BECK index

Scandinavia 1588-1648

by Sanderson Beck

Denmark of Kristian IV 1588-1648
Sweden’s Revolution 1588-1611
Sweden of Gustav II Adolf 1612-32
Sweden 1632-48
Norway and Iceland 1588-1648

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Denmark of Kristian IV 1588-1648

Denmark 1517-33
Denmark 1533-88

      Denmark’s King Frederik II died on April 4, 1588 when his son Kristian was 11 years old. Denmark was governed by a Regency Council led by Chancellor Niels Kaas. In 1589 Kristian’s sister Anna married Scotland’s King James VI. In 1590 the Council persuaded Emperor Rudolf II to grant Kristian full power in Holstein. He tended to side with the Regency rather than his mother, and she finally withdrew to Nyköbing Castle in Falster. He was declared of age and was crowned King Kristian IV on August 29, 1596. He inherited the Denmark of today plus the duchies of Scania, Halland and Blekinge, the islands of Götland and Ösel, and the kingdom of Norway. One of his first acts was to take away Nordfjord in Norway from the astronomer Tyco Brahe who then moved to Prague where he was patronized by Emperor Rudolf II. Johannes Kepler became his assistant. In 1597 Kristian married Anne Catherine of Brandenburg.
      Nobles on the large estates governed the peasants living there. The burghers were a rising class and united with the clergy against the nobles. A stock exchange was established in Copenhagen harbor. Kristian IV expanded the town of Oslo in Norway and planned fifteen cities. In Copenhagen he had a residential university constructed, and he sponsored several expeditions to Greenland.
      In 1604 the Council of State prevented Kristian IV from declaring war on Sweden; but in 1611 the King insisted by threatening to use his power as Duke of Schleswig-Holstein to attack Sweden, and taxes were raised. Kristian led the army of 6,000 men into Blekinge and invaded Smaaland while another army advanced on Älvsborg (Elfsborg). A Norwegian army invaded West Götland, and together the three armies took Kalmar before King Karl IX could lead his Swedish army of 12,000 there. On August 3 Kalmar Castle with 200 guns surrendered to the Danes. In late autumn the Danes went into winter quarters, and the Swedes led by Prince Gustav Adolf recaptured Oland and all but Kalmar. Kristian rejected a peace offer and recruited more forces from England and Germany.
      In 1612 the Danes besieged Älvsborg with 10,000 men and captured it. Then they took Gullberg and Oland, but the Danish fleet could not reduce Stockholm. Sweden’s King Karl IX died in October, and his son King Gustav Adolf proposed peace. That month envoys met at Knäred in Halland, and the treaty was signed on January 20, 1613, ending the Kalmar War. Denmark agreed to exempt Sweden from Sound dues, and both sides returned conquered territory except that Sweden had to pay 1,000,000 riksdalers for Älvsborg over six years. Both sides had wasted their resources. Kristian’s wife had died in 1612, and on December 31, 1615 he married Kirsten Munk. She was a noble but untitled, and so it was a morganatic marriage which meant that she and their children could not inherit their father’s titles or privileges.
      King Kristian helped design ships and increased the fleet from nineteen to sixty. The Danish East India Company was organized in 1616. Two Danish ships gained trade with Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and a trading post was acquired in 1620 at Tranquebar south of Madras. Dutch immigrants also helped found the Danish West India Company in 1625.
      While Sweden formed commercial alliances with the Netherlands and Lübeck, Denmark’s Kristian IV was isolated and sent warships to protect new trade routes by the Elbe and Weser rivers. His attempt to annex episcopal sees in northern Germany aroused suspicion. In 1620 Dutch envoys came to Denmark and proposed an alliance. Kristian convoked a meeting with princes of Lower Saxony at Segeberg, but they only warned Emperor Ferdinand II. After the Protestant Union dissolved, Kristian formed defensive alliances with England and the Netherlands. His son Frederik was elected archbishop of Bremen, and Hamburg submitted to the overlordship of Holstein. English envoy Robert Anstruther visited Sweden and Denmark in 1624, and both nations agreed to contribute troops. Kristian increased his army to 30,000 men, and German princes meeting at Lauenburg chose him to command the army defending Lower Saxony. Kristian defied his Danish Council by leading the Protestant effort against the Emperor and the Catholic League as the Duke of Holstein.
      Kristian IV left his son Kristian to run the government while he led an army with more Germans than Danes. They were north of Weser when Maximilian of Bavaria attacked them on July 18, 1625. Kristian had a horse accident and stayed away from the front for two months. In early 1626 he led his army of 40,000 men and occupied Wolfenbüttel in Brunswick, but the allied army commanded by Ernest von Mansfeld was defeated at Dessau by Wallenstein’s forces. The Danes continued to march toward Silesia but ran short of supplies and retreated. Wallenstein crossed the Elbe and took over most of Jutland in July. Kristian’s forces attacked the imperial army led by Tilly near Lutter am Barenberg on August 27. Each side had about 20,000 soldiers; but Denmark’s army had 6,000 killed and 2,500 captured while the imperial army had only 200 casualties. The rest of the Danish army surrendered on October 6 near Aalborg and joined the Emperor. Denmark’s Council blamed Kristian IV, his son who spent time with his mistress, and the bad advice of the King’s wife Kirsten Munk.
