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The Swedish Revolution Under Gustavus Vasa
by Paul Barron Watson
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The archbishop, as had been promised him, was permitted to return to Staeket, which was again put into a state of siege. The siege, however, was of short duration. Deserted by the largest portion of his officers, and with no immediate prospect of further aid from Denmark, the archbishop had nothing for it but to yield. Staeket thus fell into the hands of Sture; and the archbishop was placed in the monastery of Vesteras, to remain there captive till further disposition should be made of his archbishopric.[29]

The whole country was by this time overrun with rebels. Particularly along the southern frontier the Danish party, in close alliance with the king of Denmark, kept the inhabitants in a state of terror; and their hostile demonstrations became at last so marked that the regent found it necessary, in the autumn of 1517, to despatch his army thither to repress them. This news was brought to Christiern's ears, still tingling with the report of the disaster of his fleet. The monarch, having no stomach for a winter campaign among the snows of Sweden, bethought him of a truce until the coming spring. There chanced to be in Denmark at the time a smooth-mouthed scoundrel with the unsavory name of Arcimboldo. He was by trade a dealer in indulgences, having been commissioned by Leo X. to vend his wares throughout the northern parts of Europe. He had already spent some time in Lubeck, where he had reaped a splendid harvest; and had now been carrying on his business about two years in Denmark. On every church he had affixed a chest with notice that all who would contribute to the sacred cause should receive full absolution from their sins. It certainly was a tempting offer, and one which the unwary believers in the papal authority were not slow to seize. They poured in their contributions with a lavish hand, and the legate soon amassed a princely fortune. At last, however, his goods began to be a drug upon the market, and he prepared to transfer his headquarters to another land. It was about this time, early in the winter of 1518, that Christiern made up his mind to suggest a truce with Sweden, and the grand idea occurred to him of enlisting the papal legate in his service. He summoned the pardon-monger without delay, and suggested that he should mediate with Sture. To this suggestion Arcimboldo, by no means averse to turning an honest penny, gave his assent. He sat down at once and wrote a letter to the regent, instructing him that the pope desired to see peace made between the kingdoms. He therefore, as ambassador from his Holiness, suggested that Sture should observe a truce by land with Denmark till the 23d of April next, and in the mean time should send delegates to the town of Lund with full power to make a lasting peace between the kingdoms. To this proposal the legate added that Christiern had given his consent. This document was handed to the regent about the middle of February. He sent back a despatch at once, thanking the legate for his efforts in behalf of peace, and expressing a wish to accede in general to the proposition. It would not be possible, however, to send delegates to a congress on so short a notice. Before doing so it would be necessary to hold a general diet, so that the people of Sweden might vote upon the matter; and as some of the members would have to come from Finland, the diet could not be held unless the truce was extended so as to embrace the sea. But he should be pleased if Arcimboldo would effect a lasting treaty between the kingdoms, or even a truce by sea and land to continue for the life of Christiern. He, on his part, would summon a general diet as soon as possible, with a view to bring about a lasting peace. Thus the peace negotiations came to naught. Christiern had no intention of consenting to a lasting peace, and Sture was not to be inveigled into a truce which had no other object than to give the king of Denmark an opportunity to recruit.[30]

And thus the winter wore away, and spring came, and both parties were gathering up their forces to renew the war. In the little town of Stockholm a spirit of patriotism was growing fast. It was felt on every hand that the coming summer would forever settle the question of slavery or freedom, and all were fixed in purpose to resist the tyrant till their dying breath. Children, from fifteen upwards, were in arms, momentarily expecting the arrival of the Danish fleet. But the agony was prolonged day after day till the sturdy patriots were eager to have it close. Excitement had been wrought up to a fever heat, when, in the month of June, the news was shouted through the narrow streets that the enemy's vessels were at hand. The report was true. There in the stream below the town were visible the white sails of the Danish squadron,—eighty ships in all,—slowly forging their way against the current towards the town. It was a sight to make even the stout heart of a Stockholm burgher quail. The fleet approached within a short distance, and the troops were landed on the southern shore, separated from the city only by a narrow channel. The Danish king himself was in command. His forces consisted of five thousand Germans, besides a thousand light-armed soldiers chiefly Danes, a hundred horse, and a vast multitude of laborers for building dikes and trenches. Proceeding to the west, he took up his position, June 29, on the hill opposite the city on the north. But he soon discovered that this point was too far from the town. He therefore crossed over to the southern shore, and pitched his camp on the cliffs of Soedermalm. From this point he began to bombard the tower at the southern corner of the town. After battering this tower near a month, he sent a force across the bridge with orders to burst through the wall at the point which his guns had shaken. The effort, however, was of no avail. His force was driven back and compelled to seek safety beyond the bridge. At this juncture news arrived that a detachment of the Swedish army was coming against him on the south. Fearing a simultaneous attack on both sides, he hastily advanced in the direction of the expected onslaught, and threw up a fortification at Braennkyrka, about three miles south of Stockholm. On his right the land was boggy and overgrown with brushwood, while on his left it was somewhat higher and wooded. In these woods the Swedish army gathered. It is reported that they were twelve thousand strong, but they consisted chiefly of ill-trained and ill-armed peasants. The regent had joined them, and was leading them in person. The royal banners of the first battalion were in charge of Gustavus Vasa. After a few days' skirmishing, in which the patriots were twice driven into the covert of their woods, the Danes made a final charge upon them, and put them once more to flight. This time, however, the Danish soldiers lost their heads, and followed in hot haste through the forest. In this way they lost all advantage from their superior arms and training. The Swedes, nearly twice as numerous as their opponents, surrounded them, and closed in upon them on every side. The forest was soon red with blood. The patriots fought with vigor and determination; and at length, though sixteen hundred of their companions were stretched upon the ground, the day was theirs. Sture collected his men as quickly as possible and returned to Stockholm, while Christiern took up his quarters again in Soedermalm. A few days later Christiern, his powder and provisions failing him, ordered a retreat; but before his men were all embarked the Swedes were on them, and killed or captured some two hundred on the shore. After proceeding down the stream about twelve miles, the fleet cast anchor near the northern shore, and a foraging party was sent out towards Upsala for provisions. Some of these were captured, but the majority returned with a rich booty to their ships. Nearly two months had now elapsed since the arrival of the Danish fleet, and the cold weather was approaching. Christiern, worsted at every point, was eager to return to Denmark. But the equinoctial storm would soon be coming, and he was afraid to venture out in rough weather on short rations. His men too, suffering for food and clamoring for their pay, began to leave him. He therefore resolved to play upon another string. On the 28th of August he despatched envoys to the regent with the preposterous proposition that he should be received as king, or that in lieu thereof he should receive from the regent and Cabinet of Sweden a yearly stipend, and that the losses which he and the Danish party in Sweden had suffered should be repaid them. This ridiculous offer was of course rejected. Christiern then came down from his high horse, and proposed a cessation of hostilities till the difficulty could be settled. After some bickering on both sides it was agreed that a congress of the three realms should meet on the 10th of the following July, to determine Christiern's right to the crown of Sweden or to tribute; and until that day there should be peace between the realms. This agreement was put into writing and signed and sealed by Christiern and the regent a few days before September 8. The regent then ordered provisions sent out to the Danish soldiers to relieve their want. And still the fleet continued to hang about the coast, waiting, so it was given out, for fair weather. In reality, the Danish monarch was dallying with the hope of putting into effect a diabolical scheme which he had concocted. There being now a truce between the kingdoms, he ventured to despatch a messenger to Sture with hostages, to beg the regent to come out to the fleet and hold a conference. After consultation with his Cabinet, the regent answered that he could not accede to this request, and the hostages were returned. Christiern then sent again to say that he would gladly meet him at an appointed spot on land, provided six persons named—among them Hemming Gad and the regent's nephew, Gustavus—should first be placed on board the Danish fleet as hostages. A day was set and the hostages set forth. All unconscious, the rope was already tightening around their necks. On the 25th of September, as had been agreed, the regent rode to the appointed place of meeting. But the Danish king was nowhere to be seen. Two whole days the regent waited, and on the third discovered that he had been entrapped. The fleet was on its way to Denmark, and the Swedish hostages were prisoners on board. Before putting out to sea, the monarch touched land once more to despatch a couple of letters,—one to the burghers of Stockholm, the other to all the inhabitants of Sweden. These letters are dated October 2. Their purpose was to make his treachery seem less brutal. He declared that the regent had violated the terms of the truce by ill-treating the Danish prisoners in his hands, and not surrendering them as had been stipulated in the treaty. "On this ground," said the tyrant, some four days after seizing the hostages, "I declare the treaty off."[31]

