Notable Swedish Monarchs
While Swedish monarchs show up a lot less in media than their French or British or even German counterparts, they nonetheless occasionally show up in fiction, film and various other kinds of media. Sweden is one of the oldest surviving monarchies in Europe, along with Britain, Denmark and the Papacy. The oldest verifiable Swedish king reigned at some point during the last half of the 10th century. Since of Tropers Law, this article will mostly describe the monarchs who tends to show up in fiction, with a brief overview of what happens in between. It should be noted that the numbering of Swedish kings is made up: The current king is numbered as Charles XVI, for instance, but there are only something like eight Charleses before him. These traditional numbers were made up in the 16th century, and, as was the custom at the time, trace the Swedish royalty all the way back to Noah. Medieval Swedish kings tends to have bynames that makes them sound either Bad Ass or just odd. They are usually significant in some way although technically they are often bestowed by their enemies, or at least successors...
Viking KingsKing Björn and King Olaf (technically Olaf I) are confirmed by Saint Ansgar as Swedish kings in mid 9th century. Other than their invitations of missionarys to Uppland, nothing is known of them. Most Swedish historians consider their actions as friendly gestures. Erik Segersäll (c. 945 - c. 995): Famous viking king. "Segersäll" is a compound of two words meaning "Happy" and "Victorious". "Glad because he won" is one possible translation, although "brings victory" probably comes closer. According to the Norse sagas he defeated his nephew Styrbjörn "the Strong" at the Battle of Uppsala. (This battle is attested on several runestones.) Stories set during the later part of the viking ages tends to include a cameo from him, since he had the favour of Odin. According to tradition he was married to a woman named Sigrid the Haughty, who had a tendency to set impossible tasks for her suitors. Works that include Erik Segersäll:
- Erik's fight with Styrbjörn is the subject of the Old Norse "Tale of Styrbjörn".
- Erik has some mentions in Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla, and a short appearance in the "Saga of Olaf Tryggvason".
- Franz G. Bengtsson's The Long Ships features a cameo of Styrbjörn the Strong.
- The Tale of Hårde by Börje Isaksson features the battle of Uppsala as the climax of the second book.
- Under the name of Olaf the Swede, he has a major supporting role in the 13th century Heimskringla, particularly in the sagas of Olaf Tryggvason and Saint Olaf.
The Houses of Erik and SverkerSt. Eric (c. 1120 - May 18, 1160) and the Sverker-Eric feud: Successor of a king named Sverker the Elder, Erik Jedvardsson, better known as St. Eric is not an official Catholic saint, but was revered as such in Sweden for most of the Middle Ages. According to legends (almost certainly completely fictional) did all the standard saintly stuff, wore a shirt of hairs, lead crusades to Finland, and was killed inside a church. Note that the *other* version is that he got drunk, fell off his chair and died. After his death, his family and that of Sverker the Elder would fight each other for the throne (basically taking turns and driving or killing each other off) for the next hundred years or so. Works that feature St. Eric:
- St. Eric shows up very briefly (only to get murdered) in Jan Guillou's Arn: The Knight Templar trilogy (which was also made into a pair of movies).
The House of BjälboBirger Jarl (c. 1200 - 21 Oct 1266): Not a king, but something more along the lines of Regent for Life, Birger was Jarl, something (in Sweden) equivalent to a prime-minister, and ruled first in the name of Eric the Lisp and Lame. Almost a case of Everyone Calls Him Barkeep, if it wasn't for the fact that he was the last guy to ever hold the title of Jarl; apparently it had become too associated with Birger. Birger is one of the most important medieval rulers of Sweden, he successfully centralized the kingdom and essentially created it's medieval form. He also brought most of Finland under Swedish control. His letters contain the very first historical mention of Stockholm and Birger is often seen as the founder of the city. Works that feature Jarl Birger:
- In the fourth sequel to Guillou's Arn: The Knight Templar trilogy, Birger is the main character.
- The Seventh Seal is set during king Magnus' reign.
The Union of KalmarAfter a brief rule by a German prince named Albrecht the significant intermarriage between the Scandinavian royal families produced someone who was the closest heir (or, backed with an army, close enough) to all three Scandinavian kingdoms. This remarkable person was named Queen Margareta (also known as "King Pantsless", because well... women did not wear pants). She had to deal with German pirates, but otherwise remained ruled relatively peacefully. Since her son died young and she lived in a Heir Club for Men king of society she adopted a cousin to succeed here. This did not end well. King Erik of Pomerania (he was the son of the duke of Pomerania, and his original name was the far less Scandinavian Bogislaw) and managed to provoke one of the biggest peasant uprisings in Swedish history, mainly by setting taxes a mite too high. He pissed off the nobility at the same time, which is never good. The next hundred years (roughly the 15th century) was a chaotic period where angry peasants, angry nobility and angry monarchs (usually, but not always, the union kings based in Denmark) vied for control. Special mention should be given to Karl Knutsson (Bonde) for managing to become king... Three times. Works featuring Erik of Pomerania:
- The Engelbrekt Rebellion, which takes place during Erik's reign, is a relatively common era for plays and novels, especially during the 60's and 70's.
