Blood Soaked History


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Europe » Sweden » Stockholm County » Stockholm
December 3rd 2016
Published: March 9th 2018
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Hello my fellow travellers!

I landed in Stockholm early this morning, Marcus was busy with work and the preparations for the birthday party so I'd spend the day alone until the party in the evening. I had already decided to visit Livrustkammaren, the part of the royal palace that houses the arms and armour of the former Swedish kings and queens, I visited it once when I was a boy but it was a long time ago and I looked forward to seeing it once again.

On my way there I first passed S:ta Clara Kyrka, a beautiful church built in the latter half of the 16th century on the same site where a nunnery and another church was once located that was torn down by Gustav I, in Sweden known as Gustav Vasa.

As I was passing by Riksdagshuset, the seat of the Swedish parliament, on my way to Kungliga Slottet, the royal castle in Stockholm, my eyes fell upon a sign about free guided tours for Riksdagshuset, I checked the time and it was set to start in just a few minutes. I figured that this was a great opportunity to see this place, thanked my luck, and I decided to stay for the tour. As it started all assembled, which was actually a fair amount of people, went through security check. As far as I could tell all the guests were Swedish which kind of surprised me, although politics has really been a hot topic lately in Swedish with a lot of divides after the Swedish Democrats became the third largest party on their anti immigration and anti European Union platform.

The woman who was our tour guide was really good and I thoroughly enjoyed the tour and I learned that voting sessions are open to public viewing as long as you don't interrupt the sessions and it was nice to see the voting chamber in person, I've seen it on televised debates many times. We also visited a room dedicated to Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of many Jews during the holocaust. We also got to see a room dedicated to the female members of the Swedish Parliament throughout history. We also got to take a look at the massive volume that is the budget proposition, it's a heavy and cumbersome stack!

After the tour ended I made my way over to Kungliga Slottet instead where I chatted with one of the guards for a bit before going into Museum Tre Kronor, a museum dedicated to the old castle Tre Kronor and which is housed in the oldest part of the castle which date to 1300. It was a nice part, but not as nice as I'd thought it would be. The best part of it was some clothes that belonged to Charles X, he was a great warrior and commander who expanded Sweden's borders a lot during the Second Northern War.

His most famous feat was probably when he marched the Swedish army across the frozen Lilla Bält and Stora Bält in 1658 to attack the Danish capital, marching the army across the ice was very perilous and several units went down through the ice but the move was so unexpected that Denmark was forced to submit to Sweden without a fight and in the ensuing peace treaty they lost a lot of territory to Sweden in a very one sided peace treaty.

From Museum Tre Kronor I made my way to the primary goal of my day, Livrustkammaren, the royal armoury, which contains clothes and regalia from most of the Swedish warrior kings throughout history. The most interesting parts, in my opinion, are the clothes worn by three of our kings as they died by bullets and swords. Let us just say that the Kings of Sweden hasn't really had a great deal of luck when it comes to longevity.

The aforementioned ruler, Charles X actually died of natural causes, but at an early age of 38 and after a short reign of only six years. His predecessor was the quite famous Queen Christina who abdicated her throne to live a life of piety in Rome instead. I visited her tomb in the Vatican State where she is buried next to the popes underneath Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano. Christina's predecessor was Gustavus II Adolpus, the famous warrior king who led Sweden through the 30 years war. He won many great victories until he fell in the Battle of Lützen in 1632 at an age of 37, upon finding his dead body the Swedish forces, rather than breaking as was usual at the death of a commander, rallied and in a fit of rage turned a losing battle into a victory. His clothes from the battle are on display here. Part of his clothes was brought to Austria as a trophy after the battle but was returned to Sweden in 1920 as a thank you for the aid of our Red Cross during World War I.

The successor of Charles X was his young son Charles XI, who also died of natural causes at 37 after a reign full of battles during the Scanian War, the most famous of which was the Battle of Lund in December 1676 where 8.000 Swedish soldiers fought against 13.000 Danish and Dutch soldiers. It's one of the bloodiest battles ever fought on European soil with almost 70% casualty rate of both sides. One truly remarkable feat in this battle was Charles XI broke though the right flank of the enemy and chased them down, but upon learning that his centre was buckling he turned his retinue around and assaulted at the rear of the Danish force and broke through to his diminished centre, by the time he reached them he only had two generals and three guards left protecting him but it inspired his troops and they won the battle.

After his death Charles XI was succeeded by his son Charles XII, yes, we didn't have much imagination in our naming of kings. When he ascended the throne at the age of 15 pretty much every other power in Northern Europe declared war on Sweden, hoping to regain their territories previously lost in battles against Charles X, Gustavus II Adolpus and Charles XI, this war became known as the Great Northern War.

Charles XII responded swiftly by knocking out Denmark-Norway right away and then repelling the Russian forces at Narva before dethroning the Polish-Lithuanian King Augustus. Charles XII kept winning against insurmountable odds until the Russians finally defeated his army in the Battle of Poltava in 1709, forcing the young king to flee to the Ottoman Empire where he lived as a guest, who unfortunately behaved badly enough to get expelled during the Skirmish in Bender in 1713. A funny side note is that this even in Sweden is called Kalabaliken i Bender after the Turkish word kalabalik meaning crowd which after this event because the word for ruckus in Sweden.

