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that is from the reign of our Henry I. to the twenty-fourth year of Henry III., there was no peace for the kingdom from these pretenders. Some of these men had perhaps real claims to the throne, but whether true or false, the claimants for the most part lost their lives by violence. Harald Gille's first act had been to blind his fellow-king Magnus, and in the next year he was himself strangled in his bed at Bergen by Sigurd, a man who claimed to be also a son of Magnus Barfod, and who after killing Harald Gille, took the blind king Magnus out of the prison in which he had been thrown, and set him on the throne. Then a new war broke out, and Sigurd and Magnus the Blind were both killed in battle.

Many parties now sprang up in the country, known by a great number of names, and of these the strongest were Birke. benerne, “the Birch Legs,” and Baglerne, or " the Croziers." The former took their name from the birch-bark sandals or leggings, which they were forced to wear for want of proper shoes, and the latter from the word “bagall,” the latin baculus, a crozier, because their first leader had been Nicholaus, Bishop of Oslö. The greatest leader of the “ Birch Legs” was Sverre, who in 1176 gave himself out to be a son of King Sigurd II., but was believed by must persons to be the son of a brush-maker of Trondhjem, who had received some learning in order that he might become a priest. His success against the other claimants of the throne was so great that in the year 1184 he secured the homage of the Norwegian people, and was crowned at Bergen. He was a very able ruler, but there were so many parties in the state against him that he had no chance of doing much for the good of the kingdom, and he died in 1202, worn out by constant war. The clergy, headed by the Archbishop Erik of Trondhjem, were his worst foes, and as usual the Danes were ready to help in keeping up strife in the sister-kingdom, so whenever Sverre's subjects rose against him, they were certain of aid from Denmark, which always gave them a retreat in case of need. Sverre's only son, Hakon III., reigned no more than two years, and his sudden death at Bergen in 1204, most likely by poison said to have been given him by his stepmother, Margaret, daughter of St. Erik of Sweden, opened the way to new claimants.

Then the “ Birch Legs ” crowned a little child called Guttorm, a grandson of Sverre, and ruled the kingdom in his name till his death a few months later. After that they gave the crown to Inge Baardsen, a nephew of the great Sverre, who during his thirteen years' reign had to contend with four or five rivals, who in turn laid claim to the throne, and were sometimes able by the help of the Danes to drive out Inge, and set themselves up in his place for a short time.

Hakon IV., 1217-1263.-On the death of Inge, in 1217, Hakon, a boy of thirteen who had been brought up at his court and was said to be a son of Hakon III., was set upon the throne by the “ Birch Legs."

During these times of trouble the clergy had gained great power in the state, and taken upon themselves the sole right of choosing the king, for although according to law the eldest son was to succeed his father, this was only to be allowed in cases where the bishops could be certain that the claimant " had not fallen away from the doctrines of Christianity and the Church." In 1162, the crown of Norway had been declared to be a “fief of St. Olaf,” and only to be held by the prince who had received it at the hands of the pope's chief servant in Norway, namely, the Archbishop of Trondhjem, and accordingly from that time forth, the Norwegian kings were crowned in a church with all the ceremonies usual in other countries at royal coronations, and the simple forms of the old northern courts were quite done away with.

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Birger Jarl, Father of Kings ; his expectations of the Crown-Choice of

his son Valdemar in his absence--Ivar Blaa's conduct_Valdemar's “Erik Course "-Birger's anger---Ivar's retorts-Birger submits; his rule in Sweden ; the laws he passed in favour of women-Valdemar's incapacity-Quarrels between brothers-Magnus seizes on Valdemar– The reign of Magnus; his merits as a law giver ; his nickname BarnlockNew order of nobles; the Unfree and Free ; nobles and cavaliers—Three sons of Magnus—Torkel Knutsson's influence for good ; troubles after his death ; civil war ; King Birger throws his brothers in a dungeon and starves them to death ; feelings of people against him ; consequences of his acts-Magnus, son of murdered Duke Erik, made king ; his minority; his vicious conduct and weakness; his queen ; his son Erik killedHakon made king of Norway-Friendship for Valdemar Atterdag of Denmark ; gives up Skaania and other provinces-Hakon promises to marry Elizabeth of Holstein ; his marriage to Margaret of DenmarkDeath of Queen Blanka-Magnus insults Elizabeth—Valdemar promises him help-Magnus outlaws twenty-four nobles; what they do ; fate of Magnus-Albert of Mecklenburg, King of Sweden ; Albert's reign ; his weakness and wars-Bo Jonsson ; his great power-State of kingdomBo Jonsson's heirs invite Margaret to take the crown ; her conductAlbert's defeat and unhappy end-Margaret's success—Union of Calmar - Erik of Pomerania accepted as future king of Sweden.