      The Council persuaded Kristian IV to convoke a National Assembly, and they approved new taxes and defensive preparations. The Council demanded peace negotiations and its control of finances. In 1628 Sweden promised Denmark eight ships in the Baltic, and Denmark closed the Sound to Sweden’s enemies. Kristian led a naval attack on the coast of Holstein but could not capture any of Pomerania. The Danish garrison withdrew from Stralsund, and Sweden protected the Hanseatic towns. Imperial forces held all of Jutland except the stronghold at Glückstadt. A peace conference was held at Lübeck, but Kristian would not agree to anything that made his rival ally Sweden stronger. Wallenstein was afraid of Sweden’s Gustav Adolf and accepted most Danish demands, returning conquered territory. Kristian promised not to interfere in Germany, and he and Wallenstein signed the treaty of Lübeck on May 22, 1629. Ferdinand II ratified it on June 7, ending Denmark’s major participation in the Thirty Years’ War. The province of Jutland had been devastated, but the only help they got was a small reduction in taxes and some money for the poor. Kristian IV divorced Kirsten Munk who had borne twelve children, but the last one in 1629 was apparently by her lover Otto Ludwig of Salm-Kyrburg. The King banished her to Jutland while he had an affair with her chambermaid Vibeke Kruse for the rest of his life.
      Kristian IV supervised rebuilding and the construction of two new churches in Copenhagen. New buildings provided homes for hundreds of sailors, and new ships were built to revive his East Indian Company. Fortifications were constructed, and the national army organized in 1628 was maintained to serve again later in the long war. The only revenue the Council provided was by taxes with peasants paying three-fourths of them. The King got money from his fiefs; but the Council blocked any increases because they could not limit his spending. Although fewer ships were passing through the straits, Kristian increased the Sound dues he got by 300%. He turned to advisors from Germany and Holstein. Dues from the Elbe caused conflict with Hamburg. He armed twenty ships, and four days of fighting removed the threat from Hamburg. The Council had opposed this, but they managed to keep him from going to war against Sweden over Rügen. The King also tried to get Bremen for his son, and a Danish force occupied Freiburg; but the peaceful Danish court averted war again. In July 1633 Emperor Ferdinand II approved Kristian’s collecting dues from the Elbe for four years. Prince Kristian married Magdalene Sibylle of Saxony on October 5, 1634, but they had no children.
      In 1642 Kristian IV blockaded Hamburg until it accepted him as overlord. Danish delegates attended the peace conferences that began at Münster and Osnabrück in the fall of 1643. Denmark alienated the Dutch by tripling the Sound dues and by making a commercial treaty with Spain. In December a Swedish army led by Torstensson invaded Holstein and took over the province except for Glückstadt and Krempe. Kristian mobilized his army and navy, and Torstensson was deterred from invading Funen.
      On May 16, 1644 Denmark’s fleet met Dutch ships commanded by Admiral Thijssen who retreated. Another Danish fleet defeated a force of Dutch and Swedish ships. Sweden’s main navy was commanded by Admiral Klas Fleming, and in June they attacked the Danes near Kolberg Heath. Kristian lost an eye, and many officers were killed. After imperial forces left Holstein, the Swedes led by Helmut Wrangel occupied the province. On October 13 a Swedish-Dutch fleet of 40 ships defeated 17 Danish vessels, and only three Danish frigates made it back to Copenhagen.
      The French and Dutch offered peace, and Kristian accepted a conference that began at Brömsebro on February 8, 1645. In the treaty signed on August 13 Denmark ceded Halland to Sweden for thirty years to guarantee the peace, and the Elbe dues was ended for Sweden and Holland. That year Denmark also made a treaty of friendship with France. In Denmark the Provincial and National Assemblies now had more power than the Council, and they provided a forum for public grievances. Nobles no longer dominated, and the lower nobles wanted more representation in government. The Institution of Land Commissioners which began in 1638 showed the ineffectiveness of local government. Korfitz Ulfeldt became powerful as High Steward and restricted the King who depended upon him. Kristian’s many children quarreled, and the King favored Hannibal Sehested who governed Norway actively. Ulfeldt went to Holland in June 1646, and after a year they had an agreement to improve relations; but Kristian complained about how much money he spent. Prince Kristian succumbed from drinking on June 2, 1647. King Kristian’s health declined, and he died on February 28, 1648.