Repairing with his captives to Copenhagen, the tyrant placed them in confinement in different parts of Denmark. Gustavus was placed in Kaloe Castle, under the charge of the commandant, who was a distant relative of the young man's mother. The commandant was under bonds for the safe-keeping of his prisoner; but being a man of tender feelings, he imposed little restraint upon Gustavus, merely exacting from him a promise that he would make no effort to escape. His life therefore was, to outward appearance, not devoid of pleasure. The castle was situated on a promontory in Jutland, at the northern end of Kaloe Bay. Its wall ran close along the cliffs, a hundred feet above the sea. At either end of the castle was a gray stone tower, and from the windows in the towers was a charming prospect on every side. The promontory was connected with the mainland by a low and narrow strip of land, and along the main shore ran a dense forest belonging to the castle and plentifully stocked with game. All these pleasures were at the free disposal of the captive. But there was a canker ever gnawing at his heart. No matter which way he turned, he heard only rumors of fresh preparations to conquer Sweden. When guests visited the castle, they talked from morn till night of the splendid armaments of Christiern. On one occasion he heard them declare that so soon as Sweden fell, her aristocracy were to be put to the sword and their wives and daughters parted out among the peasantry of Denmark. The Swedish peasants, they said, would soon learn to drive the plough with one arm and a wooden leg. Such jests made the young prisoner burn with indignation. He felt it necessary to conceal his passion, and yet he longed perpetually for a chance to burst his fetters and fly to the rescue of his native land.[32]

Before tracing his adventures further, let us return once more to Sweden. The dastardly escape of Christiern with the Swedish hostages had stung the whole country to the quick. Even the Chapter of Upsala, which had up to this time clung to the hope of restoring Trolle to his post, began to yield to the oft-repeated exhortations of the regent, and prepared to nominate a new archbishop. The man whom Sture urged for the position was the bishop of Strengnaes, one of those who had voted in favor of demolishing Staeket; and so early as the preceding February the chapter had practically assented to this choice. Nothing further, however, was done about it; and when, in the autumn of 1518, the papal legate with his proclamations of pardon appeared in Sweden, the chapter began to look toward him for help. Arcimboldo was not the man to let slip an opportunity to aggrandize himself. He therefore was prepared to listen impartially to the arguments on every side, and as papal legate to use his authority in favor of the highest bidder. Now, it required little sagacity to see that Trolle, whose cause the king of Denmark had commissioned him to urge, but who was at this time stripped of his prerogatives and in prison, could offer small reward; and from the king of Denmark he had already received quite as much as he had reason to expect. Moreover, it appeared from the experience of the last two years that Christiern's hopes of Sweden were likely to result in air. Sture was to all appearances the rising star, and on him the crafty legate resolved to fix his hopes. There seemed no valid reason, however, for deserting Christiern. It would be better so to trim his sails as to receive any emoluments that might be forthcoming from either party. He therefore approached the regent under the guise of mediator. The regent received him kindly, and covered him with honors and rewards. In the winter of 1518-1519 a meeting was held at Arboga at which the case of Trolle was laid before the legate. The outcome of it was that Trolle formally resigned his archbishopric and was restored to freedom. Shortly after, on the 5th of February, we find the legate reappointing the old archbishop, Ulfsson, to the post. Just why this course was taken it is impossible to state with certainty. But the reasons which led to it may easily be surmised. Ulfsson was a man of wealth, with few enemies and many friends. He was, next to Trolle, the choice of the Upsala Chapter and of Christiern, and he had already some time before been asked by Sture to reassume the post. To one of Arcimboldo's compromising temper it is not strange that Ulfsson should have seemed a person whose favor it was desirable to win.[33]

Meantime the king of Denmark was not idle. He still clung to the strange infatuation that the people of Sweden might be persuaded to accept him as their king, and almost while in the act of seizing the Swedish hostages instructed Arcimboldo to beg the regent for a friendly conference. This wild proposal Sture treated with the contempt which it deserved. He wrote to Christiern a straightforward letter in which he refused to deal further with him, and demanded that the hostages be immediately returned. Christiern of course did not comply. On the contrary, he continued his warlike preparations, and throughout the whole of the next year, 1519, his fleet was busy in making incursions along the Swedish coast. These incursions, though they caused the regent great annoyance, had little permanent effect. The king was still smarting under his recent defeat, and did not venture at once to undertake another campaign on an extensive scale.[34]

One thing the year 1519 did for Sweden. It ridded her of that consummate scoundrel Arcimboldo. After he had fleeced the regent and his people of every penny that they had to give, he set forth with his ill-gotten gains for Denmark. He soon learned, however, that he had been serving too many masters. Christiern had got wind of his ambassador's familiarity with the regent, and had sent out spies to seize him on his return. But the Italian proved more slippery than his royal master had supposed. Scarce had he set foot on shore when he perceived that Denmark was not the place for him. He embarked once more for Sweden, whence he soon crossed over to Germany on his way to more congenial climes. The last thing we hear of him is that the pope rewarded him with the Archbishopric of Milan.[35]

FOOTNOTES:

[14] Olaus Magni, Hist. de gent. Sept., pp. 409-410. This curious book, written by a contemporary of Gustavus, gives an invaluable picture of the details of Swedish life.

[15] Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., p. 3, and Aehrapred., p. 51; and Tegel, Then stoormecht., p. 3. All authorities agree that this event took place in 1514; but they differ as to the boy's age at the time. Svart, who places his birth in 1495, says he was eighteen, which would be equally true after May 12, 1514, even though the birth was in 1496. Tegel says he was twenty-four, as he would be if born in 1490; but as Tegel says in the very next sentence that he was sent to court to be educated, it is clear he could not have been so old as twenty-four, and hence could not have been born so early as 1490.

[16] Svaning, Christ. II., pp. 20-23.

[17] Hist. handl., vol. viii. p. 64. This is a deed to the effect stated above, signed by Erik Trolle, and dated Oct. 12, 1514.

[18] Svenska medeltid. rim-kroen., vol. iii. p. 203; Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., pp. 305-306; Johannes Magni, Hist. pont., p. 72; and Handl. roer. Skand. hist., vol. xxiv. pp. 45-47.

[19] Svenska medeltid. rim-kroen., vol. iii. p. 203; and Hist. handl., vol. viii. pp. 68-70.

[20] Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., p. 306; and Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., p. 141.

[21] Handl. roer. Skand. hist., vol. xxiv. pp. 51 and 74-75.

[22] Svenska medeltid. rim-kroen., vol. iii. p. 204; Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., pp. 306-307; Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., p. 141; and Handl. roer. Skand. hist., vol. xxiv. pp. 48-49 and 76.

[23] Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., p. 307; Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., p. 141; and Handl. roer. Skand. hist., vol. xxiv. pp. 39-40 and 76-77.

[24] Svenska medeltid. rim-kroen., vol. iii. p. 205; Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., pp. 307-309; Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., pp. 141-142; and Handl. roer. Skand. hist., vol. xxiv. pp. 52-58, 62-71 and 77-81.

[25] Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., pp. 309-310; Johannes Magni, De omn. Goth., pp. 778-779; Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., p. 142; and Handl. roer. Skand. hist., vol. xxiv. pp. 81-87.

[26] Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., p. 310; Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., p. 142; and Kongl. och furstl. foerlijkn., pp. 434-435.

[27] Svenska medeltid. rim-kroen., vol. iii. pp. 205-206; Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., pp. 310-311; Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., pp. 142-143; Svart, Aehrapred., pp. 52-53; and Handl. roer. Skand. hist., vol. xxiv. pp. 87-88.

[28] Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., pp. 311-312; Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., p. 143; Handl. roer. Skand. hist., vol. xxiv. pp. 94-105; and Kongl. och furstl. foerlijkn., pp. 435-437.

[29] Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., p. 313; Johannes Magni, De omn. Goth., p. 779; and Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., p. 143.

[30] Svaning, Christ. II., pp. 106-107; and Handl. roer. Skand. hist., vol. xxiv. pp. 112-117, 127-128, and 130-145.

[31] Svenska medeltid. rim-kroen., vol. iii. pp. 207-209 and 232; Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., pp. 313-314; Rensel, Beraettelse, p. 15; Maerk. haendl., p. 91; Johannes Magni, De omn. Goth., p. 780; Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., pp. 143-144; Svart, Aehrapred., p. 53, and Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 4-5; Ludvigsson, Collect., p. 86; Acta hist. Reg. Christ. II., p. 1; Danske Mag., 3d ser., vol. ii. pp. 237-248; and Handl. roer. Skand. hist., vol. xxxii. pp. 58-63.

[32] Svaning, Christ. II., pp. 385-387, and Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 6-8.

[33] Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., p. 313; Johannes Magni, Hist. pont., pp. 71 and 73; Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., p. 143; Handl. roer. Skand. hist., vol. xxiv, pp. 110-112, 117-130; and Skrift. och handl., vol. i. pp. 363-364.

