Eric XIV

Eric XIV

Eric XIV, 1533-77, king of Sweden (1560-68), son and successor of Gustavus I. To strengthen the power of the crown, he limited (1561) the privileges of the royal dukes. He forbade the marriage of his half brother John, duke of Finland, to the sister of the king of Poland. When John disobeyed he was accused of treason, lost his estates, and was imprisoned (1563) with his wife. Eric feared conspiracies among the nobles, many of whom were not reconciled to a strong hereditary monarchy. He had many nobles assassinated, including Nils Sture, of the powerful Sture family. Having unsuccessfully sought the hand of Elizabeth I of England, Eric married his peasant mistress in 1568 and had her crowned queen. Reverses in Sweden's war (1563-70) with Denmark, the unpopularity of his adviser, Goran Persson, and Eric's evident insanity enabled John, who had been released, to lead an insurrection against him. Eric was deposed (1568) and died in prison. He was succeeded by John, who ruled from 1568 to 1592 as John III, and then by John's son Sigismund III of Poland. Eric, a patron of arts and letters, was himself a writer.

Eric XIV (Erik XIV) (13 December 1533 – 26 February 1577) was King of Sweden from 1560 until he was deposed in 1568. Eric XIV was the son of Gustav I of Sweden (1496–1560) and Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg (1513–35). He was also ruler of Estonia, after its conquest by Sweden in 1561. While he has been regarded as intelligent and artistically skilled, as well as politically ambitious, early in his reign he showed signs of mental instability, a condition which eventually led to insanity.

Life

Early years

Eric XIV was born at Stockholm Castle, 9 o'clock in the morning on 13 December 1533. Before the age of two he had lost his mother and his father remarried Margaret Leijonhufvud (1516–55), a Swedish noblewoman, in 1536. Margaret was not happy with Eric's existence since he prevented her own firstborn son, John, from being the crown prince.

Eric's first teacher was the learned German Georg Norman, whose services were shortly thereafter needed elsewhere within the Swedish state. He was replaced by French Calvinist Dionysius Beurreus (1500–67). Dionysius taught both Eric and Johan and seems to have been appreciated by both. Eric was very successful in foreign language and mathematics. He was also an informed historian, good writer and familiar with astrology.

When Eric started to appear in public he was referred to as the "chosen king" and after the parliament meeting in Stockholm 1560, he received the title of "inheritance king".

In 1557 he was assigned the fiefdoms of Kalmar, Kronoberg and Öland and he took up residence in the city of Kalmar.

Eric went against his father's wish and entered into marriage negotiations with Princess Elizabeth Tudor (later Queen Elizabeth I of England). Tensions between Eric and his father grew. He pursued Elizabeth for several years but abandoned the attempts after his trip to England was interrupted by the death of his father in 1560.

Rule

Eric's foreign policy was dominated by his efforts to make Sweden a great power. Unlike his father, who had in general been satisfied with ruling an independent state, Eric tried to expand his influence in the Baltic and in Estonia. This expansionism made him clash with his cousin, Frederick II of Denmark (1534–88). Striving for useful political alliances, Eric also made unsuccessful marriage proposals to, among others, Elizabeth I of England (1533–1603) and Mary I of Scotland (1542–87), as well as Renata of Lorraine (1544–1602), Anna of Saxony (1544–77) and Christine of Hesse (1543–1604).

In domestic politics Eric's ambitions were strongly opposed by the Swedish nobility, including his half-brother, the later John III of Sweden (1537–92). John rebelled, but was captured and tried for high treason in 1563. Most of Eric XIV's reign was then dominated by the Scandinavian Seven Years' War against Denmark (1563-70), during which he successfully repelled most Danish attempts of conquest, but was not able to keep his own conquests. During these years, from 1563 onwards, his insanity worsened; his reign became even more high-handed and marked by assaults, among them the killing of several members of the Sture family in 1566. In 1568 he was deposed and imprisoned by John who took over power. Eric's most trusted counsellor, Jöran Persson (1530–68), took much of the blame for the actions taken against the nobility during Eric XIV's reign and was executed shortly after John III ascended to the throne.

Eric XIV died in prison in Örbyhus Castle: according to folklore, his final meal was a poisoned bowl of pea soup. A document signed by his brother John III of Sweden and a nobleman, Bengt Bengtsson Gylta (1514–74), gave Eric's watchmen in his last prison authorization to poison him if anyone tried to release him. His body was later exhumed; forensic analysis revealed evidence of arsenic poisoning.

Ancestors

Family and descendants

Eric XIV had several relationships before his marriage. With Agda Persdotter he had four daughters:

  1. Margareta Eriksdotter (1558–1618), married 1592 to Olov Simonsson, vicar of Horn.
  2. Virginia Eriksdotter (1559–1633) (living descendants)
  3. Constantia Eriksdotter (1560–1649) (living descendants)
  4. Lucretia Eriksdotter (1564–after 1574) died young.

With Karin Jacobsdotter:

  1. An unmarried child, dead April 1565.

Eric XIV finally married Karin Månsdotter (1550–1612), on 4 July 1568, their children were:

  1. Sigrid (1566–1633) (born before the marriage), lady-in-waiting, wife of two noblemen.
  2. Gustaf (1568–1607) (born before the marriage), mercenary.
  3. Henrik (1570–74)
  4. Arnold (1572–73)

Through this family the blood line has been traced to a particular family line of Elomaa, currently living in Hamina, Finland.

Eric XIV in literature

The life of Eric XIV is the subject of an 1899 play by Swedish playwright August Strindberg (1849–1912).

See also

External links

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