifswald, Stralsund and Lübeck should send half of the personnel, equipment and provisions needed. The Prussian cities (the five remaining of the eight) should send the other half.

As an aside, 1395 is a year where the so called Vitalian brotherhood (a group of pirates) starts to take up more and more of the Hanseatic League’s agenda; in September it is decided that a peace keeping/pirate hunting fleet consisting of 11 ships and 1 000 men at arms is to be set up until 1396 to address the piracy problem. 1396 the pirates are mentioned in almost every meeting held by the Hanseatic League, which gives an impression of the situation in the Baltic region.

The Skanör-Falsterbo agreement above states that the eight cities in total should send the following personnel and equipment to take control of Stockholm:

  • 80 good men at arms in full armour (in this case this included torso protection other than chainmail)
  • 60 good crossbowmen with their weapons and including equipment
  • 12 barrels of crossbow bolts
  • 8 stone guns (bigger cannons)
  • 2 lead guns (smaller cannons/hand guns)
  • “A lot of gunpowder, which is needed for that” [the guns]
  • 60 good crossbows including levers and windlasses
  • Two good gunnery masters
  • Two crossbow makers

In addition, the cities sent large amounts of food; in short, everything that was needed to survive was to be shipped to Stockholm, including different food stuffs and tools.

About two months later, in the middle of July, the cities met in the Teutonic order castle of Marienburg/Malpork, where more exact guidelines for the mission are drawn. The troops shipped to Stockholm from the Prussian cities (Königsberg, Elbing, Thorn, Danzig, Reval) are:

  • 38 men at arms
  • 22 crossbowmen

They bring

  • 8 guns of different types, including powder, lead for making shot and peripheral equipment
  • 1 gunnery master
  • 1 crossbowmaker
  • 30 crossbows
  • 4 barrels of crossbow bolts
  • Peripheral equipment for the crossbows

The soldiers

Personal equipment

In the Marienburg meeting it was stipulated that each soldier should be equipped according to the following lists:

Each crossbowman should have:

  • 60 good bolts with tips
  • 3 crossbows (!) – one big, one middle sized and one small
  • A chainmail
  • A “chest” – probably a coat of plates
  • A mail coif
  • A iron hat
  • Plate gauntlets
  • A shield

Each man at arms should have:

  • A “whole plate armour and what belongs to it”:
  • A hood (most likely a helmet)
  • A coat-of-plates
  • Arm protection made of leather
  • A “vorstal” – probably lower arm protection made of steel
  • Leg protection
  • A shield

Curiously, nothing is mentioned of which weapons a man at arms should bring. Perhaps it didn’t matter, as long as they were armed. I have found no similar lists for Stralsund, Greifswald and Lübeck, but most likely those cities sent a similar number of soldiers with similar equipment.

Loyalty

The soldiers going to Stockholm had to swear a sacred oath when signing up for service:

Dys yst der wepenere unde schuczen yet unde buchsenmeystere unde bogenere. Wir sweren und geloben uch, borgermeisteren, ratmannen unde der ganczen gemeyne der stede Thorn, Elbing, Danczik unde Revele, daz wir hern Hermanne van der Halle, euwirme houbtmanne, und unsern eldesten getruwe und gehorsam will zin in bewarynge, in wache, in were des huses, veste und stat Stokholm, unde in alle anderen dingen, des uns van in bevolen wirt; unde van dannen nicht to scheydende, ee ir uns orlob gebit unde andere in unse stat sendit. Das en wille wir nicht lassen durch lib noch durch leyt, daz uns Got zo helfe unde dy heylighen.

This is roughly translated into:

This is the oath of the men at arms, the crossbowmen, the gunnery masters and the [cross?]bowmakers. We swear and promise you – the mayors, the council and all the common people of the cities Thorn, Elbing, Danzig and Reval, that we will be true and obey herr Hermann van der Halle, our noblest commander, when it comes to guarding and caring for the houses, castle and city of Stockholm, and in all other things he will command us; and therefore not to let anyone in [to Stockholm] without permission, in good times or in bad, so help us God and the Saints.

Pay, benefits and conditions

The tour of duty for the soldiers going to Stockholm was to be 18 months long, as suggested by a meeting the 19th of August, 1395.