Birger, the Father of Kings.- The Folkungar race, which ruled over Sweden from the time of our Henry III. to the close of the reign of Edward III., numbered amongst its members kings of great talent. Birger Jarl, “the father of kings” and the founder of this fam ly's influence in the state,

although he never wore the crown himself, may be said to have been more of a king than some among his descendants who bore the regal title. Birger, as we have seen in a former chapter, was absent from Sweden when his brother-in-law, Erik Læspe, the last of the Bondar race died, and when he returned from the crusade which he had been carrying on in Finland, he was very angry to find that the Swedish Council of State had taken advantage of his absence to choose his young son Valdemar to be king. Some of the Councillors had opposed Valdemar's election on the ground that as the son of Birger Jarl he would be completely under the control of that ambitious chieftain, but their objections had been set aside by Ivar Blaa, a noble knight, related through his mother to the Bondar family, who leading the little Valdemar into the Council Chamber, presented him to his brother-nobles as the only one able to save them from having Birger raised to be king and master of Sweden. That argument removed their objections against Valdemar, for knowing the character of Birger, the Council foresaw that the Jarl would dispute the crown with any stranger, and accordingly they conducted the youth in great state to Upsala, and presenting him at the Mora Stone to the people, secured for him the homage of all the different orders of the Thing, and carried him on his “ Erik's course, or royal progress before his father's return to Sweden.

When on his arrival Birger learnt what had been done, he gave vent to threats of vengeance against the Council, and tried, but without avail, to induce the people to set aside Valdemar's election, on the ground that it was not according to law, since it had been settled without his knowledge and consent as Jarl of Sweden.

“Who was the traitor that dared to elect a king in my absence?" asked the Jarl, when he first met the Councillors of State. “I was the man, Birger Jarl,” cried the knight Ivar, "and if my choice does not please you, we can all see now where we could have found a king more to your mind !”

* An ancient custom, which required of a newly elected king that he should drive through every province of the kingdom to show himself and receive the homage of the people.

Birger was silent for a moment on receiving this reply which showed that the Council saw he had been disappointed at not getting the crown for himself, and then he asked, " Who would you choose if you set my boy aside ?”

“We will think about that," answered Ivar, " but there is no lack of choice. Sweden might find a king to suit her under this cloak of mine!”

After that, Birger Jarl let well alone, and took his place as chief seneschal at the splendid coronation of his little son in 1251 at Linköping. From that time till his death in 1266, the Jarl, although not a king in name, ruled Sweden with a vigour and prudence that very few of the earlier kings had shown. He kept the nobles in check, and made them respect the laws, encouraged knightly training, and did away with trial by ordeal ; and he also won the gratitude of the women by the laws which he caused to be passed in their favour, and which gave them the right to half as much as their brothers of the property of their parents. Before Birger's time the daughters of wealthy men could not claim any share in their fathers' possessions as long as they had brothers living ; for as the law put it, “where the hat comes in, the cap goes out." Birger is said either to have founded the town of Stockholm, or at any rate to have fortified it, and raised it to the rank of an important stronghold, and thenceforth it became one of the best defences against the attacks of Finnish pirates.

Valdemar, 1250–1279.—As soon as Birger died, his son King Valdemar began to quarrel with his brothers, Duke Magnus and Prince Erik, to whom their father had given provinces some years before his death. Valdemar's evil conduct in preferring his sister-in-law, the lovely nun Jutta, to his queen Sofia,' brought the anger of the clergy upon him, and in 1274, he was forced to send away Jutta, and by way of penance to make a pilgrimage to Rome. During his absence, Magnus was looked upon as king, but on his return there was a meeting of the three brothers, and Valdemar was left to rule as before.

For a short time, things seemed to go on more smoothly, but in the next year Erik Glipping, King of Denmark, gave men

Daughters of the Danish king, Erik Plovpeng.


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