Denmark of Frederik III 1648-70

Sweden’s Revolution 1588-1611

Sweden and Gustav Vasa 1517-60
Sweden under Erik XIV and Johan III 1560-88

      King Johan III had ruled Sweden since 1568. The estates at the Riksdag on March 7, 1590 accepted a new Succession Pact, extending it to the female line. Sigismund, who was ruling Poland-Lithuania as King Zygmunt III, married Anna of Austria on May 31, 1592. After Johan III died on November 17, 1592, the Polish parliament gave Zygmunt III permission to accept the crown of Sweden as Sigismund. On January 8, 1593 Johan’s brother Karl and the Council established an interim government. Sigismund wrote that he approved this and that he would be delayed.
      Duke Karl convened in March at Uppsala the Lutheran synod with four bishops and 300 priests who declared holy scripture their confession of faith along with the creeds of the apostles, Nicaea, and Athanasius. Delegates also accepted Olaus Petri’s Handbook of 1529, the Augsburg Confession of 1530, and the Ordinance of 1571. They made the Lutheran faith the national religion; Catholics, Calvinists, and other non-Lutherans could remain in Sweden but were prohibited from holding public services. Duke Karl and the Council members also signed their decrees. These decisions were printed and distributed to all the towns and provinces. Many Orthodox Christians in Finland fled to Russia. By breaking with Rome as well as Denmark, the Swedes severed ties to the west. Education had suffered; but the delegates also decided to revive the University of Uppsala, and its new charter was signed on March 15, 1595.
      Zygmunt returned in September 1593 and was crowned King Sigismund III Vasa of Sweden on February 19, 1594. Karl brought 3,000 men and dismissed the papal nuncio Malaspina and the Jesuits from the procession. He made sure that Sigismund swore to uphold religious freedom before he was crowned. A new land law passed in 1594 established the principle that the King must sign a charter approved by the people’s representatives. King Sigismund III Vasa soon delegated authority and went back to Poland. His appointees could not compete with the Council and Duke Karl. On May 18 Sweden in a treaty at Teusina agreed to withdraw from Ivangorod, Jama, Koporye, and the Korela fortress while Russia renounced claims to Estonia including Narva. Sweden’s sovereignty over Estonia was confirmed, and Russia accepted the border with Finland.
      On September 29, 1595 the Riksdag of Söderköping met with more farmers than usual and elected Duke Karl regent. He had the convent at Vadstena closed and confiscated its property. Finland had become a grand duchy in 1581. Governor Klas Fleming of Finland supported Sigismund and refused to follow Karl’s government. The Council declined to approve Karl’s military plans; but in 1596 the peasants of Osterbotten rose against Klas Fleming with Karl’s blessing, and 11,000 people were killed in the “War of Clubs.” Fleming suppressed the revolt but died on April 13, 1597.
      Regent Karl summoned the estates to Arboga in February 1597. The nobles and burgers were absent, but the clergy and peasants supported him against Sigismund and the aristocrats. Poland had gone back to being Catholic, and Sigismund’s attempt to strengthen the Catholic religion in Sweden alienated people and much of the clergy. The papal nuncio Malaspina tried to help him institute the counter-reformation, but opposition was strong.
      Finally in May 1598 Sigismund invaded his own country with an army of 5,000 Poles, causing a civil war. They gathered at Gdansk (Danzig) and sailed in eighty ships on July 23, reaching Kalmar eight days later. The castle surrendered without fighting, and its commanders were imprisoned. Sigismund’s forces were trapped at Stangebro, and he agreed to a humiliating treaty at Linköping on September 28. He withdrew to Kalmar and sailed back to Poland. Nobles and clergy met in 1599 and gave Sigismund four months to return; but he rejected this while his defenders held out in Kalmar Castle until May 12. On July 24 a Riksdag at Stockholm deposed Sigismund and gave him six months to send his son Wladyslaw whom they would accept as king if he would be educated in Sweden in the Lutheran faith. They condemned Chancellor Erik Sparre and four senators, and the five were executed in the “Linköping Bloodbath” on March 20, 1600. Sparre believed in a hereditary monarchy under constitutional principles and had written Postulata nobilium in 1594. He thought Sigismund was the rightful ruler of Sweden and had fled to Poland in 1597 and returned with Sigismund’s invading army.
      Duke Karl went to war in Livonia and captured Pernau and Dorpat in October 1600. His fleet began blockading Riga in May 1601, but it was not effective. Cold weather caused Sweden’s crops to fail 1601-03, but the farmers survived by eating their seed corn. The new seeds were not as well adapted to Swedish soil. Karl ruled Sweden but did not call himself “king” until Sigismund’s younger brother Johan renounced his claim. On February 24, 1604 the Riksdag at Linköping announced that Sigismund had abdicated, and on March 22 they proclaimed King Karl IX their ruler. That year Karl got the Riksdag at Norrköping to pass a special tax for three years to hire an army of 9,000 men. He invaded Livonia again; but the Polish army led by Jan Karol Chodkiewicz defeated them near Weissenstein. Hogenskild Bielke rebelled and was put to death in 1605. In September of that year Karl’s army of 11,000 at Riga lost at least 7,600 men. The Poles fought with 3,400 men led by Chodkiewicz and lost only 900. Karl suspected plots by the old nobility against his Vasa family, and at the Riksdag of 1605 more than a hundred people were detained without a trial.
      Karl was finally crowned on March 15, 1607. King Karl IX worked to improve mining and commerce. He enforced economy at court and designated the offices of Drotsete, Chancellor, Admiral, and Treasurer in the Council. During the chaotic time of troubles in Moscow an army of 1,200 Swedes and 5,000 mercenaries led by Jakob de la Gardie entered Moscow in 1609 and later captured Novgorod before they were defeated at Klushino in 1610. That year Karl had a stroke and could barely speak at the Riksdag. Prince Gustav Adolf began speaking for him, and Axel Oxenstierna helped administer the government. On April 4, 1611 Denmark declared war on Sweden. Danes had already taken Kexholm back from Russian Finland on March 2, and in May they captured Kalmar. King Karl IX died on October 30.