[34] Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., pp. 315-316; and Handl. roer. Skand. hist., vol. xxiv. pp. 245-247.

[35] Eliesen, Chron. Skib., p. 567.



CHAPTER III.

FLIGHT OF GUSTAVUS; UPRISING OF THE DALESMEN. 1519-1521.

Escape of Gustavus from Denmark.—Lubeck.—Return of Gustavus to Sweden.—Excommunication of Sture.—Invasion of Sweden.—Death of Sture.—Dissolution of the Swedish Army.—Heroism of Christina.—Battle of Upsala.—Gustavus at Kalmar.—Fall of Stockholm.—Coronation of Christiern II.—Slaughter of the Swedes.—Flight of Gustavus to Dalarne.—Efforts to rouse the Dalesmen.—Gustavus chosen Leader.

One morning, in the early autumn of 1519, a young man, clad in the coarse garments of a drover, made a hasty exit from the gate of Kaloe Castle, and turning into the forest proceeded along the western shore of Kaloe Bay. His step was firm and vigorous, and indicated by its rapidity that the wayfarer was endeavoring to elude pursuit. Though apparently not over twenty-four, there was something about the traveller's face and bearing that gave him the look of a person prematurely old. Of large frame, tall and broad-shouldered, with heavy massive face, high cheek-bones, a careworn dark blue eye, large straight nose, and compressed lips,—the under lip projecting slightly,—he would have been pointed out anywhere as a man not easily to be led. The face would not, perhaps, be regarded as particularly intellectual; but determination and energy were stamped on every feature, and every movement of the body displayed strength and power of endurance. It was pre-eminently the face and body of one made to govern rather than to obey. Such, in his twenty-fourth year, was Gustavus Vasa. He had made his escape from Kaloe Castle, and was fleeing with all speed to Lubeck, the busy, enterprising head of the Hanseatic League.

His way led him through some of the most picturesque spots in Denmark. It was a lovely rolling country, with fertile fields and meadows, relieved in places by little clumps of forest, beneath which he could often discern the time-worn front of some grim old mansion. Sheep and cattle were grazing on the hillsides. Thatch-roofed huts, with plastered walls, were all about him. The fields, in those September days, were red with buckwheat. Occasionally a broad meadow spread out before him, and, to avoid the husbandmen gathering in their crops, he was often forced to make a long circuit through thick forests of beech and maple. Here and there he came on mighty barrows raised over the bodies of Danish warriors and kings. Well might it make his blood boil within him to witness these honors heaped upon the Danes for their deeds of blood and cruelty to his fathers. Through such scenes, weary and footsore, in constant dread of his pursuers, and with dark misgivings as to the fate before him, he pressed on, until at last, near the end of September, the gray walls of Lubeck, to which he had looked forward as a refuge, stood before him and he entered in.[36]

Lubeck, the capital of the Hanse Towns, and by virtue of this position monarch of the northern seas, had been for three centuries a bitter foe to Denmark. At intervals the Danish kings had sought to check the naval supremacy of Lubeck, and more than once the two powers had been at open war. Of late, by reason of dissensions among the Towns, Denmark had gradually been gaining the upper hand. But Lubeck was still very far from acknowledging the right of Denmark to carry on an independent trade, and the growing power of the Danish kings only added fuel to the flame. Lubeck was, therefore, at this time a peculiarly favorable asylum for one who was at enmity with Christiern. Gustavus doubtless had reckoned on this advantage, and had resolved to throw himself on the mercy of the town. He went directly to the senate, laid his case before them, and asked them boldly for a ship and escort to take him back to Sweden. This request apparently was more than they were prepared to grant. They hesitated, and in the mean time the commandant of Kaloe Castle tracked his prisoner to Lubeck, and appeared before the senate to demand that he be surrendered. Many of the senators, unwilling to incur the wrath of Christiern, were minded to give him up. Others, however, were opposed to such a course. As a result, all action in the matter was for the time suspended. Eight weary months dragged on, Gustavus throughout that period remaining in Lubeck. Finally, in May, 1520, one of the burgomasters, whose friendship the youth had won, espoused his cause, and he was allowed to sail for Sweden. By good fortune he steered clear of the Danish fleet, and on the 31st of May set foot again on his native soil, near Kalmar.[37]

Meantime the Danish arms had not been idle. Soon after the overthrow of Trolle and the destruction of his castle, the king of Denmark had despatched a messenger to Rome, to enlist the Holy Father in his cause. Pope Leo, reluctant to take upon himself to decide a matter of whose merits he could know so little, appointed the archbishop of Lund, aided by a Danish bishop, to investigate the question and report to him. A tribunal so composed could scarcely be expected to render other verdict than that which Christiern wished. They reported adversely to the regent. Sture and his adherents were therefore excommunicated by the pope, and all church ministrations interdicted throughout Sweden. To a pious people such a blow was terrible in the extreme. All church bells were for the moment hushed, the church doors barred, and the souls of an entire nation doomed to eternal death. But even in the face of this calamity the regent persevered. He refused to restore Trolle to his post, or even to make him amends for his losses. On this news being brought to Rome, the pontiff made no attempt to hide his wrath. He wrote at once to Christiern, with instructions to enter Sweden and inflict punishment on those who had thus set at naught the papal power. Christiern was entranced. As champion of the pope he felt certain of success. Without delay he collected all the forces in the kingdom, horse and foot, and placed them under the command of a gallant young officer, Otto Krumpen, with orders to invade Sweden from the south. They landed in the early days of January, 1520, and proceeded northwards, ravaging the country as they went. Sture at once issued a broadside to the people, calling them to arms. He likewise sent his messengers to Trolle, to beg him to use his influence against the enemies of Sweden. The deposed archbishop, now cringing before his victor, yielded his assent. Sture, thus emboldened, moved forward with his army to meet the Danes. Knowing that they were advancing through the province of Vestergoetland, and that their line of march in the winter season would be across the lakes, Sture took up his position in a narrow cove at the northern end of Lake Asunden. In the centre of this cove, through which the Danes must pass, he raised a huge bulwark of felled trees, and within the bulwark stationed his infantry, with provisions enough to last two months. He then chopped up the ice about the fort, and retired to the north with his cavalry to await the onset. It was not long he had to wait. On the 18th of January the Danish army drew near, and seeing the fortification began to storm it with their catapults. As they approached, the Swedish cavalry, with Sture at their head, dashed out along the shore to meet them. The regent was mounted on a fiery charger, and carried into the very thickest of the fight. But scarcely had the first shot been fired when a missile glancing along the ice struck Sture's horse from under him, and in a moment horse and rider were sprawling on the ice. So soon as Sture could be extricated, he was found to have received an ugly wound upon the thigh. His followers bore him bleeding from the field, and hastened with his lacerated body to the north. But the battle was not yet over. Long and hot it raged about the fortress on the ice. Twice the Danish troops made a mad assault, and after heavy losses were repulsed. At last, however, their heavy catapults began to tell. The sides of the bulwark weakened, and the Danish army by a vigorous onslaught burst open a passage, and put the Swedish infantry to the sword. This victory was followed by a night of riot, the Swedes thus gaining time to collect the scattered remnants of their army. With a single impulse, though without a leader, they fled across the marshy meadows of Vestergoetland to the north. Their goal was Tiveden, a dreary jungle of stunted pines and underbrush, through which it was expected the enemy would have to pass. Here after two days' march they gathered, and threw up a mighty barrier of felled trees and brushwood, thinking in that way to impede the passage of the Danes. All about them the land, though not mountainous, was rough and rugged in the extreme, huge bowlders and fragments of rock lying about on every side. In spots the undergrowth was wanting, but its place was generally filled by little lakes and bogs, quite as difficult to traverse as the forest. In this region the patriots collected, and with undaunted spirit once more awaited the coming of the Danes. Again they were not disappointed. The Danish army, recovering from its night of revelry, proceeded on the track of the fugitives, stormed their barrier, and on the 1st of February put them once more to flight. This done, the invaders pressed forward, burning, robbing, murdering, and affixing bans to every church door, till they arrived at Vesteras.[38]

Let us turn for a moment to another scene. Sture, who had been carried bleeding from the field of battle, had been taken first to Oerebro. But the journey over the ice and snow at the dead of winter so aggravated his wound that it was clear to all he could take no further part in carrying on the war. He gave orders therefore to be removed to Stockholm, where he might be under the tender care and sympathy of his wife. It was God's will, however, that he should never see her more. On the 2d of February, when almost within sight of the castle walls, he died; and the loved one for whose sympathy he had longed was given nothing but her husband's lifeless corpse.[39] They buried of him all that earth could bury; but his undaunted spirit remained still among his people, cheering them in their misfortunes, and ever calling upon them to resist the hand of the oppressor. Sten Sture's character is one which draws forth a warmth of sentiment such as can be felt for no other character of his time. Living in an age when hypocrisy was looked upon with honor, and when falsehood was deemed a vice only when unsuccessful, he showed in all his dealings, whether with friends or foes, a steadfast integrity of purpose with an utter ignorance of the art of dissimulation. Not a stain can history fix upon his memory. Highly gifted as a statesman, courageous on the field of battle, ever courteous in diplomacy, and warm and sympathetic in the bosom of his family, his figure stands forth as one of the shining examples of the height to which human character can attain. It is with a sigh we leave him, and turn again to trace the history of his people.

