The Swedish Bloodbath

Even for those who don’t watch Game of Thrones, some of the events in the show, such as the Red Wedding, have entered the general social discourse. People are often shocked at the brutality and cruelty exhibited in some of the show’s well-known scenes. No doubt that these same people would be astonished to find that some of fantasy series’ craziest scenes mirror similar true events in history. One such incident has come to be known as the Stockholm Bloodbath.

The on-again, off-again union of Sweden and Denmark serves as the backdrop for the bloody events that followed. It was the year 1518, the union was on, and many in Sweden were unhappy with Denmark’s control of their country. In anger, the pro-independence Swedish assembly voted to burn the fortress of Sweden’s pro-Danish archbishop, Gustav Tolle.

toptenz.net

They didn’t carry out this arson, but they did throw the archbishop in prison. In retaliation, the pope excommunicated the acting ruler of Sweden in 1520. This was all the excuse that King Kristian II of Denmark needed to invade.

After some early setbacks and near defeats, Kristian agreed to pardon those who had plotted against him, no hard feelings. Weary of fighting, the widow of Sweden’s erstwhile ruler had the keys of Stockholm handed over to Kristian.

On November 4th, 1520, Kristian was crowned in Stockholm by Gustavus Trolle, the much-put-upon archbishop who had earlier been imprisoned. After three days of celebrations, Kristian summoned a large group of Swedish leaders to his palace, ostensibly for a private banquet and conference.

It was at this point that things start to look like a Game of Thrones episode. On the evening of November 8th, as the Swedish nobles were gathered for the meeting, Danish soldiers entered the great hall of the palace and arrested several guests. Later that night, most of the others met the same fate.

The next day, a council under the leadership of Archbishop Trolle, sentenced the imprisoned Swedes to death as heretics. Apparently, it was heresy to have imprisoned the archbishop and opposed the Danish king. Over 60 Swedish nobles, bishops, mayors, and commoners were either beheaded or hanged that day. The bloodbath continued into the next day, and by the end at least 82 people had been executed. The wives of many of these men were also captured and taken as prisoners to Denmark.

If King Kristian thought this move would cement the union of Denmark and Sweden, he was sorely mistaken. It had the opposite effect. Gustav Vasa, a Swedish nobleman whose father had been executed in the bloodbath, was able to rally the people of Sweden for a rebellion that would cause Denmark and Sweden to become permanently separated from each other.

In an instance of true justice that sounds like it belongs in a TV drama, Kristian was even tossed out of Denmark and replaced by his uncle in 1523. He was offered the Norwegian throne, but this angered Denmark and the powerful Hanseatic League, a powerful trade and defensive league of many important merchant towns.

Finally, after an attempt to reclaim his throne, he was arrested and imprisoned in the castles of Sonderborg and Kalundborg for the rest of his life. He died at age 77 in Kalundborg Castle.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • The South’s Most Haunted Plantation

    The plantations of the southern United States are full of terrible history because of their connection with the cruel institution of slavery. It should come as no surprise, then, that many of them are believed to be haunted because of the terrible things that happened on them. The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana may...

    Read More
  • Extinct Penguin Species Never Really Existed

    In 1983, scientists discovered four penguin bones in an archaeological site on Hunter Island in Tasmania. The 750-year-old bones were determined to belong to a previously unidentified species of penguin, which they then dubbed the Hunter Island penguin. As no living Hunter Island penguins existed, the species was declared extinct as soon as it was...

    Read More
  • The Scottish Head Hunter

    Jack Renton followed in the footsteps of many of his fellow Scotsmen when he decided to make his living from the sea. And, like a fair number of his fellow sailors, he found himself shanghaied in 1868 at the age of 20, meaning he was kidnapped and forced to work aboard someone else’s ship. Naturally,...

    Read More
  • Was Alexander the Great Killed by Poison Water?

    For centuries, historians believed that Alexander the Great, the Macedonian king and fearless military leader, died after one of his many all-night drinking parties. His drinking buddies reported that he cried out from a sudden, stabbing gut pain and took to his bed, from which he never got up again. He died twelve days later,...

    Read More
  • How a Tea Party Saved an American Regiment

    It was 1776, and Mary Lindley Murray found herself in an awkward position. This wealthy Quaker woman and wife of a wealthy merchant favored the American revolutionary cause. Her husband, however, was a known loyalist and supporter of the British. The Revolutionary War was going on all around her, and she was eventually faced with...

    Read More
  • Ancient Infant Ape Skull Sheds Light on Human Origins

    The lemon-sized skull of a baby ape was recently uncovered by scientists in northern Kenya. Though this at first sounds like an unremarkable find, the skull, which was buried under layers of volcanic ash, is at least 13 million years old. On top of this, researchers believe that it belongs to the earliest common ancestor...

    Read More
  • Was the Delphic Oracle “High”?

    Anyone who has read about or studied Greek history and mythology has heard of the Oracle of Delphi. The Oracle was a powerful priestess who spoke prophecies, supposedly after being filled by the spirit of the god Apollo. She supposedly delivered these prophecies while in some kind of trance. Historians and scientists have often wondered...

    Read More
  • Miracle Mike the Headless Chicken

    In September of 1945, Lloyd Olsen and his wife, Clara, a farming couple in Fruita, Colorado, were expecting company for dinner. Clara’s mother was coming for a visit, and chicken was on the menu. Knowing that his mother-in-law enjoyed chicken necks, Lloyd tried to leave as much neck as possible on the rooster he was...

    Read More