Sweden of Gustav II Adolf 1612-32

Sweden and Gustav Vasa 1517-60
Sweden under Erik XIV and Johan III 1560-88

      Karl IX was succeeded by his oldest son Gustav II Adolf who was born on December 9, 1594. Gustav Adolf was fluent in Swedish and German and was well educated by his tutor Johan Skytte who exposed him to the works of Livy, Polybius, Cicero, and Seneca. Gustav also learned Latin, Italian, French, Dutch, English, Scottish, Spanish, Russian, Polish, and Greek. At the age of 10 he began attending Council meetings, and at 15 he started governing his duchy of Vastmanland. The Riksdag met on December 6, 1611, and the Council persuaded Gustav Adolf to pledge that he would uphold the thirteen articles of a new charter which included the right of every person to due process of law. Then the Council promised their allegiance to him on January 4, 1612, and the nobles persuaded Gustav to let them have the best positions. The noble Per Brahe had 747 farms, and De la Gardie had 300. New or increased taxes required the consent of the Council, and only nobles could be appointed to the exchequer or serve in the chancery with fixed salaries.
      Although he signed away prerogatives of his father, the young Gustav II was very capable and had Axel Oxenstierna as Chancellor, giving him much more power than Karl had. They reformed the exchequer and chancery. Gustav allowed foreigners to practice their religion because he believed that no sovereign could control a person’s conscience. Gustav and Oxenstierna improved the economy by setting up a new system of staple towns for export shipping, maintaining and adding roads and waterways, modernizing taxation to increase revenues, and encouraging investment of foreign capital and immigration of foreigners including mercenaries. The number of foreigners in the House of Nobles increased to 40%.
      The War of Kalmar against Denmark was threatening, and King Gustav led raids in Skane and was almost captured. In August 1612 Denmark’s King Kristian IV attacked Vaxholm with a fleet of 34 ships; but 1,200 Flemish mercenaries arrived in time to defend the town, and in September the Danes withdrew for the winter. Scottish recruiter Jacob Spens and British Robert Anstruther mediated a peace at Knäred that was signed on January 20, 1613. Denmark gave up conquered territory, and free trade was established so that Swedes no longer had to pay the Sound dues when their ships passed through Øresund. Sweden conceded Jamtland and northern Finnmark and modified their levy tolls at Riga. Denmark would keep Älvsborg and Göteborg (Gothenburg) until the Swedes paid a ransom of one million riksdalers. Sweden had to raise taxes and managed to pay it off in six years with the help of copper they mined and exported through Göteborg to Holland. King Gustav owned most of the copper mines and in 1620 formed the Swedish Trading Company. In 1614 he instituted a Supreme Court of Appeal with the Drotsete as president to improve judicial procedures.
      The new School Ordinance of 1611 was inadequate. In this era Sweden’s schools went from 5 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon with a three-hour break at mid-day. The 51-hour week devoted 31 hours to Latin, 13 to music, and 7 to religion. A contentious quarrel between the professors Johannes Messenius (1579-1636) and Johannes Rudbeckius (1581-1646) at Uppsala resulted in both men leaving the university in 1613. Rudbeckius was personal chaplain to King Gustav. In 1619 he became bishop of Västerås where he founded Sweden’s first secondary school in 1623. Rudbeckius also began the first school for girls in Sweden in 1632. His son Olaus Rudbeck discovered how lymphatic vessels contribute to the circulation of blood, and he demonstrated his work for Queen Kristina at court in 1652. Messenius wrote historical dramas. In 1616 he was convicted of having conspired with Jesuits and King Sigismund and was sentenced to death, but King Gustav commuted it to prison where he spent the rest of his life writing a history of Sweden and other works. In 1651 the son and grandson of Messenius were executed for plotting against the monarchy.