Grim ruin now stared the patriot army in the face. Bereft of the only person who seemed competent to guide them, beaten at every point, without arms or provisions, and with a horde of trained and well-armed soldiers at their heels, the fleeing patriots came straggling into Strengnaes on the Maelar. Hubbub and confusion reigned supreme. Many of the magnates counselled immediate surrender. Others, somewhat more loyal to their country, raised a timid voice in favor of continuing the war, but no one ventured to come forth and lead his fellow-countrymen against the foe. Thus they frittered away the precious moments while the Danes were getting ready for another onset. All this time there was one brave heart still beating for them in the capital. The regent's widow, nothing daunted by her own calamity or by the disasters that had come upon her husband's people, kept sending messengers one after another to implore them to unite in defence of their native land. At length it seemed as if her supplications were destined to prevail. A firmer purpose spread among them, and they girded up their loins for another conflict. Their spark of courage, however, proved abortive. No sooner did the enemy again appear than the patriots turned their backs and fled in wild dismay. On coming once more together after this bloodless battle, they resolved without further ado to lay down arms. A letter was despatched to Krumpen requesting parley. This was granted; and on the 22d of February it was agreed that the two parties should hold a conference in Upsala on the 3d of March, for the purpose of making terms. The Swedish party then urged Christina to attend the conference. She however turned a deaf ear to their entreaties, and sent off a despatch at once to Dantzic begging for aid against King Christiern; so the conference began without her. As a preliminary, Krumpen produced a document from the king of Denmark empowering him to offer terms of peace. This done, a proposition to declare allegiance to King Christiern was at once brought forward; and at the instance of Gustaf Trolle and the other Danish-minded magnates present, the proposal was finally accepted, though not until Krumpen had consented to certain terms on which the patriots insisted. These terms were that all past offences against the Danish crown should be forgiven, that all fiefs hitherto granted to their fellow-countrymen should be preserved, and that Sweden should continue to be governed in accordance with her ancient laws and customs. The document reciting these terms was issued on the 6th of March, and on the 31st it was confirmed by Christiern.[40]

The main body of the Swedish nation being thus again in the hand of Denmark, it was expected that Christina would no longer dare to offer resistance. It was therefore resolved to approach her once more upon the subject. An armed body of some three thousand men was despatched forthwith to Stockholm, a couple of ambassadors being sent ahead to invite Christina to a conference outside the town. The reception which they met was such as to convince them that the regent's widow possessed, at any rate, a portion of her husband's courage. No sooner did they near the capital than the portcullis was raised and a volley fired upon them from within the walls. Thus discomfited, the ambassadors withdrew, and Krumpen, having insufficient forces to undertake a siege, returned to Upsala, and the Swedish forces that had joined him retired to their homes.[41]

Christina was thus afforded a short respite in which to gather strength. The bravery and determination which she had displayed, even from the moment of her husband's death, already began to inspire confidence among the people. Most of the great men in the realm, intimidated by the threats or allured by the promises of Krumpen, had sworn allegiance to the king of Denmark. But the chief castles were still held by the patriots, and throughout the land there was a strong undercurrent of feeling against the Danes. In most parts the people were only waiting to see which way the wind was going to blow, and for the time being it seemed likely to blow in favor of the Swedes. The regent's widow used every effort to rouse the people from their lethargy, and with increased success. All winter long the king of Denmark was burning to send reinforcements, and dickering with the Powers of Europe to obtain the necessary funds. But his credit was bad, and it was only with great difficulty that he at last despatched a body of some fifteen hundred men. Christina, on the other hand, was being reinforced by the Hanse Towns along the Baltic, and in the early spring the current of sentiment had set so strongly in her favor that a plot was formed to drive off the Danish troops beleaguering the Castle of Vesteras, on the Maelar. So soon as this plot reached the ears of the Danish leader, he resolved to break the siege and hurry off to join the forces of Krumpen at Upsala. He did so; but he did so none too soon. He found his path beset by the peasantry lying in ambush in the woods, and before he succeeded in pushing through them, he was led into a bloody battle from which the patriots came off victorious, though their leader fell.[42]

Emboldened by this success, Christina now sent a messenger among the peasantry to collect a force with which to attack the Danish army in Upsala. In a short space of time he had gathered a strong band of peasantry and miners, with whom, reinforced by a detachment from Stockholm, he marched forward to Upsala. As the patriots approached the town, a squad stationed by Krumpen outside the walls descried them and sounded the alarm. This was on Good Friday, April 6, 1520, and Krumpen was in the cathedral when the news arrived. Without delay he hurried forth and gave orders that every man, both horse and foot, should gird on his armor and assemble in the square. As soon as they had come together, he led them outside the town and drew up his line of battle close beneath the walls. In front of this line he formed a solid phalanx, with a wing on either side composed of horse and foot. Still farther ahead he placed his catapults, with the largest of which he opened fire first, the sharpshooters at the same time picking off the enemy. The sky was heavily overcast, and at the very beginning of the battle a driving storm with rain and sleet came beating down in the faces of the Danes, thus blinding them. Their cavalry, too, was almost useless; for the ground was covered with melting snow, which formed in great cakes under the horses' hoofs, and soon sent horses and riders sprawling on the ground. The patriots, however, being without cavalry or muskets, suffered little from the rain. They were not slow to take advantage of the opportunity thus afforded them, and pressed forward madly on the left wing until finally it began to yield. The standard-bearer, half frozen, was about to drop the standard, when a Danish veteran rushed forward, seized it from his hands, and fixed it in the nearest fence, at the same time shouting: "Forward, my men! Remember your own and your fathers' valor! Shall this standard of your country fall unstained into the hands of the enemy?" At these words the company rallied and, hacking at the hands of the patriots who strove to pluck the standard from the fence, compelled them to withdraw. This company then joined the others, and a long and bitter conflict followed, the two armies fighting face to face. At length, as soon as the snow began to be well packed, the Danish cavalry came to the front once more, and after a series of violent charges, broke in two places through the enemy's ranks. The patriots, now cut into three distinct bodies, fled in wild despair. One body of them was surrounded and massacred on the spot. Another fled to a brick-kiln near at hand, hoping thus to be sheltered from the fury of the Danes. But they were pursued, the whole place was set on fire, and all who issued from it were put to the sword. The third portion of the Swedes fled in terror to the river, but many of them weighted down by their arms were drowned. Thus ended a fearful battle. The snow was literally drenched with blood. Of the Swedes, who numbered 30,000, it is said two thirds were killed; while the Danes, 8,000 strong, lost half.[43]

After this fearful slaughter both parties were for the nonce more cautious. Messengers were sent by each throughout the land to gain recruits, but they were careful to avoid a general conflict. Skirmishes and trickery were the order of the day. The patriots were frittering away their chances for lack of a leader, and Krumpen was waiting for the arrival of King Christiern. This was delayed only till the breaking of the ice. Towards the close of April, 1520, Christiern set sail with a large fleet for Sweden, having on board the Archbishop of Lund and some other influential prelates, to lend to his expedition the aspect of a religious crusade. Proceeding first to Kalmar, he called upon the castle to surrender, but in vain. Seeing that his only mode of reducing the castle was by siege, he resolved for the present to give it up, and after issuing a broadside to the people of Vestergoetland, summoning them to a conference to be held a month later, on the 3d of June, he advanced to Stockholm and dropped anchor just outside the town. This was on the 27th of May, four days before the landing of Gustavus Vasa on the Swedish coast.[44]

The arrival of Gustavus Vasa marks an epoch in the history of Sweden. It is the starting-point of one of the most brilliant and successful revolutions that the world has ever known. Other political upheavals have worked quite as great results, and in less time. But rarely if ever has a radical change in a nation's development been so unmistakably the work of a single hand,—and that, too, the hand of a mere youth of four-and-twenty. The events immediately preceding the return of Gustavus prove conclusively, if they prove anything, how impotent are mere numbers without a leader. For years the whole country had been almost continuously immersed in blood. One moment the peasantry were all in arms, burning to avenge their wrongs, and the next moment, just on the eve of victory, they scattered, each satisfied with promises that his wrongs would be redressed and willing to let other persons redress their own. What was needed above all else was a feeling of national unity and strength; and it was this feeling that from the very outset the young Gustavus sought to instil in the minds of the Swedish people. As we now follow him in his romantic wanderings through dreary forest and over ice and snow and even down into the bowels of the earth, we shall observe that the one idea which more than any other filled his mind was the idea of a united Swedish nation. At first we shall find this idea laughed at as visionary, and its promoter driven to the far corners of the land. But before three years are over, we shall see a Swedish nation already rising from the dust, until at last it takes a high place in the firmament of European powers.