The soldiers from the Prussian cities were paid both in fabric and in money. The men at arms was to be paid in 6 ells (1 ell = nearly 60 centimeters) of black and brown fabric (probably 2 ells wide) from Dendermonde (in Flanders), from which they should make “wide coats and hoods”, where the black should be on the right side and the brown on the left. The crossbowmen should have hoods in the same colors, plus parcham (a fabric consisting of both linen and cotton) for their jacks/gambesons. The pay also consisted of 5 marks in coin per year for the crossbowmen and 10 marks per year for the men at arms. It is not clear whether similar conditions applied to the contingents from Stralsund, Lübeck and Greifswald, even though it is probable.

In excess of this, the soldiers would probably have had free food, drink and lodgings. But like always, it seems the pay for the contingent was too little and too late. In comparison to other missions (i.e. on peace keeping ships) the pay wasn’t exactly good. In April 1396 a League meeting in Marienburg states that men at arms that goes on the peace ships without their own armour shall have 1/3 of one Mark each week. If we presume that the peace keeping mission lasted for a year (which it probably didn’t), the participating men at arms would earn more than 50% more per year than their colleagues in Stockholm. On the other hand, the peace keepers didn’t receive any fabric, but this doesn’t cover the difference.

That might be why the superior commander of the Stockholm mission, Hermann van der Halle, made complaints about “uncomfortable” individuals in the force; it could have something to do with the talks at a League meeting the 31st of December, 1396, where the gathered representatives decide to postpone the question of “pay for the men at arms that have been posted in Stockholm this year” to an upcoming meeting.

Food

It seems the garrison commander had trouble making ends meet. Van der Halle sent frequent letters to his superiors asking for the most basic commodities to be shipped from Germany, which indicates the contingent couldn’t easily get hold of locally produced food; for some reason the force couldn’t even use the mills in Stockholm and had to grind their grain to flour via a hand mill.

This, among other things, were ordered from Germany to be delivered to the garrison: Apples, honey, onions, beer, pork, many different kinds of fish, bread, turnips, vinegar, salt, mustard, different kinds of oil (which could also have been used as fuel for lanterns), flour, malt, hops, peas, horseradish, apples and garlic.

Among the finer foods (probably reserved for the commanders) can be found: rice, almonds, raisin, wine and spice.

The posting

Arrival

The contingent, commanded by the Danzig council member Hermann van der Halle, who was appointed supreme commander of the mission, reached Stockholm and took control over it the 31st of August, 1395. The day after that, the commander of the Stralsund contingent, Magnus von Alen, arrived in Stockholm with his men. Lübeck also seem to have sent a commander – Jordan Pleskow (who maybe rather wanted to stayed at home in his house on Johannisstraße 20 in Lübeck – we’ll never know). A week later, the 8th of September, the cities promised the Stockholm burghers the same freedoms as they had under the reign of King Albrecht, and the burghers – in turn – promised to be true to the trustees responsible to administer the pawned city.

The keepers of the castle, which consisted of Albrecht supporters, among others Hinrike von Brandis and Otto von Peckatel, had been informed of the turning of the tide beforehand; the Hanseatic League wrote them a letter a month before van der Halle and his troops arrived in Stockholm. Von Brandis and von Peckatel handed the city over to van der Halle without much of a fuss.

We are presented with information that paints a picture of Stockholm castle in disrepair, and probably the soldiers were put to work to repair everything, including the lodgings that had been built by private persons in the castle. The inhabitant of said lodgings – the duke Johann von Mecklenburg (a relation to King Albrecht) asked van der Halle’s permission to remain, something he was denied.

The soldiers had nevertheless to undertake what was most likely extensive renovations; the walls and roof of the castle was in a sorry state, and the cities demanded that the renovations were kept cheap. Also, the old castle commander “borrowed” a lot of kitchen equipment and a stone gun, which needed to be replaced. To assure that the borrowed gun shouldn’t be used against the castle by the leaving force, van der Halle decided to buy it from the leaving Albrecht supporters.

A less than desirable task

Hermann van der Halle didn’t seem too happy with his task. His letters back to his superiors are full of new requisitions as the victuals always ran out. Already the 19th of September, 1395, the council of Marienburg addressed van der Halles requisition for onions, garlic, herbs, fruit, honey, cod, beer, wine – and “6 or 8 big hounds, that we need so well for the castle”. Seven days later the council at Marienburg addressed a second requisition of malt, barley, more beer and wine, flour, fish, vinegar, onions, more dogs, two big ships to defend against the Vitalian brotherhood, wooden boards, (lots of) shovels and brick trowels.