      In 1613 Gustav’s younger brother Karl Filip made a bid to become the ruler of Russia but lost out to Mikhail Romanov. However, the Swedish army led by Jakob de la Gardie seized Novgorod and conquered much of northwest Russia. The Muscovite army fought back and regained Gdov on Lake Peipus. King Gustav participated with 2,000 reinforcements in the spring of 1614, but their siege of Pskov failed in 1615. British merchant and ambassador John Merrick mediated the conflict with Russia, and finally on February 27, 1617 they signed the treaty of Stolbovo. Sweden gave back Novgorod and three other towns for an indemnity of 20,000 rubles, and they recognized Mikhail Romanov as Tsar. The Russians ceded the Ingrian lands and some of Karelia to Sweden’s province of Finland and renounced Ivangorod, Jama, Kopore, Nöteborg, and Livonia which had become Polish. Russia also agreed not to aid Poland against Sweden. The Swedes now controlled all of the Gulf of Finland.
      Also in 1617 at the Riksdag they established the four estates of the nobles, clergy, bourgeoisie, and the farmers, and Chancellor Oxenstierna got a progressive ordinance passed. The nobles voted in three classes of 12 barons, 22 council families, and 92 other nobles, and two classes were a majority. Each of the nine provinces was responsible for providing one regiment of infantry, and to do so they could conscript one man out of ten.
      In 1616 Gustav had sired an illegitimate son Gustav of Vasaborg by his mistress Margareta Slots. On November 25, 1620 King Gustav married Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg even though her brother Georg Wilhelm objected. She gave birth to Kristina on October 16, 1623, and her sister Catherine would marry Prince Gabriel Bethlen of Transylvania in 1626.
      King Gustav with 158 ships and a Swedish army of 14,700 infantry, 3,150 cavalry, and 375 cannons invaded Livonia and besieged its capital Riga on August 29, 1621. Lithuanian Hetman Krzysztof Radziwiłł had only 1,500 soldiers and capitulated on September 25. Poland had controlled Livonia for the previous sixty years. After Poland’s Ottoman war in October ended in defeat near Khotyn in the Ukraine, their army marched to Livonia. In January 1622 Swedes seized Valmiera and other castles in Livonia, but a battle against Radziwiłł’s army of 3,000 on August 10 at Mittau was a draw, ending with a truce. Gustav proposed a Swedish-Lithuanian union. He appointed Jakob de la Gardie who governed Livonia until 1628.
      In 1623 a Spanish fleet and British mercenaries helped the Poles invade Sweden. Gustav with 21 ships threatened the port of Gdansk (Danzig) to no avail. In 1624 England, Brandenburg, and other Protestant nations were trying to form an alliance, but Gustav declined to join because he would not give up control and wanted an allied army of 50,000 men and a fleet in the North Sea as well as in the Baltic Sea to protect Sweden from a Danish attack. Instead the Protestants allied with Kristian IV of Denmark.
      In June 1625 King Gustav led Sweden’s army of 20,000 men who landed in Livonia and captured Tartu (Dorpat) and Mitau in August, conquering north of the Dvina and east to the border of Russia. Radziwiłł recaptured several castles in October. The Council of Sweden secretly approved the mobilizing of 125 warships and 14,000 soldiers. On January 17, 1626 King Gustav led an army of 4,900 men and attacked a smaller Polish-Lithuanian force of 2,000 men at Wallhof in Latvia, inflicting about a thousand casualties while Gustav claimed his army did not lose a single man. In May he invaded Polish Prussia with more than 125 ships and 8,150 infantry and 1,700 cavalry. They landed in Pillau, and many Protestant commercial towns in the lower Vistula welcomed them. Gustav wanted to take the port of Gdansk which had 64,000 people, but Poland’s Zygmunt III in two months raised a force of 6,780 cavalry and 4,430 infantry. After taking Walichnow he led a force of 900 men against Gniew on September 22. Gustav’s forces managed to fight them off, and both sides buried their dead during a cease-fire. On September 29 about 10,000 Swedish infantry and 2,100 cavalry fought the renowned Polish cavalry of 14,000, and in this battle the Polish-Lithuanian army had about 500 men killed while the Swedes lost only 30.
      Gustav went back to Sweden for the winter while Chancellor Oxenstierna governed the conquered territories harassed by Polish forces led by Koniecpolski who won some victories in the spring of 1627, persuading the Brandenburg Elector to side with Polish-Lithuania. Gustav was slightly wounded in June, and the Swedish army managed to stop the Polish advance in August at Dirschau. Gustav was shot in the shoulder while his new artillery fought organized as a brigade. On November 28 the two sides fought a small naval battle at Oliwa in which one Swedish ship was sunk, and another was captured.