The memorable soil on which Gustavus disembarked lay two miles south of Kalmar; and he hurried to the town without delay. Kalmar was at this time, next to Stockholm, the strongest town in Sweden. Lying on two or three small islands, it was guarded from the mainland by several narrow streams, while on the east it was made secure through a stupendous castle from attack by sea. This castle was at the time in charge of the widow of the last commandant, and was strongly garrisoned, as was also the town below, with mercenaries from abroad. On entering the town Gustavus was received with kindness by the burghers, and sought in every way to rouse their drooping spirits. He even approached the German soldiers with a view to inspire comfort in their souls. But his words of courage fell on stony ground. It is the nature of mercenaries to fight like madmen when the prospect of reward is bright, but no sooner does a cloud gather on the horizon, than they throw down their arms and begin to clamor for their pay. Such at that moment was the state of things in Kalmar. Christiern, backed by the leading powers of Europe, and upheld in his expedition by the authority of Rome, had just arrived in Sweden with a powerful army, and was now lying at anchor in the harbor of the capital. The Swedish forces, broken in many places and without a leader, were gradually scattering to their homes. The cloud that had long been gathering over the head of Sweden seemed about to burst. The future was already black, and a listening ear could easily catch the mutterings of the approaching storm. The Kalmar mercenaries therefore were only irritated by the importunities of the youthful refugee, and it was only through the intercession of the burghers that he was saved from violence and allowed to leave the town.[45]

To revisit the scenes of his boyhood and his father's house was no longer possible. The brave Sten Sture, from whose palace he had been stolen two years since, was lying beneath the sod; and Stockholm, held by the young man's aunt Christina, was in a state of siege. All access to her or to the capital would have been at the peril of his life. He therefore; renounced for the time being his desire to see his family, and proceeded stealthily to approach the capital by land. His way lay first across the dreary moors and swamps of Smaland. Here he went from house to house, inciting the peasantry to rebel. Among others he sought out some of his father's tenants, in the hope that they at least would hear him. But he found them all sunk in lethargy, cowering under the sword of Christiern. His voice was truly the voice of one crying in the wilderness. The golden hope of lifting his country out of her misery seemed shattered at a blow. Instead of being received with open arms as a deliverer, he was jeered at in every town, and finally so bitter grew the public sentiment against him that he was forced to flee. Hardly daring to show his face lest he should be shot down by the soldiers of the king, he betook himself to a farm owned by his father on the south shore of the Maelar. Here he remained in secrecy through the summer, hoping for better times,—an unwilling witness of the subjugation of his land,—till finally he was driven from his refuge by an act of Christiern so revolting in its villany that it made the whole of Europe shudder.[46]

Christiern, on the 27th of May, was riding at anchor in the harbor of the capital. Among his men was Hemming Gad, over the spirit of whose dream had come a vast change since his capture some eighteen months before. Just when this change began, or how it was effected, is unknown. But already, in March of 1520, the report had spread through Sweden that Gad had turned traitor to his native land, and we find him writing to the people of Stockholm to tell them that he and they had done Christiern wrong, and begging them to reconcile themselves to Christiern as he had done. Gad was a statesman,—a word synonymous in those days with charlatan,—and he did not hesitate to leave his falling comrades in order to join the opposite party on the road to power. Doubtless Christiern took care that he lost nothing by his change of colors, and doubtless it was with a view to aid himself that he brought Gad back to Sweden.[47]

No sooner did Christiern arrive off Stockholm than Krumpen came with Archbishop Trolle from Upsala, to receive him. They held a council of war on board the fleet, and resolved to lay siege once more to Stockholm. The capital was by this time well supplied with food; but the summer had only just begun, and Christiern thought by using strict precautions to starve the town ere winter. Pitching his camp along the shore both north and south, and blockading the harbor on the east, he sent messengers through the land to enlist the peasantry in his cause. Many of them he propitiated by a generous distribution of salt which he had brought with him from Denmark. Things, however, were not entirely to his taste. Christina too had ambassadors inciting the people to revolt. On the 27th of June a large body of the patriots laid siege to the palace of the bishop of Linkoeping. About the same time also the monastery of Mariefred, inhabited by the old archbishop Ulfsson, was threatened; and a throng of peasants marched to Strengnaes to burn and plunder. How crude the patriot forces at this time were is apparent from a letter from a Danish officer to Krumpen, in which it is said that out of a body of about three thousand only one hundred and fifty were skilled soldiers. Christiern finally deemed it best to send a force to Vesteras to storm the castle. This was done, the castle fell, and the officer in command was taken prisoner. It was now August, and the Stockholmers, no aid thus far having come to them from abroad, were losing heart. In this state of things the king sent Gad and others inside the walls to urge the people to surrender. Christina and her sturdy burghers received the messengers with scorn; but the magnates, already more than half inclined to yield, vehemently advocated the proposal. Soon the whole town was in an uproar. A riot followed, and some blood was shed. But at last Christina and her adherents yielded, and delegates were sent outside the town to parley. After several days of bickering it was agreed that Stockholm should be surrendered on the 7th of September next, but on the other hand that all hostility to Christiern and to his fathers, as well as to Archbishop Trolle and the other prelates, should be forgiven.[48]

Two days later, on the 7th of September, the burgomasters crossed over in a body to Soedermalm, and delivered the keys of the city gates into the hands of Christiern. Then, with bugles sounding and all the pomp and ceremony of a triumph, he marched at the head of his army through the city walls and up to the Great Church, where he offered thanksgiving to Almighty God. That over, he proceeded to the citadel and took possession. The same day and the day following he obtained two documents,—one from the Cabinet members then in Stockholm, and the other from the burgomaster and Council,—granting the castle to Christiern during his life, and at his death to his son Hans, or, if he should die before the king, then to the king's wife Elizabeth, to revert, after the death of all three, to the Cabinet of Sweden. Christiern then appointed his officers throughout the country, after which he sailed away for Denmark.[49]

Not long, however, was Sweden freed from his contaminating presence. Within a month he had returned, breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the nation that he had vanquished. A general diet had been summoned to meet at Stockholm on the first day of November. As this diet was to be immediately followed by the coronation of the king, special efforts had been made to secure a large attendance of the Danish party. The venerable Ulfsson, now tottering to the grave, had recently written to Christiern that he would be present at the triumphal entry into Stockholm, "even if," as he says, "I have to crawl upon my knees;" and he was present at the diet. When the appointed day arrived, the delegates were summoned to a hill outside the town, and were shut in on every side by the pikes and rapiers of the royal soldiers. The proceedings were cut and dried throughout. A pompous oration was delivered by one of the king's satellites, declaring the grounds on which his master claimed the throne of Sweden, at the close of which the people were asked whether they would have him for their king, and with their tyrants' weapons brandished before their eyes they answered yes. With this elaborate farce the ceremony ended and the people scattered, being first ordered to return on the following Sunday and share in the coronation festivities of the king whom they had thus elected against their will. The ostentatious mummery of these mock ceremonies would cause a smile but for the frightful tragedy with which they were to close. None but the blindest partisans could have felt anything else than aversion for this monster on whose head they were to place the crown. Even his own friends hated him, and despised the very ground on which he trod. But it was the age of heaven-born rulers; so the masses bent their knee and sang their paeans to the demon whom fate had made their king.[50]

It was on the 4th of November—a dreary Sunday—that the tragedy began. On that day, with a great flourish of trumpets and display of power, the monarch proceeded to the Great Church to be crowned. The huge edifice was filled to overflowing. From north and south, from mountain and valley, all of note in the three kingdoms had flocked thither on this day to behold the imposing spectacle. Gustaf Trolle, now once more archbishop, stood at the high altar, lined on either side by the six Swedish bishops and the Upsala Chapter. The whole chancel was one blaze of gold and silver; and as the king marched through the main aisle with his splendid retinue, every eye was bent upon him and every whisper hushed. Proceeding straight up to the high altar, he bent his knee before the God whose name he was now so soon to desecrate. Then the archbishop raised from the altar a crown of gold glittering with precious jewels, and placed it reverently upon the monarch's brow. The sacred rite of consecration over, the monarch rose and turning was met by a herald of Charles V., who came from his master bringing a fleece which he attached with chains of gold around the monarch's neck, thus receiving him into the great Burgundian League. After this, a throne was placed before the altar, and Christiern conferred the order of knighthood on Krumpen and some of his other officers. It was observed, however, that all thus honored were of Danish birth. With this the ceremony of consecration closed, and the whole concourse poured forth once more from the house of God.[51]