The House of VasaGustav Eriksson a.k.a. Gustav Vasa (6 June 1523-29 September 1560): Usually seen as the founder of the modern Swedish state, Gustav was the son of a member of the high nobility (he sometimes spelled his name "Gösta Jerksson", which is fitting but unintentional) who was sent as a hostage to king Christian , who then promptly took off with the hostages. Gustav managed to escape and make his way back to the capital only to find that his father had been among the executed. He then made his way to the province of Dalarna experiencing many public-domain adventures along the way, allegedly being hidden in cellars, in wagonloads of hay and generally acting King Incognito, despite not being king yet. With a Rousing Speech he managed to convince the peasants of Dalarna to rise up against the Danish king. He managed to succeed (aided by a noble's rebellion in Denmark and a with a shitload of loans from the Hansa) he was finally proclaimed king in 1523. De Facto ending the Union of Kalmar. A "Vasa" is a kind of bundle of sticks put a river to attract fish. It was featured on the family's coat-of-arms. Once made king, Gustav proceed to get rid of anyone who had ever helped him come to the throne: Beating down and executing as rebels anyone who opposed his new, more centralized style of rule (including most of the people who had supported him in the first place) declaring war on his creditors, confiscating church land and introducing the reformation, and retiring as the richest man in Europe. Gustav Vasa is relatively commonly featured in plays and novels, but curiously absent from movies or TV. Very much a Magnificent Bastard. Erik XIV was the son and successor to Gustav Vasa, son from his first marriage and... not quite right in the head. During his reign his paranoia and the advice of his Evil Chancellor lead to him eventually stabbing people and running off into the woods. He also married a commoner, tried to kill his brother(s) and was eventually deposed and poisoned, according to legend with arsenic-laced peasoup. In his younger, more sane, days he was one of the suitors of Queen Elizabeth of England. Johan III, the brother of Erik XIV, married a Polish princess and built lots of fancy castles. Also probably poisoned his brother in prison. Sigismund was made king of Poland at a young age and sent off there; he never liked Poland very much but became a staunch Catholic, problematic as he also became king of Protestant Sweden. His uncle would eventually stage an uprising and crown himself king. The resulting Succession Crisis would lead to an on-again, off-again war for the next 60-years or so. Charles IX of the sons of Gustav Vasa the one most like his dad. Highly and successfully involved in the above Succession Crisis while he was still Duke Karl of Södermanland. Mostly famous for being the father of his son: Gustav II Adolf or Gustavus Adolphus, Sweden's greatest warrior-king, best known for his pivotal role in the Thirty Years' War. Really did do the entire King Incognito thing when looking for a bride. For most of his reign, he worked closely together with his chancellor (not particularly evil) Axel Oxenstierna in something of a Brains and Brawn combination (although Gustav was far from stupid himself) his reign was spent almost entirely on horseback. The Swedish Empire was at its greatest extent under him, with about half of Germany conquered. However, his untimely death meant it was never consolidated. Works that feature Gustavus Adolphus:
- The 1632 Alternate History series by Eric Flint, where he is depicted as something of a Boisterous Bruiser. (Also survives the battle that would have killed him, with massive consequences on the course of events thereafter.)
- Namesake of Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota.
- He gets his own song in the Sabaton album Carolus Rex.
- Like her father, Christina (in this series spelt 'Kristina') plays a major part in the 1632 series.
- The Hollywood movie Queen Christina starring Greta Garbo as Christina.
The House of Palatinate-ZweibrübckenChristina abdicated in favour of her cousin, Charles X. Charles would spend more or less his entire reign fighting, first against Poland, then against Denmark. Managing to pull of something of a Crowning Moment of Awesome by walking his entire army from the mainland to Sjaelland on the ice. Died of pneumonia. His son, Charles XI was a shy unassuming kid who grew up into something of a Bad Ass, mainly by slaughtering his way through the Swedish forests (he was fond of hunting). He managed to make himself an absolute monarch, crushed the power of the high aristocracy and reigning relatively peacefully. According to legend, he spent much of his time as King Incognito, spying on corrupt officials. In these stories he is portrayed as hiding his Bling of War under a grey cloak until the time to reveal himself, earning him the nickname Gråkappan (The Grey Cloak). Charles XII, had a biography written by Voltaire. Another Ax-Crazy guy, he spent his entire reign fighting: Poland, Denmark and Russia (See the Great Northern War). The war went well for him at first, but eventually the Russian Tsar beat him by utilising scorched earth tactics and the cold russian winter, which led to his defeat and the end of Sweden's period as a Great Power. His death at the siege of Fredrikshald is somewhat of a Stock Unsolved Mystery, with people arguing whether he was killed by a Norwiegan soldier, a war-weary Swede, or an agent of his brother-in-law, Frederick, who went on to be Frederick I of Sweden. Among the weirder theories is the one that he was shot with a button due to the rumours that said he was immune to regular bullets. A relatively common subject for novels and other stories. His sister Ulrika Eleonara ended up succeeding him but abdicated in favour of her husband. Both her succession and her abdication gave the equivalent of parliament a chance to reduce royal power dramatically ushering in the so-called Age of Liberty when the country was ruled by the Riksdag (Parliament), with the king having very little power.
The House of GottorpThe first king of this dynasty, Adolf Fredrik, was relatively harmless, his wife however, was the sister of Frederick The Great and had an ambition to match. They failed to reassert royal control though. Gustav III is probably the Swedish king that appears the most in media: At least two or three television dramas have been created about the king, and an innumerable amount about his contemporaries. A complicated figure, he managed to stage a revolution, restoring royal power and ending the Age of Liberty. He was fond of theatre, and was eventually assassinated during a play (70 years before Lincoln). Conspiracy Theories are usually involved, mostly including his brother (who acted remarkably suspiciously) but sometimes tying in the Freemasons. Works that feature Gustav III:
- Two Operas, Il ballo di maschera, by Giuseppe Verdi, and Gustave le troisiéme, ou le bal masque by Francois Auber are based on the assassination of Gustav III.
- A story in The Phantom deals with said Phantom trying to prevent the king's murder.
- The novel The Wolves of Elba involves a plot by agents of Napoleon to meddle in his marriages.
- His failure as a commander in general and attempts to emulate Charles XII in particular is mocked in one of the poems of The Tales of Ensign Stål.