      In 1627 Spain stopped minting copper coins in order to correct the massive inflation that had caused. The price of copper dropped, but Sweden increased its exports of copper by five times in the next decade and iron seven times. Lacking silver, Sweden used copper in its coins which made money heavier and harder to steal. The 2-dollar coin weighed more than eight pounds. To support industry Sweden banned the export of half-finished goods. The wealthy merchant Louis de Geer moved to Stockholm in 1627, and he and the De Besche brothers brought Dutch advances in technology to the manufacturing using Swedish iron and copper. De Geer provided the royal munitions with 20,000 muskets, 13,670 pikes, and 4,700 suits of cavalry armor in 1629-30.
      In 1628 Sweden lacked funds and changed to a defensive strategy, but on April 28 Denmark agreed to an alliance for three years. Gustav in June sent 600 men to relieve Wallenstein’s imperial siege of Stralsund. That year Sweden established a land survey office that became a model for Europe. On February 2, 1629 a Swedish army commanded by Field Marshal Herman Wrangel defeated Poles led by Potocki at Górzno. King Gustav returned to Prussia with an army, but on June 25, 1629 they were defeated by fewer Polish and imperial troops at Trzciana. Diplomats met at Warsaw, and at the Altmark near Gdansk on September 25 Sweden and the Poland-Lithuania signed a truce for six years in which Sweden controlled Livonia at the Vistula River but gave up most of Ducal Prussia except for coastal cities. Northern Prussia was ceded to Sweden while Poland retained the southeast. Sweden gained two-thirds of shipping tolls at Gdansk and Elbing which would help finance their participation in the Thirty Years’ War. Between 1626 and 1630 Sweden had conscripted an average of 10,000 men a year between the ages of 15 and 44, though desertions increased in 1630. Baron Johan Skytte governed Livonia 1629-33, and Bengt Oxenstierna did so 1634-43.
      On May 19, 1630 King Gustav, who was called the “Lion of the North,” spoke to the four estates of the Riksdag before sailing with his fleet on June 17 to fight for the Protestant allies in the Long War. Nine days later they landed at Peenemünde in Pomerania. His Baltic conquests were providing one million riksdalers a year from tolls. His army of more than 70,000 men included 20,000 new recruits, but he landed with only 10,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry, and 80 new cannons with copper barrels. On September 4 Gustav persuaded Duke Bogislaw XIV of Pomerania to accept an alliance at Stettin, and by then the Swedish army had gained 26,000 more soldiers from the Stralsund garrison, mercenaries, and German recruits.
      In January 1631 Swedish forces sacked two towns near the Brandenburg border, and on the 23rd at Bärwalde the French formed an alliance promising to pay Sweden 400,000 reichstalers a year while Sweden agreed to maintain 30,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry. The Swedish army captured Frankfurt on April 13. An imperial army of 23,000 men led by Count Tilly attacked the Swedes at Werben on July 22 and lost 6,000 men. Before the major battle at Breitenfeld on September 17 Gustav put his men through a day of practice. The Swedish army of 31,300 had 5,550 killed including 2,000 Saxons, but the imperial army of 35,000 lost 7,600 dead, 9,000 captured, 4,000 deserted, 3,400 missing, and 3,000 wounded.
      In February 1632 Sweden forced Mecklenburg into an alliance to aid them for the remainder of the war. Gustav tolerated Calvinists and Catholics, but he made the latter pay. Hamburg agreed to pay 150,000 riksdalers, Nuremberg 100,000, and Munich 300,000. On April 15 at Rain by the River Lech Gustav’s army of 40,000 defeated 25,000 Catholic League troops led by Tilly, but in a battle at Alte Veste on September 9 Sweden had their artillery commander Lennart Torstensson captured, though casualties were about even. On November 16 at Lützen each side suffered about 5,000 casualties, but King Gustav Adolf was shot three times and died. The angry Swedes drove off the imperial forces, and Wallenstein fled to Leipzig. In his last six years Gustav had ennobled 61 commoners, nearly half foreigners. King Gustav and Chancellor Oxenstierna had improved the legal system, the postal service, hospitals, and relief for the poor. They provided free schools and founded the University of Dorpat in 1632.