During three days the whole town now was given over to mirth and merrymaking. These days seem like the lull that goes before a storm. All strife was ended, all past injuries forgotten. The future seemed full of promise, and the Swedish peasants went hurrying back to their firesides to tell their wives and children of the peace and blessings promised them by Christiern. But it was not yet. Scarce had the echo of warfare died upon the wind when a frightful tragedy took place in Stockholm which sent a thrill of horror to the heart of Europe. At noon on the Wednesday following the coronation all the Swedish magnates with the authorities of Stockholm were summoned to the citadel and ushered into the august presence of their king. As they ranged themselves about the great hall, the nobles and their wives, all wondering what this dismal summons meant, they heard the castle gates grate upon their hinges, and a cold shudder gradually spread among them, as the thought now flashed upon them for the first time that they were no longer free. They had been decoyed by the fulsome promises of their ruler into the trap which he had laid. The noose was already tightening around their necks. Before them, on the throne hallowed by memories of former rulers, sat their tyrant, grim and lowering. Not a trace of mercy was visible in his features. Through a long pause, awful in its uncertainty, they waited, the cold sweat fast gathering on their brows. At length the pause was ended. Archbishop Trolle, chuckling at the near prospect of his revenge, stepped forward and addressed the throne. He began by portraying in ardent language the sufferings he had undergone. He declared that the cathedral at Upsala had been plundered while he was being besieged in Staeket. He dwelt at great length on the wrong which had been done him in the destruction of his castle. He drew attention to the conspiracy entered into against him by certain of the magnates, and their united oath never again to recognize him as archbishop. Finally, he denounced the conspirators by name, and called upon the king to visit them with the punishment which they deserved. At this Christina was summoned before the throne and asked for an explanation of her husband's conduct. She was at first struck dumb with terror; then, recovering herself, she pleaded that her husband had been no more guilty than the other conspirators, as would appear from the document which they all had signed. Christiern, learning for the first time of this document, demanded that it be produced. When this was done, and the king had examined it to his heart's content, he gave it to his clerk to copy, and called on each of the signers in turn to answer for his act. Christiern with his Cabinet then withdrew, leaving the patriot leaders in the great hall guarded by a body of Danish soldiers. At dusk two Danish officers entered with lanterns, "like Judas Iscariot" says a contemporary, and the doomed magnates were led out to the tower and thrown into prison to await the morn. When day broke, Christiern ordered the trumpets sounded and proclamation made that no citizen should leave his house. About noon the condemned patriots were led from their dungeons to the Grand Square, and huddled together beneath the platform on which they were to bleed. The citizens had by this time been permitted to leave their houses and had gathered around the foot of the scaffold, from which they were addressed in soothing language by several of the Danish Cabinet, whose words however were interrupted by constant cries of the victims calling on their fellow-countrymen to avenge them. At last the agony of suspense was over. One after another the condemned mounted the scaffold and were decapitated with all the refinement of cruelty that the bloodthirsty monarch and his satellites could devise. Over seventy in all were slaughtered, and their gory bodies piled up in one promiscuous mass in the centre of the square. On the following day the scene of carnage was renewed, several suspected citizens being seized in their houses and dragged to the place of blood. One poor wretch was executed for no other reason than because he was discovered weeping at the sight of his friends' death. Not till the following Saturday was the carnage over and the weltering mass conveyed outside the town. The body of Sture, together with the body of one of his babes, was dug up by Christiern's orders and burned, and the property of all who were slaughtered was seized and confiscated. Having thus effected his diabolical purpose and ridded himself of the flower of the Swedish patriots, the gory monarch set his officers at the head of affairs, and taking Christina and her two boys with him, marched through the land to Denmark, where he threw Christina and her children into prison.[52]

Through all that summer and autumn Gustavus Vasa had been cooped up in his hiding-place on the Maelar. Once, in peril of his life, he had approached the venerable Archbishop Ulfsson and solicited his advice. But he found little comfort there. Ulfsson urged him to go boldly to Christiern and beg for mercy. He even offered to intercede for the young man, and encouraged him with the assertion that he had been included among those to whom the king had promised immunity at the surrender of Christina. Gustavus, however, knew too well what reliance he could place on Christiern's word. With a downcast spirit he went back to his hiding-place, resolved to await further developments before he ventured forth. It was a time of harrowing suspense, the iron entering into his very soul. Each day brought new intelligence of the victories of Christiern and the gradual dismemberment of the Swedish forces. His hopes were already well-nigh shattered when the report was wafted across the lake that his father, along with the other patriot leaders, had been slaughtered in the capital. Horror-stricken and overwhelmed with grief, he sprang to his feet, resolved to brave death rather than prolong this agony. Buckling on his sword, he mounted one of his father's steeds, and set forth for the north, filled with the dream of rescuing his native land. It was near the 25th of November, and the scenery was well in keeping with the dreary thoughts that flooded the horseman's mind. The stern gnarled oaks along the wayside, twisting their leafless boughs athwart the sky, seemed as perverse as the Swedes whom he had vainly sought to rouse. Even the frosty soil beneath him, unyielding to his tread, recalled the apathy with which his fellow-countrymen had listened to his cries. Had he been fired solely by a love of Sweden, he would very likely long ere this have renounced his hopeless task. But a selfish purpose kept him in the path. He was a pariah, hunted down by his enemies, and driven through sheer necessity to play the patriot. It was liberty or death. And so he pushed on, resolved to mingle among the hardy mountaineers of Dalarne, and strive at all hazards to rouse the flagging pulses of their hearts.[53]

Crossing Lake Maelar about four miles from his father's house, Gustavus hurried through the forests north of the lake with all the speed that a patriot's zeal could lend. To one companioned by happier thoughts the journey in those late autumn days must have been filled with delight. Dalarne, through which his journey lay, is the paradise of Sweden. As its name imports, it is "the land of valleys." The whole province stands high above the sea, rising higher as we travel farther north. The hills which separate the valleys are mostly crowned with pine and fir, and down their sides run broad and gently sloping fields. Here and there the scenery is varied by a little hamlet nestling along the hillside. Little lakes, too, dot the surface of the land, and tiny brooks go babbling across the fields. One stream, famous in Swedish history, bisects the district from north to south, passing through various lakes, and finally pours its waters into the Baltic. This tortuous river, called the Dalelf, is in some places broad and majestic, while in others it is narrow and goes foaming like a cataract over the rocks. Along the banks of this stream Gustavus traced his steps, making first for a village on Lake Runn, where an old Upsala schoolmate dwelt. Here he arrived some five days after he left his father's house, and presenting himself in peasant's dress was given refuge. However, he declared to no one who he was, probably wishing first to learn how his host and others were affected towards the king. While yet uncertain what course he should pursue, one of the servants noticed that he wore a gold-embroidered shirt, and told her master; and this, coupled with his language and general appearance, led to his discovery. He thereupon appealed to his old schoolfellow to shield him from his enemies, but in vain. The danger was too great; and though full of sympathy for the young refugee, he told him he must leave the place. Thus once more an outcast, Gustavus hurriedly skirted the south shore of the lake, and after a narrow escape by breaking through the ice, reached the house of another schoolmate, who offered him protection and then went off to inform the Danish officers. From this catastrophe Gustavus was rescued by a warning from his betrayer's wife, and had fled ere the officers appeared. His next asylum was some twenty miles farther north, where he found protection at the hands of the parish priest. The king's officers were now upon the scent. The whole province was alive to the fact that it was harboring within its borders the regent's ward. The strictest vigilance was therefore necessary in order to save his life. So the priest kept him but a week, and then hurried him some thirty miles farther through the woods to Raettvik, a hillside village at the eastern extremity of Lake Siljan. There he tarried several days, talking with the peasantry, and urging them to rebel against the tyranny of their Danish ruler. He was now on ground to be ever afterwards famous in Swedish history. Here for the first time his words were heard with some degree of favor. The proud spirits of these mountain peasants had been already often roused by evidences of foreign usurpation, and it needed little to induce them to rebel. But their isolated position in a measure saved them from the burdens of the Danish yoke, and they answered they could venture nothing till they had held a conference with their neighbors. The disheartened outlaw therefore set forth once more. He traversed the icy meadows that lie along the eastern side of Lake Siljan, and after a journey of about twenty-five miles reached the village of Mora, lying at the head of the lake. It was on Christmas day that he addressed the people of this village. Knowing this to be his last hope of success, he took his stand on an elevated mound, and gazed over the white fields, dotted here and there with little hamlets, and to the snow-clad hills beyond. The surroundings added even to the zeal with which his own needs made him speak. He portrayed in burning terms the wrongs and insults that had been heaped upon the Swedish people. He alluded to his own affliction and to the general scene of carnage that had taken place in Stockholm. He pictured the evils in store for the proud highlanders before him, and appealed to them in the name of Almighty God to join him in a war for liberty. But all this eloquence was wasted. His appeal struck no responsive chord. The people flatly refused to give him their assistance. He had, therefore, but one course left. With no further hope of keeping his whereabouts unknown, he hastened with all speed from the town, and fled over the ice-bound hills of the west, to seek a last asylum in the wilds of Norway.[54]