In June 1396 we learn that Stockholm castle had been divided between the Stralsund forces of Magnus van Alen and the forces of Hermann van der Halle, where the Stralsunders were using the tower for their needs and the other troops occupied the courtyard (probably in the buildings erected by duke Johann von Mecklenburg) plus a cellar belonging to the keep, as they had agreed on that this was the best way to defend the castle.

Risky business

However, it seems the stay in Stockholm wasn’t only hard work; the Vitalian brotherhood was increasingly seen in and around the city – both as visitors (even as guests of the Stockholm council during wintertime, something that worried van der Halle) and as pirates. In April 1396, the cities asked van der Halle to send what troops he could spare to the peace keeping mission against the brotherhood being set up by the League.

In June he reported that “a good hundred” members of the brotherhood, that had spent the winter in Stockholm, finally set off for Russia under the command of eight commanders in eight freight ships and with “gunner boats”. Van der Halle made them promise not to go after the Hanseatic merchants or cities in Livonia before they left.

In August the same year, van der Halle reported several incidents involving the pirates and merchant sailors; the situation was clearly becoming more and more dangerous for the Stockholm detachment.

Furthermore, some things indicate that the commander didn’t quite trust all of his men, as he asked his superior’s permission to send some of them home: “if they don’t please me, I want to [be allowed to] tell them: ‘Go home!'”.

It seems Hermann van der Halle was also worried about the agents of Margareta; the queen invited him to meetings several times during 1396, but he never left his post. Even when the queen sent her envoy, Sten Bengtsson, to visit Stockholm, he had to announce his visit some day ahead to be let inside the gates. The queen’s envoys also demanded (according to their view of the peace treaty) that he should open the gates to 300 Swedish burghers that had been banished from the city due to their lacking loyalty to King Albrecht. Van der Halle asked his superiors for orders concerning this, but had a hard time stopping the said burghers from coming and going to the city.

By this, we can assume that the soldiers of the League was in a constant state of readiness.

Relief

Hermann van der Halle’s successor, Albrecht Russe, arrived in Stockholm in the beginning of October 1396, accompanied by an experienced old fighter and diplomat, sent by the Elbing council. His name was Claus Wulf and he had commanded soldiers since at least 1386. Likely he was sent to command the Elbing contingent, under the command of Albrecht Russe. Russe assumed command over the garrison and no sooner, Hermann van der Halle borrowed 100 marks from Russe and left in the first ship available. More than a year later he is still struggling to get the League to pay him what it owed him for his expenses in Stockholm.

If Albrecht Russe thought he would have an easy time, he was mistaken. He had to deal with the same troubles that pestered van der Halle. He hadn’t enough men, although he had too much men to feed them properly, he had to address the issue with “uncomfortable” and probably bored and restless personell and he was working at a place where he was less than welcome by the populace and by the pirates.

However, he seems to have had his ear to the ground, as he picked up a subtle warning about events waiting to occur during the summer of 1397. When commanding Stockholm castle, Hermann van der Halle had feared that a Swedish nobleman named Algot Magnusson had struck some kind of a deal with the Vitalian brotherhood. His fears seems not to have been ungrounded, as a man came to Russe, warning him of an imminent danger. The 28th of June, a big fleet of the brotherhood arrived in Stockholm, issuing demands. One can imagine the commotion in the castle when the 100 or so soldiers at some hours notice tried to ready the defenses against a force that was 1 200 men strong. Later, Russe told his superiors that he and his men had been nowhere close to ready or strong enough, and that the city would have fallen if the brotherhood had attacked.

In January 1398, Russe complained that Margareta didn’t send money for the upkeep of Stockholm, as agreed. At the same time he asked for provisions (as always) and to be relieved of his post the upcoming easter. In the agenda of a late February League meeting the participants urge that Rostock and Wismar should pay what they owe for the keeping of Stockholm. Money was, as usual, a problem.

In May 1398 a meeting at Marienburg decided that every city involved in the mission should send 3,5 Mark worth of victuals per soldier from the city in question – a grand total of 300 Mark. This is a bit interesting as it gives us an approximate number of the garrison. At this time it seems the force in Stockholm was about 85 men strong. Maybe some of the “uncomfortable” elements were sent home?

After this, the annals of the Hanseatic League doesn’t mention the Stockholm garrison much. The times Stockholm are mentioned, it is regarding its surrender to Margareta.