Sweden 1632-48

      King Gustav II Adolf’s only surviving legitimate child was Kristina who was born on December 18, 1626, and astrologers noted a powerful conjunction of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in the sign of Scorpio. As a young child Kristina played with her cousin Karl. Her mother was emotionally unstable, and Queen Kristina was tutored by the theologian Johannes Matthiae Gothius who was a friend of the great educator Comenius. She learned Swedish, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, and later studied Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic. In 1636 Oxenstierna began teaching her politics.
      When the King died, Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna was in Germany and became head of the regency council. He appointed Bernhard of Saxe-Weimer commander of the Swedish allied army but remained in Germany. The Council governed in Sweden and convened a Riksdag in February 1633. Oxenstierna’s brother and cousin were given high positions in the government. The Chancellor formed an alliance with the German Protestant states at Heilbronn. He insisted on continuing the war in Germany even after the serious defeat at Nördlingen in September 1634 when Sweden’s commander Horn was captured and held until 1642.
      Oxenstierna was the chief author of Sweden’s Instrument of Government which was adopted on July 29, 1634 and is one of the first written constitutions of the modern era. The truce with Poland was renewed in 1635. Oxenstierna gained a fresh subsidy from France at Wismar in 1636 and that year made Johan Adler Salvius the top Swedish authority in Germany before returning to Stockholm. In 1638 Swedish colonists built Fort Kristina on the Delaware River, but they lost this American colony to the Dutch in September 1655.
      In the Long War the Swedish allies led by Johan Banér and Lennart Torstensson defeated the imperial army and Johann Georg of Saxony at Wittstock on October 4, 1636. In February 1638 the French promised to pay Sweden one million livres in military aid to help them fight the Habsburg Empire, and the amount was increased when the treaty was renewed in June 1641. Swedish victories continued at Rheinfelden on March 3 1638 and at Chemnitz on April 14, 1639. After Banér died on May 10, 1641, probably from liver cirrhosis, the capable Lennart Torstensson became commander.
      After the Swedish army won again at Breitenfeld on October 23, 1642, Torstensson was sent north where he invaded Holstein on December 12, 1643 and overcame Danish resistance in Jutland by the end of January 1644 in what was called the Torstensson War as well as the Hannibal War. In February the ransomed General Horn with an army of 11,000 men captured most of Denmark’s eastern provinces of Halland and Skane except Malmø. On October 23 the Swedish Field Marshal Wrangel destroyed the Danish fleet near Femern. The French ambassador De Thuillerie mediated a peace at Brömsebro on August 13, 1645. The Danes gave up Halland for thirty years and ceded to Sweden the islands of Gotland and Ösel and Norway’s provinces of Jämtland and Härjedalen.
      Meanwhile Swedish victories continued in the Long War at Jüterbog on November 23, 1644, at Jankau on March 5, 1645, at Zusmarshausen on May 17, 1648, and finally at Lens on August 20, 1648. Also on July 26 the Swedish army commanded by Field Marshal von Königsmarck captured the Kleinseite and the royal palace of the Hradschin in Prague and looted art and rare books until November 1, making it the last battle of the Thirty Years’ War. In the treaty that fall Sweden gained Pomerania, the island of Wollin, Wismar, the Verden and Bremen bishoprics, and small districts in northern Germany along with 600,000 riksdalers from the Emperor and 5 million from German states they did not pay fully.
      Queen Kristina was passionate about learning religion, philosophy, literature, and art. In 1640 she founded the Royal Academy of Turku which became the first university in Finland at Abo. When she reached the age of 18 in 1644, she began to rule Sweden. She was generous and gave large estates in Sweden and Finland to nobles, but that year the Riksdag demanded that the crown take back the estates sold to nobles. Only 28% of the land was owned by the crown with most of the remainder owned by nobles. In 1646 Kristina urged making peace so that Sweden could repopulate its provinces. In January 1648 Queen Kristina appointed her cousin Karl Gustav commander-in-chief of the Swedish army.

