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Stockholm Bloodbath

The Stockholm Bloodbath, or the Stockholm Massacre (Swedish: Stockholms blodbad, Danish: Det stockholmske blodbad), took place as the result of a successful invasion of Sweden by Danish forces under the command of Christian II. The bloodbath itself was a series of events taking place between November 7 and November 10 in 1520, culminating on the 8th, when around 80-90 people (mostly nobility and clergy supporting the Sture party) were executed, despite a promise by Christian for general amnesty.

The 'Stockholm Bloodbath' precipitated a lengthy hostility towards Danes in Sweden, and thenceforth the two nations were at almost continuous hostility with each other (each with the objective of conquest or revenge upon the other). These hostilities lasted for nearly three hundred years. Memory of the Bloodbath served to let Swedes depict themselves (and often, actually regard themselves) as the wronged and aggrieved party, even when they were eventually the ones who had political and military victories such as the conquest and annexation of Scania.


Political factions in Sweden

The Stockholm Bloodbath was a consequence of conflict between Swedish pro-unionists (in favour of the Kalmar Union, then dominated by Denmark) and anti-unionists (supporters of Swedish independence), and also between the anti-unionists and the Danish aristocracy, which in other aspects was opposed to King Christian. The anti-unionist party was headed by Sten Sture the younger, and the pro-unionist party by archbishop Gustavus Trolle.

Military interventions of King Christian

King Christian, who had already taken measures to isolate Sweden politically, intervened to help archbishop Trolle, who was under siege in his fortress at Stäket, but he was defeated by Sture and his peasant soldiers at Vedila, and forced to return to Denmark. A second attempt to bring Sweden back under his control in 1518 was also countered by Sture's victory at Brännkyrka. Eventually, a third attempt made in 1520 with a large army of French, German and Scottish mercenaries proved successful.

Sture was mortally wounded at the Battle of Bogesund, on January 19. The Danish army, unopposed, was approaching Uppsala, where the members of the Swedish Riksdag had already assembled. The senators agreed to render homage to Christian, on condition that he gave a full indemnity for the past and a guarantee that Sweden should be ruled according to Swedish laws and custom. A convention to this effect was confirmed by the king and the Danish Privy Council on March 31.

Sture's widow, Dame Christina Gyllenstierna, was still resisting in Stockholm with support from the peasants of central Sweden, and defeated the Danes at Balundsås on March 19. Eventually, her forces were defeated at the Battle of Uppsala (Good Friday, April 6).

In May the Danish fleet arrived, and Stockholm was attacked by land and sea. Dame Christina resisted for four months longer, and finally surrendered on September 7, on the condition that an amnesty would be granted. On November 1 the representatives of the nation swore fealty to Christian as hereditary king of Sweden, though the law of the land actually provided that the Swedish crown should be elective.


On November 4, Christian was anointed by Gustavus Trolle in the Storkyrkan Church in Stockholm, and took the usual oath to rule the kingdom through native-born Swedes only. A banquet was held for the next three days.

On November 7, the events of the Stockholm bloodbath began to unfold. On the evening of that day, Christian summoned many Swedish leaders to a private conference at the palace.

At dusk (November 8), Danish soldiers, with lanterns and torches, broke into the great hall and carried off several people. Later in the evening, the remainder of the king's guests were imprisoned. All these people had previously been marked down on Archbishop Trolle's proscription list.

On the following day (November 9), a council, headed by archbishop Trolle, sentenced the proscribed to death for being heretics. At noon that day, the anti-unionist bishops of Skara and Strängnäs were led out into the great square and beheaded. Fourteen noblemen, three burgomasters, fourteen town councillors and about twenty common citizens of Stockholm were then hanged or decapitated.

The executions continued throughout the following day (November 10); according to the chief executor Jörgen Homuth 82 people were executed.

It is said that Christian took revenge also on Sten Sture's body, having it dug up and burnt, as well as the body of his little child. Sture's widow Dame Christina, and many other noble Swedish ladies, were sent as prisoners to Denmark.

Christian justified the massacre in a proclamation to the Swedish people as a measure necessary to avoid a papal interdict, but, when apologising to the Pope for the decapitation of the bishops, he rather blamed his troops for performing unauthorised acts of vengeance.

In fiction

The Stockholm Bloodbath forms a large part of the 1948 historical novel The Adventurer (Original title Mikael Karvajalka) by the Finnish writer Mika Waltari. The events are depicted as seen by a young Finnish man, Mikael Karvajalka, who is in Stockholm at the time. The event is also depicted in the 1901 novel Kongens Fald (The Fall of the King) by Johannes V. Jensen and voted (Danish) Novel of the Century (the twentieth, that is) by the readers of Denmark's largest omnibus newspaper. A number of references to the bloodbath appear in Freddy's Book by John Gardner.

See also


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