Aftermath

During the spring of 1398, Margareta corresponds with the cities about her accession of Stockholm. The 12th of August she states that if King Albrecht hasn’t payed his ransom by the 24th, she will ask him to surrender Stockholm to her. The 29th of August, she – along with her son Bogislav (now king of Sweden) – grants Stockholm all of its previous rights; as history tells us, the king couldn’t come up with the money. The contingent from the Hanseatic League leaves the city the 29th of September and Margareta takes over. The mission is accomplished and the soldiers return home – or sets off to find the next filled purse, perhaps as part of the ever ongoing war against the Vitalian brotherhood.

The supreme commanders from Prussia

Hermann van der Halle

When the cities’ troops first arrived in Stockholm – in August 1395, they were supervised by the Danzig council member Hermann van der Halle, as mentioned above. He was sworn in as hovetman the 1st of August, where he specifically asked that his mission as commander over Stockholm should last no longer than a year.

He had the responsibility to keep Stockholm safe, which was easier said than done. Hermann van der Halle’s letters often include reminders to his superiors that he was promised to be relieved of his post after one year; it is clear that he is not very happy in Stockholm. Maybe it had something to do with the people he was forced to work with; in July, 1396 he thanked his superiors for the long asked for permission to send “uncomfortable” individuals home. Probably he was referring to members of the Thorn contingent – he made complaints about them at a League meeting in March 1397.

The 15th of June 1396, his supervisors sent him an eagerly awaited letter – he was to be relieved – as promised – by the Thorn council member Albrecht Russe. The 3rd of September he seemed somewhat anxious to learn that Russe had fallen ill in Lübeck. In the end of the same month, van der Halle himself fell ill, and as he experienced that he was of no use to the garrison, he desperately asked his superiors to send another commander as soon as they were able.

He seems to have pulled through, though, as he was present at a League meeting in Marienburg, the 31st of December, 1396.

Albrecht Russe

The Thorn council member Albrechts Russe (or “Albrecht Rusze” as he spelled it himself – an indication of his perhaps Russian descent) was appointed council member of Thorn 1393. This might well have been his first commission, where he acted as a representative for the city at various League meetings. During his career he also acted as a bailiff, mediator and solicitor, as well as councillor and mayor in the same city. He acted as a diplomat during various diplomatic postings, and was probably also a shipowner responsible for Thorn’s trading relations with Poland. A heavy weighter, no doubt.

In 1396 it is decided that he is to succeed the commander of the Stockholm garrison, Hermann van der Halle. The 14th of September 1396, Russe sends word that he plans to depart from Wismar to Stockholm the 29th of September. It is probable that he arrived in Stockholm less than a week later, which means his predecessor could take the first boat home and the heck out of Dodge during the first days of October.

Russe assumed command at the most critical period of the Hanseatic administration of the Swedish capital. The evening of the 29th of June, 1397, a fleet of 42 ships and 1 200 men, commanded by “Otto von Peckatel [former commander of the Stockholm garrison], Sven Stur, Crabbe, Egkart Kale, Kawle and other commanders that I do not know” reached Stockholm. It was a fleet belonging to the Vitalian brotherhood. It had sailed from Gotland where King Albrecht’s son Erich had put up his headquarters, along with several notable nobles – among others the duke Johann von Mecklenburg who was evicted from his house in Stockholm castle in 1395. This means that Erich von Mecklenburg took active part in the piracy that Margareta, the Teutonic order and the Hanseatic league was trying to thwart, even though he was released on bail. Perhaps this was his way to raise money for the ransom. Either way: talk about stirring the pot…

Russe sent a letter to his superiors recounting what had taken place that evening. Its contents were read out and addressed at a League meeting in Danzig the 2nd of July, three days later.

The two sides met at a small isle outside Stockholm to parlay. The fleet commanders demanded to be let inside the city, but the officials of Stockholm refused. The fleet then demanded 10 000 loaves of bread and 20 “last” (= 200 plus barrels = more than 43 000 liters) of beer. The commanders of Stockholm refused a second time, and the fleet commanders asked to buy the commodities they needed. Again they are refused; the Stockholm officials suspected treason as Albrecht Russe had received a warning some time earlier.

He tells his superiors:

A good man came to me and told me to guard the castle well – or be in dire hardship. Then I told him: “My dear friend, can’t you speak your mind?” He said that he couldn’t tell me. He kneeled, and put two fingers on a brick, and spoke thus: “Brick! I tell you this, as God and the Saints help me: Stockholm is betrayed!” He rose and reached his arms towards the sky and spoke: “So help me God until my last day – what I have sworn here is the truth!” He would tell me nothing more.

