Gustav Adolf, the Great

Gustav Adolf, the Great

Gustav Adolf, the Great

Gustav Adolf, the Great

Excerpt

In the Roslagen district of Uppland, along that Baltic coast of Sweden from which long ago the Viking fleets set out upon their expeditions to the east, there flourished about the middle of the fourteenth century three noble families. They were all branches of the same line, and must probably have been closely related to one another, for they all used the same coat of arms—a faggot or fascine; in Swedish, vase. Only one of these lines was destined to survive the Middle Ages and rise to a position of importance. A series of outstanding personalities among its members won for the family a distinguished position amidst the magnates of the country. Among the nobility, and in the council of the king, they filled offices of honor and dignity; they were given the wardship of important castles in fee; and thus they came to play a vigorous part in the troubled politics of the kingdom.

It will be recalled that this was a period of crisis in Sweden's history, a period made notable by the struggle for the abolition, or the maintenance, of the Union of Kalmar. In this struggle the Vasas played no small part, though they did not invariably take the same side. One prominent leader of the family, the old High Steward Christiern Nilsson, was famous as an upholder of the Swedish-Danish union, and in this capacity he had to suffer much tribulation before his death in 1442, despite the calculating caution which had always marked his proceedings. In the stormy period that followed, one of his descendants, Bishop Kettil Karlsson, proved himself a valiant popular leader, with a decided gift for rallying the peasantry to his side. He ended his days (in 1465) as regent of Sweden. In subsequent years the Vasas moved gradually over into the camp of the national opposition. During the whole of the long period towards the end of the fifteenth century when, with only short interludes, regents of the Sture family ruled Sweden in practical independence of Denmark, the influence of the Vasas persisted, though on a diminished scale. Many of them gave evidence of a passion, a lack of self-control, and unbridled violence, which provoked the anger of their contemporaries. It is . . .

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