Black indeed were the clouds now gathering over the head of Sweden. Even the liberty-loving province of Dalarne had refused to strike a blow for freedom. Soon, it seemed, the whole of Sweden would be groaning under the burden of a foreign despotism. Yet such an issue was by the design of Providence to be averted. But a few days after the flight of Gustavus out of Mora news arrived that Christiern was preparing a journey through the land, and had ordered a gallows to be raised in every province. Rumor was rife, too, with new taxes soon to be imposed. Nor was it long before a messenger arrived who confirmed the words of Gustavus as to the cruelties in Stockholm, and added further that there were many magnates throughout the realm who not only had not bowed the knee to Christiern, but had declared that rather than do so they would die with sword in hand. Then the blood of the villagers of Mora boiled within them. Post-haste, and trembling lest it were now too late, they put men on the track of the young fugitive with orders to push on by day and night and not rest till they had found Gustavus and brought him back. They found him on the very frontier of Norway, and announced to him that their people were ready to join his banner and with him pour out their blood for freedom. With a joyous heart he turned about and hurried back to Mora. The whole province was now awake. Raettvik had already had a conflict with a body of Danish horsemen; and when the outcast hero appeared once more at Mora, he found a vast throng of peasants flocking from every side to join his ranks. By common consent he was chosen to be their leader and a body of sixteen stout highlanders selected to be his guard. This was in the early days of 1521. The perseverance of the stanch young outlaw was rewarded, and the supremacy of Gustavus Vasa had begun.[55]

FOOTNOTES:

[36] Svaning, Christ. II., p. 387; and Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., p. 8.

[37] Rensel, Beraettelse, p. 17; Svaning, Christ. II., pp. 387-388; and Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 8-9.

[38] Svenska medeltid. rim-kroen., vol. iii. pp. 210-212; Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., pp. 316-317; Johannes Magni, De omn. Goth., p. 780; Svaning, Christ. II., pp. 173, 279, and 281-299; and Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., p. 144.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., pp. 318-320; Johannes Magni, De omn. Goth., p. 781; Svaning, Christ. II., pp. 299-315; Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., p. 145; Bidrag till Skand. hist., vol. v. pp. 618-623; and Kongl. och furst. foerlijkn., pp. 437-440.

[41] Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., pp. 320-321; and Svaning, Christ. II., pp. 316-320.

[42] Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., pp. 321-322; Svaning, Christ. II., pp. 320-329; Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., p. 145; Christ. II.'s arkiv, vol. i. pp. 147-152; and Nya Kaellor till Finl. Medeltidshist., pp. 704-705.

[43] Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., pp. 322-323; Svaning, Christ. II., pp. 330-341; Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., p. 145; and Bidrag till Skand. hist., vol. v. pp. 631-632.

[44] Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., p. 323; Svaning, Christ. II., pp. 341-353; Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., pp. 145-146; Bidrag till Skand. hist., vol. v. pp. 632-634; Christ. II.'s arkiv., vol. i. pp. 152-153; Dipl. Dal., vol. i. pp. 231-235; and Kongl. och furst. foerlijkn., pp. 440-442.

[45] Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., p. 9.

[46] Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 9-10.

[47] Bidrag till Skand. hist., vol. v. pp. 624-627.

[48] Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., pp. 323-326; Svaning, Christ. II., pp. 353-362; Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., p. 146; Ludvigsson, Collect., p. 87; Bidrag till Skand. hist., vol. v. pp. 637-648; Dipl. Dal., vol. i. pp. 235-236; Kongl. och furst. foerlijkn., pp. 444-450; and Nya Kaellor till Finl. Medeltidshist., pp. 705-708.

[49] Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., p. 326; Svaning, Christ. II., p. 362; Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., p. 146; Acta hist. Reg. Christ. II., pp. 3-4; and Christ. II.'s arkiv, vol. i. pp. 153-157.

[50] Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., pp. 326-327; Svaning, Christ. II., pp. 363-366; and Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., p. 147.

[51] Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., pp. 327-328; Svaning, Christ. II., pp. 366-369; and Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., pp. 147-148.

[52] Svenska medeltid. rim-kroen., vol. iii. pp. 218-219 and 233-234; Eliesen, Chron. Skib. p. 569; Olaus Petri, Svenska kroen., pp. 328-334; Johannes Magni, De omn. Goth., p. 781; Olaus Magni, Hist. de gent. Sept., p. 612; Svaning, Christ. II., pp. 369-384; Laurent. Petri, Then Svenska chroen., pp. 148-150; and Handl. roer. Skand. hist., vol. ii. pp. 1-12.

[53] Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 10-12.

[54] Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 12-15.

[55] Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 15-17.



CHAPTER IV.

WAR OF INDEPENDENCE; ELECTION OF GUSTAVUS TO THE THRONE. 1521-1523.

Causes of the War.—Character of the Dalesmen.—Growth of the Patriot Army.—Didrik Slagheck.—Battle of Koeping.—Capture of Vesteras; of Upsala.—Skirmish with Trolle.—Skirmishes near Stockholm.—Siege of Stegeborg.—Norby.—Rensel.—Brask.—Progress of the War.—Coinage of Gustavus.—Christiern's Troubles in Denmark.—Siege of Stockholm.—Fall of Kalmar.—Diet of Strengnaes.—Fall of Stockholm.—Retrospect of the War.

There are periods in the history of most nations when all that has been hallowed by time and custom seems of a sudden to lose its sanctity and bow down before the commanding influence of some new force. These periods are of rare occurrence and generally of short duration. They remind one of those thunderstorms which burst upon us at the close of a sultry August day, unheralded but by the stifling heat of a burning sky, and in a few moments leaving the atmosphere behind them pure and clear and cool. Sudden and unheralded as they appear, they are yet the direct result of a long series of forces, whose ultimate issue might have been accurately predicted did we but thoroughly understand the forces themselves. So, too, it is with great political upheavals. The revolution which drenched the whole of France with blood in 1789 is no more difficult to explain than the thunderstorm which drenches the parched earth with rain on a hot midsummer night. It was simply the reaction after a century of oppression, extravagance and vice. In like manner the great revolution whose development we are about to trace was merely the natural result of long years of tyranny culminating in the fearful carnage of the autumn of 1520. The Revolution in Sweden is, however, in one respect pre-eminent among the great crises known to history. Never was a revolution so thoroughly the work of a single man as that in Sweden. From beginning to end there was one figure whose presence alone infused life into a lukewarm people, and who, working upon the forces which had been forged by years of tyranny, shaped them gradually to his own commanding will. The Revolution in Sweden is the history of Gustavus Vasa. He it was who set the torch, and he, too, pointed out the direction in which the flame should burn.

