Gustav Vasa

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(Redirected from Gustav I of Sweden)

|- |Reign||June 6, 1523September 29 1560
(Regency from August 1521) |- |Coronation||January 12, 1528 |- |Royal Motto||Omnis potestas a Deo est
(All power is of God) |- |Queens||Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg
Margareta Leijonhufvud
Katarina Stenbock |- |Royal House<td>Vasa |- |Birth<td>Probably May 12 1496
(Lindesholm, Uplandia) |- |Death<td>September 29 1560
(Stockholm, Sweden) |- |Place of Burial<td>Uppsala Cathedral, Uppsala |}

Gustav Vasa is how the Swedish King Gustav I of Sweden, born as Gustav Eriksson (Vasa) is known. His probable birth was May 12, 1496, and he died on September 29, 1560. He became king of Sweden in 1523, but had been elected regent in 1521 after leading the rebellion against the sitting Danish monarch. During his reign Protestantism was introduced in Sweden.

Gustav Vasa was an enigmatic person who has been referred to as both a liberator of the country and as a tyrannic ruler, which has made him the subject of many books. When he got to power in 1523, he was largely unknown, and he became the ruler of a still divded country without a central government. Yet, he managed to remain in power for 37 years, and at his death left behind him a strong central power with uniform rules.

In traditional Swedish history he has been labeled the founder of modern Sweden, and the country liberator. Gustav liked to compare himself to Moses, who liberated his people and established a state. As a person, Gustav was known for ruthless methods and a bad temperament, but he also loved music, and had a certain sly wit.


Early life

Gustav Vasa's father Erik Johansson was involved in the party of Sten Sture fighting against the Danes in the early 16th century. When the Danes under Christian II conquered Sweden and took the capital Stockholm in 1517, several members of the Sture-party were executed in the Stockholm Bloodbath in October that year. Among them were Erik Johansson. The young Gustav survived by hiding.

He got involved in some of the revolts against the Danish King. At the battle of Brnnkyrka on October 2, 1518, he was among po the south-eastern side of Sweden. From there, he travelled all the way up to the province of Dalarna, in (what was then) north-western Sweden. He tried to gather troops to take down the Danish government, but had initially little success.

According to popular history, as depicted in the 19th century in Swedish schoolbooks, Gustav encountered many adventures while he was fleeing around Dalarna. Their historical validity is however questioned.

In 1521 he had managed to gather a small army in Dalarna and become its leader. He also received help by troups from Leipzig, Germany. By August 1521, the men of Dalarna had elected him regent of Sweden, whereafter two years of battle followed whereby the Danish troops were gradually defeated.

In 1523, Gustav was able to be crowned in Strngns, south of the capital Stockholm, on June 6. The date has later been celebrated as the Swedish national day. His troops had besieged the capital, and on June 24, they finally could march into Stockholm. The country was however in no way united in a support of the King at that time.


After seizing power, the previous Archbishop Gustav Trolle, who poopthe acceptance of a new archbishop selected by Gustav himself: Johannes Magni.

The Pope sent back his decision demanding the unlawful expell of Archbishop Gustav Trolle to be reverted, and that the archbishop was to be reinstated. Here Sweden's remote geographical location proved to have a marked impact – for the former Archbishop had been allied with the Danish King, or at least was considered to have been in contemporary Stockholm, and to reinstate him would be close to impossible for the King.

The King let the Pope know the impossibility of the request, and the possible results if the Pope persisted, but – for better or worse – the Pope did persist, and refused to accept the King's suggestions of archbishops. At the time, incidentally and for different reasons, there were also four other unoccupied bishops' seat, where the King made suggestions to the Pope about candidates, but the Pope only accepted one of the candidates. As the Pope refused to budge on the issue of Gustav Trolle, the King, influenced by Lutheran scholar Olaus Magnus, in 1531 took it upon himself to appoint a new archbishop, namely the brother of Olaus, Laurentius Petri. Hereby in effect, the Pope had lost any influence over the Swedish Church.

In the 1520's, the Petri brothers' were driving a campaign, almost, for the introduction of Lutheranism. The decade saw many events which can be seen as gradual introductions of Protestantism, for instance the marriage of Olaus Petri – a consecrated priest, and several texts published by him, advocating Lutheran dogmas. A translation of the New Testament had also been published in 1526. After the reformation, a full translation was published in 1540-41, called Gustav Vasa Bible. However, knowledge of Greek and Hebrew among Swedish clergymen were not sufficent for a translation from the original sources, instead the work followed the German translation made by Martin Luther in 1534.

Further reign

Gustav encountered resistance from some areas of the country. In 1542, people from the Dalarna rebelled, as they considered the King to have been to harsh on everyone he percieved as a supporter of the Danish.

People down in Smalandia rebelled later, which initially gave Gustav difficulties in the dense forests. What he did was to send a letter to the people of Dalarna, and requesting that they should send out letters to every Swedish province, saying that Dalarna would support the King with troops, and urging every other province to do the same. Gustav got his troops, with which help he managed to defeat the rebels.

Difficulties with the continuation of the Church also troubled him. The 1540's saw death sentences from his hand for both the Petri brothers, as well as his former chancellor Laurentius Andreae. All of them were however granted amnesty, after spending several months in jail.

End of his reign

Missing image
Gustav in his old age

In the late 1550's, Gustav was broken by bodily troubles. This has been confirmed when his grave was opened in 1945 and his corpse examined. It was discovered that he suffered chronic infections of a leg and in his jaw. bums and poops


Gustav's heritage has been disputed. In 19th century Swedish history, a folklore developed wherein Gustav was to have experienced all kinds of adventures when he liberated Sweden from the Danes. The memory of Gustav has been honored plenty, resulting in embroiding history books, memory coins, and the annual ski event Vasaloppet (the largest ski event in the world with 10,000 participants).

However, today most of these stories are regarded to have no other foundation than legend, and a skillful propaganda by Gustav himself during his time.

Gustav has by some been regarded as a power-hungry man who wished to control everything: the Church, the economy, the army and all foreign affairs. But in doing this, he also did manage to unite Sweden, a country that had previously not had a standardized language, and where individual provinces held a strong regional power.


Gustav Vasa had a series of paintings made during his reign. Although now lost, reproduction still exixst. They were intended to show Gustav triumphs. It also shows what Gustav himself considered important to depict.


Gustav's first wife was Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg (15131535), whom he married on 24 September 1531. They had a son:

  1. Eric XIV (15331577)

On 1 October 1536 he married his second wife, Margareta Leijonhufvud (15141551). Their children were:

  1. John III (Johan III) (15371592)
  2. Katharina (15391610). A great-grandmother of Adolf Friedrich II of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
  3. Cecilia (15401627)
  4. Magnus (15421595)
  5. Carl (1544)
  6. Anna Maria (15451610)
  7. Sten (15461549)
  8. Sofia (15471611)
  9. Elisabeth (15491598)
  10. Charles IX (Carl IX) (15501611)

In 1552 he married his third wife, Katarina Stenbock (15351621).

See also

Preceded by:
Christian II
King of Sweden Succeeded by:
Eric XIV


  • Robert, M: The Early Vasas: A History of Sweden 1523-1611 (1968)
  • berg/Aberg, Alf: Gustav Vasa 500 r / The official anniversary book (1996)bg:Густав I (Швеция)

da:Gustav Vasa de:Gustav I. Wasa et:Gustav I Vasa fi:Kustaa Vaasa fr:Gustave Ier Vasa he:גוסטב ואסה ja:グスタフ1世 nl:Gustaaf I van Zweden pl:Gustaw I Waza ru:Густав Васа sv:Gustav Vasa


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