The Kalmar Union
In 1350 the aristocracy became more and more discontent with King Magnus Eriksson. He tried to reduce the influence of the aristocracy and to strengthen his own power. Sweden was a monarchy where a council of aristocrats elected a king. This meant that the aristocracy was quite powerful and took an important part in the ruling of the country.
When their position of power was threatened, they decided to get rid of the king. The king lost the power struggle and was dethroned. The principality of Mecklenburg in northern Germany had helped the instigators of the rebellion with troops. Because of this, Albert of Mecklenburg was elected King of Sweden.
The German influence in Sweden now grew very quickly. The Germans influenced government with German sheriffs who collected taxes, often quite brutally. The situation between the Swedish aristocrats and King Albert slowly became precarious. They then turned to the Danish/Norwegian queen Margareta for help. She was then recognised as the monarch of Sweden by the Council of Aristocrats. Shortly thereafter, in 1389, Danish and Swedish troops defeated Albert of Mecklenburg. This was the prelude to the Kalmar Union.
The Union was formed in 1397 in the town of Kalmar on the Swedish east coast. A relative to Queen Margareta, Erik of Pomerania, was elected king over Denmark, Sweden and Norway. The agreement between the countries, among other things, stated that the monarch of the Union had to be Danish. King Erik wanted, as many kings before him, to strengthen the influence of the monarchy. As we have seen, this was never popular among the aristocracy.
When the Union was formed, Queen Margareta had promised the Swedish aristocrats that she would protect their political influence and privileges. She also promised that Sweden would be ruled with Swedes in all the important positions in society. But King Erik did not keep these promises. The Danish influence over Swedish politics increased rapidly. The discontent of the Swedish aristocracy rose again.
King Erik conducted a "traditional Danish" foreign policy. This meant controversy with the Hanseatic League. The controversy led to war which had a serious impact on the Swedish economy. When trade with the Continent was almost cut off and taxes continued to increase, the domestic political situation in Sweden deteriorated.
A rebellion, led by Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson, shook the country in 1434. The Council of Aristocrats joined the rebellion. They wanted to keep the Union but, at the same time, decrease the influence of the king. Finally Erik of Pomerania was dethroned. During the 15th century there were two main fractions in Swedish politics, the supporters of the Union and those who were against it.
Great Men from the aristocracy functioned as regents (riksföreståndare), i.e., as leaders of the country instead of a king. The formal Swedish king was the King of Denmark. In 1512, Sten Sture jr. was elected "riksföreståndare". During this time, the Danish king Kristian II claimed that he was the legitimate king and should rule the country. Danish troops invaded Sweden and Sten Sture jr. was killed. His supporters were rounded up and executed. This was the notorious "Bloodbath of Stockholm" and the beginning of the end of the Kalmar Union.
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