Early in January, 1521, the war of independence already had begun. By this time news of the revolt in Dalarne had spread throughout the land, and the Danish officers were wild with irritation that the young Gustavus had escaped their clutches. The charge of affairs, at the withdrawal of Christiern, had been placed in the hands of a wretch scarce less contemptible than his master. This was one Didrik Slagheck, a Westphalian surgeon who, we are told, had "ingratiated himself with Christiern and ravished the wives and daughters of the Swedish magnates." Gad, for a time the councillor of the Danish king, was now no more. Christiern, shrewdly divining that one who had deserted his former master might desert again, had used him to mediate for the surrender of Stockholm and had then removed his head. In place of the old burgomaster and Council of Stockholm, the city was now held by satellites of Christiern, and any whose hearts revolted against his sickening cruelties were discreet enough to hold their tongues. Dalarne had become the only spot in Sweden where liberty still lived, and thither all liberty-loving Swedes whose hands were not yet tied repaired. Whenever these recruits appeared, Gustavus placed them in the midst of his little army, and called upon them to declare what they had seen of Christiern's deeds. It makes a striking picture, this little band of patriots, in a far-off mountain region in the dead of winter, with no arms but their picks and axes, strong only in their high resolve, and yet breathing defiance against the whole army of the Danish king. Gustavus knew the Swedish people well. He knew them slow to move, dull of intellect, and averse from reason. But he knew also that they were ardent in their emotions, permeated with a love of liberty, courageous in defence of their ancestral rights; and he foresaw that if he could once but rouse their passions by a vivid picture of Danish tyranny, he could make of them the finest soldiers in all Christendom. By Lent the little army was four hundred strong. With this force Gustavus marched to the great copper-mine at Falun, where he seized the Danish steward and took possession of the royal rents, as well as of a quantity of clothing and some silk which he at once turned to a good use as banners for his army. He then retired to his camp, but shortly after returned, this time fifteen hundred strong. This rapid increase in his forces produced an instantaneous effect. No sooner did he appear than the miners joined his ranks, and further than that they wrote to their friends in all the neighboring provinces to join him too. Gustavus then fixed the headquarters of his army near the southern boundary of Dalarne, and started, April 3, on a journey in person through several of the northern provinces to enlist recruits.[56]

Meantime Slagheck had concentrated the Danish forces in and near the Castle of Vesteras, deeming this the best point at which to hold the patriots at bay. One detachment, indeed, proceeded north as far as the Dalelf, on the southern frontier of Dalarne, and encamped there, thinking to prevent the enemy from crossing. While waiting, the Danish leader is said to have inquired the population of Dalarne, and on being told that it was about twenty thousand, to have asked how the province could support so many. The answer was that the people were not used to dainties, that their only drink was water, and in hard times their only food a bread made from the bark of trees. "Even the Devil," ejaculated the officer, "could not vanquish men who live on wood and water;" and with that he ordered a retreat. Before they got off, however, the Swedes fell upon them and drove them home in flight. About the same time the burgomaster and Council of Stockholm despatched a letter to the northern provinces, urging them to pay no heed to the lies of Gustavus; and Archbishop Trolle, after several epistles of a like nature, set sail along the coast of the Baltic to the north to use his influence in quelling the insurrection. But wherever he tried to land he was met by the peasantry with threats and imprecations; and he soon beat a hasty and ignominious retreat.[57]

On returning from his recruiting-tour to the headquarters of his army, Gustavus put his men through a regular course of training. Most of them were farmers, with scarce enough knowledge of military affairs to distinguish a javelin from a flagstaff. Their weapons were of the rudest sort,—axes and bows and arrows. He therefore taught them first of all to forge javelin and arrow heads. He also introduced a pike with spiral point which could be driven into a man's armor so as to hold him fast. To meet the necessities of a soldier, who was prevented by his occupation from paying for his goods with wheat or rye, Gustavus issued a copper coin which was at once received as money. These preparations seem all to have been made with the prospect of a long-continued war. While they were in progress, a letter came from the burgomaster and Council of Stockholm, dated April 10, and addressed to the people of Dalarne, informing them that a number of vessels had just arrived from the Hanse Towns, laden by order of Christiern with clothing and food, which were to be distributed among the people. After administering this mealy morsel the letter of the burgomaster and Council went on to urge the Dalesmen to have nothing to do with the lies and treachery of Gustavus, but to consider their own and their children's welfare and bow humbly before their gracious king. This letter seems not to have produced the effect that was intended. Another that came about the same time was more effective. It was from some German soldiers who declared, with more or less exaggeration, that they were four thousand strong, that they had come to lend their succor to Gustavus, had already seized nine of Christiern's best men-of-war, and expected within a few days to get possession of Stockholm. The news of this marvellous achievement seems never to have been confirmed, but at all events it fanned the enthusiasm of the infant army.[58]

Discontent had by this time spread throughout the land. On the 18th of April we find the Danish authorities in Stockholm writing that tumult and confusion reign in all parts of the kingdom, and on the 23d of April they write of an insurrection that has broken out in Stegeholm. This rapid spread of the conflagration made it necessary for the Danish officers to increase their vigilance, and on the 26th of April they found an opportunity to win their spurs. It occurred in this wise. One of the recruiting-officers of Gustavus, in his eagerness to advance the patriot cause, had pushed south into the very heart of the enemy's country, and finally burst into the town of Koeping. Here, with all the rashness of a new-made officer, he let loose his soldiers on the town. The result was just what might have been expected. Ere nightfall the whole army, officers and men, were drunk. They retired to their camp, built blazing fires, and lay down to sleep without watch or guard. News of the situation was carried at once to Vesteras, where a force of three thousand men was got together and sent post-haste to Koeping. It reached the patriot camp soon after midnight on April 26. The scene of debauchery was not yet past. The Danes fell upon them as they lay there in their drunken stupor, and slew them.[59]

Three days before this catastrophe Gustavus divided his entire forces into two parts, placing one under the command of an officer named Olsson and the other under one Eriksson. He then reviewed his troops, and prepared to march against the Castle of Vesteras. He had planned an attack on the east side of the castle, and the force sent down to Koeping had been given orders to attack it simultaneously on the west. On learning of the disaster at Koeping he seems to have made no change in his own manoeuvres. He waited till the 29th, and then advanced to the walls of Vesteras. His design was not to attack the town that day. But the Danish soldiers, chafing for the fight and already glorying in success, gave him no choice. They came boldly forth to meet him, led by a line of cavalry, who dashed upon the patriots, so runs the chronicle, "like raging lions." The patriots received the charge like men. In their front rank were the halberdiers, armed with sharp weapons some fifteen or twenty feet in length. With these they kept the cavalry at bay, and worried the horses till at length confusion began to spread along the line. No sooner did the patriots see this than they discharged a volley of arrows, hitherto reserved. Under this double discomfiture, from their own horses and their opponents' arrows, the cavalry yielded, then finally turned and fled, leaving four hundred dead upon the field. Nor was this all. As the cavalry, frenzied with terror, dashed through the town-gate, they found the narrow streets blocked with the infantry, on whom their ungovernable steeds rushed with all the fury lent by fear. A large number were thus trampled to death, while the rest were precipitated into flight. Eriksson followed them a short distance, and then retired; but meantime Olsson entered the city from another quarter, and got possession of the enemy's cannon, ball, and powder. This he carried to Gustavus, who had taken up his position on a ridge to the north of the town. When now the garrison saw that they were worsted, they set fire to the town and then retired to the castle. At this many patriots rushed back into the burning town, burst open the shops and wine-vaults, and parted their booty among them. As soon as the Danes saw what was going on, their courage once more rose, and they fell upon the plundering patriots, already half drunk with wine. Gustavus therefore sent a detachment under Olsson into the town to drive the Danish soldiers back. They met in the public square, and a long and bloody battle followed; but at last the remnant of the Danish soldiers fled and took refuge in the monastery. Here they remained three weeks, and then escaped by boat to Stockholm. Gustavus, after the fight was over, entered the town and destroyed every wine-cask in the place. Though the town had fallen, the Castle of Vesteras still held out. Experience, however, had made clear that it could not be reduced except by siege. He therefore pitched his camp on the west side of the castle, and despatched the main body of his forces to other parts.[60]

First of all, he ordered Eriksson and Olsson to attack Upsala. They therefore proceeded with a body of infantry to a forest some twelve miles from the city, and pitched their camp. As soon as the canons, with the burgomaster and Council, heard that the city was to be attacked, they sent a letter to the patriots urging them to postpone the onset till after the 18th of May, Saint Erik's day, that they might celebrate the festival. But their messenger brought back answer that as Saint Erik's day was a Swedish festival, the patriots would enter the town before that day and attend to the festival themselves. However, the archbishop's steward, who held command of the town, felt no anxiety; and out of bravado gave a sumptuous feast one evening on the esplanade. The festivities were protracted with song and dance till after midnight; and scarce had the sound of revelry died away, when the patriots, warned of the midnight orgies, burst upon the town, beat down the guard, and held possession of the streets before any of the carousers knew they were at hand. So soon as they did come to their senses they poured a volley from their arquebuses into the spot where they thought the enemy were collected. But they were aiming in the dark, and not a finger of the Swedes was hurt. The archbishop's steward then planned a strategic movement on the rear, and endeavored to move his troops through a long wooden passageway running from the palace to the cathedral; but the Swedes, perceiving it, set fire to the passageway, and at the same time shot blazing arrows up into the palace roof. The Danes retaliated by setting fire to the buildings all about the palace; but the patriots in each case extinguished the fire before it got fully under way. The palace, however, was soon a mass of flames; and the archbishop's forces, seeing all was lost, mounted their steeds, burst open the palace-gate, and galloped in all haste over the fields to the south. The Swedes pursued, but, finding the enemy's steeds too fleet for them, showered a volley of arrows after the flying horsemen, and returned.[61]

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