Anyway, after being kicked out of the Ottoman Empire the Swedish forces fought a losing war against Russia in Finland, Charles XII decided to open up a second front in Norway but was shot in the head at the fortress Fredriksten Festning in 1718, at the age of 36, marking the effective end of the Swedish Empire and rose Russia to a place prominence in Europe. The clothes that Charles XII wore at Fredriksten Festning are also in display here at Livrustkammaren.

Yet another blood soaked piece of clothing hosted here are those of Gustav III, he most other Swedish kings fought against Russia in the Russo-Swedish War and he actually secured the greatest naval victory in Swedish history at the Battle of Svensksund in 1790, destroying a third of the Russian navy. This was the largest naval battle ever fought in the Baltic sea with almost 600 ships. Sweden only lost six ships and some 700 men compared to Russia's 80 ships and 10.000 men.

Unfortunately his glory would be short lived as he fell victim to a conspiracy by the aristocracy of Sweden and he was assassinated by Jacob Johan Anckarström while attending a masquerade ball in 1792, these are the clothes on display in Livrustkammaren. The assassin was caught and after the king succumbed to his wounds he was sentenced to death and quartering. His family changed their surname after the incident and donated funds to open up a hospital to make amends. Gustav III was a little bit older than the others mentioned in this post, living to the ripe old age of 46.

Gustav III was succeeded by Gustav IV Adolf who was unfortunately a very inept ruler who reigned until he was deposed in 1809, following his loss of Finland to Russia, spelling the end of the Swedish Empire.

With such a blood soaked history I'm sure it comes as no surprise that Sweden and Denmark actually hold the record of number of wars fought between two sovereign nations. Today our two nations are thankfully great friends though.

After my visit to Livrustkammaren the time had come for the birthday party for my friends so I made my way out to their home and met up with them. Before the party started I took the opportunity to cuddle with their lovely cats, Mikus and Molly, as well. The party was great, they had booked the communal space in their living area and we played a lot of table tennis, drank, ate and just enjoyed our time together. It was a perfect end to a great trip.

The next morning I made my way back home, happy about how the trip went. At this moment there were no other trips booked, but it would turn out to be Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia that came up next for me.

Until next time I wish you all peace and happy travels!


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10th March 2018

Swedish History
Thank you very much for this very fascinating insight into Swedish history - I must admit I know very little about it. It seems that the country indeed experienced its fair share of conflicts just a few centuries ago. I'm glad you returned safely from your trip.
11th March 2018

Swedish History
Aye, it's been a bloody past up until the early 19th century. Glad you enjoyed it my friend. :)
10th March 2018

My Swedish Royal Heritage
I was reading excitedly your tome Per-Olof and it ended abruptly for me in 1792. Why didn't you get to Charles XIV? Jean Bernadotte a French Marshall was installed as Prince Regent of Sweden by Napoleon and became Charles XIV in 1810. He married Desiree who my maternal grandmother told me was known as Empress Eugenie and was a friend of Queen Victoria. Instead of remaining an ally of France he became patriotically Swedish and sided with other countries against France. My grandmother wrote out the history of how she traced her ancestry to that family. I'll have to find that letter that she gave me when I was a child. I cannot recall if my ancestry was to Jean Bernadotte or Empress Eugenie who came from a large family. Your blog brought it all back...then you stopped at 1792. My ancestry became somewhat muddied throughout Europe as I recall there was the Count of Teba who I think was Spanish and the Kirkpatricks...somehow resulting in an Irish connection that was my maternal grandmother. I may have speck of Swedish Royal blood flowing through my Aussie veins...significantly diluted though. I have never pursued genealogies but I gotta agree it can produce interesting histories for those who have heaps of spare time to do so. I am happy in the memories of my grandmother telling these tales to me as a wide eyed child enjoying homemade scones and icecream drinking Orange Pekoe tea. I loved my grandmother. Your blog brought memories of her back...more vivid than the histories she shared with me. Thank you for that.
11th March 2018

My Swedish Royal Heritage
Aye, he was the first of the current royal lineage, our current king Carl the XVI is his descendant. The reason why I stopped at Charles XIV predecessor is because that's why the Swedish Empire effectively ended. :He was an inspiring monarch though and one that both Swedes and Norwegians was proud of. :)
10th March 2018
Gustavus Adolphus

Gustavus Adolphus
The Swedish King who led the Protestant armies to victory over the Catholics in the 30 years War. Used mobile square formations as I recall...like a chess board. He was my hero as a child...the stories of his military skill still vivid in the telling. Maybe I have more Swedish in my veins than I give credit...yep...he was my hero as a child...more than my diluted heritage referred to earlier.
11th March 2018
Gustavus Adolphus

Gustavus Adolphus
He was my hero as well. I'm actually born on Gustavus Adolphus day here in Sweden. ^_^
12th March 2018
Stockholm

The tree is not one tree
Did you know that the Christmas tree in the picture is not one tree? They take three trees I think and cut off all the branches. They then pick one of the three trunks and attach the branches of all three trees onto that one. /Ake
13th March 2018
Stockholm

The tree is not one tree
Cool, I didn't know that. :)

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