Sweden of Kristina and Karl X 1648-60

Norway and Iceland 1588-1648

Norway 1517-88
Iceland 1517-88

      Norway was ruled by Denmark from 1523 until it was ceded to Sweden in 1814. When King Frederik II of Denmark and Norway died on April 4, 1588, his son Kristian was too young to rule. Axel Gyldenstjerne was appointed governor-general of Norway from 1588 to 1601, and he encouraged Peder Claussøn Friis to translate the sagas including the Heimskringla that tells the history of Norway’s kings. Jens Nilsson, Bishop of Oslo 1580-1600, preserved several manuscripts of the old sagas and wrote educational books based on theology, sermons, and accounts of his visiting various places and people. Norway did not get a printing press until 1643.
      Women who used their intelligence or educated themselves were in danger of being condemned as witches and burned as Absalon Pedersson Beyer’s widow was in Bergen in 1590. Several witchcraft trials were held 1592-94. Two women were burned in 1613 because men believed they caused the destruction of a mill in Sandvik, and other women were accused of having caused a shipwreck by their magic and were put to death. Punishments were severe, and people were often executed for stealing. Denmark’s King Kristian IV came of age and began ruling on his own in 1596. Three years later he made the most important of his 26 trips to Norway. He traveled with a squadron of warships which captured several Dutch merchant ships sailing to Russia by way of Vardohus, and he spent three months in Norway.
      In 1602 Denmark’s King Kristian IV ordered the Norwegian lagmaend (judges) to develop a new law code, and they presented it to the King in 1604. After the nobles and judges approved, it was printed and distributed so that people could read their laws. The Shetland and Orkney islands still used the old Norse laws. Church laws were also revised, and the council in Stavanger proclaimed a new church ordinance in 1607. Hallvard Gunnarsson wrote a chronicle of Norway’s kings in Latin verse which was published in 1606.
      Jesuits were attempting to revive Catholic doctrines, and the Norwegian bishops informed the council in Bergen of this in 1604. The most prominent Jesuit was Laurits Nilsson who was called Klosterlasse and was supported by Sweden’s Johan III. Klosterlasse was banished from Denmark in 1606, and in 1613 several Jesuit priests in Norway were summoned by the council in Skien and lost their jobs and inheritance as they were exiled.
      In 1611 Kristian IV declared war against Sweden and invaded that nation with 6,000 troops. He had Norwegians conscripted into the army and ordered them to guard the borders but not enter Sweden. In Trøndelag foreign mercenaries hired by Sweden were allowed to go through their country. The Danes seized Kalmar on May 27 but not its castle which surrendered after the battle on July 17 in what was called the Kalmar War. Sweden’s Gustav Adolf had a mercenary raise a force of 1,300 men in the Netherlands and Scotland, and about 800 of them tried to take Trondheim; but people defended their city. Norwegians defeated another band of Scottish mercenaries on August 26, 1612. The English mediated a peace treaty at Knäred that ended the war on January 20, 1613. Once again lives and property were destroyed and caused higher taxes with little change in territory. In 1614 Kristian ordered Norway and Denmark to improve their armies by creating a national militia; but the plan in Norway never took effect, and the fire-arms provided were eventually sold to the people.
      Jens Ågessøn Bjelke was the largest landowner in Norway and was Chancellor from 1614 to 1648. A company began trading with Iceland in 1619, and the Danish West India Company began in 1625. Kristian IV made the Soro Academy an equestrian school in 1623. That year silver was discovered in Kongsberg. After a fire destroyed the city of Oslo in 1624, King Kristian had a new city constructed west of the old one that was called Kristiana until it was changed back to Oslo in 1925. The palace of Akershus was built, and its castle and the Bohus were strengthened and protected with walls. In 1628 a law required fourteen cities to organize companies of a hundred men to serve as garrisons. Men had to serve three years in the military and could not rent or own or operate a farm until they did. Bjelke had the first Norwegian dictionary published in 1634 to help Danes who worked in Norway. The Greenland Company was organized in 1636 for trading and whaling, though the Dutch and English had more commerce with Greenland.
      Hannibal Sehested was appointed Governor-General (Statholder) of Norway in April 1642. That year he married Kristiane, daughter of Kristian IV and Kirsten Munk. When Sweden invaded Denmark in 1643, Sehested was in charge of Norway’s part in what they called the Hannibal War. The Norwegian militia were trained by officers from Denmark, Germany, and Holland. Sehested led the attack that destroyed the new city of Vernersborg in June, and he sent Georg Reichwein to invade Vinger and Eidskog. The Norwegian army had 2,825 men and 18 cannons. Many Norwegians hunted and were excellent marksmen. In the treaty signed at Brömsebro on August 13, 1645 Norway lost the provinces of Jaemtland and Herjedalen. Sehested controlled Norway’s army, navy, and finances, and he organized its postal system. He lowered taxes and granted nobles new privileges. In 1644 copper mines were opened in Røros. In October 1645 Sehested persuaded the estates to keep the German cavalry that had participated in the war, but the King canceled this in 1647. On July 2 that year Kristian IV ordered that all taxes raised in Norway be spent on the militia and to pay the debt. Akershus and Trondheim maintained 3,000 soldiers each and Bohus 2,000.

      In the 1590s about fifteen German ships came to Iceland each year. King Kristian IV aimed to end the German trade with Iceland and notified Hamburg in his letter of July 24, 1601. He sent another letter to the Council of Bremen. In 1602 Kristian gave a monopoly on Iceland trade to Copenhagen, Malmo, and Helsingor, and the Germans, Dutch, and English turned to smuggling. In 1596 a law made eating horse-meat punishable by a fine and flogging, and thieves could be hanged, flogged, or branded. In 1607 Norwegians sent Iceland a new church code, and bishops no longer had authority. Yet the Reformation enabled the King to have more power and to disregard Icelandic laws. Priests were allowed to marry, and some also kept a concubine or had two wives. Spanish pirates stole sheep, cattle, and money from Vestfjord in 1614, and they came back the next year. In 1616 King Kristian IV sent warships to protect Iceland’s trade, and in 1619 a joint-stock company was subscribed mostly from Copenhagen.

Norway and Iceland 1648-1715

Copyright © 2015 by Sanderson Beck

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EUROPE & Reform 1517-1588

Germanic Empire and the 30-Year War
Eastern Europe 1588-1648
Scandinavia 1588-1648
Netherlands Divided 1588-1648
Spanish and Portuguese Empires 1588-1648
Cervantes, Lope de Vega & Calderon
Italy and Spanish Rule 1588-1648
France’s Henri IV, Richelieu & Mazarin
Vincent, Descartes & Corneille
England, Ireland & Scotland 1588-1625
Britain of Charles and Civil War 1625-49
Shakespeare’s Plays
English Theater 1588-1642
Summary and Evaluation


Chronology of Europe 1588-1648
World Chronology

BECK index