After this, Russe asked for more provisions and reinforcements (“good people”) as he believed Stockholm to be in real danger. However, the fleet departed and left Stockholm alone. The League responded by ordering that one of the gates in Stockholm should be walled shut, perhaps as part of the defenses against the brotherhood.

Like his predecessor, Albrecht Russe constantly asked to be relieved, which makes you wonder what kind of a place Stockholm was. In late summer 1397, the League sent him a letter and told him that he, in time, was going to be relieved from his post by a representative from Elbing. It is uncertain if he ever was relieved or if he remained on his post until the mission in Stockholm ended.

Back from a little trip

Some of us have recently returned from a trip in northern Germany, where we visited Bergen am Rügen, Stralsund (including the Nikolaikirche and the Kulturhistorische Museum), Bad Doberan and the Doberaner Münster (including King Albrecht’s resting place) plus Rostock with the museum in Kloster zum Heiligen Kreuz (including effigies of Rostock knights and burghers). It was a good trip with loads of laughs, some beer and good food. It was a good opportunity for some of our members to actually see the king and to get a taste of the wholesome German cuisine!

abbegrav

Timeline of Swedish politics 1306-1412

History during the 14th century can be quite confusing, and it’s more or less impossible to write a chronology in common prose. That is why we have made this timeline. Hopefully it will help you out when trying to understand the different schemes, alliances and events that took place during the period.

Click the tiny image to make it (a lot) bigger.

Timeline_04

Read the 14th century history of Sweden in more detail in these pages:
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
A 14th century political history of Sweden, part 4 – Defeat and union
This page may also be helpful:
Family tree of Swedish royals during the 14th century

Family tree of Swedish royals during the 14th century

When you are trying to understand the battle of the crown in 14th century Sweden, you will pretty soon be quite mixed up in relations. This family tree is simplified to show which people held keep positions in the struggle.

In short, “our” king Albrecht was king Magnus Eriksson’s sister’s son, which meant he could make a (kind of) legitimate claim for the throne. Margareta Valdemarsdotter was married to Håkan Magnusson, Magnus Eriksson’s son, which meant her son Olof Håkansson could make a (kind of) legitimate claim for the throne. When he died at the age of 17, Margareta adopted her sister Ingeborg Valdemarsdotter’s grandson, Bogislav of Pomerania (who was also the grandson of “our” Albrecht’s brother), which meant that he could claim the throne. Legitimate? Well, you tell me… That was the short version. The more elaborate story begins in this post.

We have chosen to be extra specific when it comes to king Albrecht’s immediate family (his name on this image is Albrecht III von Mecklenburg). Other characters of note is the strongheaded duchess Ingeborg Håkansdotter, mother of king Magnus Eriksson and self-appointed ruler of the realm, and her husband, the duke Erik Magnusson, who was put in a tower to starve to death by his brother Birger. Also, there is Håkan Magnusson – king of Norway and faithful son of king Magnus (not to mention king Erik Magnusson – the unfaithful son of king Magnus). Also, have a special look at the foster relation between Bogislav of Pomerania (to the far left) and his grandmother’s sister – queen Margareta of Denmark; the duo ruled Sweden after the defeat of king Albrecht, and when Margareta died, Bogislav ruled the entire Kalmar union.

Click the image to view a bigger version. We apologize for the colors, which look like they have been stolen from a nursery from the 1960’s…

slakttrad_01

 

This page might make more sense together with the following pages:
Timeline of Swedish politics 1306-1412
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
A 14th century political history of Sweden, part 4 – Defeat and union
Who was Albrecht of Mecklenburg?

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 besieges 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.

Karta_krig

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 is 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. The 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.

Kogg

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

Margareta wasn’t very interested in actually ratifying the deal. Instead she attacked Stockholm with all her might, and the burghers within the walls starved during the cold winter, even if German ships tried to keep them equipped and fed. The situation eventually became so dire that the hanseatic league threatened to go to war against the queen if she wouldn’t come to terms.

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 chose the latter of the three, and he was released in Helsingborg at the end of September 1395, about a month after Stockholm was entrusted to the Hanseatic cities of Lübeck, Greifswald, Thorn, Elbing, Danzig and Reval. In 1398 the cities’ representatives leave Stockholm, allowing Margareta to occupy the city. The conflict between king Albrecht and Margareta is definately over.

Lindholmen

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.

Who was Albrecht of Mecklenburg?

abbegrav

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.

Karta_mecklenburg